Poetry Friday: Poetry Can Save Your Life

Feb 15, 2019

Students across Arizona are competing in local Poetry Out Loud contests, leading up to the national competition this spring. 16-year-old Giselle Bennett - a junior at Coconino High School in Flagstaff - is a first-time competitor. She is generally quiet and very soft spoken, but she decided to be daring this year and compete. Giselle has fallen in love with poetry and believes it can save lives. In today's Poetry Friday segment, she got a hall pass from her teacher to leave class for a few minutes and read Suzanne Buffam's poem, 'Enough'. 

16-year-old Giselle Bennett, a junior at Coconino High School in Flagstaff
Credit Terry Wilson

Giselle Bennett:

I should be in Spanish right now, but I took the opportunity to come talk to Gillian about the Poetry Out Loud. I had heard several people before, and I was really motivated by them to decide to get up on the stage and try something new…get out of my comfort zone.

I do see how poetry saves lives. It has saved my life in a way. It’s opened my eyes to a lighter way of showing an anger or a sadness instead of bursting out, I guess. It’s like music. For some people, listening to music, it calms them down. My brother, actually, he listens to music when he’s upset, when he’s sad, when he’s happy. And poetry is just like that. You can read it when you’re upset, or sad, or when you’re happy, and it can put you in a better mood or a better way, or it can show you what can be done about it.

Giselle Bennett, a contestant in this year's Poetry Out Loud competition
Credit Giselle Bennett

The poem I want to read is ‘Enough’, by Suzanne Buffam

I am wearing dark glasses inside the house

To match my dark mood.

I have left all the sugar out of the pie.

My rage is a kind of domestic rage.

I learned it from my mother

Who learned it from her mother before her

And so on.

Surely the Greeks had a word for this.

Now surely the Germans do.

The more words a person knows

To describe her private sufferings

The more distantly she can perceive them.

I repeat the names of all the cities I’ve known

And watch an ant drag its crooked shadow home.

What does it mean to love the life we’ve been given?

To act well the part that’s been cast for us?

Wind. Light. Fire. Time. 

A train whistles through the far hills.

One day I plan to be riding it.

Poetry Friday is produced by KNAU's Gillian Ferris. If you have an idea for a segment, drop her an email at Gillian.Ferris@nau.edu.