Today is World Poetry Day. What’s more, I’m at home and relatively free to indulge in some poetry thanks to the social distancing we need to practice in these tough times of the COVID-19 scare. Being a poet myself and having read a lot of poetry, I believe that poetry, unlike any other form of writing, can help you discover yourself, can help clear your brain when you’re uncertain or confused and can help bring closure and heal when your heart hurts. Of course, poetry can also bring a smile to your face and perhaps make you laugh too if you’re in the mood for it.
Over the next few days (starting today), I will be sharing the work (all from the public domain) of some of the poets I adore and that I feel should reach more people. I shall also throw in a bit about how I connect with a particular piece or with the poet and hopefully, you too will find your own personal connect.
I’m going to start with a few verses from Walt Whitman’s ‘Leaves of Grass’.
This collection is close to my heart for many reasons, the most important being that it made me realize there is poetry beyond rhyme. I have been writing poetry since I was in school; but all the poetry I was exposed to back then were strictly rhyming and the few people I discussed my poems with encouraged only rhyming poems. I didn’t and still don’t have a problem with rhyme, but it does get frustrating when you can’t write what you want to because it doesn’t rhyme! Perhaps I should blame my vocabulary for it? It was a restriction that almost made me give up writing poems.
Then, I discovered Whitman. And I discovered that more important than rhyme is rhythm… a discovery that changed the way I consumed and wrote poetry. I also realized that poems can get over in just two to three lines or run into several pages, that poems can ask questions and not answer them, that a poem can be a story and it can be a song, that you don’t need to follow rules to write poems… you need to follow your heart.
With that, let me leave you with a few verses from the book that I often go back to for inspiration:
STRANGER, if you passing meet me and desire to speak
And why should I not speak to you?
WHEN I HEARD THE LEARN’D ASTRONOMER.
WHEN I heard the learn’d astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add,
divide, and measure them,
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured
with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.
O YOU WHOM I OFTEN AND SILENTLY COME.
O YOU whom I often and silently come where you are
As I walk by your side or sit near, or remain in the same
Little you know the subtle electric fire that for your sake
form that it might be painted in a picture?
and songs sung?
harmonious combinations, and the fluids of the
air, as subjects for the savans?
or agriculture itself?
Old institutions—these arts, libraries, legends,
of a woman and man I rate beyond all rate.
say they are not divine;
out of you still;
from the earth, than they are shed out of you.
the arches and cornices?)
beating drums, nor the score of the baritone singer singing
his sweet romanza, nor that of the men’s chorus, nor that
of the women’s chorus,
TO THE SAYERS OF WORDS. (excerpts from Part 4 & 6)
—it cannot fail;
and actress, not to the audience;
but his own, or the indication of his own.
hints of meanings,
the phrases of Souls;
they then ?
faith that tells the best!
I hope you enjoyed these verses as much as I have, perhaps even more. Do come back tomorrow for more!
Psst: The poet I’ll discuss tomorrow is someone whose work made me realize how how, to quote one of my favorite designers, Mies Van der Rohe, Less is More …and perhaps even profound in poetry.