Monday, April 21, 2014

Poet Nicole Terez Dutton Visits Endicott College


Nicole Terez Dutton (Center)

By Emily Pineau

 “Poetry consists of who you are, where you come from, and what your concerns are,” Nicole Terez Dutton explains at her reading at Endicott College.  Dutton’s environment has always played a significant role in her writing.  As she was growing up, she lived in an area that made her feel uncomfortable because of the segregation she faced as an African American.  Though, fortunately, Dutton was able to find refuge in the one thing that she felt she could really excel at―poetry.  It seems as though Dutton uses poetry not only as a means to live her life to her full potential, but also as a way to be connected to the world around her.  Dutton’s way of approaching life is not only something I can identify with, but it is also the key to what makes her poetry extremely accessible, natural, and real.

            Before Dutton read she said, “Nothing I write is practically autobiographical, but you would be able to trace it back to home.”  This comment made me think about how all poems connect back to some universal truth and bring us somewhere, even if it isn’t the same place for everyone.  Even though Dutton’s idea of home may not be our idea of home, we are still thinking of a place that we belong.  Some of Dutton’s main themes consist of mentorship, traveling, and music, which are all things that connect people.

            In Dutton’s poem, “Woman, I am Falling,” there is a sense of tension between the mentor in the poem and the one who is looking up to the mentor.  It seems as though time is running out, and that this relationship cannot last.  Dutton writes, “I was dire with circumstance.”  This particular line is filled with urgency and it throws me into the core of the poem’s heartbreak.  This poem really captures what it feels like to depend so much on someone’s guidance and how it feels to become to attached to a mentor.  A mentor can make a person feel like his or her ideas matter and that he or she has a place in life.  So, when it is time to move on, and life’s circumstances are pushing the mentor away, it feels like the ground is being ripped out from underneath the one who has been learning from the mentor.  It almost like somewhere along the line a sense of denial develops.  It becomes forgotten that eventually the two people will have to go their separate ways.  The line in this poem that affects me the most is when Dutton says, “Lasting is not everything.”  So often with friendships and with romance, people try to make relationships last as long as possible.  Naturally, people dread endings, and do not want to let others go.  I can relate to this concept because I always find myself getting attached to people, and being terrified that they will leave me or that we will slowly lose touch.  But when Dutton writes, “Lasting is not everything,” this really makes me think about how much I am missing out on every time I focus on when or how a relationship will end.  Sometimes the connections we have with people are permanent, even if life rips us apart. Maybe people have to go their separate ways to realize the pull between them.

            “But we must be going always,” Dutton writes in her poem, “Tourists Part Two”.  This poem captures what it is like to be a tourist in a place that you aren’t familiar with and to step outside your comfort zone.  Since Dutton has traveled a lot, she knows what it feels like to quickly go from one place to another.  This feeling of constant movement not only applies to traveling, but it can also be related to life changes and when someone goes from one step to another.  In general, we are constantly on the move and go as fast as we can in order to get somewhere else.  If we move too fast though, we will miss the people around us and not fully appreciate where we came from and where we are going.  When Dutton writes, “There are some people we are born missing,” this really speaks to me.  I feel like when all of us are going to all different places, and are constantly looking for things to do, there are moments where we stop and think that something or someone is missing.  And sometimes this feeling is so deeply rooted that we do not remember a time when we did not feel this way.  We try to imagine who this person is, where they are, and how they would fit into our lives.  Maybe this person is from a past life, somewhere on the other side of the world, or just in our imagination.  Either way there still is this feeling that we travel with, and we try to move as far and fast as we can so it can’t catch up with us.

            In Dutton’s poem, “Vertical Hold,” there is anxiety about getting back to family in time.  The way that the words flow in this poem, and the way that Dutton reads it make it sound like music, which is also true of many of her poems.  My favorite line is when Dutton says, “harmonies loop and reel,” because I feel like I can actually see the sound.  It is clear that Dutton pays close attention to how certain words sound together, especially in this poem.  Dutton also writes, “Their mouths stitch themselves around the question, ‘when’?”  This image of mouths being stitched around something gives this poem a painful feeling, which is very affective in this case.  When someone is trying to get back to his or her family it can be very painful and stressful.  Dutton successfully captures raw emotion in this poem, and in all of her poems.

     “The thing about traveling is you don’t have everything you think you need in order to be okay,” Dutton explained after she was  asked how traveling has influenced her writing.  Since traveling forces you to survive on bare essentials it makes to realize new things about yourself.  For me, this concept reminds me of the act of writing itself.  Sometimes when I am writing a story, a poem, an article, or anything at all I feel like I am not prepared enough to fully articulate exactly what I want to say.  I often find myself reading countless examples, writing notes, and attempting to put together outlines in order to make sure I get it just right.  In this way writing is like traveling.   One needs to realize that you don’t need to have all of these extra things in order to be okay.  In fact, when we write, everything we need is already there.  Just like Dutton has shown us, “Poetry consists of who you are, where you come from, and what your concerns are.”  By understanding this, we have to power to travel farther than we ever imagined.

Emily Pineau is an English major at Endicott College and the author of  the poetry collection: NO Need to Speak ( Ibbetson Street Press/Endicott College Young Poet Series)

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