(This isn't a very lovey dovey Valentine's Day post,
but I wrote mine yesterday on why our relationship works.
Link up if you haven't already and make sure to visit others' blogs who linked up.
There are so many great posts. I am overwhelmed!)
I used to totally hate poetry. I didn't always get it, and I felt like because I couldn't see all the hidden meanings and the nuances that I was stupid. Most people don't like things that make them feel stupid. So I declared that I didn't like poetry and I officially quit on it forever.
Then I was asked to teach AP Literature. The AP Lit curriculum has a huge focus on poetry so I had to kind of dive in head first with it this year, whether or not I liked it.
And guess what?
I liked it!
There's probably a lot of poems that still go over my head or that I don't pull all the intended meaning from. But I've learned to be okay with that and I've learned that I can just take from the poem what I want to take from it and not worry about the rest. John Green says "The book belongs to the reader," and I believe that with poems, too. The poem belongs to the reader.
It doesn't hurt that poets are generally a straight up crazy group of people. They're fun to study. It's easy to get sucked into their lives and their poems because most of the time it's all totally whack.
Take Sylvia Plath, for example. Her dad died when she was young, and she missed having a male influence in her life. She met Ted Hughes in college and was absolutely infatuated with him. They married and had two kids and when she found out he was cheating on her, she couldn't handle the grief and practically went mad. (Very interesting poem analyzing the similarities in her love for her dad and her husband is Daddy.) She already had a history of mental illness, (once tried to kill herself by crawling under the house for several days) and Hughes' infidelity drove her over the edge. She stayed up all night long writing poems while her two children slept, and at the age of 30 she killed herself by sealing all the doors in the kitchen, turning the gas on and sticking her head in the oven. She died of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Now. Tell me that's not an interesting story. Even the seventeen year olds listen up with open ears on that one.
I enjoy a lot of Plath's poetry, and I also really liked her book The Bell Jar. It's about her descent into madness, but she writes the story as if it were happening to someone else. It's pretty short if you are looking for a short, crazy book to read for the weekend.
All that background just to introduce you to this poem by Plath. I always give this poem to my students when I am introducing figurative language and metaphors, and see if they can figure out what event she is describing. I usually have one in a class of forty who can crack the riddle.
I'm a riddle in nine syllables,
Al elephant, a ponderous house,
A melon strolling on two tendrils,
O red fruit, ivory, fine timbers!
This loaf's big with its yeasty rising.
Money's new minted in this fat purse.
I'm a means, a stage, a cow in calf.
I've eaten a bag of green apples,
Boarded the train there's no getting off.
I'll give you a hint if you are struggling. It has nine lines and each line has nine syllables...
Figured it out yet?
I really like this poem, and I strangely identify with Plath. My students always think it's weird and not very nice of her that she's not more stoked about having a baby- that she seems so hesitant. I always defend her- it's a fear of the unknown, and I relate to it.
Last night when I was walking the dog, the last line of the poem kept repeating itself through my head,
"Boarded the train there's no getting off. Boarded the train there's no getting off."
For me, there is no getting off. The thing that is growing inside of me will continue to grow until it is forced to leave my body via a very painful and scary process, a process that will also likely leave my body in shreds. I will then be responsible for the care and health of this living thing until it is 18 years old. I will then remain emotionally tied, connected and involved with this thing for the rest of my life.
So yes. I've boarded a train. There's no getting off.
It's not that I'm not completely stoked to be on the train. I like the train! It's fun! I think! It's a train that I always wanted to someday board. But the thing is I've never been to the place this train is going. The place is very unknown to me. There's a lot of stuff I can't have in this new place that I used to enjoy in my old place- like weekends sleeping in until noon and spur of the moment trips to Las Vegas. Once I get to where the train is going, I can never go back to the old place. People who have been to the place before say that I will LOVE where this train is going. But they also say this place is a lot of work and you don't sleep much for the first little while you are there, and that sometimes this place makes you want to tear your hair out. But the place is so totally worth it, they say.
Most of the time I am incredibly excited to get to this place, and I wish the train would go faster. I want to arrive at the destination now and discover the new place right away. But then sometimes I am so scared of the train, and it seems to already be moving so terribly fast and gosh the train is too fast, why can't we just slow it down!?! What if I made the wrong decision and I will hate it? What if I will like the new place but the timing is all wrong and I really shouldn't be at this new place for another couple of years? What if the new place is so terribly expensive and I can't afford it and I have to stop teaching and and and and and and...
Not to mention that who in the world am I to even get on this train? How do I have the nerve to think I deserve to go there or that I will be good at living in this new place? (Just last night I received a comment on this post implying I shouldn't be a mother. Most of the time I can brush mean blog comments off, but as I'm struggling a bit with my new role, I have to admit that this one stung.)
These are the thoughts that swirl around in my head when I'm walking my dog and watching my tummy grow. I don't hear a lot of pregnant women say they are scared of the train, and sometimes I wonder if I'm the only one on board who feels doubt or fear. I guess that's why I like Sylvia Plath. I have no intention of sticking my head in an oven door, but that woman just gets me.
At the end of the day, I have to remember all the other times I felt fear or doubt and how it turned out. I have to remember how scared I was to marry, how scared I was to teach high school for the first time, how scared I was to go to Argentina for 18 months, how scared I was to go to college and move away from home. All of these things were scary at the moment, but have made my life whole and happy and beautiful.
I am who I am because of all those trains I boarded with no way of getting off.