I have found a new love.
My husband and children have no need to worry; it is not a person. It is … poetry.
I wonder, why hasn’t anyone ever told me of the magic and beauty of this written art? Perhaps I wasn’t listening.
Yes, at age 61, I have discovered poetry. It started with my work as a twice-a-week “companion” to an elderly woman at an assisted living facility in my neighborhood. “Companion” just means chatting, running errands, and doing activities. I am an incredibly enthusiastic activity person. I love scheduled classes and lectures, particularly when they are free and taking place downstairs. Together we have discovered “drumming circle” – it is incredibly fun, and yes, you should try it! We’ve been to talks on Egypt, learned about the Great Wall of China, and prayed together at the weekly worship services. But the best activity of them all has been “Exploring Poetry”.
Every Tuesday, Anita, the poetry group's leader, brings in selected readings from a featured poet. Our little group takes turns reading the poems aloud. And I have been delightfully stunned.
Such beautiful words evoking such vivid images within a compact space, as in this poem by Billy Collins:
A morning after a week of rain
and the sun shot down through the branches
into the tall, bare windows.
The brindled cat rolled over on his back,
and I could hear you in the kitchen
grinding coffee beans into a powder…
Together our group has discovered characters we might already know and love, as in this poem by Kevin Fitzpatrick:
Aunt Duly is here wallpapering our kitchen.
She is seventy-one years old
but still paints silos and moves pianos.
If I bet her, she will touch her palms
to the floor without bending her knees…
We can imagine (and in the end, laugh) at John Martin’s terror at being chased by a wild animal:
A bear is chasing me through a meadow
and I’m running as fast as I can but
he’s gaining on me—it seems
he’s always gaining on me…
After the reading of each poem the members of the group nod in recognition– we remember those summer days. Or we can imagine how that event must feel. And, truth be told – we sometimes share sentiments of “huh?, what was that about?”, and quickly move on.
We can see and remember ourselves at this parade described by June Robertson Beisch:
The parade began and the Bryant Jr. High School band
marched through the streets of Minneapolis
wearing white shirts, blue trousers, playing John Philip Sousa
Lance, Jack, Sharon and myself on drums,
strapped to our knees so we could play,
arms akimbo, drumsticks held high, …
And boy-oh-boy many of us could surely relate to this feeling about John Updike’s ineptitude at baseball:
It looks easy from a distance,
easy and lazy, even,
until you stand up to the plate
and see the fastball sailing inside,
an inch from your chin,
or circle in the outfield
straining to get a bead
on a small black dot
a city block or more high,
a dark star that could fall
on your head like a leaden meteor…
And how Wendell Berry is able put into words the inexplicable feeling of love:
Like the water
of a deep stream,
love is always too much.
We did not make it.
Though we drink till we burst,
we cannot have it all,
or want it all.
In its abundance
it survives our thirst...
I have to admit, I like my poetry easy and understandable. I prefer the poems that make sense to me, and I have absolutely no patience with poems which require a lot of work. There is a place for these poems in our world, just not a place in me.
I don’t want to leave you with half-finished poems. I’ve included a link below for each one. Also, I’ve included some links so that you can discover more of these delightful verses.
Yes, I have found a new love, and it’s called poetry. And like a new love, I’m asking, “Where have you been all my life?”