The poetry collection that changed my life is Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s A Coney Island Of The Mind. I read it cover to cover as a lost and naive undergrad. While the poems didn’t help with the confusion–in fact, they confused me more–they did open up my sheltered realm and made me realize that I need to get curious about life. Otherwise, I’d be missing out on everything. In her essay that has the same title as his collection, Katie Roiphe says of his poem, “It’s not a happy poem, really, it’s not a poem that bodes well, but who remembers anything but the title?” (71). Exactly. Her essay is about memories of her father that come about when a date takes her to Coney Island to ride The Cyclone. Places spark memories. Memories are unstoppable. Even shaking your head won’t make you unsee what your mind wants to reveal.
What I remember from the poetry collection is the line, “There is an angel inside me whom I am constantly shocking.” When I was an undergrade, this line couldn’t have been further from the truth. Now? Well, that’s between my angel and me.
Roiphe, Katie. “A Coney Island Of The Mind.” Brooklyn Was Mine. Eds. Chris Knutsen and Valerie Steiker. New York: Riverhead Books, 2008. 67-72. Print