the road to a holiday video poem

The Light Between Us – José Angel Araguz

Before learning to read,
words are darkness.
What’s there
feels unseeable;
paper and ink, sure,
but nothing you feel
a part of.

The world around us
feels like this at times,
like darkness.
A harsh word, violence, pain—
we can’t read these things easily,
must wait for the darkness
to make sense.

Yet, we wait in light.
The same light
around each dark word
surges around us.

In light, we begin to hear
possibility, meaning.

A voice comes
in the light between us,
and we are surprised to learn

it is our own voice
that reads the darkness away.

*

The above was written as a first attempt at a poem to accompany a holiday video being put together by Travis McGuire, Kevin Curry, and Jeff Kennel of Linfield College’s Communications and Marketing department. I had been given a brief description of the project to serve as a prompt: To visualize a crowd of people holding either phones or candles gathering, with a planned overhead shot at the end. I was also given “light” and “darkness” as key words. I worked out the above draft with this in mind.

While I can’t speak to the merits of the above, I can say that I see why I was asked for a revision. The above, while delving into some of the prompt concepts, remains very individual, the turn at the end being a gesture towards revelation, but a personal, intimate one. In further correspondence and talks with Travis, Kevin, and Jeff, it became clear that there was a sense of community missing from the original poem, something that I kept in mind as I drafted further versions.

One of the aspects of this revision process that I enjoyed was working out a sense of “poem as script.” Behind each word choice and turn of phrase, I considered what this would be like performed as a voiceover. This consideration took me into a performance mindframe, similar to how I prepare for readings as well as to the writing process I had during my years of writing slam poetry. With performance in mind in any capacity, one is thinking about how the word lands in two ways, on the air and on the page.

Below is the final draft of the poem as well as the holiday video itself. I am proud to have collaborated with the good folks from Communications and Marketing as well as student Antoine Johnson ’19 who read the poem for the video. As the year wraps up, I feel that the message of this poem and the lessons learned between drafts are worth considering moving forward.

Thank you, as always, for reading!

Holiday Poem – José Angel Araguz

The world around us
is dark at times.

Harsh words,
violence,
pain
leave us feeling alone,
isolated.

Stars, too, are isolated.
Each hangs in its own light.

The night, then, is darkness,

but when the light
from these separate,
distinct points
comes together…

When new understanding
brightens our lives,
darkness recedes.

When we come together,
we shine bright enough
to see tomorrow.

 

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