February 14, 2020

Pause for Poetry

Jordan Wheatley

The onset of a new endeavor can be nerve wracking, intimidating, and for me, something to put off until there is no choice but to address it. However, this new adventure into the online community of Kingsley and Kate Tufts Poetry Awards is something that I am truly excited about. My name is Jordan Wheatley. I am second-year MA student in the English Department at CGU on the swift road to graduation in May. I am tremendously grateful to have an outlet for my writing this semester that does not necessarily involve perusing JSTOR for that perfect article to support my argument (although, my academia-soaked brain will probably lead me there at some point during my time here). Having the chance to sit down at my desk and write about poetry for poetry’s sake is something that I cannot and will not take for granted.

In my inaugural blog post, I want to explain the impact that poetry has had on me and how it has helped me during my time at CGU. As I enter my final semester of my MA coursework—battling deadlines, meeting final degree requirements, and sending late-night panicked emails to my advisor—I find the easeful precision of poetry entirely calming. After spending hours trapped in the structural confines of the academic essay, the fluidity of poetic language hits me like a sweet breeze at the golden hour. Poetry, for countless reasons, puts me in an alternate mindset and takes me away from the anxieties inherent to the academic process.

When I first started at CGU in 2018, I joined Foothill Poetry Journal as an assistant editor. I had gotten a poem published during my time as an undergraduate, but poetry was something that I only experienced alone. Now, after a year and a half with the incredible people at Foothill, poetry has become central to my life and no longer a lonesome pastime. Reading and discussing poetry with others is a beautiful experience. Conversations flow and meander like the lines in the poem we may be discussing. We find profundity in the most mundane of details. I am proud to be a part of each meeting.

Foothill Editors at the 2019 launch party and poetry reading L-R: Brock Rustin, Jordan Wheatley, Stacey Park, Richard Parnell, Natalie Diaz, Cassady O’Reily-Hahn, Michelle Arch, Emily Schuck, Brian McCabe

So, as I look to the light that is rapidly becoming visible at the end of my ten-year scholarly tunnel, and head towards the end of my academic career, I remind myself of the affect poetry has really had on me. Whether it be Emily Dickinson, Sylvia Plath, Dawn Lundy Martin, or Ada Limón (this list is tragically short for brevity’s sake), the written word—erased, transformed, and intricately placed—reminds me of the immense power of language. Language does not only work as a way to convey an argument about a topic discussed in class, but rather it can convey a feeling, a temporality, and a particularity only possible within the poetic form. It is so important to take a step back and embrace the intimate and simultaneously universal appeal of poetry. The comforting effect that it has had me is something that has carried me through my graduate school experience. I encourage other students, while understanding their undeniably busy schedules, to pause—even if just a few minutes—for poetry.

—Jordan Wheatley