My last morning in New York City.
I don’t know what to say. Thankfully, I was required to write a reflective final essay for the program, and I think it will serve as the perfect cap for this experience. The problem is, I hate admitting that there needs to be a “cap” for it, at all.
Princess of What is Over
In my Introduction to Creative Writing class my freshman year of college, one of the options of an assignment was to write a poem about our muse, what drives us to write; name it and embody it within a poem. At the time, I steered away from the option. I couldn’t put my finger on the impulse inside me that led me to write, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to in the first place.
When I came to New York City, I journaled that I was frustrated with the speaker of my poems. Prior to my experience here, she was always so honest and vulnerable. I felt like I had never pushed myself out of my comfort zone, never revealed something deeper than myself to an audience. I expressed the desire to become a mythological being in my poems like Sylvia Plath accomplishes. I wanted to explore the savage, the confident, violent, assertive, gigantic woman that I hoped I could be. At first, writing these poems seemed too far outside of myself, and the going was tough. As my time in New York City wore on, however, I could feel her ripping her way out of me and spilling herself onto the page.
It would be too simple to say that I’ve changed only as a poet, because I have changed as a human being. When I set off to New York City, I had never been away from home for longer than three weeks. I had never done my own laundry. Having depended on a GPS my whole life, I had a weak sense of direction. I was just coming out the other side of brief, messy relationship and I felt like I was stumbling to find some kind of anchor, a read on who I was. For the first week or two I proceeded like this. Slowly but surely, though, it was happening—I was doing things on my own, introducing myself to people and finding my own way through the streets of New York City. I began to seek out friendships with other people in the house and at my internship. I was starting to come alive.
Now, I can navigate Penn Station like a pro. I’ve taught other interns the ropes at Poets House. I’ve schmoozed with successful poets and held my own in conversations. I’ve made a few friends that I plan on holding onto for dear life. I’ve high-fived perfect strangers at a Ranger’s game. I’ve tried every cupcake I could get my hands on and eaten some of the best food I’ve ever encountered in my life. I’ve created my very first chapbook and given it to people I love and respect. I think just about every other word out of my mouth has been “yes.” To quote my chapbook, “I yearned, I slapped my hands down onto these naked/ sheets of paper” because, I at last realized: “…I am not afraid of the unmade.”
On a more academic note, I’ve certainly grown as a reader of poetry and as a reader of the world, as well. The events at Poets House have helped me discover poets I might not have uncovered otherwise, such as George Trakl and Zbigniew Herbert. The more I read and the more I learn about poetry, the more I’m able to apply it to my own life. In this way, I discovered the poem I think describes this new voice I’ve awoken within myself. I was transcribing a relatively recent Poets House programin which the current Poet Laureate, W.S. Merwin, discusses foxes and reads “Vixen,” a poem whose subject is a fox. The poem begins:
Comet of stillness princess of what is over
high note held without trembling without voice without sound
aura of complete darkness keeper of the kept secrets
of the destroyed stories the escaped dreams the sentences
never caught in words…
The literal scene is a speaker having happened upon a fox, and the magical moment right before she runs away. The poem is both dark and beautiful, it’s tragic—and yet the fox seems powerful and goddess-like. This new speaker is that fox—the “keeper of the kept secrets, of the destroyed stories.” She is “princess of what is over.” I catch her at the moment before she runs away—and she runs away on her own terms.
An essay to sum up the ways in which I’ve changed and grown seems impossible. I feel as though the poems in my chapbook capture that growth is more accurate. It will be surreal returning home as this different person. Nothing will ever be the same, ever again. I think it’s safe to say that I’ll be returning to this city someday soon—because I am not finished here.