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How Poetry Makes Me Feel

April 9, 2013 - Phyllis Sigal
I love the near-silent, guttural "huhhhhh" of an audience — the sound that punctuates the end of a poem when read aloud by its writer.

It's a sound that signifies approval, connection; it's an emotional response that tells the reader, "Wow. We are moved."

That moment allows us to digest the poem before moving on to another.

As I listen, the crafted lines envelope me and sift down, deep inside me, while the emotion wells up ... into tears, smiles, chills. Some phrases I swear I'll never forget, but then I do.

When I listen to a poet read his or her work, I'm transported. I'm transported into the poem, but also into another time.

I'm transported back to my days at Pitt in the creative writing program, reading, writing, listening ... Young poets we were, involved in and supportive of each others' creations.

I'm transported back to my years on the James Wright Poetry Festival committee and to the one weekend each spring when famed poets — Collins, Kunitz, Kinnell, Bly, Matthews, Oliver, Ignatow, to name but a few — would join us at the Martins Ferry Public Library to celebrate the life and work of the hometown Pulitzer Prize-winner.

I'm transported back to my summer weeks at Chautauqua Institution listening to writers read and talk about their work.

I'm transported to my front porch, where I love to spend sunny mornings with my notebook and pen.

I'm thankful to have the opportunity to hear live poets; I just came from listening to West Virginia's Poet Laureate, Marc Harshman, at Lunch With Books at the Ohio County Library.

We are lucky to have such a talented and prolific writer living among us in Wheeling.

I am lucky to be inspired by his writing and transported by his spirited reading.

Thank you, Marc.


Article Comments



Apr-11-13 7:20 PM

You know, that hush after a poem is one of the few communal silences left in our culture. "Digest" is exactly right. Behold, maybe, too.


Apr-10-13 12:49 PM

Well put, Phyllis. Only a true poet thinks like you do.


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