Sunday, April 22, 2018

101 Poems, Number 81

Favorite Poems Throughout My Life

81: “The World Is Too Much With Us,” 1807, by William Wordsworth (1770–1850)

“The world is too much with us; late
And soon, getting and spending”—oh,
These lines—this sonnet!—truly great—
A sonnet I just had to know!

And so I learned it—kind of fast:
This happens when the sense is clear—
And words like these are sure to last—
And so it is I hold them dear.

“Have glimpses that would make me less
Forlorn”—and so our Wordsworth nears
The end of all—and I would guess
That when he finished, there were tears.

How could you fail to weep a bit
When you have written such a thing?
And you must sit and savor it—
And weep because you’ve made words sing.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

101 Poems, Number 82

Favorite Poems Throughout My Life

82: “On My First Son,” 1616, by Ben Jonson (1572–1637)

So old, the poetry of pain.
And lines like these can help explain
The universal sort of grief
We feel—and how there’s no relief.

Yes, infant death was common then—
But painful still. No matter when
Such loss occurs, the absent child
Makes sufferers feel lostexiled.

And Jonson finds the words to say
What can’t be said. He’s found the way
To capture in his lines how death
Removes, as well, survivors’ breath.

Link to poem.

Friday, April 20, 2018

101 Poems, Number 83

Favorite Poems Throughout My Life

83: “Musée Des Beaux Arts,” 1938, by W. H. Auden (1907–73)

I memorized this when I taught
Some Auden not so long ago.*
His images are bright and taut,
And much depends on what you know.

The Brueghel painting shows the scene—
The tale of Icarus is key
To knowing what the lines can mean—
At least I found this true for me.

What Auden says is often true:
Much pain and woe go on while we
Are focused elsewhere—with no clue
Of suffering humanity.

A boy falls from the sky to sea—
But we are elsewhere occupied
And fail to notice tragedy—
That lad who fell, who wildly cried.

*Western Reserve Academy, 2001–11

Thursday, April 19, 2018

101 Poems, Number 84

Favorite Poems Throughout My Life

84: “Ozymandias,” 1818, by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822)

I first learned this one in the days
When I was in my “Shelley Phase”—
A phase I’m still traversing now—
I think it’s infinite somehow!

In English 101* I read
It first—and what young Shelley said
Just stuck. The evanescence of
Our human lives—our dreams, our love.

Years later I would once recite
These lines one lovely summer night
For that same prof who’d once taught me
And wished to hear it. I would see

How Time sometimes gives us a chance
To show that we will not forget
The steps that go to that first dance,
A chance to pay a youthful debt.

*Summer Session at Hiram College; 1962; Prof. Charles F. McKinley

Link to poem.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

101 Poems, Number 85

Favorite Poems Throughout My Life

85: “my father moved through dooms of love,” 1940, by E. E. Cummings (1894–1962)

Another one to blame on Joyce—
Who posted this on Father’s Day.
And in her room she heard my voice:
“I gotta learn this thingsome way!”

Some weeks went by while I rehearsed
These lines and images complex—
I slowly sailed the Sea of Worst
While Cummings’ words just puzzled, vexed.

But—slowly! slowly!—sense emerged—
I sailed upon a different sea—
And hope and pleasure through me surged.
And soon I had it—error-free!*

See, even murky things can clear
With effort—this is no surprise.
Yes, I’ve felt fearsome words grow dear—
And this is why I memorize.

*Well …

Link to poem.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

101 Poems, Number 86

Favorite Poems Throughout My Life

86: “Concord Hymn,” 1836, by Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882)

Some poems you learn because of love—
And some for sake of fame.
And this is in the latter group—
The poet: a famous name.

In Concord, Massachusetts—it
Was 1836–
Our Emerson composed these lines—
And not, of course, for kicks.

The monument at Concord to
Commemorate that shot
Heard round the world—revolt is on!—
Of this, we’ve all been taught.

His words were sung that special day—
And ever since, we know,
Some cruel teachers (me!) required
Their kids to undergo

The memorizing of these lines
That now are so well known—
I learned them too and claim—so far—
The verses have not flown!

Link to poem.

Monday, April 16, 2018

101 Poems, Number 87

Favorite Poems Throughout My Life

87: “High School Senior,” 1996, in The Wellspring, by Sharon Olds (1942–)

It was a great discovery—
The poetry of Sharon Olds.
She grabbed my eyes and helped them see
Life’s fabric—with its textures, folds.

A thrill for me: I met her once*—
She visited the place I taught.
Her work rewards the one who hunts
For what is real, for what is not.

Quotidian events flow through
Her poems—from the first to last.
Our daily lives—the things we do
And feel. Yes, we compose her cast.

So, write on, Sharon Olds! Write on!
The weary world requires your verse.
So much civility is gone—
And Poetry’s replaced with Curse.

*She spent the day at Western Reserve Academy on April 19, 2006.

Link to poem.