Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Poetry

April is National Poetry Month, and, well, I'm an English major, so, yes, I do like poetry.  My first exposure to poetry was in children's books and from my mother reciting to her children the very many poems she had memorized as a girl.

I also still have my first Rhame High School poetry textbook, published in 1971.
It is marked as my older brother's book as he used it first and it was passed down to me.  I suppose the English class in which it was my textbook was about 1973 or so.   Even today I can thumb through the book and fondly remember being moved by the poems.  We also had a very good English teacher who was passionate about her subject.

Moreover, I spent decades in friendships with poets and even once dated a published poet, who was a very interesting man.

We have many books of poetry on our Red Oak House library bookshelves among them W.H. Auden, Walt Whitman, and Mary Oliver. We continue to buy poetry books.  We always try to stop and listen when Garrison Keillor comes on public radio on the Writer's Almanac with his sonorous voice.

It is difficult for me to choose just one poem to highlight from this old textbook of mine or to pick a favorite, but, because this is Holy Week, here is my choice, by William Butler Yeats, one that has stayed in my mind all of these years, reinforced by study of poetry in my undergraduate work and my interest in birds.

The Second Coming

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those word out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethelehem to be born?

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