I’ve always thought being a poet might have been the finest work for me, had I been born in a different time.
I can still fall into iambic pentameter easily and tend to notice rhyme schemes and rhythms in people’s speech or writing. Poems still come to me, unbidden, in the shower, but the only one that’s made it to paper in recent years is my sister’s 50th birthday poem. But poetry’s not something you talk about often in daily life, because some people’s eyes glaze over.
The reason poetry had been on my mind recently is because I’ve just finished reading A Suitable Boy, an epic novel set in India in the very early 1950s. The book is excellent – at 1,474 pages of tiny print, it had better be – and one of the characters is a working poet.
He’s the oldest of five children in a upscale Calcutta family, and the siblings love to speak in rhyming couplets, which, of course, drives some people nuts. That brought back memories of the time Kelly and I spent days speaking to each other only in rhyme – until our sixth-grade teacher, Mr. Harper, told us to knock it off.
(We also went through a spell of writing our assignments backward and from right to left; for a while Mr. Harper flipped our papers over and held them up to the light for grading, but after a bit he told us to knock that off, too. In retrospect, he was quite a patient man.)
Another Suitable Boy character is a professor of literature and amateur/would-be poets abound. The mention of triolets and villanelles reminded me of how much I loved teaching poetry – more how to write it than the study of others’ works – and studying it in college.
And writing it in high school creative writing.
Ogden Nash, he is my hero; I prefer him to Caesar or Nero./It takes great talent to write such verse that’s so concise and yet so terse.
That’s one of my 11th-grade creations. When I was 16, Ogden Nash was one of my favorite poets, along with Emily Dickinson, Dorothy Parker, Edna St. Vincent Millay and a few others. I must have read some Calvin Trillin (my current poet-crush) back then as well, because another poem, written for the assistant manager at my first job, who continually harassed me, is somewhat Trillin-esque:
“An Ode to Mike, Whom I Do Not Like”
You bother me, Mike; I think you should know/I’d be very happy if away you did go.
Last night, instead of writing about poetry, as I’d intended, I spent some time reading it, in Trillin’s Dogfight: The 2012 Presidential Campaign in Verse. CT makes me laugh out loud, and the Michele Bachman section is side-splitting. (My sweet husband got it for me for Christmas. He also got me the delightful Deciding the Next Decider: The 2008 Presidential Race in Rhyme after that election.)
If you think you don’t like poetry, give Calvin Trillin a chance – he might convert you. And since this is Valentine’s Day, let me also mention his moving literary tribute to his beautiful late wife; About Alice is prose, not poetry. What a love story.
First thing this Valentine morning, an email came from a blog I follow, Adventures in Remodeling, in which Curt, the remodeler, had written a lovely poem as a Valentine for his lovely wife.
That made my heart smile.