I went to a writers’ conference in Minnesota in April. It rained; it snowed; it was gorgeously sunny. And, it was four non-stop days of attending workshops and lectures and learning about all of the things I don’t know. I had never heard of small poems before the workshop on small poems. As it turns out, neither had most of the other attendees. I attended a moving panel on Poverty and Poetry. The speakers said things that I have thought for a long time but have never had the words to say. They talked about social classes and leaving people behind and how no matter how much knowledge one has, others can still make her feel like an imposter.

In one session, a Minnesota rapper, POS, did a workshop where he took his own rap lyrics from Genius (rap.genius.com) and examined how various commenters had explicated his sentiments. In response to the line: “But so happy to be alive,” from the song, “Lock-Pick, Knives, Bricks and Bats,,” one commenter wrote:
Here, P.O.S. rejoices in the tremendous happiness he feels simply by being alive. This happiness remains with him despite “looking through dirty lenses,” which can be read as a metaphor for the pessimistic worldview one has when depressed.

POS laughed, saying, he was just happy to be alive. Moving on to another piece where a respondent had made meaning of his desire for a sandwich, he insisted, “I was hungry.” There was no psychic hunger or great void to fill beyond his appetite.

I was thinking about the Billy Collins piece, “Introduction to Poetry” where he describes students trying to “torture a confession” out of a poem. Who has been teaching us to read like imposters?


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