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Scholar, Writer, Mother, Dreamer. Editor of Luminarium, an online library for English Literature of the Middle Ages and Renaissance.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Nine Questions about Poetry - Poetry Meme

Via scribblingwoman

1. The first poem I remember reading/hearing/reacting to was...
Pikku-Minnan Mollamaija, a Finnish poem about a little girl who has neglected her forgotten ragdoll, made of green fabric. My most beloved doll ever was my own green ragdoll, and I wasn't always a good mommy, ignoring her for days... once I decided to give her a haircut, and my aunt had to give her new yarn-hair. I still can't hear this poem without crying my eyes out. You KNOW I cried in Toy Story 2 when the little cowgirl doll sang about how her girl forgot about her. My sister and I were a weepy mess for the next 15 minutes of the movie.

2. I was forced to memorize Poe's "Annabel Lee" in school and........
I lost my heart to poetry then and there. Later, my love for the poem was further enforced when I read Nabokov's Lolita for the first time—some of you may remember I included it in my post on "The Great American Novel."

3. I read/don't read poetry because....
I do read poetry—mostly of the Renaissance and 17th Century. Editing Luminarium, one could call it an "occupational hazard." But I also love more recent poems. In the 20th century, I love Yeats best, and of the current poets I most prefer Alice Walker, who wrote:

Africa on a Tiger's Back

There are no Tigers
      in Africa
You say.
I know. I say.
But they are
      very beautiful.

4. A poem I'm likely to think about when asked about a favourite poem is .......

When You are Old
by William Butler Yeats

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

4.5: There are some poets/poems that I don't like or don't understand...

Yes. I don't like Wallace Stevens. Don't flame me—I'm allowed not to like him.

I placed a jar in Tennessee,
And round it was, upon a hill.
It made the slovenly wilderness
Surround that hill.

The wilderness rose up to it,
And sprawled around, no longer wild.
The jar was round upon the ground
And tall and of a port in air.

It took dominion every where.
The jar was gray and bare.
It did not give of bird or bush,
Like nothing else in Tennessee.

If that's not scandalous enough, I will go on record by saying, "I don't like Walt Whitman." I'm sure that's like blasphemy to some. It's not that I don't appreciate his merits, I do—but appreciating and liking do not always go hand in hand. Likewise, I don't care for Beat poetry (apart from Mike Meyers' inspired "Woman" from So I Married an Axe Murderer)

5. I don't write poetry, but...
"maybe I do. Loving is so short, forgetting so long." (Pablo Neruda)

No, you know I do. As John Donne put it:

I am two fools, I know,
For loving, and for saying so
In whining poetry.
—Donne, The Triple Fool

6. My experience with reading poetry differs from my experience with reading other types of literature.....
I was just talking about this the other day with someone, about how poems are like puzzles, or logic problems. How on the one level you just "feel" it, but how on another level, you can do detective work on construction, word choices, imagery, etc. This is especially true of, say, John Donne, whose poetry affords endless delights in decryption. But perhaps the greatest difference between poetry and other forms of literature is the intense subjectivity and introspection, both of the poet, and of the reader. It's a message written down by one, out of a primal need, and received by another, who will experience it very... privately, is the best way I can put it. Poems are like secret love notes passed down over centuries.

7. I find poetry...
...and it finds me, even if I try to hide at times. My Muse, who is part harpy, part friend, never leaves me for long.

8. The last time I heard poetry...
was Dame Judi Dench reading the Middle English Lyric, The Corpus Christi Carol" on CD.

9. I think poetry is...

Yes. I think poetry IS.


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Blogger Miriam Jones said...

Re. #6: Yes! A puzzle; I often think of poetry that way. And since I am hopeless at crossword puzzles, I may be lacking a gene or something.

December 15, 2006 9:38 PM  

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