Thursday, January 25, 2007

Poetry Thursday #4

Our prompt this week is "Why I love poetry." In 153 words or less. I don't have a "poetry base;" no courses, no publications. But I love it when poetry nails it. Sometimes it's only a line or a phrase, but there's a connection. An ah-ha moment. Yesterday I read a poem about an Irish WWI airman who died in Italy (Yeats). It's today's news almost 90 years ago.

This week I was reading "The Best American Poetry, 2006," guest editor, Billy Collins. On pp. 30-33, there is a poem by Amy Gerstler, "For my niece Sidney, age six." She begins with Margaret Davy in 1542 being boiled to death for poisoning her employer, an item she came across reading the 1910 Encyclopaedia Britannica. She uses it to launch a poem about what simmers in the crock-pot of her head, and moves on to speculate that her untamable, curious niece may someday like Martin Luther nail theses to a door (about which she also read that day in the encyclopedia).

I used to own 7 sets of encyclopedias. My favorite which I still enjoy browsing with a cup of coffee belonged to my grandfather--the 11th edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica published in 1910 (I also own the 12th and 13th). It's printed on tissue thin paper and bound in black leather which is crumbling a bit on the spines.

In this poem, Gerstler writes about owning 5 sets of encyclopedias. . .

"That's the way I like to start my day;
drinking hot black coffee and reading
the 1910 Encyclopedia Britannica.
Its pages are tissue thin and the covers
rub off on your hands in dirt colored
crumbs (the kind a rubber eraser
makes) but the prose voice is all knowing
and incurably sure of itself. . . "

Connect!




12 comments:

Em said...

My 6th grade poetry was published in a poetry book (with adult poetry, so I thought I was pretty hot stuff).

I found my poetry notebook not too long ago and it was so interesting to see how my thoughts changed from childlike (during 6th & 7th grade) to more rebelious (during high school when I was told what to do more often)

Now, I am horrible at poetry. I guess you use it or lose it.

Norma said...

Pick the best and post. Maybe you're better than you know?

Anonymous said...

Good thoughts, Norma. I really agree with the "a-ha" moments when reading poetry. Sometimes it is just uncanny that another's words can so perfectly describe what you assumed only you felt in quite that way.

Thanks for stopping by... Star

Anonymous said...

Norma thanks for sharing this. I feel the same way as you - I love it when poetry nails it too. And I miss my mornings at the sunny kitchen table with my coffee and the science times learning something I otherwise never would have, adn finding ways to fit it into my poetry, my everyday, my now - because, frankly, it is all connected somehow.

Anonymous said...

I love to read poetry, but am not very good at writing it. 7 sets of encyclopdias? Wow, you must know a lot of information. I used to love to look through the encyclopedia as a child. So much interesting information.

Ma said...

That's pretty awesome to have 7 sets of encyclopedias. There's only a few people today that own any because of the internet. All anyone has to do now is to go online to find anything they want to know about. How time has changed. Some times I think it's sad.

Thanks for stopping by.

Anonymous said...

I agree with what's already been said. When poetry gives you an "aha" moment, that's a gift. Great post.

Thanks for stopping by my blog. Can't wait to explore yours.

Anonymous said...

I love encyclopedias- I used to read them to my dad when he couldn't see anymore- we'd spend hours just learning about all sorts of things... thanks, Norma, for reminding me of this time with my dad...

Three Score and Ten or more said...

I have given away several sets of encyclopedias since I retired (and a couple of thousand books and journals) but the one that won't leave me till I leave is the 1934 Compton's Pictured Encyclopedia because it was the one I grew up with and every volume has a center section with fairy tales or other stories which deal with the subjects in that volume. I have read every volume, cover to cover many times. I wrote a published poem once. I published it early in my blog, and have considered deleting it many times (it is embarrassing.) I was educated in the time when TS Elliot, Ezra Pound adn ee cummings (Frost too, of course) were the be all and end all of poets, but my favorite volumes of poetry are the children's poems of John Ciardi, A Gift of Watermellon Pickles, and Falling Up by Shel Silverstein.

Anonymous said...

Reading poetry makes it so timeless and writing it? No words!

Anonymous said...

I tried several times to post this comment to the appropriate article, but Blogger refused to accept it. I decided to try to post it here instead just to see if that would make a difference.

Like poetry that "nails it" (as you wrote in a later post,) prose that states clearly a seldom-recognized truth is a joy. This post struck a bell with me.

Jane Poe (aka Deborah) said...

I like the idea of poetry or prose soaking into your skin, like Gerstler's poem. Lovely, JP