Have a favorite poem or poet? Have an anthology dog-eared and beloved? Seems just about everyone can recite a few rhyming lines… I have a shelf in my library with a combination of poets, old and new. Certain moods draw me to take a book off the shelf and pursue some favorites… sometimes I just need the imagery to help me sort out what I’m feeling… whatever the reason, poetry has survived the ages because of its ability to transport us into illusions and metaphors far beyond the paradoxical, right into our very hearts.
April is a time to honor and remember the role poetry has in our lives… from childhood memories of the Queen in the Grimm’s tale of Snow White: “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?” to the folk tales your Gram told you,“Oh my goodness!” said Chicken Little. “The sky is falling! I must go and tell the king.” These early forays into the world of story and words and imagination lead us quickly into the wicked and wonderful rhyming world of Edgar Allen Poe:
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary, Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore– While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping, As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door. “Tis some visiter,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door–Only this and nothing more.”
From our adolescent fascination with Poe, we find we have fallen, irrevocably, in love with the wrong person, and who better to turn to than the greatest of English poets, William Shakespeare. His plays and sonnets, surviving the centuries, move us to do as Juliet does, when she asks the sweet yet complex questions:
O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore at thou Romeo? Deny thy father and refuse thy name… What’s in a name? that which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet…
After the love games and Shakespeare, we stumble toward the confession poets, feeling the draw to understand even more of our inner natures. Who better than Sylvia Plath to teach us, in her searing images and allusions in “Faun”?
Haunched like a faun, he hooed
From grove of moon-glint and fen-frost
Until all owls in the twigged forest
Flapped black to look and brood
On the call this man made…
Ah! Poetry is there when you need it!
During April, National Poetry Month, celebrate National Poem In Your Pocket Day this Thursday, April 26! The idea is simple: select a poem you love and carry it with you to share with co-workers, family, and friends, even strangers! (If you miss this date, share a poem any day!) You can also share your poem on Twitter by using the hashtag #pocketpoem.
I will close with a favorite poem by the brilliant W. H. Auden. This poem speaks so eloquently of loss. Perhaps, amidst all the sorrow this poem evokes, it reminds us to love our loves every moment…
Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.
Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.
He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.
The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.