LET’S TALK ABOUT POETRY!
April is National Poetry Month, if you weren’t already aware, and for a very long time I thought poetry was MeGa BoRiNg!!! It was high school when I started to appreciate how great it can be. My A.P. Literature teacher was fabulous and, during both my junior and senior year, he forced upon us the much dreaded “Poetry Unit”. At first, I just didn’t get poetry. In my brain all poetry was flowery, Shakespearean sonnet stuff, and in another language that I couldn’t understand.
Now alas, after studying English all through college, I can finally appreciate Shakespearean sonnets. However, they were definitely not what initially caught my interest. It was authors like Sylvia Plath, Dorothy Parker, and Maya Angelou. Then there was T.S. Eliot and William Wordsworth. All of their poems were so beautiful, and not always in the traditional Shakespearean sense.
Poetry was different than I thought it would be. Some poems dealt with death and abuse, others with cultural issues that are still around today. They were just like any other work of literature, just in a different format. I had no understanding of the hidden meanings that these words had until finally, poetry opened up to me!
So, you ask, what are some ways you can read poetry without actually reading poetry, because poetry is kind of intimidating at first?
Books written in verse are a fantastic way to get started. Things like the Crank series by Ellen Hopkins, or the brand new Newbery winner The Crossover. I recently read Jaqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming, and it made my heart hurt with it’s descriptions of Southeast Ohio, where I grew up. I used our catalog to create the April poetry display that we currently have up, and just searching “in verse” will bring up a plethora of options, most of them young adult.
poets.org is also a great resource. You can use it to just browse poems and poets, but they also have information about prizes and scholarships, as well as workshops you can attend. Poetry is underrated I think, and they’re helping to bring it to the forefront of literature.
Anyway, to wrap up, I am going to leave you with one of my favorite poems of all time, Rhapsody on a Windy Night by T.S. Eliot. I like this one so much in fact, that I got one of the lines from it tattooed on my right wrist…
Rhapsody on a Windy Night
Along the reaches of the street
Held in a lunar synthesis,
Whispering lunar incantations
Dissolve the floors of memory
And all its clear relations,
Its divisions and precisions,
Every street lamp that I pass
Beats like a fatalistic drum,
And through the spaces of the dark
Midnight shakes the memory
As a madman shakes a dead geranium.
The street lamp sputtered,
The street lamp muttered,
The street lamp said, “Regard that woman
Who hesitates towards you in the light of the door
Which opens on her like a grin.
You see the border of her dress
Is torn and stained with sand,
And you see the corner of her eye
Twists like a crooked pin.”
The memory throws up high and dry
A crowd of twisted things;
A twisted branch upon the beach
Eaten smooth, and polished
As if the world gave up
The secret of its skeleton,
Stiff and white.
A broken spring in a factory yard,
Rust that clings to the form that the strength has left
Hard and curled and ready to snap.
The street lamp said,
“Remark the cat which flattens itself in the gutter,
Slips out its tongue
And devours a morsel of rancid butter.”
So the hand of a child, automatic,
Slipped out and pocketed a toy that was running along the quay.
I could see nothing behind that child’s eye.
I have seen eyes in the street
Trying to peer through lighted shutters,
And a crab one afternoon in a pool,
An old crab with barnacles on his back,
Gripped the end of a stick which I held him.
The lamp sputtered,
The lamp muttered in the dark.
The lamp hummed:
“Regard the moon,
La lune ne garde aucune rancune,
She winks a feeble eye,
She smiles into corners.
She smoothes the hair of the grass.
The moon has lost her memory.
A washed-out smallpox cracks her face,
Her hand twists a paper rose,
That smells of dust and old Cologne,
She is alone
With all the old nocturnal smells
That cross and cross across her brain.”
The reminiscence comes
Of sunless dry geraniums
And dust in crevices,
Smells of chestnuts in the streets,
And female smells in shuttered rooms,
And cigarettes in corridors
And cocktail smells in bars.”
The lamp said,
Here is the number on the door.
You have the key,
The little lamp spreads a ring on the stair,
The bed is open; the tooth-brush hangs on the wall,
Put your shoes at the door, sleep, prepare for life.”
The last twist of the knife.