When I was in seventh grade, my grandfather recognized my interest in poetry and suggested that I send some of my work to his friend Phyllis. My grandfather said that she was a well known poet in his area who might be able to give me some advice about my creative writing. At first, I was skeptical about the idea of having a penpal. I didn’t know who she was, and I didn’t know if we could make a connection through letters, not to mention that she lived across the country and was generations older than I was.
When I received my first letter, I enjoyed reading about some of her favorite things and people, but I was more excited to see the poems and pictures of artwork that she had enclosed. Phyllis had sent me clippings of her poems which had been printed in the local newspaper, and each piece told me more about her. I read lighthearted poems about her favorite artist (Jackson Pollack), her recent trip to the movie theater, and her favorite hat. I also read vulnerable poems about her fears regarding climate change, experience losing her mother, opinions about true love.
Reading Phyllis’s poems made me feel more connected to her, and I was inspired to write her poems about my emotions and experiences in return. Through our correspondence, I felt like I had met a new friend, even though I had never seen her face.
Through my connection with Phyllis, I have learned that poetry is a wonderful and effective way for people to connect with others and share about themselves. Poetry is powerful because of the freedom it gives people to express themselves. Poems can be short, long, rhyming, fictional, or real. Poems can be complex and private or simple and playful. I think that all poems reflect a certain facet of the writer’s personality and identity, even if the poem shares something as basic as the writer’s favorite hat.
Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, I have been turning to poetry as an outlet for my feelings of fear and loneliness. As a high schooler living in New York City, I have found that the pandemic has progressed exceptionally fast. My once carefree and interesting life is now highly regulated and confined. I miss my friends who I used to see at school everyday, and I miss being able to breathe in fresh air without a mask on. I am worried about my grandparents and Phyllis, and I am frustrated because I do not know when I might be able to see or hear from them next. I have been able to share my poems with Phyllis electronically, and hearing about her experience in the pandemic has made me feel even more connected to her. I know many others may be experiencing the same feelings throughout this difficult time, and I strongly recommend writing poetry as a method to share your experience with others or to personally understand complicated emotions.