A poem a day

When was the last time you read a poem?

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees

for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body

love what it loves.

–Mary Oliver

Does this poem do for you what it does for me?  Mainly, it helps me remember, on uncertain days, that breathing IS enough.  It is everything.

I have let poetry befriend me again, thanks to my high school BFF, Nette, who shares poems with me, like the one above.  All her life, Nette has sought refuge and delight in poetry and has enticed me to do the same.  Although she doesn’t call herself a poet, she writes poetry.  And now, all of a sudden, I’m writing poetry!   It is how my words want to find themselves.

Think back.  Was poetry a part of your youth?  Surely you studied poetry in school.  Are there any poems that come to your surface?  In high school, when I was a baby hippie, this was a favorite poem by that San Francisco hipster Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

Marc Chagall
Marc Chagall

Don’t Let That Horse . . .

by Lawrence Ferlinghetti 

Don’t let that horse
eat that violin

cried Chagall’s mother

But he
kept right on

And became famous

And kept on painting
The Horse With Violin In Mouth

And when he finally finished it
he jumped up upon the horse
and rode away
waving the violin

And then with a low bow gave it
to the first naked nude he ran across
And there were no strings

Surely you have a poem that springs to your memory mind.  What is it?

Poems are economical in both space and time.   You don’t have to make a great commitment of hours and days to get the enduring soul benefits.   A poem begs to be reread often and provides pleasure every time you visit.  Poems are fun to perform.   Read one aloud and see what it does for you.

Reciting a poem at a party makes you a memorable guest.   I mean, who gets poetry recited to them these days?  No one.  I bet you have a poem inside of you that you had to memorize for school.   Mine is Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Concord Hymn.”

By the rude bridge that arched the flood

Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled

Here once the embattled farmers stood

And fired the shot heard round the world

 Going back even further, here is a favorite childhood poem from “A Child’s Garden of Verses.”  I still own this dear, tattered book.  I can smell the Coppertone, hear the ice clinking in the frozen orange juice of my mother’s green cooler,  feel the sand under a certain blue-check beach towel.

At the Sea-Side
By Robert Louis Stevenson  

When I was down beside the sea
A wooden spade they gave to me
To dig the sandy shore.
My holes were empty like a cup.
In every hole the sea came up
Till it could hold no more.

Isn’t it amazing that he could write a sweet poem like this and also write “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”?

To put poetry back into your life, you can get a poem a day emailed to you by www.poets.org

 The Poetry Foundation is another great site to poke around.

BONUS TIME!  For an introduction to THE hot, new, young poet of today, read the fascinating New York Times profile of Tricia Lockwood,  The Smutty-Metaphor Queen of Lawrence, Kansas.  With a title like that, how could you not read it?  It doesn’t disappoint and it’s an intriguing look into the lives of young people today — always a good thing to drop in on.

Then, there’s the review of her newest book, “Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals.”

How do you feel about poetry?  Do you have a favorite poem you can share with us?  We’d love to read it, really we would.

xo Liza

P.S.  If you are daunted by trying to write poetry, don’t worry about writing good poetry, just try writing bad poetry.  There, that should free you.

P.P.S.  Here’s the thing:  there’s no such thing as bad poetry!  All poems are good poems.

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7 thoughts on “A poem a day

  1. I’ll never be able to say just “nude” again. It’s “naked nude” from now on! I’m digging out my A.A. Milne 1950 copy of Now We are Six, (first edition in 1927), my favorite source for poetry when I was very young. I memorized a dozen or more of the poems before I was seven. Oddly, many people think Milne only wrote Winnie Pooh but he actually wrote 5 children’s books, plus a couple more of just songs related to his books and characters.

    1. Chloe, so glad you dug out your A.A. Milne. I look forward to your reciting some verse in the near future. And so glad that “naked nude” has tickled you too. From now on, naked nude it is!

  2. Where I’m From
    Ellen Nichols March 2014

    I’m from airplane rides to California,
    No coffee, no peanuts and no pretzels on board
    and lots of tired crowded, grey people.
    But then I’m from a “Welcome, Mom and Dad!” sign
    And rushing down the escalator toward two faces
    that look different from each other, but a lot like me.
    Maybe this is my new home
    At least my home away from home.

    I’m from trips to California,
    The cold untouchable Pacific ocean yielding magnificent sunsets
    I’m from a happy, bright dining room, a small kitchen
    a mantle of photos of people, all dear.
    I’m from a dinner made by my daughter
    Cooking for me, sharing her loves, driving me to her favorite spots.
    Showing me she is her own person. Making me proud.

    I’m from trips to California
    City life, edgy, interesting
    I’m from early morning walks to coffee, and reading
    the newspaper outside in the sunshine in February.
    I’m from sailing on the bay, and under the great bridge
    Gazing at the gray battleships, but feeling only peace.
    And I’m from caring daughter hands, taking aches and pains away
    Showing me her craft. Making me proud.

    I’m still from 40 years ago,
    I’m from young, from everything is ahead of me.
    But everything is behind me too.
    And everything is before me again.
    I’m from how did this happen? How do I have so many memories
    Already a lifetime, but still a lifetime to go.

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