The world is full of countless theories about the processes of attaining the ultimate goal of happiness. Upon first reading Kim Addonizio’s “Verities,” found in Poetry Magazine, I was immediately captivated by the dark tone. Phrases like ”every dog has its choke chain,” “better dead than fed,” and “sticks and stones will break you,” flooded me with emotion. These violent words “break,” “dead,” and “choke” convey the feeling of pain and the hopeless notion that all people will suffer at some point or another. Though unconventional, I feel like people can find comfort in the fact that Addonizo deems bad experiences as inevitable and out of human control, presenting this idea through the lines“A stitch in time saves no one./The darkest hour comes.” Not only will pain and suffering come in life, but the line “into every life a little ax must fall” emphasizes that suffering has to happen through the word “must.” People cannot grow without suffering; it is essential to experience suffering to feel true happiness.
The line “he who laughs will not last,” offers the idea that happiness is naive and temporary; this more pessimistic view suggests that you cannot escape pain with happiness. Those who try to escape with laughter will just experience more hurt. This makes me think Addonizio is presenting an idea that people have to endure their pain to recover from it, they have to feel their pain and experience it before they can grow and move forward.
Through the title Verity, Addonizio is clearly trying to convey the truth of pain. I think this is an important and practical idea; at the end of the day, regardless of the perspective you have, pain is real. Each and every person has their own ways to cope, and one of the most interesting things is to discover how you want to feel about pain, and what you want to do about it.
I feel like if you look at the idea that suffering is out of your control through the right mindset, it can lead to a new outlook on life itself. I try to think of life as something that is temporary, an opportunity to live every moment spontaneously; it is an opportunity to make decisions for the moment, for me. There is a bad side to every good. Perfection doesn’t exist, you can never please everyone. There will always be people who dislike you. You will always be a little unsatisfied, always wanting more. I think accepting this idea is the key to really feeling like you lived a fulfilling life. As someone who is constantly trying to attain perfection, it is difficult to wrap my head around the idea that I cannot be perfect. However, it is sometimes calming to realize that at the end of the day suffering is out of my hands and I can live my life despite it. In the moments when I am stressing about the assignments I have to do I force myself to remember that at the end of the day failure is temporary.
Even with this idea formed in my mind, a line that I had to consider more deeply was “better dead than fed.” At a first glance it was set apart from the other lines of the poem, maybe because most phrases focus on the negative sides to a positive, but “better dead than fed” does not. It instead indicates that a positive state is actually not so amazing, that death is more desirable. Thinking about this line more deeply, I think it could have something to do with the idea that self-care is useless if happiness is deemed impossible; it’s better to accept your fate than to try and change it. In addition, Addonizio could be more specifically targeting the ideas of people who don’t want to live. Maybe her statement through this poem is more a comment on the way people view life and how powerful perspective is, rather than what life actually is itself. Maybe she is commenting on how people hate themselves一how they don’t have a desire to live, or to eat, or to do things for their well-being.
Another line that I had to consider more carefully was “then the names of things will be changed.” It just did not fit the pattern, as it is much less straightforward and clear than the rest of the lines. The word “changed” indicates growth, and I believe that it relates to growing up. In the process of growing up you find that not everything is as perfect as it seems. You see the darkness behind the light that blinds you so brightly as a child. Even if you are not “growing up” there are still moments when you realize that something you once thought was good actually has a darkness that you couldn’t see before. This line comes directly after the line “sticks and stones will break you,” hinting that this newfound perspective comes after you experience pain. Specifically, after you are changed as a result of pain. This introduces the idea that as you grow and change and experience more and more, the world just reveals it’s dark, evil self. What you take from this idea is what matters.
I see the purpose of poetry clearly shining through this piece, not only to find your own meaning and interpretation based on your personal experiences, but also to recognize the general idea that applies to everyone. At the end of the day, with what I have learned, I will continue to use my pain and inevitable suffering to better myself. I will take the revelation that the world is a broken place as a blessing and a sign to do what I can to make it better. The idea of an evil world would be far too painful for me to believe in, so I cannot view this broken world as anything less than a blessing.