Dear Arthur Sze,
Your poem, The Shapes of Leaves, took me on a journey through sweet gums and ginkgo trees. I journeyed through different regions in each stanza, picturing different leaves by the second inside my mind—holographic leaves that may not even exist.
Leaves with veins that pump emotions from the stem to the crisp, wet tip.
When you spoke of happiness, my mind pictured a bright green shoot that has just sprung out of hiding from the snow on a warm day in late March. When the feeling turned dark, my imagination showed me a crumbling brown, autumn, leaf falling slowly to the ground, knowing its life would soon end. You let me live inside the crevices of each leaf; and with each leaf was a different image that my mind produced.
In your poem I could see exactly what you have seen, described using clear, pure metaphor alone. I could feel the anguish and loneliness of the Norway maple, and I could touch the twisted, angry dogwood curling around my mind.
I could scream with the rage of the gold—harsh aspen leaves, a jar of fury quickly brimming to the top. I could smell the damp air and the smell of the forest after it has just rained, the trees consisting of aromatic wood and leaves bearing no name.
I could climb up the veins of a candied maple leaf, tasting sweet nectarous syrup in my mouth.
And when I glanced over the top, I knew that after I reached the edge, there were many more to go.
Your poem, The Shapes of the Leaves, took a match and lit a small fuse in my mind. Squiggly black lines on a computer somehow managed to put a pack of explosive fireworks in my brain that set off after my eyes glazed across the first line. You were able to make me feel what you felt during your travels, and when I read the last line and looked around, I was dismayed to realize I was still sitting at my small desk in the sixth grade ELA room at my middle school.
Every time I look at a dying maple leaf, I will smile because I know there is life after death. When I see the first specks of green peeking out of the snowy hill next to my yard, I will think of the journey that will be soon to come.
Thank you for your amazing letter! I am astonished and delighted at how vividly you responded to my poem. Your letter has details that are so alive, and you develop your own metaphor with such imaginative power: “The Shapes of Leaves, took a match and lit a small fuse in my mind. Squiggly black lines on a computer somehow managed to put a pack of explosive fireworks in my brain that set off after my eyes glazed across the first line.”
In sixth grade, I did not have such a vivid imagination, energy, or command of language, and I hope you will nurture these gifts that are already so abundant and apparent in your letter. I don’t know if you have ever written poems of your own, but I want to encourage you to do so. Poetry is a gift that connects us all.
With all best wishes,