American Life in Poetry: generation of feeling

Kwame Dawes. Courtesy photo.

Marwa Helal’s poem is anchored by a line of aspiration and effort, “I am trying to tell you something,” a line, in other words, that might easily be the mantra of all poets.

In “generation of feeling,” she seems to say that poetry, language, and words, arranged and rearranged, alter, change the universe.

These lines should be reassuring even when we are bewildered and alarmed by the strange violence of the first stanza’s image: bones, fires, and the pains of growing.

She invites us to keep rearranging words to achieve hopeful meaning. Sometimes this is what poetry aspires to.

generation of feeling
By Marwa Helal

these growing pains though
this good will hunting
fallen twigs
look like bones
waiting to be lit

i am trying to tell you something about how
rearranging words
rearranges the universe

American Life in Poetry does not accept unsolicited manuscripts. It is made possible by The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2019 by Marwa Helal, “generation of feeling” from Invasive species (Nightboat Books, 2019.) Poem reprinted by permission of the author and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2022 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Kwame Dawes, is George W. Holmes Professor of English and Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner at the University of Nebraska.