May 24, 2019

Poetry Rx

Poetry Rx, as in a poetry "prescription," is a column the The Paris Review. Readers write in with a specific emotion, and resident poets—Sarah Kay, Kaveh Akbar, and Claire Schwartz—take turns prescribing poems for them. Once a weekly feature, it now monthly.

For May, the topic was "Then the Letting Go," One reader wrote in asking for a poem because she had come out to her parents and gotten a bad reaction.

Claire Schwartz replied:
"I'm sorry your family did not respond with the affirmation you deserve. Your queerness doesn’t need to be validated. It is valid because it is. You need—you deserve—to find a way to enter the truths of yourself regardless of how other people see you. That is difficult, beautiful work. I want to offer you a poem I hold very close because it stabilizes me to do just that: Adrienne Rich’s “Diving Into the Wreck.” 

In another column, when a reader asks for an encouraging poem for her job-hunting partner, Sarah Kay suggest one that isn't about job hunting biut about "loving someone exactly as they are, and wanting them to know that they are enough. It is a poem called “Ordinary Sex,” by Ellen Bass, which begins:"

If no swan descends
in a blinding glare of plumage,
drumming the air with deafening wings,
if the earth doesn’t tremble
and rivers don’t tumble uphill,
if my mother’s crystal
vase doesn’t shatter
and no extinct species are sighted anew
and leaves of the city trees don’t applaud
as you zing me to the moon, starry tesserae
cascading down my shoulders,
if we stay right here
on our aging Simmons Beautyrest,
dumped into the sag in the middle,
that’s okay...

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