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MIT student blogger Natasha B. '16

Poetry Prescriptions by Natasha B. '16

Things I've Made and Consumed. Sophomore Fall, All of It.

Scene: Monday night in a green boarding house. Poetry books, cookie crumbs, and light are scattered across the dining room tables. There is a lively murmur and a beat in the background.

IAP is one week in. I spent the weekend drawing, cutting, and gluing together my first project for a month-long intensive Introduction to Architecture and Environmental Design class, taking a break to walk along the Charles with a new-ish friend, have dinner with an older one, and attend the latest iteration of the Wandering Cricket Night Market after a thunderstorm. Now, after dozens of hours in the architecture studio and a full day of presentations and review, I’m deciding to be at home. I’m taking stock of the semester that passed.

In the beginning, it was like a full-blown middle-school crush. I had a giant crush on MIT. I signed up for a million classes (five and a half, actually, or 66 units, which number turns out to feel like a million to me) and I loved them all and walked around feeling fireworks all the time. I moved to pika, and with Michael Waldrep, a masters student in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning, made this.

In This Building: 69 Chestnut Street, or pika from MIT CoLab on Vimeo. Video by Michael Waldrep.

October and September: I took weekends away. I camped in New Hampshire with MIT Outing Club, listened to bluegrass at the FreshGrass festival Mass MoCA, toured the rocky outcrops of western Massachusetts and upstate New York with my geology class, 12.001, and went to Maine with forty-something urban planners-in-the-making, among whom the median age was mine plus six or ten years. My schedule was a series of marvelous adventures. Regrettably, I didn’t blog.

Cambridge Carnival in September.


Julia Ellermeier, ’14 and Christopher Sarabalis, ’14 at FreshGrass


FreshGrass Bluegrass & Roots Festival at Mass MoCA, North Adams.


A sculpture at Mass MoCA.


Bryant Pond, Maine with the MCP (Masters in City Planning) crowd.

November and December: I did psets. I did psets and wrote essays. I wrote essays. I still loved most of my classes. I loved Voice and Meaning, the writing class I took with Ta-Nehisi Coates, the best teacher I’ve had in my entire life aside from my dad*. I loved the half-semester class I took on multimedia and place-based storytelling. That ended, and the psets kept coming, and I waxed nostalgic for high school days–not because I wanted to be in high school again, but because I missed having time to lie down. I stressed out. I came close to a couple of meltdowns. I counted on my roommates to help me chill out. I made half-formed jokes, drank buckets of tea, and cooked for forty every Friday night. That’s how pika works. It was a hell of a semester–mostly in a good way,  not always, but mostly. I’m still sorting it out in my head. I’m drawing conclusions.**


At the end, I went home. I have a few homes now: the one I live in, the one I left, the one my family keeps. I went back to Santa Fe, where it could be t-shirt weather with snow on the ground, snow only in the shadows of junipers, where there are Christmas cholla blooming yellow and the Center for Contemporary Arts shows movies every night and serves popcorn with nutritional yeast. The bookstore I frequent in Santa Fe was once a jail that held Billy the Kid. My family lives in a small rented adobe two blocks from my sister’s elementary school, a mile from the old city plaza. In the days leading up to Christmas, people line the sidewalks with farolitos (tea lights in paper bags weighed down with sand), and on Christmas Eve, an informal parade flows up Canyon Road. There are campfires in driveways, where you can stand by strangers to warm your hands, and there are jugs of hot cider set out unattended for you to drink. There are men in top hats playing carols on trombones and couples holding hands. Home was beautiful. My family is crazy and good. I read a lot at home, and I started writing poetry. Tonight, after dinner, I brought out my stacks of books and offered my friends prescriptions. “Tell me your problems and your life, and I’ll give you a poem to address them.” They asked for poems to address existential angst, pretty girls, and sleeplessness. I did my best. I’ll do it for you, too. Write to [email protected], tell me something about you, and I’ll send you a poem.

Christmas Eve in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Photo credit to Jacob Ahrens-Balwit, UW-Madison.

*Having a five-year-old sister, I get to see for myself, from a new perspective, how my dad taught me about the world. My last night in Santa Fe, he told a bedtime story in which Wee Willy Winky and Jacques Cousteau were brothers. The acronym ‘scuba’ stood for “little can of air I strap on my back.” While Wee Willy Winky made his nightly rounds, Jacques Cousteau learned how to breathe underwater. When W.W.W. returned home, exhausted by the effort of convincing rowdy kids go to bed, brother Jacques told him stories of shimmering turquoise water and strange colorful fish. In a surprising twist, W.W.W. has sleep apnea, and when he falls asleep in the middle of his brother’s story, Jacques hooks him up to the little can of air. Wee Willy Winky dreams of marvelous fish and a man in scuba gear swimming toward him.

**Conclusion number one is that I have to blog more. I write all the time, but I have a little stage fright. I talk to strangers all the time, but not to so many at once, and not from such a distance, the way I’m talking to you right now. My next blog post, in one week, will contain the rest of my conclusions.