“I only know that learning to believe in the power of my own words has been the most freeing experience of my life. It has brought me the most light. And isn’t that what a poem is? A lantern glowing in the dark.”
The Poet X is a beautiful introduction to the works of Elizabeth Acevedo. We are introduced to Xiomara, a young girl coming into her own. Xiomara is attempting to find herself outside of her religious family, especially her mother. Xiomara needs to find a release for her emotions and she finds it in leather notebook, where she writes poetry. Xiomara is attempting to break free of her mother’s religious shackles when she meets a boy she like and has the opportunity to participate in her school’s slam poetry club.
The book is beautifully written in verse, a poetic narrative that is written in…well poetry, instead of prose, like a traditional novel. Reading The Poet X felt like a first hand look at Xiomara’s life through her own journal. Xiomara is a relatable character because she is trying to establish her own identity. I thought a lot about how religion is collectivism instead of individualistic.
In my field, I am constantly confronted with the pros and cons of individualism and collectivism. Xiomara’s story made me wonder if we, as a people, can merge the two. The Poet X is a story that has to be looked at through a cultural lens. Xiomara comes from a collectivistic culture, which explains her mother’s ‘overbearing nature,’ but they are living in an individualistic society, which explains Xiomara having differing view points than her mother. Yes, view points are naturally developed, but I truly believe you cannot read and comprehend this novel without understanding this context. Note: This is not to excuse the mother for not being supportive, but to acknowledge that her mother’s view point is based in what she grew up with.
The conclusion of The Poet X has one of the best endings in my opinion. It ends with Xiomara completing an assignment on her favorite quote, “The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.” – Psalm 119:130. Xiomara goes to explain how the Bible is a metaphor, stating “I love this quote because even though it’s not about poetry, it IS about poetry.” Xiomara was able to accept that she will not be as religious and devout as her mother, brother, and best friend and she was able to believe in own words. So, I would argue that Xiomara was able to merge collectivism with individualism to grow into her own person!