29 February 2012

in favor of poems

scanning the shelves at the used bookstore for poetry anthologies

I have not always made a place in my life for poetry aside from the short and sweet rhymes that are just that short and sweet. Poetry is an acquired taste much like coffee or cigarette only poetry will not give you lung cancer, but it may keep you up at night. I adore coffee. Poetry-not so much.

One of the practices that I force upon my children much in the same way as nourishing their appetite with healthy food is by nourishing their minds with really good literature. Here is where poetry comes in. 

For the past few years, I have taken to reading them poems as they lunch and believe it or not they enjoy it. And even ask for it. I found a few anthologies from which we read. Robert Louis Stevenson, Rudyard Kipling, John Greenleaf Whittier are a few of our favorites. Our oldest can still recite Kipling's Seal Lullaby.

Even though I don't always appreciate it, or frankly understand it, I fake it for the sake of my children and excitedly read poetry to them. They may not appreciate it today as much as they will when they are older-like they do not appreciate the brussel sprouts until their palates have become refined to endure the bitter that eventually becomes sweet. That is what we as parents are called to do: nourish our children's mind, body and spirit. Literature is my anchor in doing this. 

So today is Leap Day. An extra day to splurge on something. Might I suggest a poem? I leave you with this sestina about summer. My friend Julie read this after our Sunday yoga practice. Even though I do not always grasp or enjoy poetry, this has not left my mind since she read it. It haunts me and convicts me to live a more winsome life. O, the power of a well-written word can do that.

a boy penning his own poem

The Summer Day
Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Do something extravagant with this extra day-Leap year comes but once ever 4 years! I hope you have a most joyous day! xo

1 comment:

Courtney said...

You should check out Garrison Keillor's Good Poems and Good Poems for Hard Times. Not to be repetitive, but good stuff in there.