Monday, April 03, 2006

April Poetry

Inspired by the highly literate and much more diligent-than-I blogger ginab, I want to salute official poetry month. I wonder what kind of activities does poetry month involve? Maybe students read and write poetry in school. It's been a long time since I was in school. Maybe libraries highlight the work of poets. Too bad we can't have some of our finest actors reading selections of poetry during television commercial breaks. Or, mixed in with the usual coming attractions, have movie theaters show a trailer with, oh, I don't know, Morgan Freeman reciting Langston Hughes. Or Jeremy Irons reading Byron. Print Yeats on the paper bags used by the grocery store. Put a couple of lines of Seamus Heaney on a city bus. Get poetry out there.

I have always enjoyed the rhythmic poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1899). His story fascinates me, too -- he was born into Victorian England but converted to Catholicism and became a priest, living much of his life in Ireland where, by all accounts, he was quite miserable. But all the time he wrote poetry, at times burning it because he felt it was too showy, too vain, too self-involved. Fortunately a friend ignored his calls to destroy his work at his death and quite a bit remains. His innovative use of meter and sound are surprisingly whimsical for such an austere man. Like most good poetry, his work is best read out loud. Here's a lighthearted piece to celebrate both spring and poetry month:

This darksome burn, horseback brown,
His rollrock highroad roaring down,
In coop and in comb the fleece of his foam
Flutes and low to the lake falls home.

A windpuff-bonnet of fawn-froth
Turns and twindles over the broth
Of a pool so pitchblack, fell-frowning,
It rounds and rounds Despair to drowning.

Degged with dew, dappled with dew
Are the groins of the braes that the brook treads through,
Wiry heathpacks, flitches of fern,
And the beadbonny ash that sits over the burn.

What would the world be, once bereft
Of wet and of wildness? Let them be left,
O let them be left, wildness and wet;
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.