Las Abuelas Cuentan

April | What is Poetry?

Cafe Recuerdos April 2023 _ FB

Someone who admits to dislike poetry asked me to write about what poetry means to me. Let me start by saying this is not an attempt to convince them or anyone else to like poetry. Instead, this is an exercise in self-reflection. These are a few of the many definitions I came up with:

  • Poetry is a sensibility rooted in the way we experience the world around us. It has nothing to do with writing, although putting it on paper is one of the countless ways to express it.
  • There are poets who never write a single poem.
  • Written poetry is the reaction to an exchange of emotion between you and something or someone else, that exchange makes you more human in return, more aware of your own fragility.
  • Poetry is an awakening to what we have in common, the way we express this joint awakening then gets categorized by the form we use (spoken word, lyric, epic, etc)
  • Poetry makes that which is understood by our inner knowing, the intangible, visible. It is the recognition of our own humanity.
  • None of the above.

My first encounter with poetry came when I was around 8 years old, a beloved teacher asked me to memorize a Ruben Darío poem for a school event. As I recited the poem something shifted inside me, I saw the magic of words, their power to shift emotions, to soften a gaze, to move people. I was hooked, which represented a challenge since I didn’t have access to many books growing up.

One day, my mom took out a loan to buy an 8-volume encyclopedia, it was one of the most poetic gestures she ever had. I read about famous poets, I’m happy to say my collection has grown since, and that my mom still has the encyclopedia.

April is National Poetry Month, a time to celebrate the power of words to move us, to make us more human. I hope you will join us in this month's Café Recuerdos, especially my friend who doesn’t like poetry, by bringing a favorite poem to read. It could be your own or someone else’s. Let’s read poetry together to find the many forms in which we are one, in the human condition. You can also just come to listen! Café Recuerdos happens on the third Thursday of every month, register here.
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