For the past couple months, you’ve only been hearing from me about poetry. This month will be different. Let’s hear from the dear readers themselves! Many thanks to those of you who contributed.
First of all, what is poetry? According to Grace, poetry is for “portraying different things in the world, refreshing the soul, and beautifying different things in nature.” In a more pragmatic definition, Nicholas believes that poetry is “a series of lines written in a certain format (quatrain, sonnet) that includes a literary device (rhyme, alliteration) and expresses some sort of emotion.” Jane, on the other hand, thinks that poetry is created for enjoyment, stating, “It is a mixture of words, expressions, and imagination all blended together for us to enjoy.”
According to Corrie Anna, W. H. Auden’s quote, “Poetry is memorable speech,” sums it up. She also eloquently notes that “Poetry is many things, but most of all good poetry can impact me emotionally and sometimes even logically in ways that pedestrian prose cannot.” Taking a poetic tone of her own, Christine writes that “Poetry finds the beauty in things, digs deeper into their make and flow. It’s highly aesthetic, using meter, and rhyme, and all the different qualities of language. It tends to focus on emotions, as a way to express then. Poetry is easy to experiment with, to invoke emotions and feelings.”
Poetry, according to Will, must also have a point, explaining he expects “a short piece of literature that was written to make a point and often has rhyme to assist in reading it.” And last (but not least), Jasmine states that “poetry is using words and imagery to paint a picture of something in the reader’s mind.”
What a diversity of viewpoints! Having reviewed the many definitions and interpretations of poetry, let’s move on to the poetry that our dear readers contributed.
Four Quartets: East Coker IV
By T.S Eliot
The wounded surgeon plies the steel
That questions the distempered part;
Beneath the bleeding hands we feel
The sharp compassion of the healer’s art
Resolving the enigma of the fever chart.
Our only health is the disease
If we obey the dying nurse
Whose constant care is not to please
But to remind of our, and Adam’s curse,
And that, to be restored, our sickness must grow worse.
The whole earth is our hospital
Endowed by the ruined millionaire,
Wherein, if we do well, we shall
Die of the absolute paternal care
That will not leave us, but prevents us everywhere.
The chill ascends from feet to knees,
The fever sings in mental wires.
If to be warmed, then I must freeze
And quake in frigid purgatorial fires
Of which the flame is roses, and the smoke is briars.
The dripping blood our only drink,
The bloody flesh our only food:
In spite of which we like to think
That we are sound, substantial flesh and blood—
Again, in spite of that, we call this Friday good.
Corrie Anna, who chose this piece, says, “I love this poem, especially around this time of year. It is a Good Friday poem exploring our broken nature and Christ’s sacrifice with hospital imagery. My favorite lines are in the first stanza: ‘The sharp compassion of the healer’s art/resolving the enigma of the fever chart.’ Sometimes God’s love hurts, especially when He disciplines us, but it is so good to remember that the sharpness comes out of compassion and a desire to resolve the enigma of the fever chart.” With an extended analogy, this poem relates Christ to the cure to a sickness. Just as an illness reminds us of our human fragility, and the cure makes us thankful to be healthy again, Christ’s sacrifice saves us and gives us joy in being alive. As the school year winds to an end and standardized tests are bearing down on us, this is a great thing to remember.
[anyone lived in a pretty how town]
By e. e. cummings
anyone lived in a pretty how town
(with up so floating many bells down)
spring summer autumn winter
he sang his didn’t he danced his did.
Women and men (both little and small)
cared for anyone not at all
they sowed their isn’t they reaped their same
sun moon stars rain
children guessed (but only a few
and down they forgot as up they grew
autumn winter spring summer)
that noone loved him more by more
when by now and tree by leaf
she laughed his joy she cried his grief
bird by snow and stir by still
anyone’s any was all to her
someones married their everyones
laughed their cryings and did their dance
(sleep wake hope and then) they
said their nevers they slept their dream
stars rain sun moon
(and only the snow can begin to explain
how children are apt to forget to remember
with up so floating many bells down)
one day anyone died i guess
(and noone stooped to kiss his face)
busy folk buried them side by side
little by little and was by was
all by all and deep by deep
and more by more they dream their sleep
noone and anyone earth by april
wish by spirit and if by yes.
Women and men (both dong and ding)
summer autumn winter spring
reaped their sowing and went their came
sun moon stars rain
Regarding this fine poem, Christine says that she enjoys it because it is “legitimately random words, mashed together into some semblance of order that actually makes sense when you read it together. That’s the beauty of words, isn’t it? And Cummings takes it to a new level with almost no capitalization or punctuation… to narrate a story of a town that keeps going, without caring, and two who fell in love in the chaos (“anyone” and “noone”). They are the unique in the ordinary town with its mundane routine and life, its forgetfulness and its swiftly passing time… This is a strange poem, definitely, ahead of its time with its startling syntax, [but] not even the more bizarre of Cummings’ many poems.” I, too, loved this poem (and considered featuring it in my columns several times). Despite its nonsensical wording (how does someone “dance their did”?), the poem’s rhythm saves it from becoming absolutely impenetrable. The author’s flippant tone, generic naming, and repetition of the seasons reduces the significance of a single life. Death is neither good nor bad; it is only a stage of life, the inevitable end. Even so, Cummings makes us feel the attachment of the two characters, juxtaposing the merciless nature of time with the human emotions and tragedies linked to life. This is not unlike the way a school year trudges on, breaks arriving in a repetitious, predictable cycle.
By Nicholas Shey
The frantic-fast stream || filled with fish
While slow snails || wandered by verdant vegetation
We walked and wondered || at the watercourse
That flowed under fences || and through fuzzy ferns
Cats cavorted the shores, watching || water carrying
Ducks drifting || to diverse destinations
Supplying shelters || with saturation
This rush-running river || refreshed and regulated
By a twisting tangle || of tan-rusted tubes
Cascading water || into clear-crisp creek
Some sibilant summers || drawing it serpentine-like
Crickets hid in cattails || and called, cried out
Bullfrogs nestled in banks || with their baritone croaks
Announcing to all || the acridly ebbing noonday
Wonderful was the word || to describe this waterway
This soon changed || when the sun faded faster
Dreary days || rusted into dim dusk
Daylight is such || strict, unforgiving master
No herald halted || bold and brusque
To warn us of || coming damp disaster
Bleak nights || bitter blights
In the gloom || gloaming clouds
Floated forebodingly under || the shrouded sun
Rain rode || on the rowdy wind
Down to the dirt || Moistening the mud
Submerging the short || and fuzzy ferns
Soaking the snails || and dropping dew
Dousing the ducks || with devastating drops
Fish flopped || out of the seething stream
Spreading out || into the sludge
The sturdy shores || disintegrated disastrously
Thunder crashed || lightning cracked
The tempestuous firmament || torched by stars
Full fathom five || lay marred memories
Retired from reality || we reflected in reveries
Watching for || what the sky would bestow
For though the heavens || misted with rain
Through it we || perceived faint glow
Crystalline clouds || although they were plain
Levitated past || a resplendent rainbow
Nicholas, who authored this poem himself, wrote it in the style of medieval epics. “I like how this poem is modeled after medieval poetry, with the alliterative strophe, the rhyming bob and wheel, and the caesuras.” Each “||” corresponds to a comma-like pause in the poem. His poem cohesively portrays a tumultuous scene with smooth, facile language, achieved through alliteration and rhyme. As we look forward to summer vacation, we can imagine spending time enjoying the drama and beauty of nature.
By John Masefield
I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.
I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.
I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.
About this rollicking, rhyming poem, Jane gives three reasons she enjoys it: “1. I love the sea, and this poem is about the sea. 2. It is rhythmical, and poems with rhythm in them are better to read. 3. There is a song based on it, and I really like music.” Indeed, song lyrics can be classified as poetry, and poetry can be classified as song–the line between poetry and music is a fuzzy one. This poem is especially appropriate as we approach summer. Many of us may be experiencing “sea fever” in anticipation of a fun vacation.
I Never Saw A Moor
By Emily Dickinson
I never saw a Moor–
I never saw the Sea–
Yet know I how the Heather looks
And what a Billow be.
I never spoke with God
Nor visited in Heaven–
Yet certain am I of the spot
As if the Checks were given–
Will, who selected this poem, likes it because it is a “simple, yet profound statement of trusting God and having complete faith in him.” Despite never having seen the sea or a moor, Dickinson is content to trust that these things do exist, and despite never having spoken in the conventional sense with God, Dickinson has faith that He does exist. For the graduating seniors who are setting off on new adventures, this poem communicates a comforting message – to have faith that as long as we try our best, we will end up where we need to be.
That wraps up my column for this year. I hope that you continue to enjoy poetry over the summer, and that my column inspired you to check out new poems and revisit old poetry.