Reading more poetry, these days. Now, with less guilt

One of my goals this year is to read more poetry. “Why?” you ask? To which I reply, “I don’t need to justify myself to you, so shut up.”

oliver.jpegIt’s the same reason I read anything: To learn. I have to say, though, I’ve felt guilty about it. This blog’s readership demands constant, insightful, pithy reviews of big, important books, and when I read poetry, I’m not reading something I’d generally post about here. So, while I enjoy poetry and am often startled by great poems, I don’t know that I have anything to say about it.

Then, I thought of a great solution:It’s my blog, I can do whatever the hell I want with it. I can post poems. Plus, it’s cinchy, I only have to write a couple introductory paragraphs, then type in a poem and Bob’s your uncle. I’ll even make it a regular feature, so look forward to a weekly poem.

Today, a work by Mary Oliver, from her 2014 collection “Blue Horses.” (I stumbled across this book at the library and even though it’s more than two years old, the spine cracked and the pages smelled as though I were the first person to check it out. I’m glad I did, there are many gems hidden within.)

I like Oliver—whose work I have read for years—because she’s accessible but challenging and sometimes quite funny. At 81, her work is infused with a joy for life that I find inspiring. I credit Oliver with re-inspiring my relationship with poetry. Several years ago I bought her tiny “A Poetry Handbook,” and found it to be mind-opening. It is perhaps the only primer you’ll ever need to feel as though you have an understanding of poetry and poets. Pick it up if you don’t have it.

Feel free to include your favorite poem or poet for me to explore in the comments below.

If I Wanted a Boat

I would want a boat, if I wanted a
boat, that bounded hard on the waves,
that didn’t know starboard from port
and wouldn’t learn, that welcomed
dolphins and headed straight for the
whales, that, when rocks were close,
would slide in for a touch or two,
that wouldn’t keep land in sight and
went fast, that leaped into the spray.
What kind of life is it always to plan
and do, to promise and finish, to wish
for the near and the safe? Yes, by the
heavens, if I wanted a boat I would want
a boat I couldn’t steer.

 

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3 thoughts on “Reading more poetry, these days. Now, with less guilt

  1. Certainly you not only have something to say about poetry, but you also have interesting things to say. Thank you for sharing the poem at the end as an example of her powerful voice.

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  2. Thanks Ron. I’ve been reading more poetry this year as well. I bought a treasury of collected poems at Barnes & Noble this year and pick out a new poem to read every couple of days. Sadly, was only British authors so I’m seeking an easy collection of American poetry to continue my education.

    My favorite poet is James Whitcomb Riley, a fellow Hoosier and clever fellow who wrote as he spoke. I won a poetry contest reciting his poem Little Orphant Annie in 8th Grade. I can still recite it. My grandparents were big fans and gave me old, old editions of his poems every holiday/birthday for many years.

    However, on my new study, I found myself drawn to Lord Byron. So here’s my first New favorite

    WHEN WE TWO PARTED

    WHEN we two parted
    In silence and tears,
    Half broken-hearted
    To sever for years,
    Pale grew thy cheek and cold,
    Colder thy kiss;
    Truly that hour foretold
    Sorrow to this.

    The dew of the morning
    Sunk chill on my brow–
    It felt like the warning
    Of what I feel now.
    Thy vows are all broken,
    And light is thy fame:
    I hear thy name spoken,
    And share in its shame.

    They name thee before me,
    A knell to mine ear;
    A shudder comes o’er me–
    Why wert thou so dear?
    They know not I knew thee,
    Who knew thee too well:
    Long, long shall I rue thee,
    Too deeply to tell.

    I secret we met–
    I silence I grieve,
    That thy heart could forget,
    Thy spirit deceive.
    If I should meet thee
    After long years,
    How should I greet thee?
    With silence and tears.

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