It was about a year ago that my favourite poet and biggest inspiration Richard Siken, who also happens to be queer, suffered from a brain stroke. It left him confused, fearful and led to physical difficulties as well as loss of memory. Grappling with the fear that the most brilliant poet I know may never write again, I wrote him this letter: it was more of a coping mechanism for me, because I never ended up sending it.
Today, with the arrival of the news that Richard Siken is much better now, I have come to realize that all along, it was never the fear of him not writing again that had scared me.
Richard Siken is inspiring, he is warm and pure genius, and the standard that nothing can ever live up to. Richard Siken makes the world an infinitely better place, and it was the thought of his not being here that terrified me the most. Because his mere existence is a comfort, and always has been. All I wanted from the world was Richard Siken being safe, okay and happy.
A year later, here is An Open Letter to Richard Siken, and the hope that things only get better from here:
To Richard Siken,
The day you fall sick, I find myself on Twitter, following an account called ‘richard siken bot’ that tweets lines from your poetry every hour.
It’s not enough, but it’s all I have. Because I don’t know if you’re ever going to write again.
I find ‘Litany in Which Certain Things Are Crossed Out’ on the internet out of nowhere when I’m 15, and it makes me feel everything I haven’t felt in months. I print it out, memorizing every word and my mind goes to a different place every single time I read it. It’s my little secret, a poem I refuse to share with anyone unless I trust them completely. At 17, the poem is taped to my bunk bed, a reminder that words can create something so beautiful. At 18, I still read it every time I need to feel something.
Your books arrive one afternoon, and the thrill I feel every time I look at them is unprecedented. I devour them in the next two days, and don’t understand a word you mean to say.
It only makes me love you more.
You send me a poem when I’m 16, something about how nothing good ever happens at 4am. I stay up all night to prove that good things do happen at that ungodly hour, and all I do is prove myself wrong.
Your words, they’ve taken me everywhere: from the deepest of sorrows to the truest forms of joy.
They showed me what poetry can be, what art can be, what I can be. Maybe you changed my life in all the ways you could, and maybe I am more thankful than I can say.
Even now, I fail to put it into words.