October 17

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The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo: A Book Review in Verse by Oona Marie Abrams

At the age of ten I was told by the principal:

Oona, you are a poet. 

So, I wrote poems from that day forward,

through seven snowy midwestern winters

and summers on the shores of Lake Michigan.

 

I went to the Writer’s Club

in high school

because I had a

(painfully obvious)

crush on the young advisor

who read aloud his poems

about the moonlit silhouette

of a woman he loved.

(Still, I kept coming back,

drowning in denial.)

 

In the beautiful Bronx

of my undergrad years

I wrote and spoke poems

out my dorm window

across the Hudson

to the Palisades,

spoke them to the ships

carrying cargo north and south,

was told again by professors:

 

You’re a writer.

 

But even so,

for almost twenty years,

I stopped writing poems.

 

Perhaps this is why these words

Above and below

feel clunky

and cranked out

and clumsy.

 

As I turned and re-turned the pages

of The Poet X, as I met Xiomara,

it made me wish for 1990 again.

 

It made me wish for a notebook

just for me, when I had a room of my own,

made me wish to use that notebook to talk to myself,

made me see that writing is a tool and not a product,

that my poems were not packages,

that seeking truth is not writing for another.

 

Because in 1990,

my notebook lived in my brain,

page upon invisible page

drafted and disintegrated.

 

So Xiomara, “the Poet X,”

mentored me, held up a mirror

about my past as a writer,

about the present writers in my classroom.

 

By her parents, Xiomara is told,

“Tú no eres fácil,”

“You sure ain’t an easy one,”

How many students have been told this?

By their parents? By their teachers?

Verbally? Nonverbally?

When they bomb a quiz or come tardy to school?

When they don’t comply?

When they dare to doubt.

“You sure ain’t an easy one.”

“Tú no eres fácil.”

 

 

Xiomara doubts:

her family, her church,

her teachers, her neighbors,

and those doubts make her difícil

to the adults in her life,

but doubts deliver her, daily,

to the pages of her own notebook.

 

For her school assignments,

she drafts pieces first in her own voice,

then crumples and casts them aside,

edits efficiently. Submits work.

 

Her true voice emerges

in the pages of her notebook, which

“Swell from all the words…pressed into them.”

 

Xiomara’s teacher, Ms. Galiano,

persistent, knowledgeable, intuitive,

pencils comments, teases out

truth inside polished pages, telling her:

“Words give people permission to be their fullest self.”

 

I read The Poet X as both

educator and wistful writer,

the worn down working mom

who let life nix the notebook

year after year.

 

I read The Poet X

as the teacher who knows

The writers in my room,

myself included, are

silencing themselves,

editing their own voices,

pens paralyzed over the page.

 

I recommend The Poet X

to speak truth to the dangerous deception

that writing must be polished and perfect,

to welcome the process, not worship the product.

When I recommend The Poet X,

I send, within the pages of the book,

this message to each of my students:

 

Your Story matters.

Your Truth matters.

You Are Enough.

 

And may the space

around the beautiful verses

on those pages of poetry

[embrace]

[you]

[all.]

 

 

 

 

 

Oona Marie Abrams

teaches high school

in northern New Jersey.

She is the daughter of

a Bronx-born mother

and a Yonkers raised father,

sister of three siblings,

mother of four sons,

spouse of someone special

And after many dormant years:

a poet again.