All that is worth remembering
Author(s)Young, Jessica Olivia
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Humanities.
MIT Program in Writing & Humanistic Studies.
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In the December of my Senior year, my old piano teacher died. Old not in the sense of age, because he was really quite young (in general, but specifically to die), but in the sense that I took lessons from him when I was a kid and young adult (how I despise that term), and hadn't spoken with him, at least not at length, in years. Standing at his wake-only the second I'd been to in my life and the first that was more than a small room of silent people and the acrid smell of lilies-I found myself, awkwardly, taking notes. The colors of the wall, the kids running around, the food, the music, the speeches-I knew I would write a poem about it there was so much to communicate about the experience of finding Tim, learning from him, and then losing him. Too much irony and beauty, tragedy and honesty. Too much love and loss. So I took notes on a piece of paper with lyrics to "Hallelujah" on it, borrowing a pen from my high school best friend. The paper sat next to my computer for a couple of weeks, and then it sat in a pile of papers on my desk for a few more. Then a pile of papers and magazines and readings on my floor, by my desk. Then a mass of rubbage on the floor, in the corner of my room. Then covered over by clothing and other unfinished business. And though I literally buried the physical evidence, the words on the paper swarmed through my head, never coalescing into an image, a poem. Though my original thoughts were on the paper, the true words never came to me. Despite my notes, despite my unceasing emotion, I couldn't find a way to express what it all meant to me. I tried. Many times in thought, and four times on paper. Four distinct poems came out-all with repeated elements that signal to me what I find most extraordinary in the experience. Yet I was not able to sit back and say, "This is it. This is my poem for Tim. This does him justice, does me justice." I think, sometimes, the words exist in a puddle, but cannot be gathered together. And pressures such as a deadline of, say, a thesis, force us to make something of the muck. But when it comes down to it, even after writing my 4th poem on this same experience, the words just aren't there. Sometimes they just don't come together. This doesn't mean that they won't ever, and it doesn't mean that what I've written is without value.., it just means that I'm not ready to write the poem that I literally ache to get out of me. The good news is that with each attempt I find something new. With my latest (the fourth attempt), a villanelle, I found that more than the color of the walls at the wake or the kids running around the mourners, I am struck by the shear gravity of loss-what it means to unexpectedly lose someone you never thought about losing. What it means to have nothing but a memory of someone. Whether that's what I was ready to discover, or whether the strict form of the villanelle forced me to, I do not know. But I do know that, despite losing the richness of details, there is something very moving, at least to me, about the villanelle's surface-layer simplicity. Perhaps this is my signal that Tim's death meant something more symbolic to me than literal. I'm still not sure. But I am sure that I would like to share this process with you... the process, for me, of figuring out the world and my place in it, via the process of recording my experiences through poetry ...
Thesis (S.B. in Writing)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dept. of Humanities, Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies, 2006.
DepartmentMIT Program in Writing & Humanistic Studies.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology