April 24, 2015
The Academy of American Poets
75 Maiden Lane, Suite 901
New York, NY 10038
Dear Jane Hirshfield:
My name is Robbie. I am currently a junior at a therapeutic boarding school in Costa Rica. It was extremely difficult for me to function properly at home in Philadelphia. My school has a program that helps teenagers like me take steps into becoming stable, happy young adults. Along with being a therapeutic program, it is a high school. This past quarter my English class has revolved around poetry, specifically the analysis of poems. We have read and discussed a variety of poems. One poem I have analyzed is your poem "The Weighing."
The piece is more relatable than any poem that I've read prior. One quote that impressed me is lines 18 through 21: "The world asks of us/ only the strength we have and we give it. Then it asks more, and we give it." I have experienced many difficulties throughout my life. It seems as if once I overcome a challenge in my life, a new challenge is constantly waiting just around the corner. Life continues to ask more from me and I give it. There is always another step to take and hurdle to jump. The most important part of the stanza is when it says "and we give it." This asserts that we do try and take that next step and jump that upcoming hurdle.
Another part of the poem that resonates with me is lines 16 through 18: "So few grains of happiness measured against all the dark and still the scales balance." Sadness has been consistent throughout my life, yet I still manage to makes the most of it. My life has not been easy, conventional, or terribly enjoyable. A dark cloud followed me throughout my early teenage years. This cloud has faded as I've grown up. If I were to have a second chance in life, I would not want it to go any differently. The challenges I have faced have made me stronger, and the bad times have made the good times even better; the scales balance out.
I appreciate the part of the poem where you express that people must be forgiven. The poem begins with, "The heart's reasons/ seen clearly,/ even the hardest/ will carry its whip-marks and sadness/ and must be forgiven(1-6)." This passage communicates that all people carry sadness and shame with them, and that they need to be forgiven. I believe that people should not just forgive but also support others for who they are and what they've been through. It is easier to forgive and forget than to forgive and support, but forgiving and supporting is most valuable. Support from my parents, friends and therapists, has helped relieve me of my whip-marks and sadness.
Despite my analysis of the poem I still have many questions. What influenced you to write this poem? What did you want readers to take from the poem? I watched the video of your recitation of the poem. You said that you wrote the poem during a rough time during your life, suggesting that you are no longer going through that problematic time in your life. I want to acknowledge that you were able move past that part of your life. I am curious to how you were able to get past the grim patches in your life. It must have been difficult to write "The Weighing." It is an authentic poem that I value and admire you for writing.
Alajuela, Costa Rica