Seems like I’ve been away from this blog forever. I’ve been busy reading other people’s writing, as in grant applications, as part of my volunteer role on a local committee. My head is into programs for those who are homeless, hungry, and in need of a job, a dentist or a psychologist, and not topics related to life after retirement.
However, a recent email from a friend living abroad inspired me to take a short break from the problems of my community. My friend, who majored in English, signed up for a short on-line poetry class to keep her brain active. Unfortunately, she’s not a great fan of poetry. Like all of us who’ve been out of school for a long time, beginning a university level course of any length is intimidating. Overwhelmed with the long lectures and the homework, she thought about quitting.
I wanted to encourage her to stick with it. I don’t understand much about poetry either, but decided to send her a few of my favorite poems, ones that are more accessible to us non-English majors. After sending poems the past two days, my goal of interesting my friend in poetry began to have an influence on me. From my overcrowded bookshelves I dug out poetry collections, a book on how to write poetry, books of essays that contained poetry in them.
My husband asked why I was typing the poems in my emails instead of scanning them and sending the copies. “This way is better,” I said. “It’s making me pay attention to the poems. I have to read them several times, make sure the punctuation is correct and that I haven’t left out any words. Each reading helps me understand the poems better.”
In the poems I’ve seen, I’m in awe of the writers use of punchy verbs, beautiful imagery, and their ability to forge a personal connection with the reader over the most mundane topics. In the case of the two poems I’ve sent, the subjects were tomatoes and pears, respectively, though like all poems, the meaning went deeper.
There’s also a sadness associated with the poems I’m looking at. When a friend died, a group of us put together a booklet for her memorial service that contained her favorite poems. I am working through the poems in that booklet one by one. The friend who assembled the booklet has also died. She wrote haiku. Below are three by Marilyn Sandall.
At the start of the war in Iraq:
bruise the camellia
news of war
On seeing her dying father in the hospital:
hospital sheets —
my father smaller
flashy new neighbor
tidings of joy!
The moral of the story: Even short poems can convey a world of meaning. And there are enough poems out there that all of us can find at least one that makes us laugh, better appreciate the natural world, or remind us of someone who’s no longer with us, someone we wish were still here.