(I am hoping that it is fine arts month, cause the topic is POETRY! Holy Cow! Here we go . . .)
The poems of my life is a short list.
Not because I haven’t read, studied, been exposed, ran across, pondered, discussed, and/or analyzed many. For, like most folks, my life has introduced me to a litany of great poets, young old, male, female, American, non-American . . . . just lots.
But the poems of my life is still a short list.
My youth was filled with all types of poetry from the iambic tetrameter of “I will not eat green eggs and ham, I will not eat them sam-I-am” to the simple ditties of “hickory, dickory dock, the mouse ran up the clock.” I laughed, smiled, and repeated as my mother, god-rest-her-soul, spent countless hours sharing with me the likes of Dr. Seuss and other fan-favorite authors who created easy to read and understand poetry for children.
Moreover, I grew up during the “you will read the classics” era. Before I even came close to reaching high school, my education had exposed me to The Raven, The Charge of the Light Brigade, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, The Road Not Taken, and Oh Captain! My Captain. Once in secondary school, the list grew much longer and included much more complex and perplexing selections – Daddy, Dream Deferred, Howl, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Mending Wall, Still I Rise, The Waste Land, and Who Am I. And college offered a steady stream of poetry that was mystifying, sometimes mortifying, always mysterious, and was light years beyond my cognitive abilities – Leaves of Grass, Beowulf, and any Shakespearean Sonnet.
It would have seemed logical that as my exposure to poetry grew, so to would the poems of my life. The more I knew, the more I would appreciate the art form. The more I read, the more I would understand and honor. The more I listened, the more I would value and appreciate.
But, that is not so.
The more I poetry on my plate, the more I realize the less I know.
Poetry is a tricky art. It harnesses the power of words in a unique and indescribable way. It becomes personal – immediately. It resonates deep within. It moves. It enlightens. It changes. It lasts. It stupefies. It means something tomorrow that it did not mean yesterday or today. It solves. It comforts. It tends to the mind.
My list includes two poems that I have committed completely to memory, one with easy rhythmic stanzas and one that – at one time in my life – was set to music, which helped me to remember even the challenging lines. Both lend me direction whenever needed. They are my fall back poems, my refuge and rescue lines. They can find my peace within.
My list also includes the traditional, Irish/Gaelic Blessing which is written in a plethora of places for a plethora of reasons. It may be commercially overused, but I don’t care. It jagged edges fits into my puzzle, so it’s on my list:
May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind always be at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face, And rains fall soft upon your fields. And until we meet again, May God hold you in the palm of her hand.
Please note – I take natural license with a couple of words here and there, but that’s the great thing about poetry. It must become your own to be your own.
The end of my list includes an epic poem from Mother Teresa, a work of Shel Silverstein, a selection from Dylan Thomas, and an excerpt from Gwendolyn Brooks. The very final piece on my list is the Peace Prayer of St. Francis – another much used poem that just seems to say it all to me.
So, there it is. Eight selections. I hope the poems of my life grows in the future, that the respective meanings change over time, that they become more powerful and meaningful with each reading, and that “the ears of my ears awake and the eyes of my eyes are opened.”