The simple joys of poetry

Ever since NPR’s show on This Is Just To Say poetry spoofs, I’ve been reading poetry. I subscribe to Poem-A-Day at Poets.org and recently stumbled upon an amazing new poetry collection called Slamming Open the Door by Kathleen Sheeder Bonano (Wow!). 

Why was I not reading poetry before? I thought I was too busy for such things, but in fact poetry is perfect for busy people. Poems are short and vivid. They pack a punch in just a few words. I also felt poetry-illiterate or poetically challenged. I thought that I should be more educated in poetry, before I tried to unravel the complicated web of authors’ intentions. Silly me.

If you don’t read poetry, I found this wonderful poem to inspire you.

How to Read a Poem: Beginner’s Manual  
by Pamela Spiro Wagner

First, forget everything you have learned,
that poetry is difficult,
that it cannot be appreciated by the likes of you,
with your high school equivalency diploma,
your steel-tipped boots,
or your white-collar misunderstandings.

Do not assume meanings hidden from you:
the best poems mean what they say and say it.

To read poetry requires only courage
enough to leap from the edge
and trust. 

Treat a poem like dirt,
humus rich and heavy from the garden.
Later it will become the fat tomatoes
and golden squash piled high upon your kitchen table.

Poetry demands surrender,
language saying what is true,
doing holy things to the ordinary.

Read just one poem a day.
Someday a book of poems may open in your hands
like a daffodil offering its cup
to the sun.

When you can name five poets
without including Bob Dylan,
when you exceed your quota
and don’t even notice,
close this manual.

Congratulations.
You can now read poetry.

from We Mad Climb Shaky Ladders, published by Cavankerry Press.
Courtesy of the Academy of American Poets

I can read poetry. And you can too. Have a favorite poem or author? Please leave a Comment.

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2 thoughts on “The simple joys of poetry

  1. I quite like this one:

    Gate C22

    At gate C22 in the Portland airport
    a man in a broad-band leather hat kissed
    a woman arriving from Orange County.
    They kissed and kissed and kissed. Long after
    the other passengers clicked the handles of their carry-ons
    and wheeled briskly toward short-term parking,
    the couple stood there, arms wrapped around each other
    like he’d just staggered off the boat at Ellis Island,
    like she’d been released at last from ICU, snapped
    out of a coma, survived bone cancer, made it down
    from Annapurna in only the clothes she was wearing.

    Neither of them was young. His beard was gray.
    She carried a few extra pounds you could imagine
    her saying she had to lose. But they kissed lavish
    kisses like the ocean in the early morning,
    the way it gathers and swells, sucking
    each rock under, swallowing it
    again and again. We were all watching –
    passengers waiting for the delayed flight
    to San Jose, the stewardesses, the pilots,
    the aproned woman icing Cinnabons, the man selling
    sunglasses. We couldn’t look away. We could
    taste the kisses crushed in our mouths.

    But the best part was his face. When he drew back
    and looked at her, his smile soft with wonder, almost
    as though he were a mother still open from giving birth,
    as your mother must have looked at you, no matter
    what happened after – if she beat you or left you or
    you’re lonely now – you once lay there, the vernix
    not yet wiped off, and someone gazed at you
    as if you were the first sunrise seen from the Earth.
    The whole wing of the airport hushed,
    all of us trying to slip into that woman’s middle-aged body,
    her plaid Bermuda shorts, sleeveless blouse, glasses,
    little gold hoop earrings, tilting our heads up.

    by Ellen Bass, from The Human Line. © Copper Canyon Press, 2007.

    • I can just imagine everyone gawking. I know I would. Gawk and want to slip into her shoes, her plaid Bermuda shorts, and tilt my head up.

      Thanks for sharing -Kate

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