“Long before I wrote stories, I listened for stories. Listening for them is something more acute than listening to them. I suppose it’s an early form of participation in what goes on. Listening children know stories are there. When their elders sit and begin, children are just waiting and hoping for one to come out, like a mouse from its hole.”
-Eudora Welty, One Writer’s Beginnings
I’ve taught a lot of classes in writing poetry. I’ve heard a lot of student poetry read out loud, and commented on it, and read it out loud myself when the writer wanted to hear it in someone else’s voice. Five or six years ago, one of my high school students asked, “Do you really want to read all this teenage poetry?” The question surprised me. I’d never really asked myself that before. And then, there in my thoughts, was an answer. Yes.
Not always of course. Sometimes on a Sunday night, when I still had a stack of packets to comment on, I didn’t want to read anymore. But mostly, yes. That moment came back to me today during a conversation about art and culture, about Netflix and poetry and how we interact with the big, slow turning ship that is our society’s way of understanding what’s true, what’s important, what we should move toward. It seems like Marvel has such a big microphone when it comes to saying, this is how you hero. And it does. But the thing is, there’s not one ship. There are so many different conversation, so many different people involved in figuring out how to understand our experience. There are kayaks and sailboats, rafts and canoes and people swimming. There are beaches and kelp beds and krill. I love hearing poetry and not asking, is that good. I love listening for how people find themselves, and build themselves, and share themselves.
I might not like stories as much as Eudora Welty. For me, it’s less about a mouse coming out of a hole. Less about a story that is something on its own. It’s more about the mouse, and the wall, and the building, and all the other mice in the attic, and the birds up on the roof. It’s about the wonderful chance to listen to all of them, and some of them, one by one and together.