Poetry Is

A poet’s perspective

NCC Professor of English Javier Ávila,

Poetryfirst and foremost, is emotional. It’s holding a lighted candle inside a circle of gasoline. It can burst at any time. There is danger in its fibers, in the demons and the wounds it can expose, with pain as its companion, even as it rejoices. Verse is hurt, and art is a disease that can only be cured by art. A poet, therefore, writes to save the soul of the reader who awaits, the ideal reader, who is a stranger that knows the poet better than anyone, including the poet.  

A poem is a collection of light and darkness, equally clear and blinding. It shakes us from complacency. It slaps the blindfold off. It breaks the glass that protects us from knowledge. With shattering comes life. We feel alive when we’re trapped amid the words, and the words nourish us. As we fall under the spell of their beauty, we celebrate their power, their life-giving paradox“Know that in some sense you are already dead.” Borges knew it. Sometimes we feel so alive that it hurts. The thing that will hurt the most has already happened as we wait for it to happen, and no one awaits you where you’re going, except everyone. Poetry is a contradiction, a scar that keeps reopening, a lesson to unlearn at every stop.  

In her peaceful isolation, Emily Dickinson felt the thrill of poetry taking the top of her head off. Concomitantly, Walt Whitman contained multitudes while singing of himself. Great poetry is everything. Sometimes life interrupts it, but it proliferates, melting into every time-infested chasm to achieve immortality. The poet makes the sacrifice to live enslaved to its desires, but the poet is a tenant, and poetry owns the heart of anyone who dares to create and define it. 


© 2020 by Javier Ávila 


Ávila is the author of 15 publications, including the award-winning La simetría del tiempo, The Dead Man’s Position, and Different, a psychological thriller that was made into the internationally acclaimed movie, Miente. 

Since its establishment in 1967, Northampton Community College is where students turn to earn a degree, access workforce training, learn new leisure activities, and bring their children for enrichment. Today, Northampton Community College has four locations to learn at:  Bethlehem Campus (Bethlehem Township), Monroe Campus (Tannersville in the heart of the Poconos), the Fowler Family Southside Center (Southside Bethlehem), and the Easton Center (Downtown Easton).