‘Best loved poems’ his Aunt Fanny!

On Father’s Day, I was at my in-laws’ when someone suggested we all go to the park. Because most people were going to be swimming and I was not, and finding myself without my book (horrors!), I picked up a volume of Houseman poetry to read at the park.

20170620_111311-e1497971897401.jpgMy father-in-law, always generous with his books, said he had another volume of Houseman I could have, but he’d have to go find it. He couldn’t, but in the search, he came across another gem he pressed into my hands with the strict order that I was not to give it back to him.

I could see why: The dust jacket, even decades after it was printed, contained one of the most garish photos of roses I’d ever seen and, it was out-of-focus to boot. The title was “Best Loved Poems of All Time: Treasured Verses Everyone Enjoys.”

Well, not everyone, it would seem.

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A poem (says me) about diminished expectations

Gibran.jpgI recently finished another project at work in which my grand intentions and clever plans came face to face with reality. As expected, reality won.

The project is still strong, but wow, what it could have been!

Which brings me to this week’s poem, it’s by Lebanese writer and thinker Kahlil Gibran, best known for “The Prophet,” which is likely on your bookshelf, a gift  from  a well-meaning friend or relative, and just as likely unread.

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A poem for a rainy day (and the kid in all of us)

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I’m told it’s going to rain and be cold all weekend. Forecasts like that usually bring A.A. Milne’s poem “The Engineer” to mind.

I first came across this poem years ago while reading “Now We Are Six” to my kids and I remember being immediately struck by it. Most of the poems in the book are cute, but often dated, and need explanation. Sometimes it takes a few stanzas to get the meter right. But this poem was different. It was so cute, I read it again, immediately. Then again because what Milne was doing finally dawned on me. Then I read it again to give my kids the full effect. Then they asked me to stop reading it.

So, what’s so intriguing?

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A poem for spring on this Easter Sunday

I’ve said before and I’ll say it again: I’m  no poetry expert, but religious poetry leaves me cold. It’s either so intellectual as to be impregnable (Gerard Manley Hopkins or G.K. Chesterton) or sappy and sentimental to the point of doggerel (just about everyone else).

So today, on this beautiful spring day when Christians around the world celebrate Jesus’ rising from the dead, I offer this poem about the season that’s only now starting to truly flex its muscles.

Though I’m not convinced the poem says anything other than what is on its surface (nor does it need to), I feel the poet, A.R. Ammons, in calling it “Resurrections” is making reference to Easter, which comes around every spring. Or maybe he’s commemorating the more pedestrian returning to life a fine spring day brings. Or maybe he’s just explaining to his wife why he’s not going to clear the winter’s debris from the flower beds.

However you interpret it, enjoy. And happy resurrections, whatever type they may be.

Resurrections

In spring
a bluster
busting up

against a
wall will
lift last

year’s leaves
higher than
trees did.

A poet’s call to arms on the 100 anniversary of U.S. entering WWI

I was married in November of 1995 and my wife and I went went to England for our honeymoon.

While in London, we came across the remnants—flowers at war memorials, paper poppies left singly and in piles—of Armistice Day celebrations. I was surprised, and impressed, by the number of somber ceremonies honoring the dead. It wasn’t until later that I realized how many British lives were lost in that war, and that the people at ceremonies were often mourning not just some hypothetical soldier “who gave his life for our freedom” but very real brothers, fathers, grandfathers and friends. It sparked an interest in World War I and, while I’m no expert by any means, I find myself drawn to the war and the era, constantly stunned by the casual slaughter of so many.

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A poem on the anniversary of the death of my father

Twenty years ago today my dad died. He was 59.

We had a troubled relationship. I wasn’t the jock son he wanted as his namesake and I punished him whatever way I could when, my freshman year in college, he left my mom. My bitterness often caused friction between me and my brothers and sisters, but by the time he died, all that was behind us. He was remarried, my mom was remarried, I was married and I truly mourned him. In some ways, I still do. Time, it seems, really does march on and actions that once seemed monumentally selfish and destructive become understandable, maybe even forgivable.

Anyhoo.

Poets seem to write a lot about their parents, and not always in favorable ways. To mark this occasion, I pulled out a book I love, “Fathers: A Collection of Poems” edited by David Ray and Judy Ray, to see whether anything there might capture my feelings for my father. I discovered many fragments that spoke to me.

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A remembrance of springs past

Despite a couple of cold spells, we really didn’t have much of a winter in Michigan again this year. As far as I’m concerned, winter needs snow and lots of it because otherwise, what’s the point? Without something white and clean to look at day after day, winter ends up being three depressing gray months of cold.

But then there is soup, of course. Home made. It’s how I get through.

Anyway, with spring, as with anything that comes around more or less regularly, I find myself looking forward and setting goals: “This year the garden will be more colorful” I say to myself, “and I will spend more time outside.” But looking ahead leads to looking back: “Last year at this time,” I say to myself…

So I relate to Charlotte Mary Mew, today’s poet, as she recalls a previous spring and faces a new one. If you’re feeling too good about yourself and the world, you may wish to read a little about her life here. Do NOT click there if you are prone to depression.

Lastly, before we get to the poem: Please don’t ask me to explain the punctuation, I simply can’t.

I So Liked Spring

I so liked Spring last year
Because you were here; —
The thrushes too—
Because it was these you so liked to hear—
I so liked you.

This year’s a different thing,—
I’ll not think of you.
But I’ll like the Spring because it is simply spring
As the thrushes do.