When I was in high school, I hated poetry, hated it! By the time my teachers analyzed each stanza to death, there was no joy left, if there was any joy to start with. My fellow students and I were never encouraged to ask how a poem made us feel, how it might touch our lives, cause us to think. Iambic pentameter were the only words I recall from my youthful foray into poetry, except boredom.
I didn't pick up a book of poetry for roughly the next 20 years until a friend introduced me to Mary Oliver. Here were poems I immediately related to, which didn't require a third party telling me what they meant. I knew what they meant to me.
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Poetry became accessible. At least I learned that there were poems in the world which could feel as authentic to my life, as to the person who had written them. I began searching for poets whose work resonated with me, not only in books, but stopping to read a poem in a park, subway, along graffitied walls.... on sidewalks.
Early this morning – on the last day of Poetry Month – I walked to nearby Hendrix College to re-read one of my favorite "found poems" on the Poetry Sidewalks, where poems crisscross the length of sidewalks, around corners and under archways.
I found The Gardener, 85 by Rabindranath Tagore beside a bike rack and mouthed the words aloud.
Who are you, reader, reading my poems an hundred years hence?
I cannot send you one single flower from the wealth of the spring,
one single streak of gold from yonder clouds.
Open your doors and look around.
From your blossoming garden gather fragrant memories of the vanished flowers
of an hundred years before.
In the joy of your heart may you feel the living joy that sang one spring morning,
sending its glad voice across an hundred years.
Then I placed an azalea blossom among the words, as a remembrance for the next reader.
May you come across a poem that speaks to you – in your walks, reading, music – or create one from your own heart.
"Open your doors and look around."