Poetry Thief

Sharing My Delight

Two of My Favorites

            Poetry has been part of my life since forever, or so it seems. It’s a Latvian thing, but not just a Latvian thing. People around the world love poetry.

           Latvians write verse into greeting cards that already come with verse printed inside. It makes the greetings more personal. My mother would burst into spontaneous poetry reciting when the mood struck. She also enjoyed writing verse, not for publication, for her own enjoyment. We always had books of poetry at home. Latvian kids don’t get Christmas gifts just for being kids. We had to earn them. Come December, local Latvian associations had Christmas celebrations just for children. We had to sing a song or recite a verse in order to receive our gift. I still remember the poem I recited about white snowflakes falling on pine needles.

            I confess. In one high school English class paperback anthologies of poetry were handed out to the students at the beginning of the semester. It was comprised of poems from Chaucer to Frost. At the end of the semester the teacher collected the anthologies. I “forgot” to return mine. I still have it. I have no regrets about my “forgetfulness.”

            My high school friends and I had intellectual pretentions. We read heavy duty novels by Russians—Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, and Pasternak. I also went through a Steinbeck and Erich Maria Remarque phase that went way beyond All Quiet on the Western Front. We wrote stories as well as read them. We admired the art of Salvador Dali. For graduation one of my girl friends gave me a collection of poetry by T.S. Eliot. I still have that book, too. I still admire his work.

            I have never stopped reading poetry. Poetry lifts my spirits. It makes me smile. It makes me think. I don’t always understand the poetry I read. That doesn’t matter. There are pleasures in verse that go beyond analyzing the meaning. I read and re-read my favorites and eventually understanding blossoms.

            Two of my favorite poets are Billy Collins and Marge Piercy. This morning I read six poems, three by each of them. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that there were poems in both books that I haven’t read. My favorite verses may get ten, twenty readings, while others get overlooked.

           Okay. I just went online and read a fourth poem by Collins, “Introduction to Poetry.” He wants readers to “waterski across the surface of a poem” and not try to torture meaning out of it. When I was majoring in English I had more than enough of “beating them with a hose to find out what (they) really mean.” Now I’m content to water ski across the surface. That’s one reason I love Collins’ poetry. Their surfaces are eminently skiable. Sometimes I fall off the surface and into the deeper meaning of the verse.

            Marge Piercy writes very sensuous poetry. She writes about old shoes, her heavy purse and “Persimmon Pudding.” Who knew persimmon pudding could be so sexy? Piercy uses lush, vivid imagery, which brings to life the objects she writes about. I will never look at old shoes the same way again. In my favorite of her poems, she compares the full moon to a white cat. In another beloved poem, toes are like mushrooms.

            Poetry teaches me to see. Poetry teaches me that others have the same feelings as I. I am not alone in the world.

           I try to get my friends to read and love poetry. I’ve had no success that I’m aware of. Those who like poetry continue to like it. Those who don’t, don’t. I’m going to keep trying. How can I not share what I love with those whom I love?

Sidewalk Verse, Pt. Defiance Park,
Tacoma, Washington

6 thoughts on “Poetry Thief”

  1. I’ve always admired folks who’ve memorized reams of poetry and can break into spontaneous recitation. I love poetry, as I love music. Not sure why I don’t spend as much time as I might with either.

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    1. So do I, Judy. I mostly remember fragments. I feel the same about poetry and music as you. I haven’t been listening to much music, either. Sometimes we need silence. I’ve been trying to listen to music and read poetry more.

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  2. I like poetry, too, but a different kind. Kipling’s heart-stirring “The Explorer” is one of my favorites.

    THERE’S no sense in going further—it’s the edge of cultivation,”
    So they said, and I believed it—broke my land and sowed my crop—
    Built my barns and strung my fences in the little border station
    Tucked away below the foothills where the trails run out and stop.
    Till a voice, as bad as Conscience, rang interminable changes 5
    On one everlasting Whisper day and night repeated—so:
    “Something hidden. Go and find it. Go and look behind the Ranges—
    “Something lost behind the Ranges. Lost and waiting for you. Go!”

    The Explorer” braved every adversity known to mankind and followed his inner voice until he found riches beyond belief, then summed it up in the final line:
    “Anybody might have found it but—His Whisper came to Me!”

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