For National Poetry Month, Conundrum Press has asked our poets, writers, and contributors to offer their thoughts on poetry. We will be publishing reflections throughout the month.
From the time we are young, we navigate a world crafted for us by story tellers. Our first memories are stories and their endings. Our parents tell us the story of the hot stove, and the ending teaches us to keep our small fingers tucked away.
We are told the story of plants and how they grow just like us, but with a patience unfathomable to the pace of our human bodies. Then we learn stories that seem to exist simply to serve our imagination; colorful stories on paper about elephants who wear clothes and shop for baguettes, or children who are given the gift of a crayon that can turn any drawing into reality.
Before we are ready, we learn stories about rage, fear, jealousy, and heartbreak; silliness, surprise, relief, and forgiveness. We are held helpless by the story of impermanence and dread the ending, when the people we love the most disappear without warning. Some of us are told a story about how we don’t deserve love, while others are told a story about love that is eternal, unconditional, and kind. The stories we are told as we grow are the ones we begin to tell ourselves over and over again. We begin to see the world no longer for what it is, but for the ways in which it replicates the endings of the stories we have begun to revere as the world itself.
Then we encounter a poem. For the first time in our life, the story becomes irrelevant. Before us lies a tapestry of words and images, yet we don’t know how to make sense of it. And unlike the story, we can’t find the ending. The words may stop and the page may end, but we realize it doesn’t matter. A poem does not exist to provide an ending. A poem does not cater to certainty. Suddenly, miraculously, the mere existence of this unfathomable, unanswerable thing – a poem – is an act of disruption.
The permission for poetry to exist in a world of fixed narratives means there will always be possibility. Possibility for resistance and severance; for freedom from inevitability. Poetry is not an arrow hurtling across the horizon toward a point of fixed descent. Poetry is a ghost in the machine of a world built upon questions that demand answers. And if poetry is not bound by answers, then maybe we don’t have to be bound by them either.
Patricia McCrystal is a contributor with Conundrum Press and a columnist at 303 Magazine. Stop by our bookstore to see our many fine collections of poetry and other works from our authors.