WITS Voices: We Deal in Magic

By Matt Gano, WITS Writer-in-Residence


There’s real magic flying from the fingertips of the young poets at The Center School. We speak in terms of allusion in terms of empathy and connectivity. We cast spells in misspelled text and bend symbols of meaning to tease reality.

We deal in magic as poets, as writers, as explorers of the imagination and finders of the truth in language. I’m so encouraged and awed by the depth of care and compassion our first semester Poetry 1 class has shown this year at The Center School. We have a small class, but the buy-in and dedication to the power of creative expression is inspiring.

As a teaching artist, I couldn’t ask for a better scenario. These students’ willingness to dig into ideas, to get weird, to experiment, has made for some really exciting and special conversations about the power of poetry and the mysticism that comes with being a “creator.” Each are finding unexpected turns of phrase and sharp images in their writing, casting spells along with nets to draw the reader in.

Here are a few highlights:

CB writes:

“I’ve always hated going to the doctor’s office.
That cold smell that sinks into your nostrils and claws at your tongue,
makes your mouth echo the taste of hand sanitizer and forgotten rubber gloves.

I’ve never liked that whiteness,
the way it burns your eyes and reminds you what you’re there for.”

C writes:

“You expect me to bloom all year long.”

T writes:

“I’m afraid
of your moon falling out of orbit
with my sun.”

A writes:

“He stared into my eyes
like a parent stares into a child’s,
but he stayed so still the waving blades
of grass came to ignore
their silent neighbor.”

When we talk about “magic,” we talk about it in the real sense that we are creating new landscapes for the imagination by working to translate our emotional experience with the world through our senses. Transporting consciousness from body to body – through poetry – is to participate in one of the most human aspects of our abilities, something often taken for granted, but nonetheless miraculous when we stop to pin it down.

The simple fact that we can harness an abstract emotion or an idea through writing – give it texture or concreteness with an image – while activating the imagination of an audience to now visualize that abstraction and bring it to life in their own minds – is true magic. Seen in this way, creativity, activating imagination through language, promotes a power of connectedness and deep empathy we need now more than ever to highlight within one another.


mattganoresizedMatt Gano is author of Suits for the Swarm, a poetry collection from MoonPath Press, and has been writing and teaching professionally since 2004. Matt has toured poetry venues and worked as an artist-in-residence from New York to Hong Kong. He is a veteran of the Seattle writing community and in 2015, he and writer Aaron Counts co-founded the Seattle Youth Poet Laureate Program with Seattle Arts & Lectures.

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