March 3, 2012

For the Love of Poetry

I  thank you God for this most amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirits of trees, and for the blue dream of sky and for everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes. ~e.e. cummings
A fellow blogger posted the above bit of poetry on his blog recently, and it perfectly epitomizes what I have been feeling about this time of year. Despite the weather being a bit confused lately, the earth really is pushing forth with the idea of spring. The crocuses and snowdrops are blooming, choice shrubs are greening and leaf buds on the trees are beginning to swell, needing just a bit of steady encouragement from the sun to gain the confidence to open up.

I suppose the beauty of poetry is that the poet succeeds, with a few well-chosen and intuitive words, in expressing what we lesser mortals cannot. I can't say that I read a lot of poetry, but I do read enough to know its power.

I have been so busy lately, preparing for this weekend's events which I have helped to organize for the community, and my husband is just winding down a few weeks of work in which he, literally, spent more time on the job than he spent at home. The other day I had so much to do, yet in my tiredness I could not find my rhythm, nor create any real flow to the day. Another blogger expressed in one of his new poems exactly what I had been experiencing that day, and I was comforted by the fact that someone out there had been able to put form to my feelings, simply because he had felt the same way.

the day is passing too fast, forward, but jerky, stop motion clay-mation in the hands of an amateur. ~Brian Miller

When I was a child, I read plenty of junior poetry: A.A. Milne, Robert Louis Stevenson, Dennis Lee, Shel Silverstein, nursery rhymes galore, and various illustrated collections, but it was not until I was introduced to adult poetry in my English Literature class in high school that I began to appreciate and understand poetry as an art form (although I am sure all that children's literature paved the way). Our teacher, Mr. Stephani walked us through Shakespeare, Pope, some Milton, Hardy, Wordsworth, Blake and Byron. I found I could understand and often relate to what these poets were saying about the world around them, and I was encouraged to carry on with my studies, which included Canadian and American literature, in college and university. 

I'm not sure if all college kids go through the same poetic phase, but I know I did. I remember another very romantic e.e. cummings poem which I had heard quoted in a movie. I was in the beginning stages of my first long-term relationship at the time, and after hearing the poem, I rushed to the college library, looked it up, copied it out and gave it to my boyfriend. I won’t quote the entire poem here, but the last stanza still takes my breath away, in a laughing, slightly cringing 'I can’t believe I gave him that poem' kind of way. In all honesty, I'm sure the poem described not how I felt about him, but rather, how I wished to feel at the time.

(I do not know what it is about you that closes
And opens; only something in me understands
The voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
Nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands

I never did find a poem that fit 'us' until after we had broken up. Perhaps that was a sign.

When I met and fell in love with my husband, I wrote him a poem. It had one line in it that I remember:
Our love is as light and unusual as feathers on the moon
My husband, a practical and steady sort of man (thankfully) was impressed that I had even written him a poem at all, and was deeply touched. Finally, for me, poetry and reality had met. I was happy.
Our lives read more like a to-do list now than a love sonnet, much of the time, but that's only natural after nearly twenty years of marriage. The important thing is that we write those lists together. As for poetry, well, it will keep popping up to help give shape and to make sense and beauty of this human experience. That is its special magical gift to those who are tuned to hear it.

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date.
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm'd;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature's changing course untrimm'd;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

The photo is of the walnut tree in our back yard.


  1. I think it is absolutely wonderful and ingenious that people are created with special and various talents and gifts. It makes for such an interesting and beautiful world (when it is not interrupted by the ugliness).

    You were given the talent of writing poetry and truly "getting it;" I was not. :) I have to really focus to get it, but once I do, I'm in awe.

    I hope you'll soothe your soul, and that of others, with your poetry for a looong time. :)

    1. Thanks Anita. It really is great that people have different gifts. I'm presently on a school trip and I was just telling our trusty bus driver how grateful I am that he is willing and able to drive us long distances, and cheerfully at that!

  2. Poetry is too too important to be left to the hit or miss of a good teacher of English. In my case, had I not read Gaelic poetry my inner life would have been far less rich than it is, for the murderous formulaic hammering that poems in the English language got would have driven a Milton or a Byron to accountancy.
    Oh, captain, my captain, me arse.

    Of course it hardly helps that English is a crap language for poetry. Grand for prose and translations can be spot on, like with the Douai or Tyndall. It would really help the kids if they knew english poetic method was lifted wholesale from Latin.

    1. Well, you were lucky then. I only know poetry in English, and learned a few in French. I think our teacher was good. I wouldn't have carried on in college with english lit. if he had not been. However, when I got to Uni, I was a bit disgusted with the profs there and changed my major to history.

    2. But in English the impact of the beat is largely meaningless. And you cannot change meaning by a stress shift on a suffix.

  3. Thanks for reminding me of the way poetry can inspire and magnify deep feelings. I love reading lines that express in a few well chosen words what I feel but have difficulty fully describing myself.

    1. That's why writers read, right? I've been reading some Thomas Hardy. It floors me how he can describe the innermost workings of the human mind and heart with a few choice words. How does he do that, I ask myself!!

  4. Just last week, we heard the red winged blackbirds calling as we ran, a bit chilled, through the endless rain, and I knew there was hope!

    Here's a poem I love - the last line never fails to send a shiver up my spine
    Jen W

    The Summer Day

    Mary Oliver

    Who made the world?
    Who made the swan, and the black bear?
    Who made the grasshopper?
    This grasshopper, I mean-
    the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
    the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
    who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
    who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
    Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
    Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
    I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
    I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
    into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
    how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
    which is what I have been doing all day.
    Tell me, what else should I have done?
    Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
    Tell me, what is it you plan to do
    with your one wild and precious life?

  5. Thanks Jen! I've never read that poem before. The last line gets me too. Lovely. (Nice to see you hear, too :)


I'd love to hear your thoughts. Thanks!