Dear David St. John,
My name is Haaris, and I am a sophomore in high school. It is a pleasure getting the chance to write to you about your poem “Guitar.” In my English II class, we were assigned a selection of poems to read and assess. As part of our assessment of these poems, we were told to find something that relates to us or calls back a moment in time in our memory. Out of the handful of poems that I read, your poem “Guitar” was shockingly relatable.
When I started to read the poem, the first sentence caught my attention immediately. When I read it, it was truly bizarre how much I related to it. For me, the line that is bizarrely relatable, is the line where you talk about the word guitar. The line “I've always loved the word guitar.”—is the one that I connect with. There are no metaphors, similes, or other poetic devices that make this line special or hard to decipher. It is all about what it means to the person as it is. My whole life growing up the word guitar has been a word I used almost every day multiple times a day. Whenever I think of the word guitar it brings back thoughts- great memories, great times, great experiences. Although it might seem banal or even trivial to some people, the word guitar means something to me. The word, one my uncle chose for my first password, has been one close to me for many years. Everyone has a password they remember forever, a password that works, a password that is unforgettable. A password they can use for privacy and keeping information safe. It is like a key to a lock. And usually with information you want to keep safe and that is important, you want to choose something so complex and personal you are the only person who could guess it. I filed through my favorite words; I ended up choosing guitar. It was something easy for me to remember, but it was so random to anyone else that it was virtually impossible to guess. Even though I have probably typed the word guitar more than a thousand times, it never gets old, and I never seem do type it nonchalantly. Always with purpose. And that is why I feel a connection with the word and the line from the poem.
My passwords—now a little more complex than before—now have to be something a little harder to guess than guitar. Although it makes me kind of sad to see that password become obsolete, it will always be in my mind. But overall, I really love the poem and out of the many I have read in my 15 years of life, this was one of my favorites.
Thank you for your very exciting letter! How absolutely marvelous that the word guitar was the first password your uncle chose for you to use and how, just as in my poem, it is the word guitar itself that has unlocked—and still opens for you—seemingly endless memories and connections to the world, to travel, to all of the music that the guitar itself represents, as well as to your connections with so many other people in the world.
It is so wonderful to hear you talk about the way words themselves can be the keys to our memories, even the keys to our secrets, and that they can unlock what is otherwise a world of privacy. This is exactly what poets hope to do in the way they use words in their poems—to help give a reader that experience of unlocking a world that exists for another person and yet is recognizable—and to help a reader remember how words and language works exactly in that way in our own lives.
When you say that a password is something that we “. . . can use for privacy and keeping information safe. It is like a key to a lock. And usually with information you want to keep safe and that is important. . . .” you could also be talking about the ways writers hope to use language to help unlock their experiences for their readers to share. In making this recognition, you have also understood something absolutely basic to how all writing, and in some ways all art, works to move us with its shared experiences, which are often private until the writer unlocks those experiences with his or her words.
Just as your own passwords have become more and more complex over the years, so too your own experience in the world will become more complex, and perhaps even more complicated to unlock (in words and language) for yourself and others; but this is something all of us, not only writers, need to learn how to do for each other, and especially for our families and those we love, so that we can share our experience and hopes and dreams. How absolutely terrific that this is something you already, intuitively, seem to understand! What a lucky young man you are.
All best wishes and more thanks,