Minds Matter: Poetry offers catharsis and community for San Marino students

For many students, school starts to feel less about the so-called journey of learning and more about survival — making it through classes, extracurriculars and homework to sleep at a reasonable time to continue the cycle tomorrow.

Students have their own methods of coping as a result; athletes sweat away their stress in sprints and scrimmages, artists create to escape in music and visual beauty. But one form of relief that has become more prolific in San Marino is poetry.

Before poetry’s accessibility was facilitated by social media with the advent of Instagram poets or “Instapoets,” student poetry seemed to be reserved for San Marino High School’s literary magazine Titan Musings.

But as poetry became mainstream, student-athletes, choristers and artists have found solace in the sentiments of modern poets such as Rupi Kaur and Fariha Roisin.

“It’s inspiring in several ways,” said senior track runner Skyler Pak. “Poetry can help me have a shift in mindset when I’m having a rough day, and… poems written by people who are essentially complete strangers help me understand that I’m not alone in my emotions and experiences.”

Writers like Kaur have also inspired Pak to pen her own prose.

San Marino High School senior Skyler Pak said Fariha Roisin’s “How to Cure a Ghost,” is one of many poetry books she’s read. (Fariha Roisin / Abrams Image)

“I jot down whatever comes to mind [at] the moment. Mostly, they are motivational, kind of a way to give myself a little pep talk. Or I write about the people in my life who are special to me,” Pak said.

Different people can gleam different meanings from poetry though; after all, that is the beauty of language — its amorphous form in the way words can be sculpted to fit the molds of our lives.

For senior Lauren Li, poetry calms her mind when it’s in a state of chaos, she said.

But for Joe Hindle, a senior, words are a vehicle for introspection.

“It’s a lovely distraction where I get to learn more about myself and my own intricacies and perhaps why I am feeling how I am feeling,” Hindle said.

Like Pak, poetry has enabled Hindle “to relax and to feel less alone,” but the form of literature has also provided him with solace, a feeling of home and refuge, he said.

Of course, one of the most prominent aspects of the poetry community today is its diversity.

From poets Kaur and Roisin, to other poets such as Ocean Vuong, never before has representation existed in such multitudes, and what an amazing coincidence it is to live in such a time.

“I enjoy the representation of today,” Hindle said. “I cannot imagine a world where people are not included. Especially in poetry, [words] can speak to and represent our inner workings that we feel divide us when, really, all of this representation works to bring us together.”

Pak took those same sentiments one step further.

“To exist in [this] time makes me feel hopeful, and to see the progress we have made is promising. These people all have unique voices and have had the courage to make them heard. [Rupi Kaur’s] courage, for example, to share experiences as personal as hers with a large audience is empowering,” Pak said.

Poetry isn’t just words on a page — it’s alive and in constant evolution.

“Current poetry is more straightforward,” Pak said. “Many prominent poets that I know of are recognized especially for their short pieces of work. But today particularly, I have noticed that many writers more explicitly share details of their lives.”

The form of literature has also seemed to have adjusted to the mass proliferation that technology has facilitated.

“Today’s poetry seems to be open for many, whereas I am sure a lot of the poetry and writing in the past had been tailored to the readers at the time,” Hindle said. “I feel that writing can be admired for any reason, and the different styles/emotional tones to the popular poetry of a specific time are a reflection of the pervasive feeling in the air at the time.”

And perhaps that will continue to occur over time; Li has agreed that poetry and writing adapt to its time.

“People no longer dedicate love poems to each other from across the sea and, instead, send text messages and snapchats,” Li said. “Whether or not this is a negative effect of time passing is decided by first-person experience, but if poetry becomes less popular in the future, it would make the writings even more valuable from rarity.”

Most importantly for Li though, poetry will remain resonant because of its variety of possible themes.

“I find every work to be empowering and comforting — providing encouraging messages and a shoulder to cry on,” Li said.

Lauren Li, a senior at San Marino High School, submitted her poem “Shattering Mirrors” to the 2018 edition of Titan Musings, a student publication. (Titan Musings)

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