I see the F train’s twin headlights blooming into the station.
When I close my eyes, its warm wind sweeps hair from my face,
the way my grandmother did with her hands, to see my eyes.”
The feeling created by these words, from American poet Erika Meitner’s 2010 poetry collection Ideal Cities, will ring familiar to nearly all who live the urban experience. But the relief of seeing a pair of headlights peek through the tunnel, or the sensation of the hot air of a passing train, are so mundane they can often go uncelebrated save for a fleeting moment.
Poetry like Meitner’s can give us a space to sing the praises and frustrations of the cities we live in. But can it actually help us make those cities better? Can poetry be a way to experience and understand our environment more richly?