how you became compass

by sophie

a poem of mine, “To Cradle,” is here at Anti-. 


A professor told me that “To Cradle” was disturbing, and it is. Disruption and comfort coexist is at its core. I imagine the poem is most uncomfortable for men to read, more so than women. There are essences in human life we do not want to touch. Truths jailed by revulsion, hardwired into our fabric. But this does not make them untruths, no matter how much one bristles and spits. There is no way to make it simple, and writing it risks hurt. For the self. For someone who is loved. But by not approaching it, not making the attempt, something would be lost. Something I am not willing to lose.


Sometimes, when I find myself in a dark place, I lose all taste for poetry. If it cannot do what I want it to do, if it cannot restore those I have lost, then why bother with it at all? There’s plenty that poetry cannot do, but the miracle of course, is how much it can do, how much it does do. So often I think I know myself, only to discover in a poem a difference, an otherness that resonates, where I find myself, as Wallace Stevens once put it, more truly and more strange. It is what some describe as soul-making. I count myself among them. I think often of the words of Paul Connolly who said, “I believe it is not arguing well, but speaking differently that changes a culture.” Poetry is the place where speaking differently is the most prevalent. Speaking differently is what I aspire to . . .

— from Mary Szybist’s acceptance speech at the National Book Awards