In college, I taped the poem "Do Not Go Gentle" onto the wall over my computer. I knew from English class that it was written by Thomas to his father,In college, I taped the poem "Do Not Go Gentle" onto the wall over my computer. I knew from English class that it was written by Thomas to his father, who was dying, but for years the poem had resonated with me. In my version, I deleted "old age" and replaced it with "youth." The idea of fighting for what you want, for what you believe in, but most importantly, not accepting who society tells you to be has long made it a favorite of mine (only The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock ranks higher actually).
When I began Matched, I didn't love the first chapter, but I went along with it. There's nothing wrong with the first chapter, but it didn't grab me the way some novels do. But, as I well know, some of my favorite books snuck up on me and grew roots in my soul without me realizing until it was much too late to resist. This is one of those books. I do suspect it was the first time she read the hidden copy of Thomas' poem that got me, but the repeated identification of Cassia with the poem cemented it's spot in my current favorites' list.
The worldbuilding and the concept were nothing new or catchy. Rather it was the emotional and philosophical growth of Cassia that hooked me. One of the things I love about YA is that it represents life on the cusp of the world. Teenagers exist somewhere between what their parents have sculpted them to be and what society expects, and it's in that gray space that they form identity. This limbo is where experience happens and everything remains possible. When I was younger, I clung to the idea that I would not go gentle. I wouldn't become a mother or eagerly join the middle class or rank among the intolerant groups obsessed with politics and value arguments.
As I prepare to turn thirty, I've had to take a step back and evaluate who I thought I would become and who I am. I'm a mother. I believe firmly in my opinions. I try to be open to others, but have a hard time with some political groups (let's just say I'm a coffee drinker). And although I've never really sold out in my own opinion to the comforts of the bourgeoisie, I've not always fought or raged at end of day either. Maybe that's why YA speaks to me, and specifically why Matched appealed to, as I prepare for the middle stage of my life, I find myself asking if my words have forked lightening, or I've merely prepared a face to meet the faces that I meet?
Maybe that's why I finally wrote a book. I'm not sure, but what I do know is the power of words, which I hope to harness a bit. I've spent my life coming back to my favorite poems. I can't imagine the ugliness of a world without them, a world like the one in Matched.
Do you know your favorite poems? Have you reread them throughout your life and gleaned new appreciate from your own changing perception? Do they rattle around in your brain? I have a hard time imagining we'd ever abandon literature and art, but that might be my own need for them talking. So hold fast to these works and examine them, share them, live and breathe them....more