Yesterday I received a card in the mail that had a really lovely poem on it. I liked it so much that I carried it with me to work and then searched out a book of poetry by the writer, Donald Hall. What I could tell you about poetry is not much at all, I'm sorry to say. So ignorant (and I hate to admit that) am I that I hadn't even heard of Hall (or more likely heard of him but didn't quite register anything about him). He is a former Poet Laureate and is quite a prolific writer. He's published not only poetry collections but criticism, children's books, essays, plays, memoirs and short stories. He was married to poet Jane Kenyon, who I have heard of.
I've discovered that Hall is known as a rural poet and writes about nature. The poem I was given reminded me of Robert Frost (whose work I love), and as it turns out Hall and Frost met when Hall was a young man. Maybe it's the "plainspoken" quality of his writing that appeals to me so much. I want to love poetry, but I know I don't give it much of a chance. I'm just not sure how to read a poem, which I realize sounds strange. I think I make poetry harder than it often is, or look for some hidden meaning that I feel like I can't quite grasp. I love short stories, but poems seem even slighter. Sometimes they tell a story, but maybe it's just an impression or a feeling they offer? The sound of the language, of the words slipping off the tongue? I'm not sure and I'm never quite sure how to approach a book of poetry, though I did bring home from the library, The Alligator Bride by Hall (because the title of the book is so wonderful).
I'll leave it by my bedside and will dip into it. Maybe I'll read all the poems or maybe just a few, and have an epiphany on how to read a poem. I'll share one now, though I'm afraid the clever formatting will have to be left to your imagination (see the photo above).
They have gone
into the green hill, by doors without hinges,
or lifting city manhole covers to tunnels
lined with grass,
their skin soft as grapes, their faces like apples.
feather, its round eye, sees dancers underground.
The curved spot on this
apple is a fat camel, is a
is the cry of a marigold. Looking hard,
I am caught in the web of a gray apple,
I struggle inside
an Immense apple of blowing sand,
quietly from a window box of apples.
For one man
there are seven beautiful ladies with buns
and happy faces
in yellow dresses with green sashes
to bring him
whiskey. The rungs of a ladder tell stories
to his friend.
Their voices like apples brighten the wind.
Now they are dancing
with fiddles and ladies and trumpets
in the round
hill of peacock, in the resounding hill.
Do you have a favorite poet? A favorite poem? How do you approach reading poetry? Do you read poetry? So many questions. I bet there's a book that would answer some of these, so I may have to investigate further. Another of my unspoken 'goals' this year is to try and read a little poetry. And so a card in the mail has inspired me.