The Books of My Numberless Dreams

Poetry Meme

Posted on: November 24, 2006

This one was created by Cam at Cam’s Commentary. If asked I would say that I read poetry as passionately as I do fiction but not as often. Perhaps the frequency undermines my professed passion? I also feel more confident discussing fiction than poetry–more practice–but ya never know…

1. The first poem I remember reading/hearing/reacting to.

Do psalms, the liturgy for the Eucharist and hymns count? My first memories of responding to anything poetic was religious. The 23rd, the 27th and the 121st psalm, the Apostle’s Creed, the Agnus Dei, the hymns…the rhythm, the melody, the history of the words were a huge part of what drew and held me to the Anglican faith when most of my friends thought the traditional service a bore.

2. I was forced to memorize (name of poem) in school and

I don’t remember. We were usually forced to memorize proverbs and twee sayings about finding the silver lining in every cloud. My first clear memory of having to learn poems at school was in grade 4 for the annual Elocution competition that was held among school houses every year. I am tempted to say that mine was Jack Prelutsky’s Homework! Oh, Homework!, but I am pretty sure that was a fellow house member’s. I probably got a Shel Silverstein because I remember one of the house teacher’s flipping through Where the Sidewalk Ends to find a poem for me.

3. I read/don’t read poetry because it is in my blood. I don’t know how to get any clearer than that. When a poem really hits me I feel it in my heart pulses, rushing through my head, causing shivers all over.

4. A poem I’m likely to think about when asked about a favorite poem is, at the moment Tithonus by Tennyson. On another day it would be For My Mother (May I Inherit Half Her Strength) by Lorna Goodison. Or Divorce by Irving Layton. There’s a Borges poem that wants to peep out and, oh crap, Cam mentioned Donne!

5. I write/don’t write poetry, but nothing I guess. I did the usual teenage scribblings but they were universally awful.

6. My experience with reading poetry differs from my experience with reading other types of literature because of its length, most obviously. The impact of events, ideas and emotions hit me that much harder because it is so compact. I am more attuned to rhythm and to how sentence structure affects it and the meaning. It is also more musical, for me, especially the ones done in ballad or epic form. (Especially for Tolkien’s which were crying out for musical accompaniment.) I used to create melodies and chants for them…not so much anymore.

7. I find poetry these days in short quotations or references in novels or published ones in lit journals. Sometimes I plug in a random keyword in Bartleby verse search and browse through the results–that’s how I discovered Carl Sandburg.

8. The last time I heard poetry was when I read it to myself. I have never been to a poetry reading.

9. I think poetry is like academic classicist art–wildly under-appreciated and only brought out to serve utilitarian purposes rather than being appreciated solely for its excellence, beauty and power.

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10 Responses to "Poetry Meme"

Thanks for doing the meme. I enjoyed reading your answers. As an Anglican too, I have to agree with your assessment of the poeticalness of the rite — something I didn’t get until I was a middle-aged adult, years after leaving the Catholic church. Your answer to #4 — ‘oh crap Cam mentioned Donne’ – made me laugh aloud!

BTW — love the title of your blog.

Well, I had been trying to keep my list short but all these ideas were coming in and then you had to go and include Donne. 😉

It was a great meme, thanks for creating and checking mine out. I admit that I responded to the poetry of the liturgy before I even understood the concept.

I do like your last answer – wish I’d thought of that myself!

Thanks lit! I’ve always been slightly disappointed that people only think of poetry when it’s Valentine’s Day, for marriage proposals and so on, rather than a more natural part of every day life.

A lot of great answers–and a lovely blog. I’m glad to have found you, Imani!–Anne (from Fernham)

Aww, thanks Anne for dropping by and for the compliments. I am rather excited by the fact that my blog is so new and that a few people like it all ready.

Hi imani–

Thanks for popping by for a little skirmish!

I made an anthology for my daughter’s class when she was in fifth grade–I remember that she memorized Puck’s final speech from MND and one of the Kathleen Raine “spell” poems. The marvelous “Spell for Creation,” I think it was. I imagine you would like Raine, given the poets you mention elsewhere. Counterpoint published her collected poems not long ago.

Oh, thank you for being so diplomatic and welcoming. I like good arguments with good people. Thanks for the poetry recommendation–I am always on the lookout for new works.

Kathleen Raine called Yeats and Blake her masters. You will like her!

As I approve of a youngsters that has something from the old man inside him, so I ‘m no less pleased with an existing man that has something of the youth. He that follows this particular rule may be old in body, but tend to never be so planned.

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