Appreciating poetry is often about patience: sitting with a poem, meditating on it, and re-reading it multiple times. With spoken word, we don’t always get a chance to do that. This series is about taking that chance, and diving a little deeper into some of the new poems going up on Button.
“Year after year she makes flowers bloom in the hood, petals in the face of this land that doesn’t want her here.”
In a few of these writeups, I’ve written about the immense power of identifying moments. When poems are less like movies and more like photographs, when they force us to look at a single scene rather than telling us the whole story, it gives us space to really sit with an idea, to grapple with it, to process it. This poem does that as well as any I can think of. Through this “small” narrative moment, something very “big” is communicated– about the USA, about the immigrant/refugee experience, about dignity, respect, and rage.
For me, that really gets at what poetry is, on a fundamental level. Sometimes, by just telling a story, or painting a picture of a specific memory, you can say more than some 10,000 word think-piece or essay.
And Bao Phi is so good at that. I make no secret of the fact that Bao is one of my favorite poets of all time, and that his two books, “Sông I Sing” and “Thousand Star Hotel,” are always in my top five list of book recommendations when people ask me what poetry they should read. This poem is a great introduction to his work, which so elegantly weaves together powerful personal narrative, unblinking ferocity, and a whole lot of heart.