I’m not a poet. I’ve written a couple of short poems in the past; they were angsty at best. Sometimes, when the mood strikes me, I’ll put up a haiku as a Facebook status. But a poet, I am not. I’ve never known what to do with poetry – it was always an extra limb for me, and while others could wrap their extra limb around themselves and create art, mine would seem to always hang uncomfortably.
But there are some poets that I’ve been exposed to over the years who I think are brilliant – they’re not too abstract or aloof – they just happen to write in lines and stanzas, and they’re complex in their simplicity. My favorite English teacher from high school is a poet. He made our class memorize an Emily Dickenson poem and then recite it whenever anyone would enter our classroom…I think I’ll remember the opening lines, “I heard a fly buzz when I died” until the day that I die. He also introduced me to Billy Collins, who’s served two terms as Poet Laureate in the past. I love Billy Collins. His poems stay with me like characters from my favorite shows and movies. I’ve got a few poets on my reading list (Sylvia Plath, Walt Whitman, etc) this summer – I’d love some more recommendations!
Here’s a poem I love for some Billy Collins flavor (it’s hard to choose just one, so check out some more if you wish).
Thesaurus – Billy Collins
It could be the name of a prehistoric beast
that roamed the Paleozoic earth, rising up
on its hind legs to show off its large vocabulary,
or some lover in a myth who is metamorphosed into a book.
It means treasury, but it is just a place
where words congregate with their relatives,
a big park where hundreds of family reunions
are always being held,
house, home, abode, dwelling, lodgings, and digs,
all sharing the same picnic basket and thermos;
hairy, hirsute, woolly, furry, fleecy, and shaggy
all running a sack race or throwing horseshoes,
inert, static, motionless, fixed and immobile
standing and kneeling in rows for a group photograph.
Here father is next to sire and brother close
to sibling, separated only by fine shades of meaning.
And every group has its odd cousin, the one
who traveled the farthest to be here:
astereognosis, polydipsia, or some eleven
syllable, unpronounceable substitute for the word tool.
Even their own relatives have to squint at their name tags.
I can see my own copy up on a high shelf.
I rarely open it, because I know there is no
such thing as a synonym and because I get nervous
around people who always assemble with their own kind,
forming clubs and nailing signs to closed front doors
while others huddle alone in the dark streets.
I would rather see words out on their own, away
from their families and the warehouse of Roget,
wandering the world where they sometimes fall
in love with a completely different word.
Surely, you have seen pairs of them standing forever
next to each other on the same line inside a poem,
a small chapel where weddings like these,
between perfect strangers, can take place.
And here’s another favorite that I’ve picked up along the way.
(no relation to Billy Collins):
Lines – Martha Collins
Draw a line. Write a line. There.
Stay in line, hold the line, a glance
between the lines is fine but don’t
turn corners, cross, cut in, go over
or out, between two points of no
return’s a line of flight, between
two points of view’s a line of vision.
But a line of thought is rarely
straight, an open line’s no party
line, however fine your point.
A line of fire communicates, but drop
your weapons and drop your line,
consider the shortest distance from x
to y, let x be me, let y be you.