Wednesday, May 21, 2014

On Poetry

I first remember writing poetry in a notebook in the third grade.  I had a dream to someday publish a book of poems.  I continued writing through the summer I fell in love with my husband, when I was twenty years old.  Then I stopped.  Maybe the writing had been a yearning that became fulfilled.

I enjoyed reading poetry in my high school English classes.  It was like a riddle or a puzzle to solve by looking carefully at the words, by reflecting.  My sophomore year, my teacher told me my poetry was too sentimental.  I was crushed.

I took a poetry class in my second year of college.  My professor had published a book.  The LA riots happened during that time.  I befriended a classmate who was a refugee from Laos.  It was a tough time for me emotionally, and I don't really remember much else, besides the fact that I loved the class--I felt I belonged.  My professor listened, supported, encouraged.  Plus, reading and writing poetry was hardly homework.

The summer I met my husband was dreamlike.  I was learning oil painting, falling in love--it was all very poetic.  One of our first dates was to an open mike poetry reading.  We didn't stay long.

In my late twenties I became enamored with Neil Finn's songwriting, another kind of poetry.  Then, last year, it was songwriter Gary Lightbody.  He turned me on to Seamus Heaney, who died recently, just as I was getting to know him.  I have his book The Spirit Level next to me right now.  When I read his poems, I imagine I can smell the damp earth of Ireland.  I didn't ever meet him, but I miss him.

I have a friend who writes lovely poetry.  You can read her work, and lively prose blog posts, here.

Most recently, I am enjoying the lyrics (and melodies) of Tyler Lyle.  Also, I have been catching The Writer's Almanac with Garrison Keillor on NPR many mornings at 9AM.  If I miss it, I find it online.  Mr. Keillor shares bits of history pertaining to the date, and then reads a selected poem.  I turn the volume up.

Poetry takes time, and quiet.  Who reads it, anyway?   High school students.  English majors.  In his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, Seamus Heaney suggested that poetry could indeed change the world. Maybe, we should all be reading it.

One of my very favorite poems is Aedh Wishes For The Cloths Of Heaven by William Butler Yeats.

Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

What are your favorites?

Note 5-29-14:  I am so sorry to hear of Maya Angelou's passing yesterday.  I had the good fortune to hear her speak back when I was in college.  The energy in the room was intense.  She was an exceptional poet, an exceptional woman in so many ways.

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