Students and faculty reflect on poetry in celebration of National Poetry Month
April marks National Poetry Month, a time to celebrate a special genre of literature that allows for particularly emotional and imaginative linguistic expression. With a multitude of styles and rhythms, poetry is so expansive that anyone can find themselves reading or writing a poem that resonates with them. The Rice Thresher asked students and professors who identify as poets themselves about their thoughts and interactions with this literary art.
Brendan Frizzell, a Martel College freshman
“I was introduced to poetry through Jon Lupin’s Instagram (@the_poetrybandit) in middle school and did a project in 9th grade on him. He published 3 books and I have all of them. At first, I felt like I never really needed to write poetry and when I did it wasn’t good, but obviously published books take a lot of time to make them crisp. I always thought poetry was cool because you get more of a feeling from reading it than prose.
What inspires me is usually just my emotions. It helps to word vomit on the page and better understand how I'm feeling. One of my favorite poets is Federico García Lorca; he wrote an emotional piece about mistreatment of the Romani people in Spain during the Spanish Civil War that resonated with me. My favorite poem that I’ve written is ‘What the Flower Taught Me.’ It’s about reflecting on what I learned in a relationship and that romantic love truly does exist, because as a kid I didn't know that and even though there was love in the relationship, it was better to part ways.”
Morgan Seay, a Hanszen College junior
“I stumbled across Button Poetry on YouTube. This was the first I'd heard of spoken word. I think I was drawn to the delivery of poems in spoken word. I liked when artists took dramatic pauses, deep/sharp breaths in between lines and the way they'd change the pitch of their voice. The words were powerful, but they hit deeper when the delivery was so well thought out. Most of my work relates to my own experiences with pain, often racial trauma. It's an outlet for sharing things I fear, find frustrating, etc. I wrote a piece called ‘My Body, A Diaspora,’ and I think it's most relevant to how I feel with my Blackness today. I want to immerse myself in Black culture, but I'm constantly reminded of a missing history that I will never get back. Sometimes, I feel like I'm not ‘Black enough’ in terms of the mainstream idea of what it is to be Black, and it seems like if I had a deeper connection to the continent of Africa, I would not feel this disconnection.”
Katimah Harper, a Duncan College junior
“I read a lot in middle school and I think in one of the books I was reading, the main character was really into writing poetry and talked about how it was an outlet for them and so I just decided to give it a shot myself since I had a lot of pent up feelings at the time that I needed to express somehow. I’ve known since elementary school that I wanted writing to be a part of my life somehow. When I got to middle school though and started learning more about poetry, it just felt more right to me. I liked that with poetry there was a lot more intentionally in what might seem like small details to other people — how you write a single line and how that line fits into a single stanza, whether or not you choose to use punctuation, how much white space you have on a page, etc. It felt like a bit more of a creative challenge to me personally and also just allowed me to communicate in a way that felt more authentic to my story. I’m really inspired by the events happening in my life, particularly those that I don’t know how to say out loud and share with others. Writing has always been how I communicate with the world, and poetry in particular has allowed me to process a lot of trauma and share it with others in a way that feels right for me. I love Langston Hughes. He was the first Black poet that I came to really know and he’s the first one that made me feel like there was a space in the poetry community for Black voices to talk about the Black experience.”
Dr. Joseph Campana, English professor and Center for Environmental Studies director
“Poetry is a concentrated version of something you don’t get elsewhere in other kinds of writing; it’s like a surprise. What inspires me to write is when I become fascinated by something, I can’t stop paying attention to it. I find myself embedded in a place, strange and new. That’s why my favorite poem is the one I’m currently reading or writing, you’re inhabiting it and being in the moment with the poem. I grew up in a small town in New York with farms and leather mills, it was hauntingly beautiful.
When I moved to Houston, I was fascinated with the outstanding oaks and their persistence. Since there’s really no winter, they don’t shed their leaves and stay lush and green. That was my inspiration for ‘Live Oak,’ [the current name of a collection I am working on]. During the pandemic, I haven’t had enough time for poetry sometimes. But some strange and distracting new things could come up in poetry because of the pandemic. Though, from a scholarly point of view, I’m not sure we’ll know that for a while. At the moment, I’m writing ‘Spring of Ephemerals.’ Ephemerals are a kind of plant that comes quickly and doesn’t last, so that’s what the poem is centered around.”
Mr. Tomás Morín, Assistant professor of Creative Writing
“I write poetry because it brings me joy in the same way that playing basketball brings me joy, or taking my son for a walk. It doesn't have anything to do with inspiration, it's not the right word. A silly question will pop into my head...like a poem in my first book about the dog Laika in Sputnik, what must have it been like for her to be in that capsule? Tons of people probably had the same question and moved on. For me, I stop at each one of those questions because the answer is a poem I haven’t written yet. I pause and make art out of them. My favorite collection is my most recent book that will be out in October. I’m most myself in that book. In my first book I wrote a lot of personal poems (historical figures, characters, animals). Then the second book was characters with similar experiences. This book, there's no mask, and it took me a long time to get to that place. I've been writing for 20 years, since I was a grad student in 2000.
My initial thoughts about poetry, I thought it was just something fun to do. I was a writing minor at Texas State [University], and it was a fun way to fill that minor; never thought one day I would make a life as a writer. It was a fun way to pass the time. It was an escape, because I could write about anything, any time period, any place. Each poem is a plane ticket to somewhere. The pandemic has left me with less time for reading and writing. Me and my partner are both working with two kids. I did write a poem about the pandemic, it appeared in “Together in a Sudden Strangeness [America's Poets Respond to the Pandemic]” by Alice Quinn in November. It touches on [the question of] how is life different [during the pandemic]? Some of my favorite poets include Elizabeth Bishop, Philip Levine, a dear friend of mine and mentor, and Wisława Szymborska. One of the beautiful things about poetry is that it's there when you need it. Somewhere, there is a poem that is waiting for someone, and they don't realize it yet. When they're at a loss to describe what they feel or find someone who has felt what they feel, it's out there. People say poetry is a lonely art, but there is a community. It's about finding the person who wrote that poem and we feel less alone.”
More from The Rice Thresher
With summer right around the corner, many students’ brains will finally have space for things other than organic chemistry or the latest coding problem that needs to be solved. Take this time to read for enjoyment again. The following are a series of summer recommendations perfect for time on a plane, by the pool or just on your couch. All incorporate travel in one way or another, and each has its own adventure that will leave you yearning for more.
Robert Eggers is a filmmaker whose work has been defined by its small scale and intensive focus on characters. His prior films, “The Witch” and “The Lighthouse,” both feature a small cast and embrace environmental horror as terrifying events slowly pull the main ensemble apart. His reputation for his smaller scale and focus is partly why “The Northman” was so interesting upon its announcement — “The Northman” blows up Egger’s storytelling onto a massive scale. The locations, number of characters, and time period all dwarf his prior films. For the most part, Eggers steps up to the plate, succeeding in his ambition. “The Northman” will be available to watch in theaters April 22.