I Believe in the Power of Poetry

The following essay I wrote was inspired by the NPR show "This I Believe". For more info visit www.npr.org/thisibelieve

What do you believe in?

I believe in shapes that overlap,
triangles and rectangles on white, not flat,
but curving, the scent of men’s deodorant,
and mayonnaise on my sandwiches.

I believe in concerts that are not loud,
in dogs that are not big,
in milk that isn’t sour.
I believe in walking barefoot on thick rugs.

I wrote the above for a creative writing class when I was a freshman in college. The assignment was to write about what we believed in. I was excited about it, having no idea what I was going to write. I remember standing in my dorm room, looking out the window at the curving shapes on the roof. Images started popping in my mind and I could taste each one of them, convinced they were what I truly believed in. I remember reading it aloud as my classmates seemed somewhat stunned, and my teacher murmured, “she has a lot of experience writing poetry.” Everyone was analyzing it and its deep hidden meanings. I didn’t know if there were any, I just listened to my instincts and wrote it.

What I really believe in is the confidence that poetry has given me. The confidence in my ability to see things in a new way, to express myself, and to inspire others.

The first time I wrote poetry was in the fourth grade. I had a wonderful teacher. For the first assignment in our poetry unit, she had us write a poem about a color, and what that color meant to us. I kept the construction paper book that I wrote it in, just as I kept many hand-made books that I wrote that year. I would take it out of a drawer throughout my life, reading and rereading my grade of “A” along with her comments on the inside cover, and the color poem. It is the poem that inspired her to say that I would one day be a famous poet. I lost the book a few years ago, but I still remember the poem almost in its entirety.

Wonderful Yellow

Yellow’s the color that makes me wonder.
Yellow’s the color of lightening, not thunder.
Yellow’s the color of an opening daisy,
yellow’s the color that makes me go crazy.
Yellow’s the color of peace and of joy,
yellow’s a color, it’s not a toy.
Yellow’s the color of a beach that’s sandy,
yellow’s the color of lemon drop candy.
Yellow’s the color that blows in the breeze,
yellow’s the color of most popcorn trees.
Yellow’s the color of bright golden hair,
In the winter yellow just isn’t there,
but in sunny weather it shines everywhere!
Yellow’s my truthful and honest friend,
I like it all from beginning to end.

In fourth grade I believed in yellow. As a freshman in college, I believed in deodorant and mayonnaise. Now I believe in the power of poetry to change my life and bring me joy and confidence.