One day I was flying my kite.
My kite was lifting me up,
and I was flying!
– Peter S., First Grade
It a bummer when you want to write some verse, you know, and you’re always writing in the shadow of your best poem written when you were six. Everything I’ve really always wanted to do in a poem I did in first grade, and I haven’t quite done it again since. To be frank, I haven’t gotten close to when I was at the top of my game, learning to write the alphabet.
Let’s pull “My Kite” apart. First of all, the poem goes somewhere. In three short lines, I move from my everyday world into another world. I accomplish what Billy Collins says poetry is all about: “Poetry for me is a kind of travel writing – travel writing of the highest order because it provides not only a change of scenery, but a change of consciousness.”
Second, I go somewhere without really leaving my world. Indeed, the change of consciousness in “My Kite” was there all along, even in the mundane and matter-of-fact first line. The poem demonstrates this idea two ways: repetition and verb forms. The third line is a repetition of part of the first line. In fact, the entire third line is really only a stripped-down version of the first line, as if the transcendent world lives and lurks in the prosaic world all along, like a seed waiting for its husk to split open.
The poem’s verb forms also support this “extraordinary in the ordinary” theme. The verb in the first and third lines stays the same, but its form changes. The poem uses the present participle of the verb “to fly” in both the first and third lines to express what’s happening both before and after my change of consciousness. I’m airborne by the end of the poem, but within the poem I move only from a transitive form to an intransitive form of “flying.” Nothing has really changed; I’m still flying my kite. I’m just flying with it, that’s all. Just… flying.
Posted August 2005