Allison Leigh’s “Poem beginning with ‘Let'”

Magazine: The Collagist
Poem: “Poem beginning with ‘Let’”
Poet: Allison Leigh
Blogger: A. Duncan

The first thing that attracted me to this poem was its title. It doesn’ t so much as state what the poem is going to be about, but exactly how it starts. That really intrigued me to keep reading. As I read the poem over, it gave me the feeling that this person has definitely become hardened by some of the things that have happened in her life. Instead of making it an easy/straight-forward poem, she dives into the heart of the issue, starting out with, “I lied. I’m tired/ of being told what to let.” The writer really starts to de-familiarize the word ‘let’ for me, as it is continuously used in ways that are unexpected and new. I never thought about how many times I use the word ‘let’ as if I’m saying a command to someone. She defies the world and what people are telling her to do when she says, “Let no one tell you what to let/ & often things will let themselves”. This line connects with the ending where she goes into the supernatural of just letting everything be, simply because it is supposed to be.

I’m not sure where the poem ends up. The beginning seemed so simple in a way. Letting go, letting it be, can be exhausting. It’s time to stand for the things you don’t want to let anymore. The poem ends with, “ Better yet, let the ether up there, / the soft & the brilliant, /invisible, crystalline. /Let your first face. /Let place. /Let the up there”. It is striking because it is so unexpected and off the triggering subject (which is good!). She goes from describing everyday life to contemplating a sort of supernatural. The beginning seems so angry, but the end switches to a peace that she seems to feel now that she has expressed her pent up angst towards the top. Instead of people not telling you what to let, she has moved on, to “Let place. / Let the up there”.  I love the idea of stepping back and letting go, when it is necessary to your own sanity, but not when others are bossing you around.

Leigh’s word choices seemed odd at places. Her choice of using the word ‘ ether’ at the end of the poem was at first confusing to me because I feel like it is an uncommon word. I had to look up the definition of it. But I realized that it is how the language flows and calls out to us that makes a poem what it is. Therefore, I really found myself liking her word choice in that moment, and the description of ether that follows. I also loved how she used hard or unexpected words in certain places, such as, : “Let yourself / get loved or handsome first. / Go let yourself some coffee”.  Handsome and coffee are rough sounding, which to me, break up the lines. But I like it because she is intending to bring the bumpiness of the subject matter (people not letting you do what you want) to the language.

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The literary journal of the University of Illinois at Springfield.

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