April 27, 2015
C. D. Wright
The Academy of American Poets
95 Maiden Lane, Suite 901
New York, NY 10038
Dear Mrs. Wright,
My name is Emily, I am sixteen years old, and I recently read your poem, "Like Hearing Your Name Called in a Language You Don't Understand." I lost my grandmother this week, and I read your poem while on the long car ride from my home in Texas to California, where the funeral was to be held. My mind was all over the place and I couldn't focus on anything. Memories and images of my beautiful grandmother flooded my mind. The words you have written grabbed my attention. When I read this poem I instantly felt a strange group of emotions towards this poem, that nobody else who I read it with seemed to get. I am from a large family that is normally filled with laughter and playing games with my forty-three cousins, and when you said "the children dispersed," I saw my upbeat family become withdrawn and somber. I watched in my mind as the children who spend every waking hour outside, retreat to the indoors to mourn. You told of “his body engulfed in balloons,” and I pictured my grandmother lying forever still at her wake. Every word that you wrote gave me another image of what my farewell to my grandmother would be like. It was a beautiful poem that allowed me to reflect on the life of the most incredible woman who I had ever met, and I thank you for that.
I found a place of comfort in your poem. A place that I couldn’t find in people. I still can’t.
I have grown tired of the condolences of people who know I’m hurting but don’t know how bad. I continue to cope with my loss by avoiding the topic. When I read your poem, though I felt like I was being spoken to directly, not from an outsider. It didn’t make me feel like I was consoling myself either. Your poem allowed my to speak to my grandma one last time, she let me see what was to come. I know my family will never be the same without her, but your closing stanza, “Comrades, be not in mourning for your being / To express happiness and expel scorpions is the best job on / earth” allows me to realize that I can not mourn for myself, but instead I need to be there for my family right now, I need to help them to overcome the pain that they are feeling along side me. I need to help rid them of their scorpions, so that I might overcome mine. Which is something that I know my grandma would tell me, to always put others first, and you will soon grow yourself.
I write you this letter, not only to tell you all that it meant to me, but to ask you a few questions that I had about what you wrote. My main question was why you chose to use words in Spanish and in English? Did you have a purpose in mixing the languages? Also, was the response I had to your poem a typical one? Do lots of people see this as a funeral, and a comfort in the loss of a loved one? I will be reading more of your work in the near future. I want to thank you so much for all that this work in particular has meant to me, and all that it has helped me overcome in these past few days.