Which side of the poetry fence are you on?
I learned a lot of poetry while I was growing up. My grandfather had his favorites which he read often to me.
My grandfather obviously enjoyed the works of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. I’m grateful that he shared that love with me.
We had a lot of poetry in our home, and I enjoyed browsing through the different books and finding new poems to read.
As a child, I think my favorite was The Height of the Ridiculous by Oliver Wendell Holmes.
Later, I fell in love with the romantic Face On the Barroom Floor by Hugh Antoine D’Arcy. Maybe that’s when and where my interest in western historical romance began.
Returning to Henry Wadworth Longfellow, I read all of Evangeline. I didn’t like it. Rather than the tribute to undying love it was meant to be — my guess is this was Longfellow’s intent — I saw the poem as a paean to a pathetic life. I also wrinkled my nose a bit at these immortal words:
“Sweet was her breath, as the breath of the kine…” Wait, how’s that again? He’s telling us she had cow-breath?
It was then that I realized for perhaps the first time that poetry was truly a subjective art form. I didn’t have to like every poem I read. I didn’t have to agree with every idea. I didn’t even have to understand every line.
At different times in my life, I’ve had different favorites. In my youth, Rod McKuen‘s poetry became a bit of a fad. Of course, I went through a mysterious “goth-like” phase and recited a great deal of Edgar Allen Poe and Christina Rosetti. Of course, like every school child, I laughed at the little poems of Ogden Nash.
“If called by a panther,
I’ve written a bit of poetry, too, but I would never dare call myself a poet. Good poetry is an incredible art form. I’m awed by it.
Of course, like my grandfather, I’ve built a “repertoire” of favorites. I still count “The Children’s Hour” among them, and to this day, I often recite lines from “The Height of the Ridiculous” — although I’ve always felt a bit cheated that we never knew what it was he’d written that provoked such mirth.
Whenever I’m asked for my favorite poems, here are a few I share:
Perhaps you’re wondering what prompted my little stroll down this memory lane of poetry. It’s my “Questions and Answers” book, of course. The question — which was more like an assignment — was to write down a few lines from a poem or song that I could identify with today. My mind went immediately to poems. I mentally ran through many different ones in search of one with which I could truly “identify” with.
The lines I chose are from Shakespeare, from another of his sonnets. In Sonnet 91, he writes of true love. I’m blessed to be married to the true love of my life, and Shakespeare’s words, although written centuries ago, have genuine meaning for me. I’ve plucked a few out from the sonnet to share a reflection on my life and the love I have for my husband.
Thy love is better than high birth to me,
Richer than wealth, prouder than garments’ cost,
Of more delight than hawks and horses be;
From: Sonnet 91