No Happiness Like Mine

Blog entry
Authored by
24 April, 2008

Ink runs from the corners of my mouth.
There is no happiness like mine.
I have been eating poetry.

- Mark Strand

Karen's Weekend Assignment this week is a celebration of National Poetry Month, and I've been looking forward to writing this entry ever since I read the assignment last weekend. Now, I think I'm too late for the assignment's deadline. (Doesn't matter; I want to write it, so I'll write it. That's the point, after all.)

So what happened?

Too often, I don't make time for the things I want to do, especially writing, drawing, making music.

I will do better.

. . . . .

I never used to read poetry. Then, somehow, sometime in the past ten years, I started to love it.

Maybe it started when I made the poetry calendar. I used to make calendars for my family and friends, with a different theme every year. One year, I did poets. That might have been when I got a glimpse into the world I was missing.

I know part of it had to do with Billy Collins. I think he must be my favorite living poet (although I've also developed quite a fondness for Wendy Cope). Poems like "As If to Demonstrate an Eclipse" brim with such a deep and beautiful love for life, they fill me with joy, and wonder:

" ... I begin to sing
a homemade canticle of thanks"

And I remember sitting in the dark, listening to him read "The Lanyard," the sound of my voice gasping in the quiet, the humor melting into awareness and regret.

. . . . .

The Poetry 180 collection Billy Collins edited introduced me to dozens of poets I wanted to know better. To my surprise, Garrison Keillor's Good Poems and Good Poems for Hard Times did, too. I'm used to finding only one gem, or two, in an anthology, but all three of these collections were full of poems that delighted me and moved me.

. . . . .

For a while last year, I was taking the bus regularly, and to occupy my mind during the trip, I decided to memorize some poems. A battered 50-cent paperback collection of "modern verse" offered hundreds of choices, and I alternated those with "Metamorphosis" (Billy Collins) and "Do Not Go Gentle Into that Dark Night" (Dylan Thomas) and "The Waking" (Theodore Roethke). From the modern verse collection, I learned "Recuerdo" by Edna St. Vincent Millay and "Ars Poetica" by Archibald Macleish - and several by Robert Frost. I don't know how it happened that I graduated from college without having read much Robert Frost (when I run the world, students will read poetry every day!), but this was my first real encounter with "The Road Not Taken." It's wonderful how learning each word of a poem by heart leads to the heart of the poem, wonderful how attention nourishes love. There are longer Frost poems I'd like to learn one day, stanza by stanza, until I know them whole.

. . . . .

I, too, write poems, if not that well;
For me, the doing is reason enough.
Though I long to pen sonnet and villanelle,
I don't turn my nose up at easier stuff.
I'd rather turn out something simple and rough
than set the bar high and write nothing at all.
I don't mind a page filled with filler or fluff -
I may swing and miss, but my eye's on the ball.
I'm willing to leap, and I'm willing to fall -
for I know I can always revise and improve,
and I know I can't run without learning to crawl,
and I know I can't fly without daring to move.

Giving myself the time and the push to write lets me find out what I think.

Reading the poems others have written lets me see inside them, a little, and also learn a bit about how they learned to build those windows.