Friday, April 6, 2012

April Is National Poetry Month

The word “poetry” immediately brings to mind Miss Kelly’s 7th grade class, and memorizing dozens of poems, most notably John Masefield’s poignant “Sea Fever,” most of which I can recite to this day. Thanks to her and many other teachers like her, I have learned to enjoy many types of poetry through the years.

The poet with the earliest influence on me was, of course, Dr. Seuss. From fox in socks and hop on Pop to green eggs and ham with Sam I am, his simple, memorable rhymes taught me poetry when I could barely read. Ogden Nash and Shel Silverstein were close behind, with poems like “A Wonderful Bird Is the Pelican” (one of my father’s favorites) and “How Not to Have to Dry the Dishes.”

As I grew a bit older, I discovered that poems don’t always have to rhyme. My favorite example of a non-rhyming poem was haiku. I loved the predictable rhythm, the brevity, the tiny taste of description before the poem vanished. I could even write them myself! And I learned the beauty of other non-rhyming poems, with their glorious imagery. Some of my favorite lines of poetry are Carl Sandberg’s, “…the fog comes in on little cat feet” and ee cummings’ “…the moon rattles like a fragment of angry candy.” (Both, I may add, in my memory thanks to Miss Kelly.)

And then I discovered Shakespeare. Oh, Shakespeare! The vocabulary, the description, the pure loftiness of the words, the sly humor. “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate.” “’Tis not so deep as a well, nor so wide as a church door, but ‘tis enough, ‘twill serve.” “Full fathom five thy father lies: of his bones are coral made, those are pearls that were his eyes.” “Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.” “Hark! Hark! The lark at heaven’s gate sings!” And of course, my personal favorite, from “Much Ado About Nothing”: “I will live in thy heart, die in thy lap, and be buried in thy eyes; and moreover I will go with thee to thy uncle's.”

And so much glorious love poetry outside of Shakespeare! Robert Burns: “My luve’s like a red, red rose.” Elizabeth Barrett Browning: “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” Lord Byron: “She walks in beauty, like the night of cloudless climes and starry skies.” Edna St. Vincent Millay: “I will permit my memory to recall the vision of you, by all my dreams attended.” Percy Bysshe Shelly: “Rose leaves, when the rose is dead, are heaped for the beloved’s bed; And so thy thoughts, when thou art gone, love itself shall slumber on.”

And our local poets. Robert Frost: “I shall be telling this with a sigh, somewhere ages and ages hence.” Emily Dickinson: “I’m nobody. Who are you? Are you nobody too?” Ralph Waldo Emerson: “My angel – his name is Freedom. Choose him to be your king.” Anne Sexton: “And what of the dead? They lie without shoes in the stone boats.” Robert Lowell: “Sleepless, you hold your pillow to your hollows like a child.” Anne Bradstreet: “The world no longer let me love, my hope and Treasure lies above.”

The world is a richer place because of poetry and the poets who write it. This month, let us all lift a glass to those who wield words through poetry to make us savor those words, to question them, to enjoy them, sometimes even to hate them. But above all, to think about them.


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