Art Matters: Life With A Touch Of Poetry In It

Joanne Brianna GartnerGMarchand - Joanne Brianna Gartner

’Twas National Poetry Month and all through the house / all the creatures were rhyming, even the mouse.

“Everyone has a favorite poem,” Alice Kociemba of Falmouth, founder of Calliope Poetry, assured me. April is National Poetry Month and as such it’s time to tap into your inner Robert Frost.

Everyone has a favorite poem because everyone loved poetry at one time.

As kids, poetry is everywhere, in nursery rhymes, books and songs. Older kids have Shel Silverstein, Jack Prelutsky, and the wickedly funny Roald Dahl. Even the lyrical way in which Yoda speaks could be considered poetic and who could forget (especially if they read the books out loud to their children) all the poems and songs in “The Hobbit” and in “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy?

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One day you’re a carefree 12-year-old reveling in “Augustus Gloop, Augustus Gloop the great big greedy nincompoop” and the next thing you know some well-meaning high school English teacher is making you diagram “Ozymandias” and you’re swearing off poetry forever.

If poetry became dead to you in 11th grade, with the exception of Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie lyrics, maybe now’s a good time to resuscitate it.

When it comes to poetry there’s something for everyone, suggested Ms. Kociemba. Poetry forms include simple couplets, rap-like poetry slams, haiku, collage poetry, traditional verse and more. “If you look for it it’s there.”

A poem has the ability to move us, either to tears or laughter, in just a few words.

That poetry speaks to people was evident to Ms. Kociemba last December when more than 30 people gathered at the Falmouth Public Library at lunchtime on a weekday to pay tribute to Irish poet Seamus Heaney. “These people weren’t poets,” Ms. Kociemba said, “they were just people in the community who were moved by his work.”

Poetry connects us. People often turn to poetry at weddings and funerals, observed Ms. Kociemba.

Those of us of a certain age remember when Ronald Reagan addressed the nation following the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger. The President quoted John Gillespie Magee Jr.’s poem “High Flight” when he described the shuttle’s crew as having “slipped the surly bonds of earth” to “touch the face of God.” Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh quoted the poem “Invictus” as his final statement before his 2001 execution. Some people thought he wrote the poem himself but I recognized it from college, not because I studied poetry but rather because someone used to tape poems to the bathroom stalls in our dorm room. “Invictus” is by the English poet William Ernest Henley. W.H. Auden’s poem from the 1930s, “Funeral Blues,” became familiar to a new generation after it was featured in the 1994 movie “Four Weddings and a Funeral.”

In this age of multitasking, reading, writing, and listening to poetry all provide exercises in paying attention, Ms. Kociemba said, “in taking something that’s possibly mundane and finding beauty in it.”

Poetry events abound this month so find a reading to attend or try writing your own verse—you won’t be alone in your efforts. “A lot of people are writing poetry who you wouldn’t know are writing poetry,” Ms. Kociemba said. Calliope Poetry, which meets at the West Falmouth Library, provides a community for poets through a series of poetry readings and winter workshops. Other readings are taking place this month at different venues on the Cape, and National Poetry Month culminates, at least in Massachusetts, with the Massachusetts Poetry Festival, May 2 through 4 in Salem.

And while you may agree with Joyce Kilmer that you yourself will never see “a poem lovely as a tree,” you might hear or think up something clever on your own. Surely at the very least you can one up this haiku I penned while waiting for my 8-year-old at LEGO club the other day: Primary colors / snap together to create / minefields in the dark.

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