Thursday, November 30, 2006

Poetry Meme for an Icy Day

The day continues. . . I found this meme at Of Books and Bicycles. Go tell Dorthy hello.

1. The first poem I remember reading/hearing/reacting to was....Nursery rhymes were the first poems I heard. My mother used to read me a lot of nursery rhymes from a large anthology of varied children’s literature. These memories go back as far as I can recall—two years old, maybe eighteen months old. Always she emphasized the rhythm as she read, often singing them. I suspect this is a large part of why I now have an instinctive feel for rhythm and rhyme.

The first poem that struck me with an appreciable emotional impact was Mary Oliver’s “The Swimming Lesson”. I felt stunned after reading it, as though someone had struck me and knocked away my breath. It very much spoke to the reality in which I was living at the time.

2. I was forced to memorize (name of poem) in school and........Joyce Kilmer'sI think that I shall never see/ a poem as lovely as a tree...” Three other children and I were dressed up in colonial costumes and performed our poems in the county courtroom, for a bicentennial program of some kind. I remember being faintly irritated at having to perform in public and fairly relieved that I didn’t have trouble pronouncing any words, unlike one of my friends who repeatedly stumbled over the word “sinewy” in his poem, “The Village Blacksmith”. We were eight years old.

3. I read/don't read poetry because....I read poetry because it surprises and reassures me I am not alone. I read poetry because of my ongoing love affair with words and the beauty and meaning they can carry when they are well-placed. I read poetry because very often it says what I most long to hear and am most afraid of hearing; it speaks to a deeper part of myself than I am comfortable with, a part that cannot be denied, regardless of discomfort.

4. A poem I'm likely to think about when asked about a favorite poem is .......Mary Oliver’s “The Kingfisher” or “The Kookaburras”; Job chapters 38-41 or Psalm 104; Jane Kenyon’s “Let Evening Come”: Michael Burn’s “For my Son, Who Wants to Know What I Think About God”; Kathleen Norris’s “Afterward”; Naomi Shihab Nye’s “Why I Could Not Accept Your Invitation” or “The Art of Disappearing”.

5. I write/don't write poetry, but..............I write poetry, but I don’t feel comfortable calling myself a poet. I do sometimes, for the sake of simplicity, but it is always with a certain amount of uneasiness, as though I am claiming for myself something much bigger than I could ever understand, let alone be. In her book The Cloister Walk, Kathleen Norris draws a parallel between the poet and the prophet, a parallel deemed uncannily applicable by that inner voice which speaks the authoritative “Yes” or “No” without my having much say in the matter. Writing poetry is rarely a completely willing activity on my part; it is more like breathing when inhalation is painful.

6. My experience with reading poetry differs from my experience with reading other types of literature.....Poetry takes me deeper much faster. It is less entertaining, for the most part, and more demanding.

7. I find poetry......everywhere, in nearly everything, although sometimes I have to purposefully look for it, and I may not always like what it’s saying. Always, though, I find poetry worthwhile, although this doesn’t apply to ALL poetry. I’m picky. The good stuff, though, is continually speaking, whether in words or in images or life.

8. The last time I heard poetry....was last night. The Older Daughter read her latest creation to us at the table. The latest draft of her latest creation, I should say. I would love to go to more (or any!) official poetry readings, but getting out at night is difficult when Great Scott doesn’t get home until 7 or 8, and we live an hour away from the nearest quality readings (in good weather). I pine.

9. I think poetry is like....a shining net woven of words. If done skillfully enough, it catches and holds meaning within it, something magical and mystical and at the same time very practical.

I'm tagging anyone who'd like to tackle this, but especially Julie and Michael and Beth.


Cam said...

I enjoyed reading your responses. I've been keeping a listing of links to those who have done this meme, although I don't know how much longer I can do that so many have answered it. It's been interesting reading the variety of answers and I've learned about several poets I am unfamiliar with.

GEL said...

Thoroughly enjoyed reading this meme *because* it was poetry related! (Found you through a poetry search.) I always enjoy discovering new poets here. :)

alaiyo said...

Oh, cool! I will try this out later today!

So much more fun than grading papers!


Cindy said...

Cam--I didn't realize until I went back to your site that you created this meme. My many thanks. It's one of the better ones to which I've fallen prey. :)

Gel--Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment. Go do the meme. I bet your answers would be fascinating.

Beth--Alas. My bad influence strikes again. You know, I wonder what would happen if you were to make up a meme-style assignment for your students...

Michael said...

Ok... I have complied with your request. Hope you are satisfied now that I have spilled my guts. :)

Dorothy W. said...

Why, hi there! Thanks for the link, and I'm glad you found your way back to Cam!

alaiyo said...

Mine's up, and oh, thanks so much for keeping me from grading papers! :) I will have to keep in mind that intriguing suggestion, too.


Julie Carter said...


I have to apologize. Not only did I fiddle and fiddle and fiddle before responding to this tag, but I have the grumpiest answers. I am a dill pickle today.