Something I think about a lot is that I wish more poems were delightful. It’s like delightful is too close to that dreaded word, accessible, or even worse, sentimental. Just knowing that word will now be google-linked to my name is supposed to make me shudder, I suppose. Though I’ve now gone through two graduate creative writing programs (facts that instill feelings of intense gratitude, but also alienation from some of my earlier selves), I’ve never subscribed to the idea that if a poem is accessible that must also mean it is less worthy or less accomplished or less full of urgency or intention. I’m not even sure how or why you would measure any of those qualities. Poems can touch us in many ways. One of those ways I’m interested in right now is delight. Delight feels, to me, like a welcome and too-infrequently-used mode for poems.
"I might have been eating strawberries..."
The poem motivating this reflection arose rather literally out of a moment when a poet friend offered me as a writing prompt the quote “make art about risking delight.” This was an inviting challenge. The friction between the ideas of risk and delight appealed to me. I didn’t think too much before writing; I simply ran with the first thought that crossed my mind—hitchhiking. I had the risk, but where was the delight? How about making art herself the hitchhiker? Not enough. Art would be a wolfhound, and I would let her surprise herself through my poem—I’d let her take over.
"...or wearing my Johnny Cash t-shirt while I was writing."
I like what she does. She starts off as a metaphor, but ends up joyriding with me. She doesn’t even care that she’s become part of the cliché tradition of American road trip poems. We’re not really in a poem anymore when we get to the last line. We’re just old friends on our way out of town looking for music that makes us feel alive.The wind is probably blowing through our hair. We might be getting sunburned while the sky fades. I might have been eating strawberries or wearing my Johnny Cash t-shirt while I was writing. I know it was summer. That doesn’t really matter, though, since the poem is about the inexplicable and ephemeral nature of moments of delight—when we find ourselves smiling or content almost by accident, when our imaginations have suddenly taught us something about what we’ve been doing this whole time.