A whole new world: Poets describe how words can change their perspective

Cassidy Scanlon, a senior creative writing major, made a visual poem for a class project. Photo courtesy of Cassidy Scanlon

In high school, Robert Schumaker, a senior creative writing and French major, said that people get a bad idea about poetry because it’s taught as a puzzle that you have to solve to understand the correct meaning, making it considered a less viable source of creativity.

At Chapman, there are six poetry-focused classes offered, according to the undergraduate catalog. Schumaker believes this isn’t enough.

He describes poetry as crucial because, as humans, there are some things that can only be expressed in metaphors. There are things felt by people that can’t be described by language other than poetic metaphors, he said.

“Raices after Kahlo,” a poem by Robert Schumaker

“I think people need to give poetry a chance, because there’s so much good poetry happening now that people are afraid to read because they feel like they won’t get it,” Schumaker said. “But if you sit down with the language and take a moment to yourself and read the poem and just feel it, I think you’ll find that poetry’s actually something that’s really exciting and a really cool way to connect with other people.”

English professor Brian Glaser said he’s always wanted to teach poetry. As soon as he could write, he started writing letters to his younger sister to entertain his parents.

“You have to be a little crazy to write poetry, and we’re all a little crazy,” Glaser said.

Freshman digital arts major Tiffany Orite said she used poetry growing up as a means of entertainment, distraction and expression.

“I was raised as an only child and my parents are very busy people I would want to tell my parents things, but it was very difficult for me to verbally express it, so my art and my poetry would be my ways of talking about things that I would want to say to them, while not like actually saying it,” Orite said.

Orite began writing poetry in high school, but stopped her sophomore year, only to continue once she began college.

“This year, I don’t know, I had so many things to think about, and one night, it was like 2 a.m. and I was just writing and writing and writing,” she said. “It was just a good way to relieve stress.”

Junior creative writing major Danielle Pomeroy agreed that poetry serves as a place to be vulnerable and understand emotions.

Poem by Danielle Pomeroy

“I definitely think that poetry is more of an emotional outlet because it takes thinking about your world through a different lens, and poetry tends to be more emotional in general because it’s all about what you’re feeling as opposed to just outright saying it,” she said.

Student poets, like Orite, Pomeroy, Schumaker, and senior creative writing major Cassidy Scanlon, believe their best poetry comes out of nowhere.

“Sometimes, if something comes to me, I’ll just write it on my phone,” Scanlon said. “Sometimes, I have spontaneous urges of creativity, and I have to write.”

Having a phone in hand and open to the notes app is often necessary for these moments of creativity, Pomeroy said.

“I was walking to school in Rome and I started hearing a poem in my head, so I typed it on my phone while I was walking,” Pomeroy said.

Schumaker also said that poetry comes to him at random times.

“I want to say that I love being out in nature on a day that’s perfect, not too hot or not too cold, but really my best poetry comes sporadically,” he said. “I’ll be in the middle of doing something, and then all the sudden a line pops in my head, and I have to sit down and start writing.”

Schumaker said he uses his poetry as an outlet for his own personal experiences, as well.

“As an LGBT person, I find myself writing about that experience a lot. I feel on the outside of culture sometimes, and I can never fully fit into this heteronormative culture that we have – so just kind of feeling outside but also like inside at the same time – and a lot of poetry is just finding paradoxes, and finding ways to explain how they can exist,” he said.

Poem by Daniel Mata

Daniel Mata, a senior English major, agrees that poetry is crucial in the way he sees the world.

“Literature, but I think poetry in particular, serves as a way to look at the world through a specific pair of lenses, so to speak, and for you to represent yourself in this world in the way that you want,” he said.

Poets like Schumaker, Orite, Scanlon, Pomeroy and Mata all use their poetry to convey a sense of vulnerability and emotion. Glaser, as a professor, believes this is interesting, as it goes against a historical way of writing.

“It’s not a very popular idea among poetry professionals that (poetry is) an emotional expression, but it’s a very widely held idea by young writers,” Glaser said. “It’s a powerful conviction among many students, so I’m fascinated by the tension of the two points of view.”

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