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After spending this entire semester studying poetry in a college class, I feel that I have only scratched the surface of what poetry has to offer me. For most of my life and frankly most of this semester, I have found poetry to be a chore. It was a unit in my grade school English classes that I put up with and suffered through. This probably stems from the fact that I thought I was not smart enough to understand what the poems I was reading were trying to convey. But gradually over the semester and particularly after listening to this interview with Elizabeth Alexander my notions about poetry began to change.
In this interview I was most enthralled with the idea of poetry as a luxury. This is a provocative statement that I had never considered. In my self-absorption with my own issues and problems, I forgot that I was lucky enough to be going to a college that I love and that I had the privilege to talk about poetry every day. However, during this interview the idea the poetry was also a “poor man’s art form” began to intrigue me as well. I love this idea that the poems we studied this semester can be luxurious yet also accessible to anyone willing to seek them out.
By far my favorite poem we read this in my class this semester was William Carlos Williams’ “This is Just to Say”:
I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold”
I think what I love so much about this poem is its ability to be interpreted so many different ways. My class spent many days looking at the tone and examining the line breaks and the word choice but every single person came away feeling differently about the poem because we all had different reactions. This differing of opinions is what has drawn me to poetry this semester and what I think will keep drawing me in the future. I am so captivated by the idea that so many people can have so many reactions to a short simple poem like “This is Just to Say”. This idea of different interpretations of a single poem is what also captivated me about these two interpretations (poetry as a luxury and poetry as a poor man’s art form) in this interview with Elizabeth Alexander. These differing interpretations is what has made poetry accessible to me but it also gives me the courage to know that I can understand and enjoy poetry because even poets and scholars have conflicting views on what poetry is. But more than that I think these two notions of poetry as a luxury and as a poor man’s art form work together to help me understand all that poetry has to offer. They cause me to realize that poetry is accessible to me but that I am fortunate enough to have the ability to seek out poems that I like and inspire me is a luxury. So, thank you Elizabeth Alexander for giving me the gift of allowing myself to enjoy poetry for the rest of my life.