Since I’ve been blogging, it hasn’t escaped my attention that there are many fine poets out there. That, in itself, doesn’t really surprise me. But why do so many of us choose poetry as a means of expression?
My guess is, we opt for poetry because it’s something we’ve been conscious of from before we learned to speak. We probably heard our first verses as babes in arms, and became acquainted with the sounds and rhythms of the traditional nursery rhyme.
I was thinking of the very first poem I heard at school. It was this one, by Robert Louis Stevenson.
TIME TO RISE
A birdie with a yellow bill
Hopped up on the window sill,
Cocked his shining eye and said:
'Ain't you 'shamed, you sleepy-head?'
It stayed in my head for weeks and, was so much on the tip of my tongue, I would recite it without warning. So in an effort to fuel my enthusiasm, my mum bought me Stevenson’s ‘A Child’s Garden of Verses’, illustrated by Hilda Boswell. Throughout my childhood, it was a treasure. A heady combination of beautifully painted pictures and words, guaranteed to take the hand of an imaginative boy and lead him in and out of unfamiliar landscapes and situations.
In turn, I passed it on to our daughter, and it now resides on the bookshelf, ready for the attention of our three granddaughters.
Oddly, after that initial rush in my early years poetry, for me, languished in a kind of literary backwater. I simply lost interest in the act of reading it. Perhaps it was over-prescribed in the curriculum. I hardly read any 'grown-up' poetry throughout my remaining schooldays, although I never stopped flirting with the idea of writing it. Later, it would become a comfort, a kind of antidote to the interminable boredom of factory shifts. I remember a supervisor raising an eyebrow at the jottings on my stock-keeping record sheets.
Unlike my dear, late grandmother, who could recite James Henry Leigh Hunt’s ‘Abou Ben Adhem’ and much of Longfellow’s ‘Hiawatha’ at the drop of a hat, I rarely have the inclination to commit poetry to memory. Even the most poignant lines and phrases struggle to be called up at will, no matter how highly I value them, no matter how moving they are to me.
So, I have a complex relationship with poetry as a form of expression. Maybe that’s not so unusual.
One thing's for certain, poetry is in us and around us. A friend once commented, “..poetry is a big house with plenty of room for everyone..” He went on to state, “I like my poetry dense, linguistically ambitious and inventive..”
How do you take yours?
© 2010, copyright Martin T. Hodges