Thursday, March 21, 2013

...WORLD POETRY DAY?


I know, I know... for many of us the word 'poetry' conjures up the pain of junior high: memorizing long passages from that guy Shakespeare, or maybe an incomprehensible passage from one of the Brownings. What the heck did all those words MEAN, and how did they apply to the life of one whose sole goal was to get through the day without being noticed (or at least having the right kind of notice)? How could I possibly care about Henry the Whatever-number-he-was when there was a new Madonna video debuting on MTV that night and everyone would have to have the moves down by the next dance (give me a break--I was a child of my times)? If they wanted me to care, they should have written it in real English!

BUT THEN... but then, a teacher introduced me to Dylan Thomas' Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night. And another assigned E.A. Poe's Alone--GASP! That was me on that page!  e.e.cummings' quote, "To be nobody but yourself..." led me to his poems, and I ate them up (still do).  S.E. Hinton introduced me to Robert Frost's Nothing Gold Can Stay, and that led me to find Fire and Ice, and that led me to W.B. Yeats, and understanding his allusions led me right back to---you guessed it--Willy Shakespeare. Only this time, he was starting to make sense. These writers were talking about life--my life as well as the lives of others far away. I found out through poetry that, when I looked at our hearts (places where poetry often leads us) those lives weren't so different after all. A new world was opened to me, and I was hooked.

UNESCO declared today World Poetry Day, and the Director General had some interesting words about the topic in her declaration:
"Poetry is a journey--not in a dream world, but often close to individual emotions, aspirations, and hopes. Poetry gives form to the dreams of peoples and expresses their spirituality in the strongest terms--it emboldens all of us also to change the world." -Irina Bokova

The theme this year is Poems of Peace, and there are several good examples on the UNESCO site

I like poetry. It feels like soul food, in the literal sense of the words. If you've shied away from this type of literature, having decided it was incomprehensible years ago, I urge you to try it again. There are as many types of poetry as there are people, and there's sure to one out there that speaks to your heart. Whether it's written as a formal 'poem' or as song lyrics, poetry is part of everyone's lives.

Here are a couple of my favorites. Remember, I'm a simple, plain-spoken person, so don't expect grandeur (lol).

This poem was in the back of my mind often when writing Cocktails & Dreams. Neruda is a lovely poet.

Sonnet XVII

I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way

than this: where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.

This one caught my eye when I was a kid, but it means so much more now that I AM getting grey-ha!:

When You Are Old

By William Butler Yeats
When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars. 
A more recent one that makes me smile:

Ode by Elizabeth Alexander

I love all the mom bodies at this beach,
the tummies, the one-piece bathing suits,
the bosoms that slope, the wide nice bottoms,
thigh flesh shirred as gentle wind shirrs a pond.

So many sensible haircuts and ponytails!
These bodies show they have grown babies, then
nourished them, woken to their cries, fretted
at their fevers. Biceps have lifted and toted

the babies now printed on their mothers.
"If you lined up a hundred vaginas,
I could tell you which ones have borne children,"
the midwife says. In the secret place or

In sunlight at the beach, our bodies say
This is who we are, no, This is what
we have done and continue to do.
We labor in love. We do it. We mother.  

There are so many poems that speak to me, some touching, some though provoking, a great many funny. If you give no other poetry compilation a try, please look at She Walks in Beauty: A Woman's Journey through Poems, edited by Caroline Kennedy. So many goodies there!

Finally, one of my favorites and one I laugh about every day (ruefully):

Grown-up

Was it for this I uttered prayers,
And sobbed and cursed and kicked the stairs,
That now, domestic as a plate,
I should retire at half-past eight?






Poetry is a journey – not in a dream world, but often close to individual emotions, aspirations and hopes. Poetry gives form to the dreams of peoples and expresses their spirituality in the strongest terms-- it emboldens all of us also to change the world. 
Irina Bokova, Director General
Message on Poetry Day 2013
- See more at: http://www.unesco.org/new/en/unesco/events/prizes-and-celebrations/celebrations/international-days/world-poetry-day-2013/#sthash.ArsZGstA.dpuf
Poetry is a journey – not in a dream world, but often close to individual emotions, aspirations and hopes. Poetry gives form to the dreams of peoples and expresses their spirituality in the strongest terms-- it emboldens all of us also to change the world. 
Irina Bokova, Director General
Message on Poetry Day 2013
- See more at: http://www.unesco.org/new/en/unesco/events/prizes-and-celebrations/celebrations/international-days/world-poetry-day-2013/#sthash.ArsZGstA.dpuf
Poetry is a journey – not in a dream world, but often close to individual emotions, aspirations and hopes. Poetry gives form to the dreams of peoples and expresses their spirituality in the strongest terms-- it emboldens all of us also to change the world. 
Irina Bokova, Director General
Message on Poetry Day 2013
- See more at: http://www.unesco.org/new/en/unesco/events/prizes-and-celebrations/celebrations/international-days/world-poetry-day-2013/#sthash.ArsZGstA.dpuf
Poetry is a journey – not in a dream world, but often close to individual emotions, aspirations and hopes. Poetry gives form to the dreams of peoples and expresses their spirituality in the strongest terms-- it emboldens all of us also to change the world. 
Irina Bokova, Director General
Message on Poetry Day 2013
- See more at: http://www.unesco.org/new/en/unesco/events/prizes-and-celebrations/celebrations/international-days/world-poetry-day-2013/#sthash.ArsZGstA.dpuf

5 comments:

  1. Love the W B Yeats!!! Have you also read Carol Ann Duffy: Demeter -brill poem about the joy her daughter brought her. Check it out!!

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    1. I adore that--thank you so much for introducing me! I'm always on the look out for something new. I completely forgot to mention "Love in Brooklyn" (John Wakeman)That one shook me up in early high school--who knew poetry could use bad words, common language, & be about real people?!

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  2. Poetry is something that should be savored, I think. To Isadore and The Raven are my favorite E.A. Poe poems.

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  3. Yeah, poetry touches the emotions in a way nothing else can. I have a vivid memory from when I was middle-schoolish age, curled up on the arm chair in my grandma's living room reading Edna St. Vincent Millay all day long. These days I don't read poetry nearly often enough, but perhaps in honor of the day I'll finally buy those two poetry books I've been wanting to. :)

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  4. Willy Shakespeare? LOL. I have shied away from poetry but thank you for urging us back to it.

    Ode by Elizabeth Alexander is perfect for my clients with eating disorders!

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