Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Poetry Month #29: Untitled by Yanyi

Three poems of this poetry month celebration were recommended by people who truly know poetry: the folks at Seattle's Open Books: A Poem Emporium who generously helped me fill out the schedule.

Imagine reading in a comfy chair in a tiny, inviting space brimming with over 10,000 new, used, and out-of-print books ... all poetry. In fact, Open Books is one of only two or three poetry-only book stores in the country and offers a wide variety of readings and other poetry-oriented events. Of course, right now, you can't do that because the store is closed because of the coronavirus.

When owner Billie Swift had to close the store, it was clear that she needed to start selling books online. However, she knew she wanted to maintain some of the look and service offered to people who came into the store. She didn't want just a fulfillment warehouse so she kept all the staff and designed a process that would replicate as closely as possible the store experience. Email questions are encouraged and staff picks showcase new and important work.
Online store has a bookish look and is simple to use.
Here's the third recommendation from Open Books as described by bookseller Jeric Swift: The Year of Blue Water by Yanyi, winner of the Yale Series of Younger Poets. This untitled poem is a short prose poem that I find myself wondering about a lot, while we're all inside social distancing from everybody we love. We're all kind of forced to stick with ourselves (for good reason) and, for me, I'm trying to figure out how I'd like to emerge from this moment. It's going to take self-reflection, rest, for sure, and at some point I'm going to have to reckon with the systems I find myself beholden to in "regular" pre-covid-19 life.

You tell me that the old you is dead. I am also not who I used
to be. The revolution is emotional. I found a reason to not fear
death. I found more reasons to live, reasons to change what is
living inside me and around me. The revolution is that I care
about my own safety, that I believe my life is valuable and worth
pursuing. As in, I am worth the work of transformations. As in, I
do not fear how I will emerge from myself, or how many times.

            ––Yanyi, from The Year of Blue Water (Yale)


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