In Honor of Poetry Month

20180428_124000Have you ever played the literary game of Would You Rather? The one which makes you decide between two unappealing choices, like, would you rather read only one book a year and remember everything, or read 100 and remember nothing? Having played this version years ago with a colleague, one answer has stuck with me, floating at the back of my mind like a lingering doubt. To the question, Would you rather be a poem or a novel?, I responded too quickly with a definite novel. 

Why did I choose novel and dismiss the poem so certainly? At the time, I was six months post-cancer diagnosis and my immediate thought was, novels are longer and longer equals extended life. I don’t speak with flowery language nor often ponder the esoteric or inscrutability of poetry. Yet, I regret my answer. I understand the power of a poem, the lyrical gift it becomes to those who read it, and the varied needs poetry can fulfill in every searching soul. 

In honor of National Poetry month, I’m sharing a tiny handful of my favorites. All poems are in the public domain or sourced from-The Poetry Foundation and poets.org.

 To illustrate education comes as much from experience…
whitman

Another favorite (out of many) of Whitman’s expresses the urgency and demand for acknowledgment of protest and revolution-Beat! Beat! Drums!

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 To serve as a reminder of the strength found within, when we have a voice…

Still I Rise

BY MAYA ANGELOU
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
 
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
’Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
 
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.
 
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?
 
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
’Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.
 
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
 
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
 
Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
 
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.
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An appreciation of a dog’s simple life…
Dharma
 Nobody captures a dog’s life (and afterlife, quite like Billy Collins).
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 To provide comfort during times of sadness…
Evening Solace 

by CHARLOTTE BRONTË  

The human heart has hidden treasures,
In secret kept, in silence sealed;—
The thoughts, the hopes, the dreams, the pleasures,
Whose charms were broken if revealed.
And days may pass in gay confusion,
And nights in rosy riot fly,
While, lost in Fame’s or Wealth’s illusion,
The memory of the Past may die.

But there are hours of lonely musing,
Such as in evening silence come,
When, soft as birds their pinions closing,
The heart’s best feelings gather home.
Then in our souls there seems to languish
A tender grief that is not woe;
And thoughts that once wrung groans of anguish
Now cause but some mild tears to flow.

And feelings, once as strong as passions,
Float softly back—a faded dream;
Our own sharp griefs and wild sensations,
The tale of others’ sufferings seem.
Oh! when the heart is freshly bleeding,
How longs it for that time to be,
When, through the mist of years receding,
Its woes but live in reverie!

And it can dwell on moonlight glimmer,
On evening shade and loneliness;
And, while the sky grows dim and dimmer,
Feel no untold and strange distress—
Only a deeper impulse given
By lonely hour and darkened room,
To solemn thoughts that soar to heaven
Seeking a life and world to come.

Lastly, my niece’s favorite poem. She studied poetry this month and appreciates the lighthearted kindness and compassion demonstrated in this poem by Edgar Guest. Also a budding photographer, the verses are overlaid on one of her photos taken on a Summer day, used by permission. 

Gwen photo (2)

This small list is far from contemporary but my breath and heart have been captured by the words of current poets too. Our speech competitors have performed pieces by Neil Hilborn, Ollie Shminkey and Bo Burnum. I recommended them for an edgier poetry trip, although, what poet isn’t edgy in his or her own time? And for the Would you rather question, I don’t know which I’d be, but I know which I would want to be. What poem, poet or verse inspires you today?

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