Dear Ms. Gregerson:
I am writing you to inform you about my experience reading your poem in our literacy class a few weeks ago. You see, like most students, my introduction to poetry was being taught about this as almost a foreign language that is difficult (nigh impossible) to comprehend. And it was the same way when I read "The Horses Run Back to Their Stalls," my fellow students and I were somewhat dumbstruck after reading it. But, it is necessary to have a bit of background knowledge when trying to figure out the poet’s intentions. When we found out about the fire, the reason, I would assume, that you wrote this poem, the context and meaning started to fall into place.
One thing I like about your poem, is about how it feels like a natural conversation with another person, there is exposition, some side tracks and tangents, all leading the final few lines, the “punchline” if you will. But, although it seems enough like a story or a conversation, it is almost too all over the place for one (such as myself) to follow along. Jumping around from the cab strikes to the champagne in the bathtubs to Mr. Hertz. This might have made sense to the person the narrator is speaking to, but to an outsider looking in? It seemed hard to follow. One thing I’m intrigued about is who the narrator is talking to in the poem. The first few stanzas you mention someone in second person. Who is this mysterious “you”? The imagery of the burning stables made me imagine almost a city that looks like the ancient city of Pompeii. Ash in the sky, the smell of burning buildings, the whole deal.
To be honest, I know nothing about horse racing. For me the most exciting thing about watching the Kentucky Derby is seeing all of the unique and sometimes funny names that the race horses have. Even the 1928 winner, Reigh Count, is still a pretty interesting name! I’m sure if I had even been to an event before the poem would click easier for me, unfortunately that is not the case. It seems that you grew up with horse racing a part of your life. Did this fire change your attitude towards the sport? Sometimes just one bad memory can ruin something once loved, and this appears like it left a pretty tragic impact on you even if you were young. You obviously were old enough to understand the magnitude of the 1928 Kentucky Derby win, and the subsequent fire, so that memory is probably still super vivid for you.
Here’s a question, when teachers always say, “Now the poet meant this in their poem…” how often is that true? As a bona fide poet, can you confirm that you really did mean this in your poem? Is there often an underlying message to your poems? I liked your poem mostly because of the idea that the title implied. The horses ran back to the places that they felt safe in. This is what still drew me to email you out of all of the other poets. Is this concept that what should be safe to us can be toxic and harmful. The thing that immediately came to mind was our homes. The home and our family should be the thing that safeguards us from the deadly fires outside, but the fact of the matter is, sometimes it can be just the opposite. Which, similar to this poem, is incredibly sad. Luckily I have a family that is a safe stable for me, one that hopefully will remain fire-free for my next few high school years.
All in all, thank you for writing this thought provoking piece. And I wish you luck in all your future endeavours!