Poetry has been around for centuries. It preceded written language, instead being sung or spoken aloud. As to be expected, a form of art with such an extensive past is bound to be filled with a fascinating history. But instead of writing paragraph upon paragraph about the history of poetry, dating back thousands of years, here are some random, wacky, and fun facts about poets and poetry you might not have known.
Concerning poems and poetry itself, April is National Poetry Month, and March 21st is World Poetry Day. Metrophobia is the fear of poetry. The Epic of Gilgamesh is thought to be the oldest surviving work of fictional writing, while the Mahabharata is the longest poem in the world. It is an Indian epic about two families fighting for a throne. It has around 100,000 verses, roughly 1.8 million words, and is written by Krishna-Dwaipayan Vyasa, who made himself a character in the epic.
The interesting facts don’t stop when it comes to the poets themselves. Ricardo Eliezer Neftali Reyes y Basoalto, better known under his pen name Pablo Neruda, a politician and poet, preferred to write in green ink. George MacDonald wrote a poem titled “The Shortest and Sweetest of Songs”, containing only two words: Come Home. E.E. Cummings wrote a collection of poems called No Thanks that he dedicated to himself after it was turned down by fourteen editors. Emma Lazarus is the author of the poem, “The New Colossus”, at the base of the Statue of Liberty. Conrad Potter Aiken, a winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, allegedly wanted his headstone to be shaped like a bench “so poetry lovers could sit there and enjoy a drink or two” (Bobb).
Shel Silverstein wrote many songs that are famous today, a large majority being performed by well-known singers. Some of these songs include “A Boy Named Sue”, sung by Johnny Cash, “One’s on the Way” by Loretta Lynn, “Queen of the Silver” by Emmylou Harris, and many more. Sometimes he would perform them, or write songs for himself, but many of them were only sung by popular artists.
Lord Byron, a poet who deeply cared for his Newfoundland, Boatswain, was told dogs were forbidden at Trinity College in Cambridge where he was attending school. So, instead of bringing Boatswain, he purchased a bear, who he would take for walks around the school campus on a leash.
Gottlob Wilhelm Burmann, a German poet, is best known for his severe dislike for the letter “R”. He hated it so much that he wrote around 130 poems without ever using the letter and apparently refused to say his name for years. On the contrary, James McIntyre, a Canadian poet, has been hailed as “The Cheese Poet” due to the fact that he almost completely wrote about cheese. While understandable, as he lived in a country known for delectable cheeses, the lines between love and obsession appear a bit blurred for him.
Poet William McGonagall, first a Shakespearean actor who famously refused to die on stage as Macbeth one time, is best known for his horrible poetry. But, somewhat impressively, he refused to listen to his friends who tried to tell him how bad he was and continued doing the thing he loved most in his own unique style.
Ford, in 1995, requested help in naming their new group of cars from Marianne Moore, a poetess known for her precise diction, “capable of suggesting a variety of ideas and associations within a single, compact image” (Poets.org). She gave them a rather lengthy list, some of the names including, “Thunderblender,” “The Intelligent Whale,” “Mongoose Civique,” “The Impeccable,” and “Bullet Lavolta.” Ford didn’t like any of her suggestions and settled on the name “Edsel” instead…it never took off.
Hopefully you have enjoyed these random facts, and have a wonderful March!
Puchko, Kristy. 15 Things You Might Not Know About Your Favorite Poets. Mental Floss. April 19, 2018. www.mentalfloss.com/article/539685/things-you-might-not-know-about-your-favorite-poets Accessed January 17, 2021.
“Pablo Neruda.” Poets.org. poets.org/poet/pablo-neruda Accessed January 17, 2021.
Zaleski, Annie. “Top 10 Country Songs You Might Not Know Shel Silverstein Wrote.” The Boot. September 25, 2020. theboot.com/country-songs-written-by-shel-silverstein/ Accessed January 17, 2021.
“The Shortest and Sweetest of Songs.” Scottish Poetry Library. www.scottishpoetrylibrary.org.uk/poem/shortest-and-sweetest-songs/ Accessed January 17, 2021.
Basu, Anindita. “Mahabharata.” Ancient History Encyclopedia. August 25, 2016. www.ancient.eu/Mahabharata/ Accessed January 17, 2021.
“Mahabharata.” New World Encyclopedia. www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/mahabharata Accessed January 17, 2021.
“National Poetry Month.” Poets.org. poets.org/national-poetry-month Accessed January 17, 2021.
“World Poetry Day 21 March.” United Nations. www.un.org/en/observances/world-poetry-day Accessed January 17, 2021.
Schlottman, Andrea. “150 Interesting Facts About Our Favorite Authors [Infographic].” Books on the Wall. booksonthewall.com/blog/10-interesting-facts-10-famous-authors/ Accessed January 17, 2021.
Fritscher, Lisa. “Coping with Metrophobia or the Fear of Poetry.” Very Well Mind. Updated on July 21, 2019. www.verywellmind.com/metrophobia-fear-of-poetry-2671870 Accessed January 17, 2021.
“Statue of Liberty.” National Park Service. www.nps.gov/stli/learn/historyculture/colossus.htm Accessed January 17, 2021.
“Knight of the White Elephant of Burmah William McGonagall.” Poetry Foundation. www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/william-mcgonagall Accessed January 17, 2021.
“James McIntyre.” Poem Hunter. www.poemhunter.com/james-mcintyre/biography/ Accessed January 17, 2021.
Edwards, Bobb. “Conrad Aiken.” Find a Grave. www.findagrave.com/memorial/2624/conrad-aiken Accessed January 17, 2021.
Staff, Harriet. “The Ford Fabergé, by Marianne Moore.” Poetry Foundation. www.poetryfoundation.org/harriet/2012/02/the-ford-faberge-by-marianne-moore Accessed January 17, 2021.
“Marianne Moore.” Poets.org. poets.org/poet/marianne-moore Accessed January 19, 2021.