Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2021  Vol. 20  No. 1
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Everyone’s a Poet

Like many poets, I am fascinated by memory and how it moves through language. Writing poems, to me, feels like the practice of housing memory, letting it jump and settle onto the page, taking physical shape. “We Have To” and “Free Time” reflect this practice by collapsing time—reversing and accelerating temporal space into the single stanza that frames individual memories as a collective. I used to write all of my poems in single stanzas, only to break them apart later in order to allow for breath, or some semblance of style, but lately I’ve been really into the chunky awkwardness of single-stanza poems. It feels truer to the way I experience, or recreate memory, which is to say: all at once.

In thinking of memory and poetry, I often return to this quote by Ocean Vuong:

Every time we remember, we create new neurons, which is why memory is so unreliable. I thought, “Well if the Greek root for ‘poet’ is ‘creator,’ then to remember is to create, and, therefore, to remember is to be a poet.” I thought it was so neat. Everyone’s a poet, as long as they remember.

I love the connections Vuong makes here between memory and creation, creation and poetry, poetry and everyone. I like to think of the process of writing poetry as an attempt to tighten each of these connections, sewn together by memory’s sonic string. I like to think of what it means to play memory and to play with memory—over and over—until a melody emerges for everyone, anyone to listen.  

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