Monday, January 30, 2012

A Poem for Every Day

Take a look at the Library of Congress's Poetry 180 project.
I understand well that many people--maybe even you--don't like poetry.  They see poetry as tedious and evasive, something that their teachers made them read in class many years ago for reasons that they never understood.  Trust me; I get it.  I know the feeling of staring at a dense poem, reading stanza after stanza, thinking, "Get to the point already."

But it shouldn't be that way.  If you dislike poems and poetry, please find it in your heart to give them another chance.  Visit the Library of Congress's Poetry 180 project, which is designed to feature a poem for every day of the school year.  It is sponsored by Billy Collins, former Poet Laureate of the United States.  (Quick!  Can you name our current Poet Laureate?  It's this guy.)

Τhe 180  poems on Poetry 180 are chosen because they are contemporary and well-written, and because they do not need a master's degree in comparative literature to suss out.  And with titles like "Love Poem With Toast," "Bringing My Son to the Police Station to be Fingerprinted," and "How to Change a Frog Into a Prince," it won't take you long to find a favorite.

Below are two of my favorites.  "Forgiving Buckner," is, of course, about baseball, and therefore should surprise no one who has ever read this blog.  (We read this poem in class once, and I showed the  the footage of the famous ground ball to my students.  One of the girls squealed, "He's just standing there!")

Poem Number 154
The Buckner of the title is Bill Buckner whose famous error cost the Boston Red Sox a decisive game in the World Series.

Forgiving Buckner

John Hodgen

The world is always rolling between our legs.
It comes for us, dribbler, slow roller,
humming its goat song, easy as pie.
We spit in our gloves, bend our stiff knees,
keep it in front of us, our fathers' advice,
but we miss it every time, its physic, its science,
and it bleeds on through, blue streak, heart sore,
to the four-leaf clovers deep in right field.
The runner scores, knight in white armor,
the others out leaping, bumptious, gladhanding,
your net come up empty, Jonah again.
Even the dance of the dead won't come near you,
heart in your throat, holy of holies,
the oh of your mouth as the stone rolls away,
as if it had come from before you were born
to roll past your life to the end of the world,
till the world comes around again, gathering steam,
heading right for us again and again,
faith of our fathers, world without end.

I also like this one, which may or may not be about sex.

Poem Number 46


Tony Hoagland

Maxine, back from a weekend with her boyfriend,
smiles like a big cat and says
that she's a conjugated verb.
She's been doing the direct object
with a second person pronoun named Phil,
and when she walks into the room,
everybody turns:
some kind of light is coming from her head.
Even the geraniums look curious,
and the bees, if they were here, would buzz
suspiciously around her hair, looking
for the door in her corona.
We're all attracted to the perfume
of fermenting joy,
we've all tried to start a fire,
and one day maybe it will blaze up on its own.
In the meantime, she is the one today among us
most able to bear the idea of her own beauty,
and when we see it, what we do is natural:
we take our burned hands
out of our pockets,
and clap.

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