The Windows of Poetry

April is National Poetry Month and the League of Canadian Poets has adopted the theme, Celebrate nature with poetry. Which suits me just fine: I like to write about nature.

Imagine yourself walking down a long hall with a good friend. In this hallway there are a number of small windows, and as you pass each one, your friend points out some particular scene just outside that window. Something is happening out there that they want you to notice.

Like a painting, a good poem is a window on some scene in life and a book of poetry is like a line of windows. At each one you stop as your poet friend draws your attention to some detail outside. Some writers will make more comment what they’re pointing out, some less.

Poets of long ago gave readers the whole story and their take on what they are seeing. For example, Robert Burns’ To A Louse, is an eight-verse poem about a louse he saw crawling on a fine lady’s hat in church. Seven are saying, “This is what I see”:
Ye ugly, creepin, blastit wonner,
Detested, shunn’d by saunt an sinner,
How daur ye set your fit upon her—
Sae fine a lady!
Gae somewhere else and seek your dinner
On some poor body.

And then the punch line, now famous around the world:
O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae monie a blunder free us
An foolish notion:
What airs in dress an gait wad lea’es us,
An ev’n devotion!

These words have resonated with readers of all ages, since we’ve all seen people with foolish notions of their own importance and wish they could see just how their behavior looks to us. Sometimes, on reading these lines, we may shake our heads as we think of situations in the past when we acted like a know-it-all, a snob or an airhead. We see it clearly now, and surely everyone around us saw back then how silly, selfish, or defensive our attitude was. It’s amazing, when we’re trying our best to put on a persona, how much of our real self sticks out.

In our day, poets tend to rather describe what they are seeing and let you draw your own conclusions. I appreciate both kinds of verses, the one that evokes a feeling as well as the one that delivers an understanding — actually a good poem should do both. I have a harder time appreciating verses where I haven’t a clue what the writer is trying to say. No matter what size or style, give me an accessible poem any day.

For National Poetry Month I’m going to try to post a verse a day, plus get my book of haiku & senryu published. I HAD it all prepared, but glitches arose… Today I’m going back to “Self-Pub U” and hope to learn how to insert images properly. Sigh…

Life is learning, and I have lots more to do. 😉

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