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Poetry RX Is The Self-Help Poetry Column You MUST Read

Nikki VanRy

Contributing Editor

Nikki VanRy is a proud resident of Arizona, where she gets to indulge her love of tacos, desert storms, and tank tops. She also writes for the Tucson Festival of Books, loves anything sci-fi/fantasy/historical, drinks too much chai, and will spend all day in bed reading thankyouverymuch. Follow her on Instagram @nikki.vanry.

If poetry helps you make sense of your world and your place in it, your new favorite column is going to be The Paris Review’s Poetry RX column.

I come to poetry dishonestly. I spent years pretending it wasn’t quite for me. Years thinking that I was a prose writer only. A few early mornings with a mug of tea and a book of poems and, well, that illusion is (thankfully) gone.

Poetry has led me through some of the hardest moments of my life. Singular lines that beat on, repeating themselves until they became loud enough for me to hear. In the brash words of Kim Addonizio, I have become. In the scalpel-quick insights of Sarah Kay, I have been seen. In Mary Oliver’s lines of worship, I have grown. All of those poets and more. So many, many more.

And, now we have some of the best contemporary poets doling out advice poetry-style at The Paris Review. As they explain the concept:

“In our column Poetry Rx, readers write in with a specific emotion, and our resident poets—Sarah Kay, Kaveh Akbar, and Claire Schwartz—take turns prescribing the perfect poems to match.”

Poetry RX Is The Self-Help Poetry Column You MUST Read |

It’s like Dear Sugar, but with more poetry, both in prescribed recommendations and in the words of Kay, Akbar, and Schwartz themselves.

For example, to a nervous mother-to-be, Akbar prescribes Rachel Zucker’s poem “Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday” explaining that:

“Motherhood doesn’t erase one’s interiority; it doesn’t pave over one’s existing psychic ecosystem. Rather, it inflects it—a boy’s soccer game brings you to the hawks flying overhead; the fetal heartbeat changes ‘everything, nothing.'”

To someone dealing with closure after a breakup, Kay writes:

Closure suggests that a relationship fits into this binary as well: that it is something you can fully close, without ever feeling the tug of emotions or nostalgia or memory that reopens the hurt; that it is possible to draw a neat line around a person and relationship, and simply cut along that line. But an entire relationship cannot be compartmentalized into one single place in your brain that you can close and bury. Having a meaningful relationship with someone means that the boundaries between your relationship and the rest of you become porous.”

To a mother who is longing for slowness in our modern world, Schwartz recommends Rita Dove’s poem “Daystar,” and writes:

“I hear in your letter a note of estrangement—a refusal to take for granted even the most ordinary object. In this way, your note is like poetry. I love how poetry holds me at bay from even my native tongue. In poems, I get to ask: How can I enter the world through sound? Through cadence? What else might this word mean? When I read a poem, I feel like a fish who learns the properties of water without ever leaving the ocean.”

It’s these flashes of insights from poetry and the poets themselves that help us all be seen, become, and grow. Poetry RX provides a new way for readers to learn from and interact with some of the best poets and I, for one, am absolutely smitten.