Sunday, March 22, 2015

of poetry

{from A Family of Poems, edited by Caroline Kennedy}

I was surprised to realize a few months ago that I have a poetry collection.

Off the top of my head, I can think of ten volumes of poetry that I own. Chances are, I'm forgetting one or two. I didn't set out to collect poetry. Books, yes. Poetry specifically, no. But I apparently can't resist it. My collection ranges from fun children's poems to T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets - with a lot in between.

I love poetry. Not more than prose. But just as much as prose.

A philosophy professor told me last year that "deep poetry is trying to get at truths that are too deep to be articulated in plain prose."

Sarah Anne Stuart, who edited the newest anthology in my collection, said this in the introduction:

Putting one's thoughts into words can sometimes be frustrating. At times, words can become a limitation - we are left thinking how we felt so much more than we were able to convey.

However, words can also challenge us into thinking a new way - pushing the limits of our individual scope and opening us up to a larger world.

Poetry captures in a few words the thoughts and emotions that reach to the heart of human experience, flashing insight on the universal truths that unite all of us. In a unique way, poetry is able to break the boundaries of unspoken feelings, helping the reader feel that he or she is not alone; uniting the reader with the world around him.

Poetry at its best is a way of expressing what the poet sees in the world. It expresses thoughts, ideas, emotions, and experiences common to mankind in a concentrated form that can say more in a few short lines than could be said in an entire essay.

And that isn't to say that only poems that say something "profound" are worth reading. These are worth reading, but good poetry doesn't have to be long-faced and serious. One of my favorite poems is by Alfred Noyes, who also wrote "Song of Sherwood" and "The Highwayman."

Daddy Fell Into the Pond

Everyone grumbled. The sky was grey.
There was nothing to do and nothing to say.
We were nearing the end of a dismal day,
And there seemed to be nothing beyond,

Daddy fell into the pond!

And everyone's face grew merry and bright,
And Timothy danced for sheer delight.
"Give me the camera, quick, oh quick!
He's crawling out of the duckweed!" Click!

Then the gardener suddenly slapped his knee,
And doubled up, shaking silently,
And the ducks all quacked as if they were daft
And it sounded as if the old drake laughed

O, there wasn't a thing that didn't respond
Daddy fell into the pond!

This poem is so delightful to me because it takes a silly moment - a moment of joy and laughter and ridiculousness, and says "Look! The silly things in life should be paid attention to and enjoyed and even commemorated with poetry!"

Poets pay attention to the world around them - to nature and to humanity and to stories and ideas. And in their poetry, they codify what they see so that the readers can see it too - experience the world for a moment as if we, too, were poets.

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