Saturday, March 18, 2017

When you have the attention span of a goldfish, sometimes poetry is the only thing that can save you...

Who knew there were so many poets?

Every day, a new one, a person I've never heard of, pops up in my email and whispers as I blearily brew my first cup of coffee.

These are the first words I hear each day, words that make me smile, words that confuse me, words that crush me. Always they make me pause as I swallow my coffee, make my foggy brain think hard, send me off on wild tangents before I begin my day's work.

Who knew I needed this so much?

A few months ago, drowning in waves of distressing news, caught up in the outrage and fear being shared by friends and strangers on social media, I was floundering around with my own words, struggling to settle down to write.

I was even having trouble reading books.

I heard an interview with Adam Alter, the author of the book Irresistible by Design, that our continual reading of stuff online has changed our brain chemistry. We used to have longer attention spans. Ten years ago before most of us started carrying our phones around with us, the average person could focus for roughly 12 seconds. Now, with our near constant jumping around from topic to topic, we're down to 8 seconds,

which is less than a goldfish.

Wait. Wasn't I just talking about poetry?

haha, so anyway, in December, I made a New Year's resolution to start my day, each day, by reading a poem. Okay, maybe my jumpy anxious mind couldn't handle full-blown novels, but surely I could read a page-long poem! Also, I once worked on an MFA in Poetry and I'd let all of that go and I missed reading poetry and wondered if I even could anymore.

I was thinking, too, that if nothing else, it would be a good way to start the day.

I have tons of poetry books on my book shelves, but seeking an even easier way to fulfill my resolution, naturally, I scrolled around online. Wouldn't it be cool if I could get an email of a poem every day? A poem, right there, in my inbox...

And wouldn't you know it? There IS such a thing! It's called Poem a Day and it's brought to you by the lovely people of through the Academy of American Poets (funded, partially, by the NEA, which is on the chopping block by our new regime, but I digress, again.)

Every morning before I read the crap news of the day or check in on social media, I open up my email and read a poem-- or, listen. (Some of the poems have audio files of the poets reading!) These poets are a smorgasbordof diverse voices-- young and old, brand newbys to multiply published, men and women, people of all backgrounds. I had never heard of any of them.

(News flash, and because I think 8 seconds has just passed: most poets are not well known. They play around with their words in relative obscurity, publish poems in magazines few people read, make very little money-- if any)

But I love reading the poems by these people. I love knowing they're out there somewhere writing and thinking and playing with words, sending their poems off to the Academy of American Poets--whatever their submission process is-- and that someone at the place is reading and choosing and putting together the email entry, recording the audio file, sending the day's selection off to the subscribers--

and me

so I can face a new day, with new words:

For a moment, I stand with ghosts
and the framed ancestors surrounding me. 

The best movies begin with an encounter 
and end with someone setting someone free. 

how the trash man paused with the storm glass,
holding it, making himself into a frame, a single frame—
all poets wonder if this is enough. 

*lines from poems by Parneshia Jones, Diana Marie Delgado, and Joy Katz

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