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A Poem for a Marathon

Bookish Bostonian

Asst. Metro Editor

Published: Thursday, April 18, 2013

Updated: Thursday, April 18, 2013 01:04

Peter Fallon, an Irish poet and Burns Library Scholar at Boston College, did not know what to call his youthful work until he met other writers.

“They called my work poetry,” said Fallon at the Greater Boston Intercollegiate Undergraduate Poetry Festival, which was hosted in BC’s Yawkey Center on Apr. 11.

The Poetry Festival welcomed undergraduate writers from 26 colleges and universities in the Greater Boston area. The poets were invited to read a brief selection of their poetry for an audience, after having been nominated by their professors and mentors.

Fallon’s statements, I feel, worked neatly within the festival, as they presented the notion that art is something experienced when seen in relation to others—it is not poetry until it communicates with another.

It is unfortunate, perhaps, to burst the bubbles of typical teenage poets who repeatedly insist that the poem they wrote is only for them, that they do not care if everyone else does not understand it. Such people who think this way have missed what it means to be a poet. To them, I say that I am sorry. While I am all for the sometimes beautifully selfish passion that fuels art, the true nature of a poem is to see that it is not purely for the poet—it is inherently designed to speak to someone else.

Anyone who attends a poetry festival can see the ways in which words can communicate between different people, the way in which rhythm and sound as well as thought and perspective can interact to create a conversation.

This idea was captured well by participating poet Matthew Conte, Stonehill College ’13, when he read his poem “Tuesday Game Night at Chatham Hall.”

“You see what you can find / And everybody sees different things,” Conte read.

The poetry at the festival, for example, ranged widely in subject from the nature of one’s namesake to the nature of grappling with oneself upon waking up one morning in Boston.

The ability of these young poets to gather in one place and communicate speaks not only to their talent, but also to the nature of Greater Boston, one in which institutions of higher education bring people of merit together.

I have not deluded myself so greatly as to believe that most people, or any people at all really, can make their careers as poets. But, thanks in large part to Greater Boston’s universities, they can still write poetry.

And, in light of recent events, we could really use a poet right about now.

For a biased example from a Jersey native, America found a poet in Bruce Springsteen after 9/11, but it cannot stop there. Certainly, the Boss found poetry and music, even light, in the attacks on New York City. But life and art are about repeatedly performing that process of finding poetry in existence, of finding what it’s about.

It is about running a marathon.

It is about gathering at the 21st mile on the edge of BC’s campus to yell, shout, scream, at the top of one’s lungs just so that those running can find it within themselves to make it to the finish line.

It is about lending a cell phone to a terrified marathon runner when he realizes that his loved one, ahead of him in the race, might not be alright. It is about finding each other at all costs.

It is about seeing bravery in those that run toward the smoke, not away from it.

It is about huddling together in dorm rooms and apartments across Greater Boston, silently watching the images on the screen, but finding solace in the presence of those that are right there next to you. And you watch closely, because Boston is your home.

Someone will find the rhythm to what there is in life, and maybe, not quite knowing what he is doing, he will write about it, so that others might find healing in the power of his words.

We will call it poetry.

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