News

Former Defense Department General Counsel Appointed Harvard’s Top Lawyer

News

Democracy Center Protesters Stage ‘Emergency Rally’ with Pro-Palestine Activists Amid Occupation

News

Harvard Violated Contract With HGSU in Excluding Some Grad Students, Arbitrator Rules

News

House Committee on China to Probe Harvard’s Handling of Anti-CCP Protest at HKS

News

Harvard Republican Club Endorses Donald Trump in 2024 Presidential Election

Poets that Speak to Us: Vignettes for National Poetry Month

April is National Poetry Month. Celebrate the end of the month with these talented poets.
April is National Poetry Month. Celebrate the end of the month with these talented poets. By Angel Zhang

To mark the end of National Poetry Month, The Crimson's Arts Board reflected on some of their favorite poets. Whether read for a class or just a moment of respite from the hustle and bustle of the end of the semester, poets from ko ko thett to E. E. Cummings have left a lasting impression on these writers.

Ada Limón

My favorite poem in high school didn’t describe my life in any way, yet I loved it for the way that it felt like my life — my life in that infinite dash of senior year. My attachment to Ada Limón’s “The Russian River” hinged on one utterly unextraordinary line: “It was the summer of our final year of high school.”

From that, I extrapolated. I thought that I — like the poet — believed that “the world was perfectly defined by goodness and realness and the opposite of those.” I believed, in some non-literal way, that “I was going to marry you.”

Unlike the intricate poetry I loved elsewhere, Limón’s lines had the elusive allure of straightforward language. I did not analyze anything with each rereading, but indulged in the words at their surface so as to not break the feeling: The world was vast and pure, temporary and never-ending.

Reading “The Russian River” again, knowing I never even drove on the highway, or got stoned, or swam in a river in high school, I don’t think I will ever understand the poem in that way again. What it means to me now is that once, I must have been “holding on” to something beautiful — “what life was, and what I had always wanted” — something glimmering under the sunlight on the current, just out of my reach.

—Staff writer Isabelle A. Lu can be reached at isabelle.lu@thecrimson.com.

Adam Zagajewski

“And any journey, any kind of trip, / are only mysticism for beginners,” Adam Zagajewski writes. The belief in making meaning from the mundane pervades throughout his poetry. For Zagajewski, who was forcibly displaced from Lwów (now Lviv, Ukraine) to Poland after World War II, the idea of home is understandably transient, and his poems grapple with this ephemerality through an examination of everyday life. His poems capture the fleeting, urging us to live in the present; in fact, one of his poems is aptly titled “Don’t Allow the Lucid Moment to Dissolve.” What’s so remarkable about Zagajewski’s poetry, though, is that he confronts everything the world has to offer — the good, the bad, and the ugly — with a wonder for it all. In Zagajewski’s world, optimism is as easy as breathing. We “must praise the mutilated world,” he argues, precisely because the world is also indifferent: “I thought that at the last stop / the meaning of it all would stand revealed, / but nothing happened, nothing, / the driver ate a roll with cheese, / two old women talked quietly / about prices and diseases.” And indeed, when he passed in March of 2021, the world mourned — and continued moving forward.

—Staff writer Angelina X. Ng can be reached at angelina.ng@thecrimson.com.

E. E. Cummings, Class of 1915

When I first encountered the eclectic poetry of E. E. Cummings, my mind was opened to the possibilities of what poetry could look like. Poems like “[2 Little Whos]” profoundly impacted the way I view syntax, form, and literature as a whole. The stanza “(far from a grown / -up i&you- / ful world of known) / who and who” is only 13 words and yet overflows with meaning. From the enjambment to the blending of words in “i&you,” each phrase and mark is a wellspring of poetic significance. I am in awe of his ability to use unconventional syntax to pack layers of meaning into just a few lines.

As a creative writer myself, E. E. Cummings has changed the way I approach syntax, both in poetic and prosaic endeavors. Ever since that fateful moment in my junior year of high school when I discovered his work, I have been eternally moved by his poems — just ask the well-worn anthology on my shelf.

—Staff writer Aiden J. Bowers can be reached at aiden.bowers@thecrimson.com.

ko ko thett

“In places where I am considered white, my yellow accent / always holds me back,” writes Burmese poet ko ko thett. In his poetry collection, “Bamboophobia,” poems side-by-side in Burmese and English confront writing for a Western audience and the struggle of maintaining poetic authenticity across languages. To non-Burmese readers, some of his lines like “Blood begets blood. Margot begets Margot. Cross when the / light is green. Double-cross when the Roselles are red” can seem foreign and their images impenetrable. Yet, there is value in the collection’s various figures of speech, anecdotes, and idioms from the poet’s native culture that are presented without markers of differentiation. His poetry inspiringly defies the need to sound “natural” with quips and images that at times run the risk of sounding awkward to native English speakers. However, when coupled with the political history of oppression that informs his poems, this language and its inventiveness is not only a mark of poetic imagination but an emancipatory endeavor. Thus, even when discussing gory practices of torture, there is an irrepressible playfulness in his unyielding language. When reading thett, one can see poetry as a force of liberation.

—Staff writer Sean Wang Zi-Ming can be reached at sean.wangzi-ming@thecrimson.com.

Elizabeth Bishop

This semester, I was fortunate enough to be introduced to Elizabeth Bishop in one of my English classes. Bishop — with her profound sentences that scrutinize humankind’s place in the natural world — understands the art of reduction, taking enormous, vague, and abstract questions about life and death and humanity and reducing them into a small yet compact framework. In her poem “Objects and Apparitions,” Bishop writes, “Minimal, incoherent fragments: the opposite of History, creator of ruins, out of your ruins you have made creations.” The wealth of Bishop’s lyricism continuously astounds me — her manipulation of sound to convey message, for instance, holds me in a perpetual awe. Bishop’s poems retain this persistent sense of understanding of human nature — she was able to see humanity for what it is. As an aspiring writer myself, I endeavor to write about the world as she did.

—Staff writer Thomas A. Ferro can be reached at thomas.ferro@thecrimson.com.

Want to keep up with breaking news? Subscribe to our email newsletter.

Tags
BooksArts