Posted June 1, 2007on:
It’s strange how maintaining a book blog has changed my reading life; group activities that were scorned in real life are eagerly joined on-line. First I ended up in two –two!– book groups and now not only have I committed to a reading challenge –a reading challenge!– but a blogroll game.
Assign yourself 4 poems you have not really read:
1 poem written before 1900
1 poem written 1900-2000
1 poem written in 2000-2007
1 poem you’re intimidated by, find mysterious, or simply don’t understand, from any period.
Part of why I joined was that I have not been spending any real time with poetry as of late and saw this as a way to help me get back on track. I may have made a fatal mistake with two of my selections (you’ll know which ones) but hey, no guts no glory.
1 poem written before 1900: Paradise Lost by John Milton
1 poem written before 1900 – 2000: a pick from Without End: New and Selected Poems by Adam Zagajewski
1 poem written in 2000 – 2007: a pick from Talking Dirty to the Gods by Yusef Komunyakaa
1 poem…from any period: The Story of Layla and Majnun by Nezami
What really convinced me that this was a good idea was Ted’s apt description of what poetry can do.
Poems do things with words that prose does not – that might seem obvious – but we pretty much all use words everyday and have a certain expectation of how they’re meant to be used – we’re supposed to explain our point clearly and, generally, economically, if possible. But poems use words purely for the sake of structure, texture, sound, how they look on the page, their aim may not be clarity but instead obscurity, poking fun, doing what we’re not supposed to do, or expressing private matters in a secret code. We pretty much accept that paint and clay can be used non-representationally, we know that space can curve, that light can be conceived of as both a particle and a wave, but when words challenge our expectations…