Earlier today, our school held its annual Poetry Out Loud Competition, where 11 students shared their personal recitations of two previously published poems. The rules regarding which poems you can use are simple: one poem must be 25 or fewer lines; the other must be written before the 20th century. The Poetry Out Loud website does a nice job of offering poems in each category.
All 11 students did a magnificent job of bringing their poems to life; some even brought me to tears as they captured the precise emotion in each line to evoke in us — the members of their audience — a strong memory and reaction, transcending us from a simple school auditorium to a rambling brook, an old house, a forgotten pasture.
As I sat there and listened to each student, I had to remind myself that they were merely 16 or so years old. They knew little, if anything at all, of the authors and their works; they knew even less about what it means to be an old woman looking back at the missed chances in her life.
And yet, they were able to tap into some aspect of the timeless poems to breathe new life in them, words that had been penned 50, 100, even 200 or more years ago. How was this possible? These students spend their hours studying, scrolling through newsfeeds, binge-watching their favorite shows, working overtime, and somehow finding the time to get caught up on the drama of high school.
How could students who spend so much of their time receiving endless streams of data at all hours of the day bring to life Wordsworth, Shelley, Dickinson, and others?
Simply put, these authors made a decision to capture the essence of humanity — of a life however lived — in words, where metaphors, rhymes, and allegories swirl in a timeless tapestry, giving us the chance to know firsthand, as if the moment were happening right before us, what he or she experienced.
This is why we write. This is why we “love words, agonize over sentences, and pay attention to the world,” according to Susan Sontag. It is our attempt to make the fleeting moment timeless, so that others long after us can still smell the lingering smoke from last night’s fire, the paralyzing fear of opening a bedroom door, the hovering delight of the seconds following a first kiss. It is our timeless connection to the past, present, and future through words that capture the threads of that tapestry, woven timelessly as one.
Share your ideas, your thoughts, your words with the world. Let us know today that you have lived; allow others tomorrow to breathe new life in your words, as our 11 students did so eloquently today.
The Deeper Stories
Our gift drive for the children in Sinai Hospital is coming to a close, and we are in desperate need of some last-minute shoppers who want to make a real difference in these children’s lives.
If you are interested in donating a gift to the children who will be spending the holidays (and beyond) in the hospital, check out our 3rd Annual Gift Drive for the Sinai Hospital PICU. If you would prefer to make a donation, we will be shopping next week for the children and purchasing as much of the items as possible that are still on the list. You can PayPal your donation directly to us at Rusvw13@icloud.com.
As a small token of appreciation, I am making my anthology, Faith, Hope, and Legacy: A Christmas Collection, which features “Gretchie’s Gifts,” free to all who wish to download it.
If you are interested in the story behind our gift drive and “Gretchie’s Gifts,” you can read it here.
The Future Story
FOSSIL FIVE and THE JAR COLLECTIVE:
My latest novel, Fossil Five, will be released internationally on June 21, 2019, under The Jar Collective, a collaborative publishing house for the creative works of Jodi Cleghorn, Adam Byatt, and myself. Look for more information in January 2019 about the Collective and Fossil Five‘s release.
For now, you can follow the progress of publishing Fossil Five on these social media platforms, which will also be providing frequent updates on the upcoming book’s release:
The Evening Report with Rus VanWestervelt is a daily reflection that will be posted here at The Baltimore Writer between 8 and 11 p.m. each night. I encourage you to subscribe to my blog and be one of the first to read The Evening Report.