Monday, March 18, 2024

Thoughts on Poetry

RHYS BOWEN : I love the book Possession by Byatt, don’t you? It’s an absolute tour de force, especially the way she has created a whole body of poetry for two fictitious poets in the style of Tennyson and Christina Rosetti.

 Back in the day poetry was a big thing. There were court poets in the Middle Ages who lived well thanks to rich patrons. Homer was a celebrity. Everyone knew Keats and Shelley and Lord Byron. And Tennyson –he was even made a lord for his poetry. And Longfellow. So what has happened to us today? Why have we lost our love of poetry? The closest we have to poet celebrities is Leonard Cohen, who set his poems to music, perhaps Mary Oliver, although I doubt the average person has heard of her.

 We no longer value poetry, do we?. A poet can certainly not make a good living. Nobody goes to college and says “I’m going to be a poet,” without their parents tearing their hair out.

Why is this, I wonder.

 Maybe it’s because poetry was designed to be spoken aloud, and modern poets try to be too clever and esoteric:

 Stars at night

Falling. Boom. Crash. Thud.

Like stricken bodies

Into my tea cup


 (that’s not a real poem. I just made it up, but you get the gist) It creates an idea, a picture, a fleeting thought, but then it’s gone.

How many of us had to learn poems by heart in school?

 On either side the rive lie

Fields of barley and of rye

That clothe the world and meet the sky

And all the day the folk go by

To many towered Camelot…. 

 I can still recite so many of them: The Ancient Mariner, Hiawatha, The Forsaken Merman, lots of Robert Louis Stevenson and of course Shakespeare.

And do you know what? They all rhymed. They were all easy and fun to speak out loud.

 That is what we’ve lost. My great aunts used to recite poetry during evening soirees. So we’ve lost the occasions to do this. And perhaps the poets are still here, but they’ve put their poetry to music: Bob Dylan, Lennon and McCartney, Steven Sondheim…

 I don't think children learn poetry in school and longer. Only English majors will ever discover Keats, or Longfellow. Children will never sit in the back of cars chanting:

 Faster than fairies faster than witches,

Bridges and houses, hedges and ditches,

Riding along like troops in a battle

All through the meadows, the horses and cattle…

 I loved it. I miss it.  I’d be a poet if I could make a living at it. My mother tells me that I wrote my first poem at 4.

I used to write lots of poetry in my teens. I'd sit in a darkened room, put a Tchaikovsky record on the radiogram and let my heart outpour. Come to think of it, many of them didn't rhyme either: But some did:

Sit, a stone, and survey

Until love and life pass away

Rest, a rock on the shore,

Until faith and death 

are no more.

Then, as a new moon, alone

Arise and face the unknown.

They were all pretty bleak and sad at that time, I think. i was a huge fan of Gerard Manley Hopkins.

So share your thoughts, dear Reds

Do you miss poetry? Did you have to learn it? Did you ever write any. What can we do to bring it back

HALLIE EPHRON: Goodness yes, I had to memorize poems in elementary school. Remember “Barare Frietchie?” (“Shoot, if you must, this old gray head,/

But spare your country’s flag,” she said.) “Evangeline.” (“This the forest primeval…)

And then the ones I memorized just because I read them so many times and liked the way they sounded. (e. e. Cummings -anyone lived in a pretty how town. / (with up so floating many bells down)...

That’s the thing about poetry - so much of it is meant to be spoken and listened to. Though I confess a lot of poetry leaves me scratching my head and wondering what I’m missing. Is it ok to say that?  

JENN McKINLAY: I love poetry! WHERE THE SIDEWALK ENDS was published when I was a kid and I memorized so many Shel Silverstein poems. They were charming and clever and just delightful. Also, I grew up in New England so memorizing Emily Dickinson felt like a requirement.

I do believe poetry is alive and well in the younger generations. My nephew is a poet and writes and performs in poetry slams in local Boston coffee shops. When I was a teen librarian we hosted slams for teens by an outfit called Phonetic Spit. Some of the poems were angry, others broke your heart, and a few really made you think but the best part was that it was all written and performed by teens who’d discovered the use of poetry to deal with life’s joys and sorrows and it was wonderful. Also, we have Amanda Gorman’s The Hill We Climb bringing poetry to a new generation, which is terrific. I think poetry, like music, has changed in tone and style over time but it’s still there and it’s still relevant and I don’t believe it will ever disappear completely. 

LUCY BURDETTE: I’m always envious of fiction writers that began as poets because I feel they have a better grasp of how to use language beautifully. My prose is more workmanlike than poetic. However, I will share something that makes me laugh when I think about it. I set my second book, DEATH IN FOUR COURSES, at a conference for food writers and one of the characters was a “culinary poet.” After the victim is found, they have a small wake-ish event and the poet is called upon to read. I had such fun writing this:

Fritz pushed his glasses to his forehead, unfolded a half sheet of lined paper, and smoothed it on the podium. He studied his audience with pale blue eyes, then turned his attention to the paper.

“The Butcher,” he said. “A poem to honor Jonah Barrows.”

 “Morning comes, the butcher’s wife hands him an apron, starched white.

Keep it clean, she says.

At night, he brings it home, layered with the detritus of his day.

A splash of blood from the rib eye steaks carved for the rich man on the hill.

A touch of green from lobsters cracked and cleaned for the fussy housewife,

Who will eat pink flesh but not green, no matter how good it tastes.

Marrow from hacked bones,

Distributed to fancy restaurants and slathering dogs alike.

And as the day goes by, the hues of the apron morph from red to gray.

I tried, he says, handing it to the missus come evening. I had to do my work.”

RHYS: I love this, Lucy!

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Rhys, I adored Possession. I read it in one sitting–literally, on a ten-hour London to Dallas flight–and was just blown away. It definitely influenced me to write Dreaming of the Bones (in which I, like Lucy above, included poetry.) It was poetry that started me writing as a teen, in fact, and I read a lot. e.e. cummings, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, TS Eliot, Ezra Pound (why, I ask now!), Auden, Plath, Stevie Smith, Anne Sexton, Larkin, Wallace Stevens. And of course my beloved Dylan Thomas. I was never as good at memorizing, however, except for William Blake, who is forever engraved in my brain!

I hope poetry isn't lost! I think that exposure to language opens pathways in the brain that otherwise don't develop, and that makes our lives and our thinking so much richer and more nuanced. 

You've encouraged me to get back to my "poem a day" practice!

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Yes, I have a poem a day, too! I’m Yeats, Auden, Wallace Stevens. I had the honor of reading Czieslaw Milosz’s “On Angels” at my father's funeral, and highly recommend it as a source of peace and inspiration and wonder.  And, with a name like mine, I constantly think of Robert Frost's “Maple,” which begins sweetly, about a girl named Maple who everyone thinks is “Mabel,” and her search for her mother’s meaning in naming her before she died in childbirth,  and ends with a bitter twist.  

Thus had a name with meaning, given in death,

Made a girl's marriage, and ruled in her life.

No matter that the meaning was not clear.

A name with meaning could bring up a child,

Taking the child out of the parents' hands.

Better a meaningless name, I should say,

As leaving more to nature and happy chance.

Name children some names and see what you do.

(Maybe we should all remember this when we name our characters…)

RHYS: So who are your favorite poets?  I still adore Robert Frost, Auden, Walt Whitman, Mary Oliver, Keats... 


  1. Cheers for poetry! My personal favorites? Robert Frost ["But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep"] and Carl Sandburg ["the fog comes in on little cat feet"] . . . .

    1. oh gosh, I love both of those, too. "Two roads diverged in a yellow wood..." (Some of us need to write a new version of that, starting "Three roads diverged..." or possible five.

  2. Langston Hughes and Robert Frost. And yes, I wrote poetry and have a copy of my collection in the Library of Congress.

    1. Also Robert Service. One of the students in university sat down at the piano before supper one night, and said "The Cremation of Sam McGee" by heart, all the while accompanying himself with dramatic music. Wow!

    2. Dru, that's fabulous... Amazing.

    3. Dru - you are the most interesting person - you always have a delightful surprise for us! How fantastic!

    4. Hank Phillippi RyanMarch 18, 2024 at 1:12 PM

      Dru! You are full of surprises! Will you write a blog for us about it?

  3. I mentioned before that my mother read poetry to me when I was very little. Not just nursery rhymes, which I love, but Poe's Annabel Lee and The Harp Weaver by ( oh, no, forget.)

    Growing up, I loved poetry and read it constantly, memorizing dozens of poems. Debs, Rupert Brooke happens to be a favorite, still. Robert Frost. We memorized his poetry for a special schoolwide program in 7th grade. Robert Louis Stevenson. The sonnets of Edna St. Vincent. Poems in French. Translations of Ovid. Beowolf. Don't forget Ogdan Nash! OMG.

    I have hardly thought of some of these in years. Frost, I recite a few of his poems regularly to this day. I took many poetry classes when studying for my degree. And yet, I haven't cracked open a book of poetry in years. I used to wander into my friends' room in college, spouting one sonnet or another until we were all laughing like only the young can. I am looking at my shelf of poetry books right now. Maybe later.

    And Jenn, my son had friends who wrote poems and there were regular poetry slams that he attended. RAP is poetry set to a beat. Poetry isn't dead, just different.

    1. That's a good bumper sticker. Poetry isn't dead, just different

    2. Exactly! And poetry slams are rather thrilling :)

    3. Robert Frost is my favorite too. With friends I visited his farm and we walked the poetry walk, reading aloud each poem. Magical

  4. Mary Oliver is way up there, and Amanda Gorman. It does make a big difference to hear the work in the poet's own voice, and you can find pretty much anything online now!

    We had a book of Milne poems when we were kids.
    James James
    Morrison Morrison
    Weatherby George Dupree
    Took great
    Care of his Mother
    Though he was only three.
    James James
    Said to his Mother,
    "Mother," he said, said he;
    "You must never go down to the end of the town, if
    you don't go down with me."

    We have an pretty active poetry scene where I live. My town has a poet laureate, and the newest woman is a youngish Asian-American who produces really interesting work. The Whittier Home Association sponsors a teen poetry contest each year, with the winner reading their work at a summer poetry festival in Whittier's garden. I've heard some amazing poems from the young people. The art is alive and well!

    1. My son and I were listening to TS Eliot read his delightful poem, "The Naming of Cats," a couple of weeks ago. It's a must-listen and was apparently the basis of the musical, "Cats!"

    2. I don't write poetry, hardly ever, but I am fond of this prose poem about my beloved father. I wrote it in a workshop2001.

    3. James James Morrison Morrison…love that poem, Edith. As I recall there are typeface suggestions of how to read… softly and the really loud “if you don’t go down WITH ME!” Elisabeth

    4. I rewrote this for John's birthday because he tends to get lost when he drives in Phoenix!
      Arthur Arthur John John Harkin Quin the first...

    5. Hank Phillippi RyanMarch 18, 2024 at 1:14 PM

      “Tries to get to the book store, but his driving is really the worst.”

    6. I love it, Rhys, AND Hank's addition.

  5. I remember in 6th grade having to keep a poetry notebook, an assignment I did not enjoy, and therefore furiously copied down poems the night before they were to be collected. On the other hand it was enchanting when that teacher recited Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken and other poems.
    As recently as 2010 the 8th grade students in my current district had a poetry unit in English class. They read and write poetry. We pulled carts of books from the library shelves for their use: I fear it has fallen by the wayside in favor of test prep since then.

    1. This is reminding me of a pitched battle my 10th grade English teacher had with the class over the meaning of Frost's "Birches" - I can't remember the substance of it just the glorious heat in the room over those words.

  6. This discussion is reminding me that I used to enjoy poetry, including reading it to my children at night. We had (and maybe still have when I unpack boxes of books in the next couple weeks) several volumes of children's poetry, and lots of doggerel, too. Steve is a dramatic orator when he's reading to kids, and it was especially fun to listen to his renditions of Shel Silverstein or Mother Goose, even. We had a book of poems about food that were hilarious. And of course up until this past couple years the youngest child has always read Clement Moore's Visit From St. Nicholas on Christmas Eve. My middle daughter memorized Jabberwocky in third grade, and can still recite it.

    I'm currently reading Paula Munier's wonderful books, and very much enjoying the snippets of poetry she quotes, especially the Shakespeare. I can no longer recall it all, but the Quality of Mercy speech enthralled me when I had to memorize it in high school.

    But I just can't relate to a lot of modern poetry; some of it is too precious, too much like Rhys's jokey example. The New Yorker still has poems in each issue, but I rarely read them.

    1. Yes, Mother Goose, and Jabberwocky! And the Christmas Eve ritual reading/reciting is something we did, too.

    2. I forgot to add my favorites, although maybe their work comes under the heading of "doggerel": Ogden Nash and Dorothy Parker.

      Men don't make passes
      At girls who wear glasses.

      Razors pain you;
      Rivers are damp;
      Acids stain you;
      And drugs cause cramp.
      Guns aren't lawful;
      Nooses give;
      Gas smells awful;
      You might as well live.

      Ogden Nash:
      A Word to Husbands
      To keep your marriage brimming
      With love in the loving cup,
      Whenever you’re wrong, admit it;
      Whenever you’re right, shut up.

      The Camel
      The camel has a single hump;
      The dromedary, two;
      Or else the other way around.
      I’m never sure. Are you?

      And of course Candy is Dandy, but Liquor is Quicker, which is the title of a longer poem, but that is sufficient to get the joke.

    3. My favorite of Ogden Nash: The panther is like the leopard,
      except it isn't peppered.
      When you see a panther crouch
      Prepare to say ouch
      Better yet, when called by a panther
      Don't anther.

    4. Karen, your Ogden Nash camel poem made me think of Kipling--The Camel's hump is an ugly lump, which well we may see at the zoo. But uglier yet is the hump we get by having too little to do..."

  7. I read a lot of poetry. Was never very good at writing it - at least not in my own opinion. So I didn't do it much. Poetry definitely needs to be read aloud to appreciate it. I was blown away by Amanda Gorman.

    The Girl studied poetry in her AP English class in high school as a senior.

    I agree with those who say poetry isn't dead, just different.

  8. Three memorable poems for me. I loved The Ancient Mariner, and I committed many verses to memory. I have no idea why I loved it but it was lyrical, a great story, depressing, and of course the beautiful bird.
    As a child when in school, we not only had a poetry section, just like there was fiction, non-fiction and plays, but also we had to commit many to memory: “I dream that I will never see..”, “Death Be Not Proud”, and of course “Once There was an Elephant”.
    However, I think David by Earle Birney was one of the most memorable. I was shocked (in 1965) to read of mercy killing. The interesting thing is that in that time in school, the poem was just treated as a poem, but we did not discuss the subject matter.
    Sometime, perhaps, we will talk about song lyrics as a part of poetry. At that time, I will bring to the table the beautiful “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda”.
    I seem to be in a morbid mood today. Perhaps it is because my cat is dying…long life and a good life, but sad none the less.

    1. Oh, Margo, it's so devastating to loose a pet. Sending hugs.

    2. Margo, more hugs for you--a long life of companionship and love deserves to be mourned. Have an extra piece (or two) of chocolate!

    3. So sorry to hear this Margo.

    4. Oh, I'm so sorry... cats are such wonderful companions. So sad.

    5. oh so sorry Margo. It's so hard no matter how old the animal is... xox

    6. Really sorry to hear about your kitty. The Band Played Waltzing Matilda is a wonderful haunting song by Scottish-Australian songwriter Eric Bogle. I've been a fan of his for decades.

    7. I am so sorry to read of your cat. Hugs. Those tiny paws leave huge pawprints on our hearts.

    8. Hank Phillippi RyanMarch 18, 2024 at 1:15 PM

      Margo, I am so sorry. That is so difficult. Xxxx

    9. Margo, I am so sorry to hear about your cat. I offer many hugs and hope that happy memories sustain you in the coming days. — Pat S

    10. Thanks for all your compassion. She is one of 10, but my special favourite - I know, you shouldn't have favourites, but

  9. From Celia: What a great topic for a Monday morning Rhys. Yes I read Possession and loved it but that was a while ago. Poetry - my mother could quote exhaustively, and did. So when I think back it is mother saying, "By the shores of Gitche Gumee, by the Big sea Shining Water, Stood the wigwam of Nikomis".When I read Kent Kreuger's books they bring back my mum and recitation.
    Like Edith, I had AA Milne poems at a very early age, " We're changing Guard at Buckingham Palace, Christopher Robin went down with Alice". I do love Mary Oliver and Amanda Gorman. In fact I gave each of my grandsons a copy of Amanda's inaugural poem. One of my favorite current poets is David Whyte, an Englishman, who lives in the Seattle area. I met him at a corporate retreat and he literally changed my life in terms of how I viewed poetry and realized that it must be read aloud to have meaning and cadence. His poems are rather spare but carry so much meaning. David introduced me to David Wagoner with this teaching poem:

    Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
    Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
    And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
    Must ask permission to know it and be known.
    The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
    I have made this place around you.
    If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
    No two trees are the same to Raven.
    No two branches are the same to Wren.
    If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
    You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
    Where you are. You must let it find you.
    -- David Wagoner (1999)
    This helps me stop and refocus when I am being crazed over something. There's so much more but it's Monday and I need to get to work.

    1. David Wagoner! Another favorite: The Poets Agree To Be Quiet By The Swamp
      They hold their hands over their mouths
      And stare at the stretch of water.
      What can be said has been said before:
      Strokes of light like herons' legs in the cattails,
      Mud underneath, frogs lying even deeper.
      Therefore, the poets may keep quiet.
      But the corners of their mouths grin past their hands.
      They stick their elbows out into the evening,
      Stoop, and begin the ancient croaking.

    2. This is wonderful, Celia. I;ve seen so many poems to add to my collection today.

    3. These are wonderful! How did I not know David Waggoner??

  10. I think my post disappeared so I hope this won't be a duplicate.
    I loved Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven (Once Upon a Midnight Dreary...) and of course Shakespeare.
    And so many of the ones mentioned above. There are so many wonderful and great poets.
    I don't know if Bob Dylan could be considered a poet (I consider him one) but his great lyrics were so brilliant. especially Subterranean Blues among so many others of his.

    Rhys I had to laugh a little when you mentioned how parents would cringe if their child came home and said I'm majoring in poetry! So true. Our daughter has a PhD in poetics from SUNY Buffalo. That's where she met her to be husband who was also in the same program. He now teaches English at Portland State University. She does environmental work. So it all worked out!

    1. She's obviously a better person for having studied that. A richer person.

  11. The first creative writing I ever did was a poem. I've kept journals full of poems since I was about 16, although I nearly gave it up completely because there came a time when I felt I had nothing left to say. A few years ago I was asked to edit a book of poems for a small press--I wasn't asked again :-) I find much of the poetry too academic. 'Oh, he was showing a mastery of the form' kind of stuff that leaves me cold. If 'meh' is my only reaction, no thanks! Poets that I love: TS Eliot, Louise Gluck, Robert Frost, William Stafford--just a few of many.

    the mind lights up with memories--
    the vision center firing, playing
    back the past like a motion picture.
    where does longing light up?
    deep in the heart,
    where no machine can see

  12. I forgot Rumi! One of my all-time favorite poems is "The Guest House"

    This being human is a guest house.
    Every morning a new arrival.

    A joy, a depression, a meanness,
    some momentary awareness comes
    as an unexpected visitor.

    Welcome and entertain them all!
    Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
    who violently sweep your house
    empty of its furniture,
    still, treat each guest honorably.
    He may be clearing you out
    for some new delight.

    The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
    meet them at the door laughing,
    and invite them in.

    Be grateful for whoever comes,
    because each has been sent
    as a guide from beyond.

  13. As a child I loved Dr. Seuss but appreciate him even more as an adult. He & his wife Audrey lived in our town and there is a parade in his honor every year. His early works were about the fun of being a kid but as the years went on his works took on many issues like Horton Hears a Hoo... "A person is a person no matter how small." And the environmental damage issue in The Lorax.

    1. Love Seuss. He shaped my love of language as a child. I also loved Bill Peet for the environmental messages tucked into his work.

    2. Love Bill Peet, too! I kept them in my school library and read them to classes. They were rarely checked out, sadly. — Pat S

    3. Bill Peet! I read The Caboose that Got Loose over and over to my son.

  14. I’m in the minority here. No interest in poetry. I can remember the odd line from a poem: good fences make good neighbors, something about taking the less common road having made all the difference. But I don’t think I ever memorized a poem. One of my worst academic experiences in college was studying the romantic poets in sophomore English.

  15. Have one of my favorite poetry performances, which is by Reggie Gibson - Boston poet and instructor at Grub Street. (Some of the Jungle Reds are very familiar with Grub Street.) Poetry is still performed and appreciated. I heard teens perform poems as part of a Grub Fellowship program that would make your heart ache.

  16. I love Amanda Gorman's poetry. When she speaks her words, I am enthralled and captivated by her incredible talent. Grew up with all of the ones mentioned above, but outside of "Cats" nothing ever stayed with me. I particularly loved how poetry was used in "The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society". The authors really brought the poetry to life and gave me and new appreciation for it.

  17. I just saw a Mary Oliver quote that applies to authors everywhere:

    "Music: What so many sentences aspire to be."

  18. We were raised with poetry. Mom recited to us until we were old enough to learn bits ourselves. I have pieces of The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere and The Highwayman in my head, as well as Annabel Lee. We had a big children's poetry collection that we poured over, including TS Eliot's, "I have a gumbie cat in mind. Her name is Jenny Anydots. Her coat is of the tabby kind with tiger stripes and leopard spots...."

    When we were a little older,, mom brought us a slim book called Kings and Queens by Eleanor Farjeon (who wrote the lyrics to Morning has Broken) and her brother Herbert. This included a rhyme for each monarch of England, starting with William the First. Margaret had to recite a poem in 5th grade at school, so we learned the one about Henry VIII ("Bluff King Hal was full of beans, he married half a dozen Queens. For three called Kate they cried the banns, and one called Jane and a couple of Annes"--then 6 more verses, one for each of the wives). It's amazing how much history you can remember if it comes into your head in the form of rhymes.

    On a more serious note, I love poetry from poets like Mary Oliver and Jan Richardson. I used Richardson's Blessing in the Chaos for grace at Thanksgiving:

    To all that is chaotic

    in you,
    let there come silence.

    Let there be
    a calming
    of the clamoring,
    a stilling
    of the voices that
    have laid their claim
    on you,
    that have made their
    home in you,

    that go with you
    even to the
    holy places
    but will not
    let you rest,
    will not let you
    hear your life
    with wholeness
    or feel the grace
    that fashioned you.

    Let what distracts you
    Let what divides you
    Let there come an end
    to what diminishes
    and demeans,
    and let depart
    all that keeps you
    in its cage.

    Let there be
    an opening
    into the quiet
    that lies beneath
    the chaos,
    where you find
    the peace
    you did not think
    and see what shimmers
    within the storm.

  19. Speaking of turning poetry into music, I have a young relative who loved to write poetry in high school - as a teenager she joined a Women's Writing Group that met at a local bookstore. I knew about Mary Oliver because I often see bookstagrammers post about her on IG. I am familiar with Auden because the Alexander McCall Smith novels often include his poetry.

    My favorite poetry was children's poems like NOW WE ARE SIX by AA Milne. Not only did he write about Winnie the Pooh but he also wrote poetry collections.


  20. Suggesting for those seeking poets writing now: Lynn Ungar’s “Bread and Other Miracles”, her pandemic poems “These Days” and “Breathe”, and her most recent “The Brittle Beauty of It All.” The last poem in this “The Way Through” ends:

    I’m not saying it’s all
    going to be joy and delight.
    I’m saying that life
    is long, and complicated, and we
    belong to a family that has found
    a million ways to thrive.

  21. And I gave copies of NOW WE ARE SIX to my godchildren on their sixth birthdays. Diana

  22. I second Langston Hughes and Robert Frost and Robert Service, one of the few books in our library-using small house. Dad had worked in Alaska during WWII. My high school students maintained their love of Shel S. -- powerful connection. One wonderful summer I took Contemporary Poets and a writing workshop at UMSL, both with Howard Schwartz. I ended up with a few stories, as intended, and many poems, a surprise. Howard said at the beginning that some poems want to be stories, and some stories turn into poems. ;-) He also warned us that publication opportunities were few, that poetry journals were going away. I put mine on my storytelling website.

  23. Jane Yolen just published a new big book of poems for middle grades.

  24. Poetry was an integral part of my English classes: Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner, Alone, alone all all alone…Sir Walter Scott Lady of the Lake, Longfellow Midnight Ride of Paul Revere and Evangeline among many others. You can visit his house in Cambridge MA
    Here in the New England area there were many well known poets in addition to Longfellow, Robert Frost, Robert and Amy Lowell. .
    How about Amanda Gorman, a Harvard alumna, who recited her poem at President Biden’s inauguration.
    Other poems that I still can recite are The Vagabond Song, There is something in the autumn that is native to my blood, William Wordsworth I wandered lonely as a cloud and Opportunity by Edward Roland Sills This I beheld or dreamed it in a dream…
    At my local library there have been ongoing poetry groups and programs that have been going on for years and are always very well attended.
    I watch services at a synagogue where the rabbis frequently recite poems which I have found very meaningful and remember long after hearing them.

  25. I subscribe to Poem a Day which each day features poetry from up and coming poets. They have just reached 100,000 subscribers. Here’s a blog post telling about them: “ We are excited to share that a few hours ago the number of subscribers to Poem-a-Day surpassed 100,000! If you don't already receive Poem-a-Day, sign up now and join this growing community of poetry readers.

    Through Poem-a-Day, the Academy of American Poets presents original, previously unpublished poems by our country’s most talented poets throughout the week and classic poems on the weekends”.

    I love Mary Oliver and use her book DEVOTIONS each day. Poetry definitely isn't a thing of the past!~Emily Dame

  26. Adore poetry! Shakespeare's sonnets, Sonnets from the Portuguese, Blake, Donne, Dickinson, and the myriad of collections that fill my shelves. There is something restful and relaxing about reading poetry. It's a complete sensory experience. The meter, the use of language. Oh, yes. So glad you posted this, Rhys.

  27. I can still quote some of the Village Blacksmith since I memorized it in sixth grade. And more of Jabberwocky, simply because I loved its nonsense. In college we read The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner. That one really gutted me. We had a set of reference books when I was a kid and it contained a lot of poetry. I loved the story poems: Little Orphan Annie, The Highwayman, Hiawatha, Evangeline, etc. I admire people who can whip out lines of poetry to fit the occasion. Sadly, that's not me. Pat D

    1. oh, The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner! Randall Jarrell. Just stunning.

  28. I missed this entirely, which makes me think I ought to be slowing down and reading more poetry, yes?

    Like everyone else, I love poetry, and as was common in my age group memorized poems, both for school and for my own amusement. I have had great success entertaining small children with an energetic recitation of Scott's "Lochinvar." I highly recommend it for all parents and grandparents.

  29. I think poetry is alive and well. I have really loved this discussion. I love poetry, rhyming and nonrhyming, and write poetry, and a number of poets in my Sacramento workshop did give poetry readings at one of the bars.. So many of the poets listed above were my favorites in my teens: Keats, Shelly, Yeats, Tennyson, Wordsworth (Daffodils). I was older when I discovered more modern poets : Lanston Hughes, Ogen Nash (loved his poems!) Seamus Haney, and so many others. I taught poetry to my sixth graders when I was teaching full time, and had them submit to some of the magazines that published children's work, and a couple of them were published! We also had an after school poetry Club and put together a magazine and sold it to the teachers in the school. I really liked the poems written by Reds, and love the idea of teen poetry slams. I'd like to share a poem I have loved every since my teens, by a black poet who lived from 1856 to 1935: Lizette Woodworth Reese:
    When I consider Life and its few years —
    A wisp of fog betwixt us and the sun;
    A call to battle, and the battle done
    Ere the last echo dies within our ears;
    A rose choked in the grass; an hour of fears;
    The gusts that past a darkening shore do beat;
    The burst of music down an unlistening street, —
    I wonder at the idleness of tears.
    Ye old, old dead, and ye of yesternight,
    Chieftains, and bards, and keepers of the sheep,
    By every cup of sorrow that you had,
    Loose me from tears, and make me see aright
    How each hath back what once he stayed to weep:
    Homer his sight, David his little lad!

    I read it at my mother's funeral, because she had had a lot of losses in her life.

  30. I love poetry, and I need to get back to reading more of it, especially Mary Oliver now. I think in the wake of Kevin's passing, poetry would bring me comfort. He wrote poetry from time to time, and I even had his poem he wrote about Fall when he was a kid framed and put on a table at his funeral. Robert Frost's poem "The Pasture" is a short, seemingly simplistic poem that is one of my favorites. I think it's meaning runs so deep, with "You come, too" interjected throughout the poem. And, when I described it as "seemingly simplistic," I was referring to the literal actions in it of the farmer going to complete some chores but inviting the person to whom he's telling what he will do to come with him, too, as he won't be long. To me, the "farmer" represents anyone who wants a person they care about to come with him/her to observe the beauty of his work and its importance. It even becomes spiritual to me in that I take it as a farewell as someone showing their loved one that they must go and take care of other things now, but he desires to show how meaningful those things are, and there will be a day when the loved one can come too and stay. Yes, I look at it as a beauty of death poem, and I wish I'd read it at my son's funeral, but I was in such a fog then.

    My kids loved Shel Silverstein and his poetry books, and the joke about finding where the sidewalk ends never gets old (It sometimes does). The other day my husband and I were walking and came to the end of a sidewalk, and he said those necessary words, "Well, I guess we found where the sidewalk ends." But, in all seriousness (and I guess playfulness too), poems do give us quotes that are lovely to bring up to fit a situation. Another children's poet I loved was Jack Prelutsky, but it was his more sophisticated, language enriching books I especially wanted everyone to read--The Dragons are Singing Tonight, Awful Ogres' Awful Day, and The Gargoyle on the Roof.

    Some of my favorite individual poems have already been mentioned--"The Highwayman," "The Village Blacksmith," "Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening," "Little Orphant Annie," "The Raven," "The Cremation of Sam McGee," "The Swing" and "My Shadow," and so many more. I think I was introduced to these poems all before college.

    Favorite poets and their bodies of works include Robert Frost, Mary Oliver, Langston Hughes, Emily Dickinson, e.e. cummings, Shel Silverstein, Jack Prelutsky, William Shakespeare, Homer, Mayo Angelou, William Blake, and John Roedel (current poetic who turned from being a comic to a poet to express his struggles).

  31. I was obsessed with T.S. Eliot and John Donne in college ("The Sun Rising" still slays me--"Busy old fool, unruly sun....".) Reading and studying poetry was what inspired me to start writing song lyrics--which ended up being my gateway drug to writing fiction.

  32. Rhys, thanks so much for this post. The discussion it inspired was wonderful.

  33. There are several poets who inspire me to laugh, cry, reflect. Mary Oliver is a favorite, as is Ogden Nash (I did say laugh!) John O'Donohue, the Irish poet and philosopher. In eighth grade we had to memorize a poem every week. Sad to say very little stuck in my brain, a bit of Robert Frost and Carl Sandburg plus the first line or two from Lochinvar from Sir Walter Scott!
    When I was young we had a pastor who would dress up and recite Robert Service's The Cremation of Sam McGee. Every kid in hearing distance paid rapt attention. The he would pop into Casey at the Bat. No end to the fun this was for us.