Sunday, June 21, 2009

A History Of Your True Loves

Jim Carroll, a New York poet and rock singer, sang in one of his songs: "It must be a great thing to be a cashier in a bookstore and to be surrounded by a history of your true loves." I've always thought he was right, although a librarian friend confided that it is frustating too, to be surrounded by all those true loves and have no time to read them.

No one would have read this blog for long who did not love poetry. I seem to stick pretty close to poetry and poets, more so than I intended when I began blogging. I had intended to include more polemical theological discussion, of which there has been little.

But poetry it has been.

And one wonderful thing about the blogging world that I have found is that I have come into contact with a great number of people who share similar taste in poetry. Never in my life have I met anyone face to face who absolutely adores Christina Rossetti. I can't imagine why, because her poetry and her life story are so adorable. But via this little blog I've met many. Same goes for Gerard Manley Hopkins, although with him I have been in correspondence with others even before I knew what a blog was.

Anyway, I notice that today is my hundredth post under the label of "poetry." So I thought this an apropos time to do something different. I always tell you what I am reading and what I love in poetry. Now I'd like you to tell me. Who are your favorite poets, and why?

Some of you I can already guess. John will put Milton first, and I can guess at a few others who would be in his first five favorite. But he may surprise me with some. Rosa, I can't put them in order, but I think I know at least three who would appear on your top ten list. Mary Rae, you lay them out in black and white on your site, but still I am curious about what exactly you love about each one. Badger, we have discussed poets, and you turned me on to Mary Oliver, but still I can't even guess at your very favorites. Cynthia, number one I think I know, number two I can guess at, but after that I have little clue.

But the vast majority of those who come by here never post comments. I can guess that you all are not quite in the mainstream of current poetic trends, for my posts I know to be somewhat archaic. As I have said elsewhere, I intentionally ignore most of the twentieth century, thinking it in general to have strayed from the poetic goal of the pursuit of beauty. But even I can find numerous recent poems that have bucked that trend.

So I am very curious about you all. Who do you love?

So what I am asking is for as many of you as care to, to tell me and tell us all who are your very favorite poets, and WHY. What is it that you love about that person's poetry? Is it the poetic music? The message? The poet's biography? Something nameless? A combination of many factors?

Please list as many or as few as you like. You may put them in order or not, as you like. I'm not sure I could put mine into order, at least not an order that I would still hold to next week.

And by the way, I have not yet posted anything from some of my favorites. I don't recall posting any Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss). Have I posted from Robert Bridges? Or Auden? Richard Crashaw? Francis Quarles? Even Robert Browning I think I've omitted, in order to emphasize that I think his wife to have been an eternal poet, and he only a great one. Perhaps that is unfair. I'll try to post a Robert Browning soon.


Mary Rae said...

I have always been drawn to the English Romantics. Their understanding of nature--the feeling that it can becomes part of an individual's being, and is in many ways, transformative, is an idea that I embrace. It sounds as if you had a truly rare experience growing up in wilderness. I can't say that I had that luck, but we did have beautiful woods to roam as children, and lived outdoors as much as possible. Here's a poem by Willaim Wordsworth.

My Heart Leaps Up
by William Wordsworth

My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die!
The Child is Father of the Man;
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.

Doug P. Baker said...

Oh, I love that one, Mary!

In fact there is a story that I've been working on for a while (it is not progressing as I'd like; it seems that I'm not a natural story teller) for which I have borrowed Wordsworth's phrase "Father of the man" as the title.

Yes, the Romantics were a breed apart, and very great forefathers to the modern whole-life and ecology mindset.

Mary Rae said...

I'm glad you like the poem also. It is so very simply but profound. But I'm intrigued...Might you share some of your story here?

John Keats is another poet who has my heart. Ode on a Grecian Urn is, in my opinion, a masterpiece. But it's rather long, so I'm including another poem.
Keats has a way of building up beautiful images, then turning them around in a way that stops thought.

by John Keats

When I have fears that I may cease to be
Before my pen has glean'd my teeming brain,
Before high-piled books, in charactery,
Hold like rich garners the full ripen'd grain;
When I behold, upon the night's starr'd face,
Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance,
And think that I may never live to trace
Their shadows, with the magic hand of chance;
And when I feel, fair creature of an hour,
That I shall never look upon thee more,
Never have relish in the faery power
Of unreflecting love;--then on the shore
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think
Till love and fame to nothingness do sink.

Doug P. Baker said...

Lovely! I didn't recall that one.

On the story: until it begins to breath on its own I'd rather keep it in the womb.

Rosa said...

This post (your 100th on the topic!) inspires me to read and savor more poetry.

My favorite poet at the moment is Sara Teasdale. Her insights have a way of expressing emotions I have within myself that I did not know how to voice.

Emily Dickinson is another beloved soul. Like Teasdale, her perspective shows a deep understanding of the human spirit.

Christina Rossetti's work has a haunting beauty to it; I also love her allegorical approach in many of her poems.

John Keats first attracted me when I was an under classman in high school, lamenting the shallowness of most males in my peer group. His spectrum of emotions gave me hope and encouragement.

Both Shakespeare and Tennyson have been instrumental in the cultivation of my mind by their ingenuity.

Doug P. Baker said...

I heartily agree with the last five you mention! They are among the most enduring in my affections also.

Sara Teasdale I had not read much since school until I began finding her poems on your blog. Now I must say that I am growing to appreciate her more and more. She has a sparkling clarity and power that are very unusual.

As for the shallowness of males, I'm afraid we are mostly like Ron Weasley, whom Hermione said had "the emotional range of a teaspoon." It is always a blessing to find that such is not universal, in either gender. I think all of those you mention are excellent sources of emotional clarity and depth.