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Saturday, February 2, 2013

Love Lists: Day Two

Poems I love:

1. Shakespeare's 29th Sonnet. I know. Who doesn't love this sonnet. But I've often felt as the narrator feels, and I also wish to be the one who can bring joy to one who sorrows, simply because I love with my whole soul--no strings attached. This sonnet speaks to my heart.

2. Longfellow's The Children's Hour. I memorized this poem when I was ten. I don't know why. But even though a father, or perhaps a grandfather, narrates the story, this poem captures moments of beauty and joy felt by both children and parents. I smile until the last three stanzas, at which point, I cry a tiny bit.

3. Sara Coleridge's The Garden  Year. This poem also goes by the title, "The Months." When I was very small we had a large book of poetry with beautiful illustrations by an artist whose name I can't remember. My mother loved poetry. She read to us from the book regularly and from her we learned to love poetry, as well. I remember her allowing us to discuss and linger over the pictures. She would talk about rhyming schemes and why some poems don't rhyme at all. When I worked on integration a few years ago, this was a memory I was willing and able to claim. And one night, instead of with nightmares, my mother's voice filled my sleep as she read to me from that book and when this poem was read, I chanted the words with her.

4. Sandburg's To a Contemporary Bunkshooter. I'm not an avid fan of Sandburg's works, but this particular poem speaks to me. It was leveled at Billy Sunday, whose preaching, to Sandburg, seemed self-righteous and judgmental, and often included staged anger and attention begging stunts. When I encountered the poem, however, my thoughts turned inward. How many times do I make judgments that are not Christlike in nature? Do I assume people are wrong simply because their beliefs do not tally with my own? Would Jesus Christ condone my behaviors that exclude or harm others? In that moment I made a conscious decision to try to love and value people in any condition. I'm not great at this skill, but I'm not dead yet either. I keep trying daily and maybe someday I'll get it right.

5. An excerpt from Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway. I've done this many times with Woolf's writing but I thought I was the only one. I used to write it out longhand, add line breaks and stanzas, and breathe in the cadence and beauty of this woman's words. When I found a fellow blogger who had done the same type of thing, I decided it was legitimate for me to feel the poetry in Virginia's writing. Granted, only two people (that I know of) have done this, but I think that's enough. And this particular excerpt is incredibly lovely.

6. Robert Frost's Home Burial. I discovered this poem as a youth shortly after some friends lost their five-year-old daughter to Reye's syndrome. I was their chief babysitter and I loved that little girl, but I was fascinated as I watched the rift that formed between the parents who had previously seemed incredibly in love and when I encountered the poem, somehow the stress felt by that couple made sense to me. There was no parallel between their emotional battle and the story line of the poem, so I'm unsure why I made the connection. As an older teen, I loved the way Frost was able to express pain and suffering in the misunderstanding and distance between two people who once loved each other, and I love that most of the poem is dialogue. That doesn't happen often, and rarely effectively.

7. Dorothy Parker's ThrenodyOkay--the truth is, I love all her poetry. I'm stunned by her...everything. And I'm probably a little bit, well, a whole lot, in love with her. However, Threnody was my first discovery simply because I adored the word and had no idea what it meant. When I read the poem (after looking up the word), my world became a treasure hunt for more poetry and writing by the adorable Dorothy. She was my first huge infatuation. It was also at that point that I decided I needed to choose people who aren't dead with whom to fall in love.

8. Seuss's What Was I Scared Of? If you click on the link it WILL NOT take you to the entitled story poem which was definitely one of my childhood favorites. I felt deliciously frightened by the body-less pants and loved the ridiculously brief scary episodes and their accompanying drawings. I was relieved by the ending, as a three-year-old should always be. However, finding an online copy of the story seems impossible, so for your reading pleasure, I present instead one of Dr. Seuss's out-of-print stories (pictorial, not poetic) intended for adults. Enjoy!

9. Lisa Zaran's Subtraction Flower. This, as does all her poetry, speaks to the feminist in me and gets me all riled up for about thirty seconds. Then I'm distracted again. I am a poor, poor feminist. But I could read her poems forever. I love her voice. When I discovered Zaran's poetry I though, "Oh my goodness! I need to meet her!" I know I won't, but that's okay as long as she keeps writing.

10. This last is, I believe, unpublished. Danny Nelson sent it to me nearly five years ago. I'm mystified at how some poems speak to one person while another turns away untouched, but this one left me feeling as though someone wrote words I have imagined about something I have never experienced. I can't really explain it. Danny has written many poems I love, a few (not this one) were written for me, and sometimes I have to remember that I love him because he's wonderful, not just because I want to read what he writes. However, today this is the poem which inexplicably speaks to me. And so I am sharing it with you:

The View from Bellevue, April 2007

Rome disappoints me still; but I shrink and adapt myself to it.
                -Arthur Hugh Clough, “Amours de Voyage”

The silver city sits heavy on shifting sands,
creaking on its splayed steel spines,
cut by a cold, coarse ocean.
Mouldering ports line its edges in tatters,
dirty lace stitched about the urban chin.

The rain. Spikenard sheets of shrouding swathe
and sweep against the sweating skyscrapers.
Their faces are old flesh, water-poxed:
worms writhe below on brackening cement.

My friend. He has a horse’s face,
large and leafish eyes, and
two adder-puffs of his father’s jowls.
He lays a heavy hand across my neck,
calls me sad.


The mountains wring their cloudy handfuls,
water from cirrus slate. Gullies green up
reeking with life-drown.

I take a misty breath, silver and sere,
and say: Yes—

But the rain is very beautiful.

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