Joyce Kilmer once said, “I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree.”
I’m not sure what he meant by this, but isn’t it beautiful?
April, known for being National Poetry Month, brings to mind melancholy rains, chirping birds, budding trees and flowers—all things that wax poetic. I guess I understand why Kilmer was inspired by a tree to write a poem about it.
The language of poetry suggests the elegiac, not the mundane; Shakespeare, not Steinbeck; Tennyson, not Tolstoy; Ecclesiastes, not Chronicles.
As a child I loved to hear my mother read poetry to me from her high school textbook. I still have her American Writers, Revised Edition, ©1939. She loved Eugene Field’s “Little Boy Blue” and Irwin Russell’s “Nebuchadnezzar.” She read with emotion and used the proper dialect. I believe she’s the reason I love words today.
My father also liked poetry. As a lay speaker, he incorporated poetry in his “sermons” to elevate the level of emotion. One of his favorite poems, “The Bridge Builder” by Will Dromgoole, epitomizes my father’s life and his lessons. People today would benefit from heeding the message in this poem.
Mrs. Medley, my seventh grade English teacher, added fuel to my poetic fires. I fondly remember compiling a poetry notebook in her class and illustrating with my own artwork such poems as “The Daffodils” by William Wordsworth and “The Highwayman” by Alfred Noyes.
Shortly after 9-11 I encouraged my students to compile a book of poetry to help express their raw emotions and fears. I sent a copy of their poem “I Am from America” to then President Bush, and they felt a great sense of pride when he responded with a congratulatory note. When I look back at my students’ poems, I also feel pride in their accomplishments. I am still blown away by the insight and intellect and humor and tenderness that I see in the poems of Luke Archer, Jeremy Bivins, Nick Williams, Cassie Lundquist, Jef Briggs, Darrin Leverette, and so many others.
One of the highlights of my teaching career occurred when I attended an NCTE conference in Philadelphia and heard Julie Andrews (THE Julie Andrews) read from her book Collection of Poems, Songs, and Lullabies. Because Julie Andrews has the voice of an angel, I was spellbound as she made music with her spoken words. This, to me, is the paradox of poetry, the expression of something that cannot be expressed.
In his book Sound and Sense, Laurence Perrine defines poetry as “a kind of language that says more and says it more intensely than does ordinary language.” According to poet Robert Frost, “Poetry provides the one permissible way of saying one thing and meaning another.” (Note to family: See, Robert Frost has given me a license to say the things I say.)
At any rate, I like poetry. I like to read. I like to read poetry. I don’t, however, like to analyze it to death. (There I go again with my non-literal comments. Poetry doesn’t have life and death, or does it?) I just want the poem to be.
From chanting nursery rhymes as a child and analyzing the works of dead poets in college to sharing favorite poems with my students, I believe the world should appreciate words.
I believe I should celebrate poetic words this month. According to Poe, “Poetry is the rhythmical creation of beauty in words.” Ah, “the tintinnabulation that so musically wells from the bells, bells, bells, bells, bells, bells, bells.”
I think that I shall go out on the porch for a bit and look at a tree.