Sunday, July 20, 2014

Some of My Favorite Poems

Recently I have been having a..."poet's block" (is there such a thing?)  I decided, in the meantime, to make a post about some of my favorite poems.  Initially I included some analyses too, but since many of the poems listed are not in public domain, I'm not sure how much I can quote from them.  So for the time being I'll just make a list, sans analysis.

Of the small sample of poetry I have read over the years, I have enjoyed few and remember fewer still, so these are not my absolute favorites, nor ones I necessarily understood, but ones that somehow have connected with a deeper part of me.

I rarely read poetry, preferring writing instead because it is a form of release and self-expression for me.  But sometimes I read a poem and the experience is very unique, like tasting an exotic fruit; or seeing a very familiar fruit peeled, cut, and arranged in such a way, that it blossoms in an exotic bouquet.

I don't know why I remember these poems.  Let me speculate.  Is it the music, the choice and arrangement of words, the clarity or depth of meaning or vision, the crispness or complexity of imagery, or the generosity of the heart that watered this farm of meaning and emotion that has blossomed from word roots beneath the soil of shared experiences?

At times a deep sadness, tenderness, joy, love, is felt, a scent so wonderful we want to bottle it, an extraordinary memory that must be preserved and protected in a vault.  Forever.  I wonder if what makes a great poet is the ability to notice the important cues in these kinds of special experiences, and collect them, order them, and present them to reader in a way that one is able to recreate those kinds of experiences in one's mind, feel them in the heart, and embody them. 

Presumably the process is often unconscious, the poet unaware of why s/he is writing a poem in a certain way.  Sometimes the reader too is unaware of the reasons why the poem has struck a chord.  But I think great poetry starts with the poet's sensitivity, observational skills, emotional honesty, openness to being touched by experience, and an ebullient expressiveness that comes to surface, allowing sharing those heartfelt experience in a beautifully unique way.  Beloved poets are courageous, loving, curious, ingenious.  They are alive, in touch with life, inside and out.

Perhaps a common problem with writing but also appreciating good poetry is the willingness and the how-to, to travel to depths of one's own emotional world.  I believe most of us have been there before but we may not remember the way now or may have hated the terrain; maybe we were terrified of the dark or feared losing our way back.  If this view is correct, then the great poet must know the way, the right way, the beautiful way, the sensitive way.

The next step would be to reach out to the reader, to us, to me.  Do I trust?  Do I take the hand?  Go on the perilous journey, let the words and the music permeate me?  Am I open to receiving the unexpected?  Willing to give up control and let go into experience, travel inwards and outwards at the same time?  It may be that the universally acknowledged great poems in history, are ones demanding too much (or less likely, too little) of the reader.  Which is why when the same person goes back to a poem year later and finding it surprisingly good or meaningful, one possibility is that this time the reader is able and willing to follow the guide.

The journey is not always worth one's time and trust, I think we can all agree.  Poetry can be bad, really bad.  Openness also makes one vulnerable and words can hurt, even when reading great poetry.  How to tell if a bad experience should be contributed to the reader, the poem, or the connection between them?  Just because a poem is popular does not guarantee it being great either.  I think that's worth pondering.

Still, sometimes the journey is worth it.  And on a rare occasion, I've heard, it can change the reader in an inexplicably satisfying way.  Musical words across space and time, changing a reader here and now.  How lucky is one to be in the presence of, and able to connect with, such poetry!

After great pain, a formal feeling comes, Emily Dickinson

Archaic Torso of Apollo, Rainer Maria Rilke

Bani Adam, Gulistan, Saadi Shirazi

A Blessing, James Wright

Edge, Sylvia Plath

For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry, Jubilate Agno, Fragment B, Christopher Smart

Full Fathom Five, William Shakespeare

Funeral Blues, W. H. Auden

The Guest House, Jalaluddin Rumi

Half Moon, Federico GarcĂ­a Lorca

Hook, James Wright

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, T. S. Eliot

Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota, James Wright

My Papa's Waltz, Theodore Roethke

A Noiseless Patient Spider, Walt Whitman

Nothing But Death, Pablo Neruda

Ode to a Nightingale, John Keats

Ozymandias, Percy Bysshe Shelley

The Panther, Rainer Maria Rilke

The Pasture, Robert Frost

The Raven, Edgar Allan Poe

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, Robert Frost

This living hand, John Keats

The Waste Land, T. S. Eliot

The Wind Will Carry Us Away, Forough Farrokhzad

Writing a Resume, Wislawa Szymborska

No comments:

Post a Comment

I review comments (due to spam) before posting them. Be it relevant criticism or praise, I appreciate you taking the time to comment.