Yesterday morning I was advised on The Writer’s Almanac that it was the birthday of Edgar Allen Poe, and they included an excerpt from The Raven – you know: “Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary.” Every day the Writer’s almanac includes a bit of poetry before they tell you what’s what and who’s who that day. *
I read the poem each day, and lately I’ve been thinking about what to me is good and what is rather bad poetry. Some days their choice of poetry just leaves me as blank as the verse selection that just seems to my sensibilities to be a run-on sentence. I could be a poet if I made up a lengthy sentence and broke it up into several pieces stacked one on top of the other. Blank verse, for me, has to paint a picture, evoke a mood – much of it doesn’t. But when they select a poem like The Raven? Now that’s poetry. The meter, the rhyme schemes, the picture it paints and the pain it inflicts – couldn’t be better. It has so much going for it that I could almost say it’s delicious.
My recent thinking about poetry has once again made me aware of the great poetry hidden as song lyrics. I was listening to some Cole Porter? None better – Night and Day, So In Love. Really think about their lyrics. Sing them to yourself. Think about the lyrics from any Broadway show: poetry set to music. Think about Moonlight in Vermont – and it doesn’t even rhyme!
Also, to forge ahead, yesterday was the birthday of Robert E. Lee. I know I wrote about this before, but it ‘gets’ me again each time I hear his name. When I was a little kid my grandmother, who was born in West “By God” Virginia, told me that the folks in the south would love me because my name was Lee. Now why wouldya tell a kid something like that? I know I wasn’t at all excited about the prospect, but the incident stuck with me. Evidently my grandmother was full of such nonsense. I do know that my father was really annoyed when he found out that chocolate milk didn’t come from brown cows. I got clued in on that one real early in life.
I suppose that one year from now I’ll read again about these two birthdays and perhaps I’ll come up with another essay of passing fancy. One never knows.
*by chance, today’s poem at The Writer’s Almanac, The Song of Wandering Angus by William Butler Yeats, is also a rhyming, evocative classic. It speaks of “The silver apples of the moon, The golden apples of the sun.” Just thought I’d let you know, and perhaps prompt you to read it.