So, I am a poetess
And I knowitess.
April is National Poetry Month. Here is a link to poets.org, if you are interested, you can check that out.
Rarely have I discussed my favorite poets. Some of that is because it has been very personal to me, and some of it is because if you came up to me wanting to talk specific poems, quite honestly, there are a few poems that have stuck with me but I’m not walking around like an encyclopedia, but, I’d try. To that end, though, I will share some of my favorites with you and, perhaps among them you will find something that speaks to you also.
Sara Teasdale was a lyrical poet, given to simple yet eloquent, and elegant, rhyme. Some background- I had been writing poetry for a good ten years before I really started to read any poetry, completely true. I understood rhyme-scheme from the simple poems and nursery rhymes that we all used to learn during the normal course of our youth, also, likely from Dr. Seuss. I also understood it from song lyrics. But, I didn’t read a lot of poetry because I wanted to learn to write like me. I picked up a book of Sara Teasdale’s poetry from the library sometime in the early 1990’s, after reading one of her poems in an anthology. I felt like I had found a poetic soul-sister. Rhyming poetry is sometimes frowned upon because it isn’t an easy thing to do well. Sara Teasdale is wonderful, old-fashioned and romantic though much of it is, her poetry is also filled passion and heartbreak, longing, a depth of understanding of what it is to truly pine for someone. Sara Teasdale was in love with poet Vachel Lindsay, women of her day, however, were often traditionally very practical in their choosing of a husband, forgoing passion for stability, and Teasdale chose to marry a more secure suitor. It is often said, believed, that Sara Teasdale’s suicide, in 1933, was ultimately brought on by this unfulfilled love and longing for Vachel Lindsay, who had taken his own life in 1931. Though I moved on to writing a variety of other verse, Sara Teasdale’s poetry still speaks to me, and she remains a personal touchstone, and one of my favorite poets.
Make no mistake, when it comes to poetry, Anne Sexton is a cold-blooded killer. Listen to some of her readings, they’ll just about curdle your blood. To me, some of what is interesting about Anne Sexton is that coldness, she plummets through the underside of passionless detachment to a hollowness that is devastating. Anne Sexton comprehended nothingness as an emotion, but not only that, she could translate it and put it on the page. What I also found interesting was her re-writing of fairy-tales with the reality of the bitterness of unfulfilled promises, with an anger at the bill of goods they sold her and then failed to deliver on. Given to fits of suicide, often on or around the time of her own birthday, she was cold enough to be somewhat jealous when Sylvia Plath succeeded in dying, and finally managed to end her own life after a lunch in 1974 with long time friend, poet Maxine Kumin. Anne Sexton won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry for Live or Die, in 1967. Anne Sexton was a woman who mapped the abyss with a shuddering fuck.
As previously stated, I love old books. Wandering in bookstore one day, I happened to find a copy of “The Spell of the Yukon,” from 1907, opened it up, read one of the poems, laughed, and his work has been a favorite of mine ever since.
Dorothy Parker is perpetually annoyed, and she’s perpetually annoyed with you because you’ve got a brain, but, apparently you haven’t evolved beyond figuring out ways to use that brain for anything other than being annoying. Dorothy Parker also had a lot of heart, it caused her to drink to excess sometimes so that she might better tolerate all of the stupid. Yes, how very funny, but she was quite seriously, however wittily, sick of people’s nonsense. Her failed romances led to a suicide attempt, or two, but she never succeeded in that and finally gave up on it, and I, for one, think the world better for it. I love the titles of her books, “Enough Rope,” “Sunset Gun,” wonderful wit. She was also something of a humanitarian, she left her entire estate to Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr, believing in his life’s work. I think that was an incredible statement about how she felt about the world, she wasn’t a jokester, she left her money to someone she believed had the integrity to do something good with it. I think that Dorothy Parker is the prime example of the kind of writer, person, that we look at and don’t really see for what’s really going on there, this was a woman who cared deeply and who was in a tremendous amount of pain, but, oh well, she was just darling at it. Who’s really cold, callous, and shallow, in that equation? She left us with a wealth of wonderful writing, and timeless witticism.
Like so many other books, I picked up a translation of Fleurs du Mal in a thrift store. I’ve read nearly all of it but I don’t know that I could tell you one poem in it, though certainly, SPLEEN, comes to mind. It’s dark, its dreary, but it is also quite beautiful.
Some of my favorite books of poetry, some of which I am still in the process of reading.
Happy National Poetry Month!