Warning: Post contains a mild rant that may be slightly out-of-proportion to the triggering remark.
“You must read a lot of poetry,” said a passing blog-quaintance, not quite making it sound like a private act of dubious intent. “I wouldn’t even know where to start reading that kind of stuff. I never could understand it.”
Or, I heard, the people who do.
This person seems to think it takes someone with certain enhanced senses—like a wine taster or a truffle snuffler or a mild-mannered reader who was bitten by a radioactive literary critic—to understand and enjoy poetry.
I don’t buy that.
Truth is, I’ve never gone out of my way to understand a poem if I wasn’t going to be graded on it and I’ve disliked several poems I understood perfectly well . . . I think.
I like what I like—or don’t what I don’t—and I share it because I want to and Wednesdays were open around here.
My four-year old has more sophisticated reasons for drawing fairy maps in permanent marker on her bedroom wall.
Yeah, I have a poetry collection. It’s made up of family heirlooms either passed along by—or liberated (cough) from—my parents, childhood favorites (think Suess and Silverstein), college textbooks (think English Education major), gifts from friends and family (think postcards and Oops!), CDs (think Leonard Cohen), and several mystery items (still not sure where I picked up my copy of the Canterbury Tales), all of which are scattered all over the house (think bathroom).
But my absolute favorites are among the literal cascade of wordplay that touched or tickled me enough to hunt up, scribble down, print out, photocopy, and/or clip ’em from newspapers, magazines, liner notes, other people’s blogs*, and/or the radio and stick ’em in a single, bulky folder that lives in my two-drawer filing cabinet so I always usually know exactly where it is (think miracle).
This is solely a non-radioactive reader’s opinion, but in my opinion, most poetry . . . just happens.
Like cats or pennies or rubber bands, poems turns up when you least expect them and often when you most need them.
Like last night.
I had a couple of minutes between the kids’ last bedtime drinks of water and the time I’d set for tackling the synopsis of Pigeon, which isn’t the easiest part of this writing business for me,** so I thought I’d think up a theme*** or a likely poet^ or even a few poems for today’s post.^^ Maybe get the post done ahead of schedule, for once (cue maniacal laughter).
Right after I checked my blogfeeds one last time. And my e-mail. And maybe Twitter.
Guess what I found?
The perfect poem for how I was feeling at the moment:
K. Marie Criddle is a brilliantly funny writer-illustrator who often captures the frustrations, hopes, excitement, and determination of a writer’s life in her own exuberant way. And for whatever reason, on this particular day she decided that a poem expressed these best.
It worked for me—I winced and laughed and ran to share it with my husband. And then e-mailed her to ask permission to share it here.^^^
Non-writers may not understand this poem the same way a writer does. Other writers may not get the same inspiration from it that I do—or pester the author for a poster-sized print.
And that’s okay.
Poetry is everywhere. There’s plenty for everyone.
So when you recognize the poems that speak to you personally, capture them, savor them, and share.
That’s what they’re for.
*If you aren’t reader John S’s poems on Taps and Ratamacues, you’re missing out. And MacDougal Street Baby shared one today that’s stunning in its simplicity.
**”Write it again, only in a thousand words or less.” Seriously? Seriously?
***Rain? Chocolate? Hippopotami? Oranges would be a challenge . . .
^Betsy Lerner beat me to Ruth Stone, but it’s Mark Twain’s birthday and he wrote some interesting poetry—they may not be good poems, but they’re excellent Mark Twain . . .
^^Maybe this was the week for Wordsworth’s dancing daffodils?
^^^She said yes, for those of you who might be wondering, though she might be regretting it now.