Wednesday, June 20, 2018

101 Poems, Number 26

Favorite Poems Throughout My Life

26: “Old Ironsides,”1830, by Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809–94)

A poem that I used to teach—
And ask the kids to memorize.
A poem that, I found, could reach
So many of them (no surprise).

I saw the ship in Boston once—
It’s still commissioned, USN.
I toured it. Taught it. (I’m no dunce!)
And learned a lot ’bout Way Back When.

I read a lot of Holmes, as well.
(His novels* can be quite a trip!)
And learned a simple lesson, too:
That poetry can save a ship.

*Elsie Venner (1861), The Guardian Angel (1867), A Mortal Antipathy (1885). Wild and fun to read.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

101 Poems, Number 27

Favorite Poems Throughout My Life

27: “Casabianca” (“The Boy Stood on the Burning Deck”), 1826, by Felicia Hemans (1793–1835)

I’m not sure why I learned these lines—
Perhaps because the very first
Among them very well combines
The image of pure fear—the worst,

Of course, is yet to come—read on!
I’ve learned the poem’s based on fact*—
Historical events long gone.
A naval war—a ship attacked.

I read this first when just a boy—
And fiery death was horror. Pure.
Oh, not a thing I could enjoy—
But still it had a strange allure.

And so, I guess, in later years
I thought that I would memorize
This story that had once brought tears
Into my fearful boyhood eyes.

*the Battle of the Nile, 1798; the poem’s title is the boy’s last name

Monday, June 18, 2018

101 Poems, Number 28

Favorite Poems Throughout My Life

28: “This Is Just to Say,” 1934, by William Carlos Williams (1883–1963)

A simple poem—just some fruit
The speaker ate one day.
But he apologizes here—
Though has few words to say.

He found some plums—the icebox—
And he ate them, every one.
Then felt some faint ensuing guilt,
Arising with the sun.

Old Williams was among the best
At saying not so much
But saying all—a single breath—
Oh, Williams had the touch!

Sunday, June 17, 2018

101 Poems, Number 29

Favorite Poems Throughout My Life

29: “Autumn Song,” March 1936, by W. H. Auden (1907–73)

“Now the leaves are falling fast”—
And so begins these Auden lines
That swoop me back into the past,
These lines about a season’s signs.

His images—of change, of graves,
Of trolls, of different sorts of birds—
Roll over us like ocean waves—
These combers formed of perfect words.

It’s cycles that he writes about—
In all our lives here on this earth.
We all are on the human route—
What ends with death begins with birth.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

101 Poems, Number 30

Favorite Poems Throughout My Life

30: “maggie and millie and molly and may,” from 95 Poems, 1958, by E. E. Cummings (1894–1962)

It seems so simple—girls at play
Down on a friendly beach one day.

And each one sees what each one sees—
And that, for them? Enough to please.

But Cummings is no simple man—
He writes with such a subtle plan.

And here we see felicity
Does not imply simplicity.

Friday, June 15, 2018

101 Poems, Number 31

Favorite Poems Throughout My Life

31: “Night Clouds,” by Amy Lowell (1874–1925)

I’m not sure when and where I came
Across these lines bizarre,
But soon she’d snagged me, and I rode
A nightmare to a star.

And from that star I saw a horse
Then rearing in the sky.
It neighed: “You cannot catch me, Yo!”
I thought I had to try.

But he was right (the neigh was “Nay!”)—
I tried for all I’m worth.
But, failing, I just drifted down
And floated back to earth.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

101 Poems, Number 32

Favorite Poems Throughout My Life

32: “Alas, poor Yorick!” 1603, from Hamlet, 5.1, by William Shakespeare (1564–1616)

I know: It’s not a poem, but
It also kind of is, as well.
Besides, I’ve memorized it—swell!
And so, right here, I think I’ll … strut.

It’s from that famous graveyard scene—
And we see playful Hamlet mull
About that famous Yorick skull
And what such relics come to mean.

But moments later—awful news.
He learns Ophelia is no more.
The play grows darker—to the core—
Like some deep, painful, fatal bruise.

Link to the lines. (Scroll down to find them.)