Since January 1 of this year, I have been choosing a poem a day for my own personal indulgence.
Poetry, like art, is always a personal indulgence. You like a poem because you have heard it before or because your mother read it to you or because it reminds you of a friend. You like a poem because there is a clever rhyme or a haunting image. You like a poem because the message sits in your soul.
The hardest part of collecting a poem for each day had not been finding a poem, although admittedly it is still early in the year. It has been examining the verse and myself to try to understand why I have included it; why the poem is meaningful enough that I wanted it to be a part of my year.
My log follows no pattern, although I have on occasion chosen timely poems (Amanda Gorman’s magnificent Inaugural ode on January 21 for instance). I also have toyed with the idea of themed days (Silly Fridays for nonsense rhyme, Ripping Saturdays for story poems, etc) but have found it hard to stay on those rigid tracks. I have excerpted the beginning of each poem, even if the most famous line is later in the piece, because I believe that a poem has to be read in entirety to have integrity. So on January 18 my entry read:
“Thou still unravished bride of quietness,
Thou foster-child of silence and slow time,
Sylvan historian, who canst thus express
A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme”
Not even a mention of Keats’s most famous line, the couplet at the end “Beauty is truth, truth beauty, – that is all/ Ye know on earth, and all you need to know.” I hope that if a poem moves you, you will seek out the whole. Discovering a work of art is one of life’s sweetest moments.
My entry for March 11:
“it’s 1962 March 28th
I’m sitting by the window on the Prague-Berlin train
night is falling
I never knew I liked
night descending like a tired bird on a smoky wet plain
I don’t like
comparing nightfall to a tired bird”
Nazim Hikmet, “Things I Didn’t Know I Loved”
I chanced on this charming poem while looking for another. It rambles a bit but tells the story of a life to a rail car rhythm as a series of contradictions and discoveries.