This is not going to be a philosophical discussion about how we should appreciate the beauty of the smaller things in life, about how poetry lies in a child’s smile or a mother’s hand. No, I am going to talk about how poetry affects our lives. Even the lives of those who don’t really read poetry.
Poetry is born from emotions. Love, heartbreak, anger, disgust, hope, hopelessness, nostalgia. Poetry is born when we feel something, and for this very reason, is as powerful as it always has been. When done right, of course.
My childhood included a lot of poetry. For this, I have my school textbooks to thank. From nursery rhymes- aren’t they poetry? They capture an emotion. Joy. Childhood. Happiness. Silliness. Yes, they’re poetry – to Shakespeare.
Row, row, row your boat,
Gently down the stream,
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
Life is but a dream.
Life lesson right there.
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
Don’t sit on huge walls. Great advice on how to stay alive.
When we grew up, it only got better. The first one I remember was Rain in summer by H. W. Longfellow. I still remember our amusement with that name. But his words couldn’t be more true.
How beautiful is the rain,
After the dust and heat,
In the broad and fiery street
Living in India, I couldn’t have appreciated it more. I could all but see it. Actually, I think I did.
Wordsworth with his Daffodils.
I came across this one a couple of times. At first, it was just something about a yellow flower I’d never seen. And then it was about how you keep certain memories and you bring them up when you’re sad, or pensive, or lonely, and their warmth lights you up from the inside. And he called it Daffodils.
We all had Road not taken by Robert Frost, more than once. I took it literally the first time,had no idea what the big deal was all about. It was just a guy taking a walk. And then years later,
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.
I can’t say I know what he’s talking about. I don’t think I have that kind of courage.
We had a fun poem about the English language once.
If I speak of my foot and show you my feet,
And I give you a boot, would a pair be called beet?
If one is a tooth and a whole set are teeth,
Why shouldn’t the plural of booth be called beeth?
Then the masculine pronouns are he, his and him,
But imagine the feminine: she, shis and shim!
English is a beautiful language.
I discovered Tennyson.
Home they brought her warrior dead:
She nor swooned, nor uttered cry:
All her maidens, watching, said,
‘She must weep or she will die.’
Then they praised him, soft and low,
Called him worthy to be loved,
Truest friend and noblest foe;
Yet she neither spoke nor moved.
Stole a maiden from her place,
Lightly to the warrior stepped,
Took the face-cloth from the face;
Yet she neither moved nor wept.
Rose a nurse of ninety years,
Set his child upon her knee—
Like summer tempest came her tears—
‘Sweet my child, I live for thee.’
It was the first time I heard words work together like that. Like music. I learnt that poetic license had a purpose, and that my mind could make music.
Poetry has made a mark, if I liked it or not. There’s too many that did, to cover in one go. Stay tuned!