Beautiful & Pointless?

 Beautiful & Pointless by David Orr
Yes and no. Yes, I believe poetry is beautiful and no, it is far from pointless. In his book Beautiful & Pointless, David Orr, poetry critic for the New York Times Book Review, states:
I can't tell you why you should bother to read poems... I can only say that if you do choose to give your attention to poetry, as against all other things you might turn to instead, that choice can be meaningful. There's little grandeur in this, maybe, but out of such small unnecessary devotions is the abundance of our lives sometimes made evident.
Far from being inane or meaningless, reading poetry can be as delightful and as enriching as looking at beautiful paintings or listening to music. What are the lyrics of a Bruce Springsteen song like "Jungleland" or "Backstreets", if not poetry? "Yesterday" by Paul McCartney, "Nowhere Man" by John Lennon, as well as many songs by Simon and Garfunkel, Bob Dylan, and Tupac Shakur are poignant and evocative, containing densely packed imagery and richness of language celebrating the rhythms and the sounds of the English language.

Reading poetry enriches us, broadens our horizons, and makes us more observant as we see and feel things more vividly. Poetry can tell stories that resonate and inspire us. Poems, such as "Still I Rise" by Maya Angelou, are inspiring and moving. T.S Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" can make us feel reflective and pensive. "Do not go gentle into that good night" by Dylan Thomas or "Funeral Blues" by W.H. Auden have the ability to bring a lump to our throats. Billy Collins' poems, "Introduction to Poetry" and "Horoscopes for the Dead" are witty and amusing and will make us smile. And, I still love Edward Lear's "The Owl and the Pussy-Cat", which I used to recite to a captive audience - my kids when they were little and had not yet learned to walk away.

Why not celebrate the 20th anniversary of National Poetry Month and read a poem? Check out the four new, richly rewarding books by American poets that we have added to our collection:
Four Poetry Books
Prodigal: New and Selected Poems, 1976-2014 is a first volume of collected poems by Linda Gregerson. The poems are diverse in subject matter: from the wonders of parenthood, love and loss, to the class system in America, Gregerson's poems are replete with literary references yet they are all about shared experiences that we can relate to. 

Erratic Facts: Poems by Kay Ryan is a wonderful collection of pithy, philosophical poems reminiscent of Emily Dickinson. This slim volume is perfect for thumbing through more than once to read and reread.

As a child, I loved to read and hear stories. Narrative poems such as The Song of Haiwatha by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and "The Charge of the Light Brigade" by Alfred, Lord Tennyson were my first exposure to the exhilarating and riveting world of this type of storytelling. After checking out the book Voyage of the Sable Venus: And Other Poems by Robin Coste Lewis, I went straight to the titular, narrative poem, "Voyage of the Sable Venus". I know narrative poems do not have to adhere to any rhythmic pattern, but I was completely unprepared by this poet's unique vision. Lewis explains in the prologue that her narrative poem is "comprised solely and entirely of the titles, catalogs entries, or exhibit descriptions of Western art objects in which a black figure is present, dating from 38,000 BCE to the present." Intrigued, I started reading the poem: haunting, beautiful and nuanced, it completely changed my idea of a narrative poem.

Dome of the Hidden Pavilion: New Poems is a collection of accessible and poignant poems by James Tate, who passed away in the summer of 2015. Tate's inimitable style - poems that look more like prose - is not what we expect poems to look like and yet they are easy to read. Almost all the poems are in the form of a dialogue, but miscommunication abounds. On the surface some of the poems may appear to be quirky or absurd but look deeper and you will find them profoundly moving.

I will end by quoting in its entirety one of my favorite poems: "Poetry is a Kind of Lying" by Jack Gilbert.

Poetry is a kind of lying,
necessarily. To profit the poet
or beauty. But also in
that truth may be told only so.

Those who, admirably, refuse
to falsify (as those who will not
risk pretensions) are excluded
from saying even so much.

Degas said he didn't paint
what he saw, but what
would enable them to see
the thing he had.

Do you have a favorite poem you would like to share with us?

-Rina B.


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