Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Poetry for Pete's Sake

I love poetry. Reading poetry is a lost art these days and it is sad because poetry should be read out loud. I think people forget that. Most of us read our page-turners in the airport and skip paragraphs and miss a few names but still get the plot because its hard to miss. And every once in a while then they (I, we, you) might, - ( if they are extremely bored and a poetry book is the only bound paper in six-mile radius) - open a book of good poetry.

Next time you open a book of poetry, read it out loud. There is a lot of bad, depressing poetry out there but when you run on to a good one, it rolls off your tongue like a tasty treat. Just try it. Do fun things like reading it with a goofy English accent. (Not that the English are goofy, it’s just when I try to do it sounds gooftarded.) Read it to your wife, your kids. If you don't get it at first, read it again. Usually a good poem really comes alive to me on the third reading.

My mom read me poetry when I was a wee lad and I loved it. Did I understand it? Heck no. But some of the imagery stuck in my brain and hasn't come unstuck since.

I think reading poetry to kids at a young age teaches them the basic tenants of art: order and beauty. It is also a little more fun for the mom than reading about duck's new brother "the red beach-ball."

The mind recognizes the patterns in the poetry but cannot predict them, and the way in which the poet wields the scheme and words and alliterations and imagery... well, I think they tickle the brain in ways no one else can.

Shoot, read them Shell Silvertstein for crying out loud. And don't forget Dr. Seuss.

Here are a couple of poems that are a fun outloud read.

Mr. Grumpledump's Song - Shell Silverstein

Everything's wrong,
Days are too long,
Sunshine's too hot,
Wind is too strong.
Clouds are too fluffy,
Grass is too green,
Ground is too dusty,
Sheets are too clean.
Stars are too twinkly,
Moon is too high,
Water's too drippy,
Sand is too dry.
Rocks are too heavy,
Feathers too light,
Kids are too noisy,
Shoes are too tight.
Folks are too happy,
Singin' their songs.
Why can't they see it?
Everything's wrong!

A Considerable Speck - Robert Frost


A speck that would have been beneath my sight
On any but a paper sheet so white
Set off across what I had written there.
And I had idly poised my pen in air
To stop it with a period of ink
When something strange about it made me think,
This was no dust speck by my breathing blown,
But unmistakably a living mite
With inclinations it could call its own.
It paused as with suspicion of my pen,
And then came racing wildly on again
To where my manuscript was not yet dry;
Then paused again and either drank or smelt--
With loathing, for again it turned to fly.
Plainly with an intelligence I dealt.
It seemed too tiny to have room for feet,
Yet must have had a set of them complete
To express how much it didn't want to die.
It ran with terror and with cunning crept.
It faltered: I could see it hesitate;
Then in the middle of the open sheet
Cower down in desperation to accept
Whatever I accorded it of fate.
I have none of the tenderer-than-thou
Collectivistic regimenting love
With which the modern world is being swept.
But this poor microscopic item now!
Since it was nothing I knew evil of
I let it lie there till I hope it slept.

I have a mind myself and recognize
Mind when I meet with it in any guise
No one can know how glad I am to find
On any sheet the least display of mind.

Robert Frost


MamasBoy said...

Is it best to read the poems with the dour look of a poet?

Seth Ward said...

Only if you are mocking one. In general, poetry should be read like you would read anything else- normal.

Chaotic Hammer said...

These are both great.

On the subject of reciting poetry or prose aloud, I found this extremely entertaining:

Taylor Mali

Dude, you should be able to find poetry slams or coffee houses with readings and recitations all over the place there. You're pretty much in the center of the cultural universe.

Susanne said...

I love poetry too!! Silverstein is one of my favorites too. My daughter likes his poems a lot too. I also love Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

Rob said...

I have (now) fond recollections of memorizing poetry in 4th grade. We had to memorize 1000 lines of poetry over the course of the year. I can still recite big chunks of The Cremation of Sam McGee by Robert Service. I had the whole thing memorized at one time.

There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
I cremated Sam McGee.

My Dad loved Robert Service. I have a book of his poetry that belonged to Dad with his favorites marked.

Bill Hensley said...

Rob, I think my Dad would have loved your Dad. Mine was a big fan of Rudyard Kipling. I still have most of Gunga Din committed to memory.

Oh I shan't forget the night
when I dropped be'ind the fight
with a bullet where me beltplate should'a been.
I was chokin' mad with thirst,
and the man who spied me first
was our good ol' grinnin', gruntin' Gunga Din.

'E lifted up me 'ead
and 'e plugged me where I bled
and 'e guv me 'arf a pint o' water - green.
It was crawlin' and it stunk,
but of all the drinks I've drunk
I'm gratefullest for that one from Gunga Din.

Seth Ward said...

Those are great poems! I need to check that stuff out.