I have never pinned down exactly what poetry is. As a sophomore in high school, I bought a used copy of the first volume of Poems for the Millennium: a soaring, 800-page anthology of modern poetry edited by Jerome Rothenberg. While I read this anthology, I thought poetry was an experiment. It was hard not to feel the fundamental joy of watching an idea, snow-shaped, roll down its hill to build and destroy at once.
The modernist imperative—“MAKE IT NEW”—resonated in my very teenage heart. I wanted to read and write poetry that resisted entropic decay, that pushed past the point of no return and did not want to return. “New” meant scattered and blown-out, spacey and Space Age, supernova-ing. I didn’t “make” anything, just placed two ideas on a page and hoped they played nicely. Reader be damned! I was having fun.
Once during my beginning poetry workshop, I met with my section’s TA (Kyle Bassett) to discuss my life goals and to recite Dean Young’s “Anti-Ambition Ode” (my final assignment). A pigeon pooped on my bike while we spoke. When we finished our conversation, I walked back to my bike to find the fresh evidence and a rusty-colored, one-legged bird confidently strutting nearby. “That’s a poem,” Kyle said.
As an astrobiology student, I’m always asked “What is life?” and as a poetry student, I’m always asked “What is poetry?” and over time, these two definitions have converged. Life does not make sense, particularly in its origin. How do we make life out of its building blocks (nucleotides, minerals, amino acids)? What assembly is necessary? How does it persist and evolve? It’s easy now to look at my more “experimental” poems from high school and see the same failures and assumptions made in them as in some astrobiology research. The blocks are there, but the life is not.
I don’t know what poetry is. I only know that it does. It defies its own dimensions, and finds its way into every niche in which we look. We crack open a rock, and there we find poetry. Sink into the mantle, and it is there. Bottom of ocean. Our cities. Our commute. It lives between the bones. It is the interconnectedness of all things—ultimate betweenness.
To quote from Anne Boyer’s Garments against Women:
“Sometimes when you look at smoothly joining at least two different-sized pieces of flat but pliable material so that these pieces might correctly encase an eternally irregular, perspiring and breathing three-dimensional object that cannot cease its motion you think that there is no way ever this could happen, yet sometimes it does.
Bio: Megan Bromley is the student Poetry Editor for Superstition Review’s 20th issue. She is a junior studying Creative Writing and Astrobiology, and is also active in the marching band as a piccolo player. She enjoys all things chaotic and/or musical.