I mentioned recently to my brother how a high school friend on FaceBook made a reference to a poem, and that I was quite surprised by how many of her FB friends worried about her v.s. recognizing the quote and the amusing application to her situation. We’d undoubtedly both memorized “Jabberwocky” because Dale and I grew up together, had many of the same teachers, and it’s such a fun and adventuresome poem which rolls around your tongue as you dramatically speak it aloud.
Back to the conversation with my brother. He, too, remembered how I loved to memorize poems. I grinned on my end of the phone, recalling in my mind snips of lengthy ballads by great poets. Then he started quoting one I used to say: “Once there was an elephant who tried to use a telephant…” — one I’d learned in second grade! That’s the poem my brother remembered I’d memorized.
Besides reading, speaking, and memorizing poems, there is also the writing end.
I’ve tried. I’ve tried writing poetry. I never feel good about the end results, and tuck them away in files either tossed or on computer disks I can’t even access any more. Even so, I take a stab at writing one or three now and again. They’re hard. They’re hard to write. They’re hard to critique. (Four just came through my critique group.)
Besides, I find poems to be rather subjective.
Back in South Dakota, a couple decades ago, I created three very different poems, different both in styles and themes. I gave all three to three teachers I worked with and asked their opinions of which they liked best. At the time, I wanted to try to focus my poetry writing. When they got back to me, each had chosen a different poem she really, really liked, and responded “eh” to the other two. It turned out my experiment was more about subjectivity than poetry style or theme.
I truly admire people who can write poetry. Truly. I just can’t do it myself. So, instead, I think I’ll go rummage through some of my dusty books and, alone in my house, dramatically read aloud a few choice favorites. Please feel free to do the same.