As part of the 2022 Dear Poet project, students around the country and the world wrote letters to Magdalena Gómez in response to a video of her reading her poem “La Biblioteca is a Doula” aloud. Magdalena Gómez wrote letters back to eight of these students; their letters and her replies are included below.
Magdalena Gómez also wrote a response to all of the participants of this year's Dear Poet project.
Dear Students of Poetry, Educators, Poets, Readers and Listeners,
Your insightful and caring letters filled my heart and brought deep encouragement to me in these troubling times. What an absolute joy for me to receive your responses to my poem, La Biblioteca is a Doula. My thanks to you and to all of the educators with whom you collaborated to study and enter the life of my poem and other works of our poetry community.
For me, writing and performing my poetry is about building and uniting community. I come from two storytelling cultures, a Boricua (Puerto Rican) mother and a Gitano, Spanish Roma father. Early on I witnessed how sharing stories made people laugh, cry, and connect with their humanity, experiencing each other’s vulnerabilities. They were the best and most fleeting times of my youth, but those memories, no matter how few, remain with me, inspire me, and help to keep me connected to my cultural and historic roots.
Poetry, for me, having grown up poor, was the most accessible of art forms. Poems and listening to music, especially instrumental music, allowed my imagination to wander and find its own stories within the music. I still enjoy listening to evocative music, especially music with Arab, Asian and African roots, to inspire my work, creating an inner landscape where I can travel freely, regardless of where I am. Poetry has historically been used as protest, celebration, praise, engagement with divinity and ancestors, gratitude, response to other arts, as with Ekphrastic poems, and as solace in troubled times. These are just a few of the roles that poetry can play in our lives.
I encourage you to use poetry as medicine for the soul when you feel sad or overwhelmed. The more we hear about war and violence against the Earth and her Peoples, the more we need poetry to help us make sense of it all. Even if we ourselves are not having difficult or painful feelings, we all know someone who does. These are good times to consider reading encouraging poems aloud to each other, writing poems to lift the spirits of others, and by that act of loving kindness, console and uplift ourselves as well.
Let’s stand together in our love of poems, and use them for the healing of our world, one poem, one person at a time.
Your letters were all healing and inspiring for me. I have them now as treasures and medicine to hold onto and re-read, when I need to stop everything and simply be thankful for all that is good in life.
Thank you with all my heart.
In Creative Camaraderie,