Arts & Culture

Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

For most of the school year, faithful (and unfaithful) readers, you’ve heard solely from me about my opinions and interpretations concerning the world of poetry. While that’s a fine and dandy way to carry on with a column, it appears to be about time that we hear from the connoisseurs of clay themselves! So, without further ado, let’s hear our fellow TPSers’ thoughts on poetry!

What Does Poetry Mean to You?
According to Carolyn, poetry is the process of “pouring out what emotions you’re feeling at the moment and expressing that through words so you can convey it to your reader.”

Rebekah observes poetry’s ability to evoke emotions, stating that “If it is a sad poem, I feel sad; if it is a happy poem, I start to feel happy.”

Grace eloquently explains that poetry is a way to distill truth. “Precise, concise, artistic language–following a purposefully chosen pattern of organization–that comes at truth slant-wise to slide it straight into readers’ hearts.”

Abigail voices her opinion that poetry must have meaning. “Poetry, to me, is a song without music. Poetry should have meaning and layers to it. It does not have to rhyme, but it must flow like music.”

Lastly, Aaron states his unique point of view on poetry: “Poetry is when you get to write something that makes no sense, but just put it in verses and center-aligned, and it becomes nationally acclaimed.” While there may be a little more to it than that, for those who are intimidated by what might seem like the monumentally difficult challenge of writing a poem, I hope those are encouraging words.

Favorite Poems

Oh, the Places You’ll Go! (excerpt, see full work here)
Dr. Seuss 

Congratulations!
Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places! You’re off and away!
You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.
You’ll look up and down streets. Look ‘em over with care. About some you will say, “I don’t choose to go there.”
With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet, you’re too smart to go down any not-so-good street.
And you may not find any you’ll want to go down.
In that case, of course,
you’ll head straight out of town.
It’s opener there
in the wide open air.
Out there things can happen and frequently do
to people as brainy
and footsy as you.
And when things start to happen, don’t worry. Don’t stew.
Just go right along.
You’ll start happening too.
OH!
THE PLACES YOU’LL GO!

Carolyn, the TPSer who picked this poem (or shall I say book) loves “…the way Dr. Seuss uses rhyme and just how fun it sounds. I think as a kid poetry seemed a little scary since most of what I read had a serious tone to it, so when I read this poem, I was able to enjoy it.” Despite Dr. Seuss’ reputation as a children’s book author, this poem is as applicable to an 18-year-old high school senior as to an 8-year-old child. The rhyme in the poem is enjoyable, as are the many made-up words that Dr. Seuss incorporated, such as “mind-maker-upper” and “winning-est winner,” which make exaggerated statements more endearing.

Rain in Summer (excerpt, see full work here)

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

How beautiful is the rain!
After the dust and heat,
In the broad and fiery street,
In the narrow lane,
How beautiful is the rain!
How it clatters along the roofs,
Like the tramp of hoofs
How it gushes and struggles out
From the throat of the overflowing spout!
Across the window-pane
It pours and pours;
And swift and wide,
With a muddy tide,
Like a river down the gutter roars
The rain, the welcome rain!
The sick man from his chamber looks
At the twisted brooks;
He can feel the cool
Breath of each little pool;
His fevered brain
Grows calm again,
And he breathes a blessing on the rain.
From the neighboring school
Come the boys,
With more than their wonted noise
And commotion;
And down the wet streets
Sail their mimic fleets,
Till the treacherous pool
Ingulfs them in its whirling
And turbulent ocean.
In the country, on every side,
Where far and wide,
Like a leopard’s tawny and spotted hide,
Stretches the plain,
To the dry grass and the drier grain
How welcome is the rain!
In the furrowed land
The toilsome and patient oxen stand;
Lifting the yoke encumbered head,
With their dilated nostrils spread,
They silently inhale
The clover-scented gale,
And the vapors that arise
From the well-watered and smoking soil.
For this rest in the furrow after toil
Their large and lustrous eyes
Seem to thank the Lord,
More than man’s spoken word.

Rebekah says, “In the summer, when a storm is coming up, I wait outside for it, because I love the smell of rain.” Most of us are eagerly awaiting summertime and its attendant smells and sights, which Frost masterfully captures in the imagery of this poem. Not only does he describe the experience of a summer rain, he also portrays the various reactions of people and animals, from a sick man lying indoors, to children coming from school, to an ox in a field.

Mythopoeia (excerpt, see full work here)

J. R. R. Tolkien

To one [C.S. Lewis] who said that myths were lies and therefore worthless, even though ‘breathed through silver’.
Philomythus to Misomythus
You look at trees and label them just so,
(for trees are ‘trees’, and growing is ‘to grow’);
you walk the earth and tread with solemn pace
one of the many minor globes of Space:
a star’s a star, some matter in a ball
compelled to courses mathematical
amid the regimented, cold, inane,
where destined atoms are each moment slain.

Grace says about this poem, “It talks about the true roots and beauty of poetry and ends with the poet’s destiny in Heaven, all in Tolkien’s beautiful, awe-inspiring diction. It’s basically a really good purpose statement for a Christian poet.” This poem stems from a challenge that C. S. Lewis, author of the Narnia series, made to J. R. R. Tolkien, author of the Lord of the Rings series. Lewis told Tolkien that he viewed myths as lies that were worthless, even if they were “breathed through silver.” The subtitle of the poem, Philomythus to Misomythus, means “from a myth-lover to a myth-hater (or person who is at least skeptical about myths).” Tolkien made his rebuttal to Lewis’ “myth-hating” in this poem; according to him, a life without belief in some kind of magic or divinity lacks significant meaning. His poetic statement of these beliefs is more moving and vivid than an organized argument, particularly with the specific imagery he introduces, such as how he “will not walk with your progressive apes” instead of directly defying the ideas of modern science or progress. This poem is a masterful and intriguing example of the value of poetry in persuasion and in asking readers to ponder certain topics.

Comment below with recommendations for poetry that TPSers can check out over the summer! I hope you feel inspired to continue exploring the works of great poets, and maybe even craft a few masterpieces yourself.

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