Friday, February 20, 2009

It doesn't even have to rhyme

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?


tracy wirt said...

as a kid i loved all things Shel Silverstein. When I was in highschool a boyfriend gave me "The Love Poems of John Donne" I loved it and may have to revisit them after reading your blog! In general I have always loved poetry.

Philip said...

Don't know if you've read this one or not. At first I liked this one, then thought it too short, now I like it again.

My Card
Philip Fullman

I was given a card once
On the front it said

To the Man I Love

was a list of reasons
I was the man
of which the card spoke

Among them

My belief in
Fairy tale romance
Love worth dying for
the inherent good in Superman

Many things have changed
since then
I still believe
Superman is inherently good

Marianne said...

You may delete this, but I couldn't resist. The following is a poem I still remember from my earlier days.

I hid while daddy shoveled snow
As still as I could be,
Until I popped right out of the drift and said, Surprise! when he shoveled me.
Daddy laughed and brushed snow from eyes and mouth and curls.
Instead of raining cats and dogs,
It's snowing little girls.
Author unknown
Why I remembered this, is beyond me. Did you learn it?

Love, Mother

PT Hammonds said...

I don’t remember that poem, Mom, but I do recall your saying to us after our baths when we were little:

There was a little girl, who had a little curl, right in the middle of her forehead.
And when she was good, she was very, very good, but when she was bad, she was horrid!

Anonymous said...

The problem with a kitten is that,
It grows up to be a cat!

-author unknown

Anonymous said...

"Had we but world enough and time, this coyness, Lady, were no crime...."But at my back I always hear, Time's winged chariot hurrying near."

The only two lines of A. Marvel's wonderful poem I have remembered down through the years, and for you and I those years started with Mrs. Raines and ended with Mrs. Angel, or did Betty Thomas first teach us this poem?

Who am I?