When I was young, my mother instilled in me an early love of reading. She included poetry at times, and the ones I remember most were by James Whitcomb Riley. Probably a favorite in our house because he was a fellow Hoosier. His are the first poems I could recite from memory—two in particular: “The Raggedy Man” and “Little Orphant Annie.”
It occurred to me the other day that I had yet to introduce poetry to my daughter, so I bought her James Prelutsky’s collection My Dog May Be a Genius. Since she loves anything that has to do with dogs, she seemed to enjoy them. Then the other night I read to her some excerpts from Robert Frost’s Poetry for Young People. First I read “A Girl’s Garden” and she didn’t comment on it. So then I read “Ghost House” and before I could turn the page, she said, “Okay, I have no idea what that meant.” Me either, Sweetie. I could have read the notation at the bottom of the page, but I doubt either one of us would have understood it any better.
I remember in college, reading poetry and then writing essays about what I’d read. The professor I had continually praised my writing and then would give me a B. I finally asked him after class one day what it would take to get an A in his class. His response: Most of the A students are in my honor’s English class.
So, I challenged him. I told him unless he could tell me how to improve my writing so I could get an A in his class, then I thought I deserved to be getting them—even though it was not an honor’s class. My final essay analyzed “To His Coy Mistress” by Andrew Marvell. In typical fashion, I wrote it during the wee hours of the morning before it was due. But this time I got an A.
Now my interest in poetry has been revitalized since I began attending critique group. Two writers, Philip and Ramona, regularly read their poetry, and I used to apologize when offering feedback, saying I didn’t really read poetry and therefore they should take that into consideration when weighing my comments. Now I feel more qualified to respond. And besides, they are usually a lot of fun to read. And not nearly as difficult to understand as Frost’s.
Anyone have a favorite poet? Or poem to share?