I caught a whiff of pages and print recently that reminded me of the books I read when I was younger, some “choose your own adventure” stories. I found myself thinking that one thing I love about art, stories in particular, is how it takes you out of your own world for a while. I think we tend to forget the importance of leaving our world sometimes; we get comfortable in our own world and don’t trust what’s outside it, or we get tired and think we don’t have the energy to leave it; or we get busy and think we don’t have time to leave. And maybe we don’t always have the opportunity to travel and see the world for ourselves, but there are so many ways to learn, through books, documentaries, the internet, and so on.
Learning about what else is out there is so important; it gives us perspective, ideas, and drive. It opens our minds and hearts. It reminds us about luck – what we lucked into, what we didn’t – and how that’s the same for others, too, some luckier, some far less lucky, no matter what they offer the world. It helps us evaluate our own ideas, traditions, and assumptions; it keeps us surprised, vibrant, and learning. Being excited to learn is not just a great gift; it is necessary to society, which must always question itself with an open mind or begin to die. Too much inbreeding, even of ideas, and disease and deformity twist and tie us down. A wise person advised me not to let fear keep me from the world. There is joy in discovery.
I’m excited to say that, this month, there are a lot of perspectives in the column that invite us to look around with an open mind. These poems gaze and zoom out and in. They focus on the small and large, the cause and effect, the self located in space and history, personal and universal. So, let’s get to them!
Associate Editor Julie Brooks Barbour has the work of five fine poets to share with us this month, including an interview with our lead this month, Annie Kim. Ms. Julie writes:
I highly enjoyed my interview with Annie Kim. Our discussion focused on the construction of narrative and the different ways in which Ms. Kim crafts her poems, whether through the imitation of a Rag or the use of collage. Following the interview are three beautifully woven poems that combine family and cultural history.
In “Root Chakra: A Triptychon,” Aria Aber takes us from home to the world by moving not from inner to outer environments, but just the opposite. The home becomes the outer world that causes the speaker to look inward and question the ways an individual navigates the world.
In “Return to Walloon Lake,” Pia Taavila-Borsheim offers a landscape of images that may induce sorrow but the speaker encourages us to “rejoice in deer tracks.” This poem is a reminder to notice the beauty of places we return to whether through memory or travel.
In the poems by Anthony Sutton, we enter the world of the Red Wolf and flame, and illness that cannot be ignored. Red Wolf “gnaws the air” while “fiery petals shower the wind.” To notice fear and quell it with understanding is the brilliance of these poems. They burn with life.
Possibility blooms in these poems by Ashley Mae Hoiland. In one, an individual’s belief in his goal offers faith to a crowd of people. In another, a small statue of Venus echoes the beauty of the female body as the speaker notices the transformation of her own body in pregnancy. These poems are joyous and buoyant. It’s summer; slow down and spend a few moments with these lines.
Mark Smith-Soto also shares two lovely poems with us this month. What I love about these poems is that the focus on one little observation at the beginning of each poem widens, like a funnel, leading to a new and interesting way of thinking about our time in these bodies we inhabit. Maybe because I seem to do it unintentionally a lot of the time, I think it’s good to think that way at least sometimes – to pay attention to the little things that grab your attention and let yourself ride the wave of that thought to some new understanding or idea. If something grabs your attention, sometimes it’s worth it to figure out why. I love that Mr. Smith-Soto has caught that process in these poems. I do love a poem that makes me think.
I am so happy to have Yun Wang in the column again this month. Ms. Wang’s poem “A Map of the Universe” is a study in perspective. It shows us how big we are, and how small. How important and how insignificant. In this poem, you look out from the earth with a telescope, then back to earth from space, zooming in to individuals and out to mass phenomena. All the while, the universe blooms, with or without us to see it. This is a beautiful poem written by a brilliant scientist with much to share about our little universe, so enormous we cannot yet comprehend it.
Here’s to opening and expanding, each of us a universe overlapping countless others. Cheers.