The following guest post is by Caroline Harris, a summer 2017 intern in the Poetry and Literature Center.
I wrote my first poem on the second day of sixth grade. It was called “Ode to an Artichoke.” In rhyming couplets, I praised every aspect of my favorite vegetable. No stranger to hyperbole, I labeled artichokes “my heart’s one true desire.”
My first attempts at writing poetry were simplistic, cliché and a little embarrassing. But it didn’t matter what I was writing or how well I was writing it. What mattered was that I was writing. When I wrote poetry, time stood still. There was nothing as pressing and poignant as the page in front of me. Writing poetry gave my life purpose and direction. Reading poetry reminded me I’m never alone. There are others who have thought my thoughts and experienced my experiences.
That feeling has stayed with me. I’m in love with language. I’m in love with poetry because it is the essence of language. Whole worlds can be rendered in a few stanzas. Whole experiences can be represented by carefully selected images.
I pursue my love of language as an English major at the University of Pennsylvania. In classes like Al Filreis’ Modern and Contemporary American Poetry, I’ve become more sensitive to what language is and does. I’ve learned about the power of poetry to create community, hold space and express the otherwise inexpressible.
“Poetry is the air we breathe,” Al said. “Everything else is a utility.”
This summer, I’m fortunate to intern in the Poetry and Literature Center. The PLC administers the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry position among other national programs, prizes and initiatives. The PLC promotes the power of poetry and, for that reason, it’s an endlessly inspiring place to work.
There’s so much history, energy and vitality in these walls. I shelve bookshelves lined with my favorite poets, from Ocean Vuong to Sylvia Plath. I write blog posts in the Poet Laureate’s office and think about the brilliant writers who have sat where I’m sitting. I research the writers who inspire me to write. Each morning, I walk down Independence Avenue with a huge smile on my face. Working in the Poetry and Literature Center is the dream of all dreams. No work feels more important, invigorating and exciting.
I’m so honored to join the Library of Congress community. This space supports lifelong reading, writing and learning. It encourages sixth graders to write odes to artichokes. Above all, it champions the idea that poetry is as essential as the air we breathe.