I've been reading a lot of poetry recently; the library's been invaluable in this endeavor, and so has half.com. Two favorite poets: Billy Collins and Sharon Olds. What's been most meaningful for me as I've been reading lately are two things: 1) the reminder of just how powerful language is, and 2) the concrete demonstration of writing about seemingly-mundane moments. A story or poem doesn't have to be about something glamorous or exciting in order to be meaningful; there's drama in little things, too. It's not that I didn't know these things before; it's just nice to be reminded in such a visceral way now and again.
Here's a poem about the power of words -- and the forbidden. I think it's also about power, period, and the reclaiming of it.
I Knew I'd Sing
by Heather McHugh
A few sashay, a few finangle,
Some make whoopee, some
make good. But most make
diddly-squat. I tell you this
is what I love about
America - the words it puts
in my mouth, the mouth where once
my mother rubbed a word away
with soap. The word
was cunt. She stuck that great
big bar in there until there was
no hole to speak of, so
she hoped. But still I'm full
of it, the cunt, the prick,
short u, short i, the words
for her and him. I loved
the things they must have done,
the love they must have made,
to make an example of me.
After my lunch of Ivory I said
vagina for a day or two, but knew
from that day forth which word it was
that struck with all the force of sex itself.
I knew when I was big I'd sing
a song in praise of cunt. I'd want
to keep my word, the one with teeth in it.
And even after I was raised, I swore
nothing, but nothing, would be beneath me.