As I waited for her to enter, I scanned the room. Living at Maine Coast Semesters close-knit boarding school, these were the first strangers I had seen in two months. It was odd to enter a new community and test my newfound sense of self in the context of larger society. Sitting in the public library of Lewiston, Maine, listening to Tracy K. Smith, the United States Poet Laureate, I felt out of place and at home all at once.
Students and faculty from Maine Coast Semester had the amazing opportunity to hear the poet laureate read selected poems on her US tour “American Conversations: Celebrating Poems in Rural Communities”. After studying her most recent work in our Literature and the Land class for over a week, I was ecstatic to hear her in person and better understand her poems on American history. The offer was once in a lifetime, and too good to pass up. What would it be like to hear a poet I had studied and admired speak with a group of my classmates? To answer that question, I hopped on the bus on a rainy November evening, eager to watch history be made for both myself and my country.
I thought I had an idea of what to expect from a poetry reading focused on connecting written art exploring humanity to rural areas. I imagined a gathering of poetry fans, but I wasn’t planning on the vast turn out, expression of true feeling, and original interpretations of painfully realistic poems. After reading one of her poems, Ms. Smith asked an audience member to read it a second time, paying attention to the difference in tone and meaning between each recitation. Then, instead of telling us what the poem meant to her, the poet laureate wanted to hear our observations and thoughts on it. Hearing the unique interpretation of each person made my understanding of the poem “Story of Girls” so much richer. Never did I think I would have a sincere conversation about poetry outside of an English class, but the experience was so incredible that I can picture myself doing it again and again.
Leaving campus for just a few hours helped me understand how much I’ve grown at Chewonki. It’s often difficult to notice the change in my values and thoughts while still attending Maine Coast Semester, but dipping my toes into “regular” life opened my eyes to how much I’ve accomplished and how great an impact this wonderful school has had on me.
-Grace, Southampton High School, Southampton, NY