Poetry Reminds Us That We All Have Carried the Armful


For every parcel I stoop down to seize
I lose some other off my arms and knees,
And the whole pile is slipping, bottles, buns—
Extremes too hard to comprehend at once,
Yet nothing I should care to leave behind.
With all I have to hold with, I will do my best
To keep their building balanced at my breast.
I crouch down to prevent them as they fall;
Then sit down in the middle of them all.
I had to drop the armful in the road.
And try to stack them in a better load.
-- Robert Frost, The Armful

Sometimes, we carry loads too heavy to bear, so overwhelming that what precarious balance we manage to keep on life threatens to spill over at any moment. For me, a high school student, the slipping stack can embody the vast pressures and obligations of preparing for college, juggling homework, clubs, athletics, and music. I wonder how I can be so tired if there's such little time in the day, and I need more time to research debate, plan Model UN, sing in chorus, write articles, organize musical volunteers, seek scholarships, study for the SAT, and, oh, attack my actual academics. I need more time to to think and sleep. I also want more time to work on everything I have started but never finished: achieving the times in running I want, learning songs on the piano, and speaking Korean. When I am spread thin, I don't have time for everything; I am incapable of holding Frost's pile. I drop textbooks and pages of notes, scribbled-on, sheet music and running spikes in the middle of the road. Sometimes, all of this can seem overwhelming. 

But I also think that Frost's dilemma is something many of us have experienced. We all have struggled to carry our parcels and reevaluate how we spend our time. I continue to grapple with the weight, unable to give up any activity or obligation I feel committed to. But for some, maybe a box is the workplace. For others, family pressures, or an injury or a new project. We have all lived as Frost's narrator, as life forced us to re-evaluate what we find important and how we tackle these things. Sometimes life demands we relinquish some parcels to carry what we can. Other times, we might be able to stack the pile differently.

My tenth grade English teacher introduced The Armful to my class when I had just joined my school's musical production team. A new and fun, but laborious club, I had re-arranged my stack of parcels to accommodate this endeavor. I was surprised by how much I could relate to The Armful; Shakespeare and Shel Silverstine were the only two poets I had read more than one work from. Soon enough, under the guidance of my English teacher, I became Whitman's daydreaming student in a tired lecture, waiting to explore the outside and sound a barbaric yawp; I became Plath's distressed girl, deceived in false lights, who looks into the mirror and struggles to accept what she sees; I became Dickinson's loser, counting success the sweetest after failure.

Poetry possesses the profound power to communicate a mixture of emotions to diverse groups of people. In a struggling moment, or even in a joyous moment, we can feel alone. Poetry like The Armful reminds us that no one is alone in their human experience, that others, too, have endured and triumphed, or felt this excitement, failure, sadness, or frustration. 

In the poetry collection Knock, Melissa Atkinson Mercer tackles human experiences: depression, isolation, and not having control over one's own body. Half Mystic Press has provided me a giveaway of the poetry collection for this blog tour. Feel free to enter below:

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  1. I will admit that I was never a fan of poetry until college. My high school English classes introduced me to poetry, but not to the full extent of the art. We only read the bare minimum: John Keats, Shakespeare, and other older classics. I am not saying that I hate the classics, but my high school English teachers didn't venture into the entire spectrum of poetry and all it has to offer.

    Now, I am reading different types of poetry and found a love for it (especially satirical poetry of the 18th century, which is something I never thought I would say). Like with books, the key to learning to love poetry is finding the right kind for you. Even though I was not entirely thrilled with the structured sonnets of Shakespeare, I love the ambiguity, mystery, and open form of Emily Dickinson's poetry. There are so many different kinds of poetry that there is literally something for everyone!

    My journey to explore poetry is just beginning, and I want to read more outside of class and assignments. So, I think that Knock would be a perfect place to start! Thanks so much for the enlightening thoughts about poetry and the giveaway!

    Tessa @ Crazy for YA

  2. I agree that poetry can be a powerful tool. I love that Robert Frost poem that you shared!! I hadn't heard of Knock, but it sounds like it covers many important topics.

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

  3. Teaching this today, Claire! I can't wait to see what they think of it. (Was looking for a publication date of the poem and your blog showed up in my Google search. Small world!)

  4. Forgot my name on the last comment. Hope your year is going well!