I am back for Poetry Friday! Thank you, Franki and Mary Lee from A Year Of Reading, for hosting this week.
To say that it is quite tough to look for poetry that would fit our current reading theme is an understatement. Hence, I decided to just stretch out the parameters of mystery here, given how the current book I am sharing also speaks about what it takes to “make it” in life: a mystery not just to those in their 20s, but to most everyone from 2 to 102, I am sure.
Written By: Jason Reynolds
Published by: Atheneum / Caitlin Dlouhy Books (2018)
ISBN: 1481486241 (ISBN13: 9781481486248). Borrowed from the NIE Library. Book photos taken by me.
This is my first Jason Reynolds book. I specifically requested our institution’s library to purchase a copy when I saw the Youtube video of an interview with Reynolds who stated quite clearly that this is a book for dreamers. The minute that I checked it out from our library, I shared it with my 28 year old nephew, who at that time, was spending a few weeks with us to “find himself.” He took it with him as he traveled for a few days to Taiwan, and he shared how it spoke to him deeply.
Reynolds prefaced his poetic letter “for everyone” by claiming that he is basically figuring things out even as he writes his message; that it isn’t a closed wound with an itchy scab. Rather, it is something that he still lives through and struggles with quite intensely on a daily basis.
I’ve always stated how certain books find us at the perfect moment in our lives, just when we are ready to receive its message. It could also be that the same book will resonate differently with us, depending on where we are at in our lives. For my 28 year old nephew going through some kind of existential questioning about his direction in life, the message of the book may have been quite profound, especially as he read these lines:
My sixteen year old daughter, however much she liked the overall message, found the tone of the ‘letter’ heavy-going for her. While she appreciated its encouraging, and ultimately feel-good vibe, she also could not particularly relate to the ‘angst-ridden’-borderline-angry-yet-seemingly-aimless stab at the universe in general. I could see where she is coming from, especially since Reynolds is putting forth the notion that it is the dreaming itself that matters, rather than the actualization of the dream itself; the fact that the act of dreaming is even there in the first place, is already an accomplishment of sorts.
Yet, seeing how we have been living for the past ten years in an output-driven society with zero tolerance for failures or mistakes or careless errors; where every action, behaviour, and accomplishment is ranked and moderated relative to peers’ outputs – some of the energy embedded into Reynolds’ words is diffused somewhat, regardless of its good intentions. Thus, I totally get my girl’s smile with the touch of impatience and a “So, what’s next?” question I can see circling in her head.
However, this poetic ‘letter’ also raised important conversations about what we find of value, of the things that we find beautiful, and exploring what our ‘measures’ of success are – depending on the kind of life we envision for ourselves.
Here is a Youtube clip of Jason Reynolds describing this book to Seth Meyers, saying that it is a book for weirdos and dreamers everywhere. May this book find you and may its message be the one that you need at this moment in your life.
#LitWorld2018GB Update: United States of America