Dear Alberto Ríos

In our English class we had started our poetry unit and myself among many other high schoolers in my class had braced ourselves for a snoozefest. However, it wasn’t until we were assigned to the Dear Poet Project and had to listen to all of the chancellor’s poems, where I realized that poetry isn’t just about teachers having trying to teach us how to understand old timey boring sonnets about nature. Poetry can be about bringing a smile to one’s face or even a flashback to one’s past. Poetry can allow one to see a different point of view in life or even have an epiphany about their own view. Listening and reading your poem allowed me to have that epiphany and understanding by bringing back those surreal memories I had as a child. Also, these feelings brought on by your poem allowed me to confidently choose to write you a letter out of all the other chancellor’s letters, as it was the poem to make me smile.

As a kid I would spend countless hours in a library begging my dad to let me stay one more hour or check out just one more book (when I had either been there for 2 hours, or had 8 books in my hand), but didn’t realize that one day I wouldn’t have the time to enjoy those experiences. At least so I had thought. Although I don’t know if that was your intention, your poem that warned about all the things people should be aware of in a library, were some of the things I had loved as a child. When the speaker in the poem was disgusted by knowledge, I remember being in awe of how accessible it was to me, a young child who could barely cross the street alone. When the speaker mentioned the haunting environment of the library with its walls, I remembered how the quiet environment, with its gigantic and remarkable walls, comforted me from the loud and busy life I lived at home. I wonder if that was your intention all along to allow readers to appreciate what this public and free service gave us, regardless your poem granted me the pleasure of living those beautiful memories once again when I thought I had lost them to my teen years.

Although I was able to reminiscence through reading the actual poem, these child-like memories didn’t properly flourish through my head until I listened to your voice boom about why I shouldn’t go into the library. The caution in your voice somehow made the poem even more humorful to me, especially in regards to the details about the “doughnut scent” since typically people wouldn’t be worried or afraid of something so miniscule. Again, I am not quite sure if that was your intention (or even the purpose of bringing up at all) but I did enjoy the mention of detail so lighthearted amongst the other more fearful and serious details mentioned in the poem. Also, the video allowed me to see why and how certain details about the library can be perceived in different ways. I was able to understand this by hearing you actually reading the poem because having a person to view gave me an actual speaker that reminded me that people no matter where you are, see things differently. Whereas compared to having to read the poem myself I couldn’t really connect to the speakers views as the opinion of the library being a horrible place was humorful to me, and seemed like the weirdly biased writings I was used to seeing on the internet. However both video and actual poem were insightful to me as both gave a negative unpopular perspective to a place I usually see as positive, that I had never thought of before.

Having to do this project and now understanding that poetry doesn’t have to be boring or just analytical has impacted the poetry I have written, as now I am not afraid to step out of my comfort zone and state my unpopular opinion or use different elements such as humor that may not be expected. Ultimately from your poem I was able to appreciate memories from my childhood that I may have not otherwise thought about, and was able to see how tone can be differently represented through voice and uses of imagery. I also want to thank you for allowing me to travel back in time and understand a little bit more about life and how poetry is more than just an uninteresting sonnet.

In appreciation,

Grade 10
Fairfax, Virginia

Dear Anisa,

What a reaction! I really liked your comment about this possibly being a snoozefest at first. Thank you for taking the time to write this all out—and thank you for changing your mind.         

I especially appreciate your connection to the visual and auditory as well as the page. I enjoyed reading this poem aloud. Poems, as with all things, are rarely just one thing, and there is rarely just one way to think about them. Being able to read a poem, then hear it, then think about it—all of it makes up the greater experience a poem has to offer.

I do have to say, however, that I personally view the library just the way you do. The speaker in the poem, I think, is being humorously ironic and probably doesn’t really believe the statements—though the power of making the statements is attractive, and funny.

The poem nevertheless seems to have pointed you in all the right directions—remembering this human shelter, the library, as being important in your life and that you are now encouraged to speak out in reasonable and articulate ways—this is wonderful to hear.  Ironically, it’s all because of the opposite of what the poem says (but doesn’t really mean!).

Thank you again for all the time you spent on this poem and on your letter.

Alberto Ríos

read more 2018 dear poet letters