Sharing My Delight
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 She also enjoyed writing verse, not for publication, for her own enjoyment.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?