Introducing our 2023 Poet Laura, Dheepa Maturi
I’m excited to serve as this year’s Poet Laura!
When I was invited to fill this wonderful role, I felt so honored—and I hesitated. After all, I’d read the delightful and uplifting posts of Tania Runyan, Laura Boggess, and Karen Paul Holmes. Each Poet Laura seemed to possess an abundance of energy and panache, even a bit of fairy dust, as she brought graceful attention to poetry and good-humored guidance on making it a rich and lovely part of one’s life.
Clearly, a Poet Laura needed to be a creature of joy.
By contrast, I felt shadowed and dark. The grief of my mother’s illness and passing pressed heavily on me and cast a haze over my outlook on the world. My poetic voice felt leaden, sunken, unable to emerge. I wondered—could I fulfill this role?
Then, I read through the “official” responsibilities of a Poet Laura and did what I’d done rarely over the past year: I laughed. Read a poem to a chicken? Write an ode to chocolate? Strategize lunar poetry-placement?
The part of me that loves the quirky, the snarky, the utterly madcap—the part of me that had fallen dormant over the past few years—perked up.
In a flash, it occurred to me. One way to overcome the overwhelming heaviness I felt was to choose lightness, deliberately and consciously. And now, the powers-that-be at Tweetspeak Poetry had gifted me this marvelous opportunity and format to do just that.
Indeed, the role of Poet Laura is all about lightness:
- The name. While “poet laureate” is a mantle with serious weight and heft, “Poet Laura” is a multi-colored, multi-textured shawl that escapes the shoulders and flies into the wind, playing with the currents. The name is also a tribute to Tweetspeak founder, L.L. Barkat, whose aim has always been a beautiful integration of poetry and life and art and play.
- The purpose. A Poet Laura’s role is to promote and further Tweetspeak’s central goal: to make engagement with poetry enjoyable and accessible, to make it a natural and joyful part of life.
- The tasks. A Poet Laura’s assignments encourage humor and pleasure and whimsy. I’ve already mentioned the chickens and the chocolate, but there’s more fun to be had: tree-loving and public days and lots and lots of tea. And, given that I take life (and myself) way too seriously, it will be interesting to operate under an emblem that caricatures a chicken. In a beret.
(In the interest of diligence, I do feel the need to get a jump on my “ode to chocolate” assignment. After all, research is essential in such matters. Extensive research. I have my spreadsheet ready, and all of your recommendations for brands, stores, types, and variations of chocolate will be carefully recorded and considered. Your prompt attention to this matter is appreciated.)
As I read the details, an image formed in my mind: every little act of playfulness on my part, every bit of adventure and fun in which I participated, perforating the heaviness and grief I felt, allowing light to peek through. I imagined little constellations forming against the darkness, igniting movement and music, resparking my joy and creativity. And I thought of these lines from Jan Richardson’s How the Light Comes:
I cannot tell you
how the light comes,
but that it does.
That it will.
That it works its way
into the deepest dark
that enfolds you,
though it may seem
long ages in coming
or arrive in a shape
you did not foresee.
—Jan Richardson (read the rest of How the Light Comes)
If, you, too, feel blanketed in grief, or if you are struggling with the division and discord in the world and the derailment of reality and truth, or if you are seeking (or re-seeking) your poetic voice, then let us, through poetry, look deeply, feel deeply, yet find a way to walk lightly.
I’m grateful to Karen Paul Holmes for her rich and beautiful Poet Laura posts over the past year and for her words of guidance and encouragement. I am glad that a Poet Laura does not pass something as solemn and serious as a torch, but rather, something soft and buoyant: a feather. Have you ever looked closely at a feather—its intricate alignment of tendrils, its translucence, its buoyancy? That feather will be my reminder this year to go lightly, lightly.
Even in dark times and amid dark news, we can be well, feel light, even take flight. I’d love for you to join me. We’ll walk lightly together.
- Poet Laura: Invitation to Lightness from Dheepa Maturi - November 3, 2022
- Pandemic Journal: An Entry on Cut Fruit - May 28, 2020
- A Story in Every Soul: Bharath Natyam Dance Step by Step - October 18, 2018