The Will of Poetry and Music
Reeka Edwards

Being raised by a grandparent is a part of a long-standing cultural tradition in the Caribbean. My mother was a waitress and she usually worked from 9 to 5, then sometimes from 5 to whenever if she decided to take up another shift. My grandmother was my guardian when my mother was working. To this day, my grandmother is one of the most religious people I know. Gospel music was the first form of music I heard and loved, and my Grandmother was my first music player. She used to sing a lot of gospel music to me when I was younger. Harry D. Clarke did wonders with the song “Into My Heart,” but my grandma made it her own whenever she sang it. Her voice was ever so soft and soothing. I was so enthralled by gospel music that I couldn’t sleep without her singing it to me.
I remember every Saturday at 9 am when I was six years old. Grandma always spring cleaned the house. She played gospel music every time she spring cleaned. Discovering this pattern, I started getting up at 9 am to help her clean while we sang together. I was so captivated by the gospel music that writing this essay brings back emotions of pride and satisfaction, satisfaction from the way in which the music pleasured my soul. I would always be singing out at the top of my lungs. Oh my! I was so carefree. Letting my body sway to the music in whichever pattern it desired.
“Grandma, how do Christians dance?” I once asked her while we sang and spring cleaned together. She looked at me puzzled so I continued, “do they dance different from sinners?” She paused for a moment and then she laughed so loudly and infectiously that I began to laugh too. “Yea, wi do! Di music require reverence and a Christian cah dance di same way in a church like how somebadi else would dance in a di club.”
I have found that statement to be very much factual. I was about ten years old when I started to explore different types of music. Aside from gospel music, reggae and soul are my favorite genres of music. “Many Rivers to Cross” was the first time I cried while listening to a song. Jimmy Cliff’s voice and the lyrics were so passionate and sad. I understood his pain. It was as if his pain had become mine and we were both experiencing the same agony. My mother had asked me why I was crying, and I didn’t know how to tell her that the song had engrossed me. I could not have explained for the life of me that a ten-year-old girl was crying over a song about slavery and loneliness. Somehow I felt like I too had many rivers to cross, and I knew he was not talking about the river literally but figuratively. Ever since then I have fallen in love with reggae music. Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff and Beres Hammond are my favorite reggae artists.
While I am enthralled by reggae and gospel music, I believe soul music is made specifically to appeal to your emotions. Soul music can enthrall you in a way that you keep it on replay, especially after your first heartbreak. I was seventeen years old when I started to fall in love with soul music and its ability to express emotion. There is a song for every mood I have ever experienced. Ranging from Marvin Gaye’s “Lets Get It On” to Boyz II Men “End of the Road.” I remember listening to the song “End of the Road” endlessly after my first heartbreak. I related to it more every time I listened to it. I was captivated by the song because it felt like it was quenching my soul. I remember my sister asking me why was I listening to the song so much, but I didn’t respond to her because the song held a secret for me. If I told her why, she would know my secret, so I ignored her as I continued to satisfy my soul.
Soul music quenches the soul. It is the type of music that you understand only if it wants to be understood.

I can’t remember a time in my life that I wasn’t listening to music. However, I fell in love with another form of expression called lyric poetry when I was thirteen years old. It’s the type of poetry that demands an emotional response out of you like music does. I never really understood the ability of poetry and music to emotionally connect with a person until I was under the thrall.
“Please take out your book, A World of Poetry, and turn to the poem “Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802,” Miss Reid had instructed. Following her instructions, I began to read the poem. I was fascinated with the vivid imagery the poem had presented. I felt like I was on Westminster Bridge with William Wordsworth watching the city sleep. So when my literature teacher asked us what was unique about the poem and how it made us feel, I raised my hand faster than I might care to admit. I told her that the poem was a lyric poem and it created a very vivid image of the scenery the speaker was talking about. I was feeling the same emotional awe that I imagined he was feeling.
She smiled and asked if I knew what type of lyric poem it was, to which I sullenly replied, “No!” Miss Reid informed the class that it was a sonnet, which I was instantly fascinated with. Up to this very day, it is my favorite type of poetry. What captivates me the most is the ability of poets to express themselves in fourteen lines, like Wordsworth’s ability to invade my mind with his words and will me to see his visions, to feel his peacefulness.
When I was sixteen years old, I was introduced to my favorite poet, Thomas Hardy. Based on the first thirteen poems of his that I read and from reading his biographies, I concluded that he is a masochist. My favorite part of literature class was analyzing Hardy’s poems. I found beauty in his darkness and struggles.
I am an eccentric. This is the only explanation I can fathom as to why I am so drawn to his poems. Every time I read his works I feel the sorrows, regrets, and struggles of the speakers. Every time, I am in their thrall. For example, in “How Great My Grief” the speaker was expressing grief for a woman whom he loved dearly. He kept on repeating “How great my grief, my joys how few,” which is a triplet poem in structure and can be an elegy in content.
At one point, I couldn’t stop reading Hardy’s poems because I wanted to understand him. I soon realized that the man behind the poems is as complex as the material that he wrote. The most emotionally conflicted poem I have ever read by Thomas Hardy is “Hap.” It was conflicting for me because I was raised religiously and the speaker is very blasphemous against God. The poem is an ode, which is a form of poem addressed to a particular subject, in this case God. Reading the poem made me feel conscience-stricken because I sympathized with the speaker and I understood his pain. I felt sympathetic and slightly empathic towards him.
But on the other hand, I did not want to feel these emotions for one who was discrediting the figure that I worship so reverently. Poetry can do that to you, make you feel emotions that you don’t want to feel. It can make you question the very core of your existence.
If someone were to ask me to explain poetry and music in one word, I would say “thrall.” Poetry and music are like a controversy. Once you’ve encountered them, you must give a reaction. These forms demand that from you. They were created to elicit a response out of anyone who encounters them. That’s the beauty of their forms.
My grandmother has passed away, but those memory of her singing the gospel with me will live on forever. Poetry and music are a magnificent form of art, which you can only fully understand if you are in their thrall.