Sunday, May 31, 2009

I'm no poet

I am not a poet. I don’t think I’ve ever even claimed to be one, but I love to dabble in the art, especially haiku. I do like to read poetry though and the more bleak and depressing, the better. Yet, in my spring of perpetual idealism, I often find myself longing for a hopeful note, an ending that is not quite so bleak…not quite so soul-sucking sad.

While modern poets find outlet on the net, I tend to look at classic poetry found in hefty volumes and anthologies. Books where Lewis Carroll shares space with John Donne, Elizabeth Barrett Browning mingles with Walt Whitman. Crisp white paper, like fresh albino lettuce crinkles and flutters while I ponder the heavy words of literary giants.

In poetry it is often easier to find an expression of what you are feeling than try to come up with your own words. In poetry the voice of the poet speaks not just to the reader but for the reader, offering solace in expression and joy in thought. Overwhelmed with love? Turn to Shakespeare. Overcome with lust? Robert Herrick readily springs to mind. Concerned with mortality? Christina Rossetti tells it like it is. Question of faith? George Herbert can help you there.

With that in mind I present two of my favorite poems.

The first, “How Did You Die?” by Edmund Vance Cooke is less about death than one might imagine. When ever I feel backed in a corner, trapped by a decision, or faced with major setback, I think of this poem and remember that it isn’t what life throws at you; it is how you handle it that matters.

I first encountered the second poem, “There Will Come Soft Rains” by Sara Teasdale, in a short story of the same name by Ray Bradbury in my 10th grade English class. The poem ought to remind us that we are fallible and our actions will have consequences for us, but the Earth, our only home, will continue far longer than we care to imagine. It is not necessarily a “hopeful” poem, but it leaves in me the sense that there is a possibility for renewal, of starting the cycle all over again.


How Did You Die?

Did you tackle that trouble that came your way
With a resolute heart and cheerful?
Or hide your face from the light of day
With a craven soul and fearful?
Oh, a trouble's a ton, or a trouble's an ounce,
Or a trouble is what you make it,
And it isn't the fact that you're hurt that counts,
But only how did you take it?

You are beaten to earth? Well, well, what's that?
Come up with a smiling face.
It's nothing against you to fall down flat,
But to lie there -- that's disgrace.
The harder you're thrown, why the higher you bounce;
Be proud of your blackened eye!
It isn't the fact that you're licked that counts,
It's how did you fight -- and why?

And though you be done to the death, what then?
If you battled the best you could,
If you played your part in the world of men,
Why, the Critic will call it good.
Death comes with a crawl, or comes with a pounce,
And whether he's slow or spry,
It isn't the fact that you're dead that counts,
But only how did you die?

There Will Come Soft Rains

There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;
And frogs in the pool singing at night,
And wild plum trees in tremulous white;
Robins will wear their feathery fire,
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;
And not one will know of the war,
not one Will care at last when it is done.
Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree,
If mankind perished utterly;
And Spring herself when she woke at dawn
Would scarcely know that we were gone.

No comments:

Post a Comment