When was the last time you read a poem?
Yeah, me too.
Poetry is kind of like colonics. Probably good for me, but I can find all kinds of reasons not to go there.
I think the closest some of us come to poetry in our daily life is the last-minute Hallmark card-buying mission. Here’s one for the ages:
“If I’d never met you,
I wouldn’t feel the pain
Of losing your sweet love;
I wouldn’t feel insane.”
And that is why “poetry” gets consigned to the scrap heap in favor of alternatives such as this one suggested by The Oatmeal
We read all day long. We check the headlines. Dabble in celebrity gossip (oh come on, admit it, you’ve gone to tmz.com, too!) Some of us (who are not doing more important tasks like raising children or curing cancer) read books. But how often do we read a poem?
If it wasn’t for The New Yorker with its palatably brief and deliciously enigmatic poetry selections tucked in amidst the cartoons we all read first, my answer to that question would normally be “never”.
But something happened recently to change that. I had a head-on collision with a poem that grabbed me and won’t let go. I was reading Watership Down, of all things, a sweet book that opens each chapter with a literary quote. One of them was from “Hurt Hawks”, a poem by Robinson Jeffers. I looked it up, and was gobsmacked. Here it is:
There is very little about Robinson Jeffers that resonates with me. Other than his hot-in-a-Sam-Shepard-way good looks and his very cool house.
Jeffers (1887-1962 was the son of a Presbyterian minister but veered off into a self-made philosophy he called Inhumanism which celebrated the primacy of the natural world and rejected human solipsism. He seemed to reject humans almost altogether; other than wife and lifelong love, Una Kuster and their twin sons, Jeffers lived a mostly solitary life. His expression of isolationist politics during WWII toppled his popular reputation. I doubt that he much cared.
What is it about this poem for me? As a keeper of chickens, hawks are my sworn enemy, yet I felt a deep affinity for the hawk portrayed in Jeffers’ poem. If it is possible that the words of a poem can be so powerful as to make us love our enemies, then I think I need to sit up and take notice. Like it or not, I’m going to occasionally substitute a foray into poetry for my visits to tmz.com, and when I find poems that astound me as this one did, I’m going to force you to read it, too! When you think about it, it’s not really that far from poultry to poetry, right?