Shelley reading Homer
I like poems and poets, and thinking about poetry. When I was in the book business I liked selling books of poetry--not that I ever sold much. Now that I'm retired I guess I've got two hundred poetry books on my home office shelves, all left over from when I quit the book selling business. I'm glad to have them around, and maybe I'll sell them on-line sometime.
In The Art of Poetry, Archibald MacLeish begins, "A poem should be palpable and mute as a globed fruit" and ends with, "A poem should not mean, but be." Between those two phrases are twenty of the prettiest lines ever written. Don't take my word for it. Look it up; this is a poem that will make you happy.
My taste runs to modern poets and I especially like mid to late 20th century writers such as the likes of Robert Lowell, Robert Bly, Robert Frost and a whole bunch of other Bobs including Robert Graves, who isn't an American but is better than pretty good anyway. Another Englishman and not modern, the poet William Blake, is aces in my book and is seated at the right hand of one of the greatest of poets, Walt Whitman. Whitman makes me happy every time I read him. T.S. Elliot makes me feel smart and Ezra Pound makes me want to say Howdy! On the other hand, Emily Dickinson, who I stocked prominently and is possibly the most popular of any of our American poets, leaves me colder than a well digger's...shovel. You can sing every one of her poems to the tune of The Yellow Rose of Texas. Try and get that out of your head.
I don't know why people don't buy books of poetry. Maybe its because almost everyone has at sometime in their life written a poem and what you think you can do for yourself you don't hire out. Even Bubba probably wrote a Roses are Red type of deal back in High School when he was young and in love and carefree. Yet something happened along the way to cause him to stop writing poetry and it hasn't ever crossed his mind to buy poetry.
In fairness to Bubba, he has to carry the weight of his culture on his back, five hundred pounds of macho that tells him that real men don't read or write poetry. He probably doesn't know that James Dickey dropped a buck with a bow and arrow every fall of his adult life, or that Ernest Hemingway wrote hundreds of poems (although they were all real bad) in between fishing trips and bullfights. He certainly doesn't know that Lord Byron, gimpy, short and pockmarked, used poetry to succeed at the most manly art of all, the winning of maids fair, far and near. "I have been more ravished myself than any body since the Trojan War," he wrote. I guess that's worth a poem or two.
"The Lord in his wisdom made the fly..." wrote Ogden Nash "...and then forgot to tell us why." Now there's a little poesy that unquestionably sums up the thorniest theological problem with which we contend. And that, friends, is the job of poetry: to succinctly or beautifully or humorously cause the one muscle that may never rest to smile or cry or expand with gratitude at the wholly brilliant day in and day out adventure of living.