Friday, March 05, 2021

Zoom and the Power of Poetry

Melinda Palacio

 On Wednesday, I had the pleasure of being the main speaker for the Santa Barbara Association of Women in Communication. It was one of the friendliest groups I’ve spoken to and I felt very comfortable. An overall fun and pleasant Covid-zoom-speaking gig. It helped that I’m also in the communications field. Some of the women knew me from my news reporting days in Santa Barbara. I was pleasantly surprised by my old editor from the Goleta Valley Voice. The subject was the power of poetry for communicators, a subject I enjoy talking about. 

The only glitch happened a half hour before the event, when I realized my trusty zoom room was turning very dim. The event began at 5:30 pm and most other zooms I’ve attended over the past year have happened around or before noon. A small camping lantern did the trick. 

I’ll make the main takeaway of my talk easy to find: Poetry is a powerful and useful tool during this time of Covid isolation. It’s fair to say that Covid has been good for poetry. More and more people are turning to poetry to ease their loneliness. That our President chose youth poet Amanda Gorman as the inaugural poet also adds to the sudden buzz in poetry. Of course, as a poet, I’m thrilled that more people are giving poetry its due and are reading more poetry and want to incorporate poetry in their lives. Poetry restores play and whimsy, while allowing the poet to take a stand for principles and believes. For those who are on lockdown by themselves, poetry can be that non-judgmental friend that empowers you. So many people around the world are suffering from depression. Poetry can restore some of that lost normalcy by letting others know that they are not alone. If you are simply wanting to discover more about yourself. Make the pen and page your friend and you’ll have another friend in form of a poem, a Covid party. 

I also learned that my talking about pen and paper dates me. Someone asked what are the best tools for writing poems. I held up the pen in my hand. I quickly help up my phone and showed that writing notes, a text to yourself or a voice memo was also a good tool to start writing your poem. The poem is your friend and it doesn’t care what close it wears whether a blank page or a blank screen. Your job is to fill it. Write whatever comes to mind, get all the ideas on the page and then go back and shape your poem. Read it out loud. Which words sing? Which words get in the way and need to go? Cross out them out. Rewrite and rewrite. Read and repeat. Let the poem sit and marinate. Maybe go back to it in a week, maybe not. Know it’s there to revisit and spend time with, a friend, your poem. Share it or keep it for yourself. I’ll share my pandemic poem with you. 

This Poem Is Not a Prayer

(published in When the Virus Came Calling Covid-19 Strikes America, September 2020)

This poem cries on an empty street corner in blind daylight.

This poem doesn’t want a helping hand for fear of contamination. 

This poem loves isolation, but despises the box she’s confined to. 

This poem listens to finches, when they stop singing, she awaits a murder of crows.

This poem doesn’t want wide-eyed strangers to feel sorry for her, to tilt their heads as if they cared about what’s between the lines.

This poem wears an N-95 mask over her nose and mouth. The mask stolen from a young buck. 

This poem plays pandemic drinking games. 

This poem is not a prayer.

This poem sits six feet away from you, maybe six miles to be safe. 

This poem wears a tattered dress over bruised knees, her torn white-stockinged feet stuffed into scuffed black patent leather shoes.

This poem washes her hands while singing Happy Birthday to Me, Happy Birthday to Me, Happy Birthday Dear Dirty Hands, Happy Birthday to Me. Estas son las mañanitas.

This brackish green brown poem lives in a muddy pond, deaf to bird calls, she is indifferent to the lily eaten by golden frogs. 

This poem continues to cry alone, laughs when told touching is a thing of the past.

This poem says goodbye too many times and wonders when she may take your blue hand. 

This poem dies with you.

No comments: