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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.

You never know when a poem will reappear

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press
Tuesday, March 07, 2017 05:01 am
I have long been a fan of Garrison Keillor. Actually, Curt and I even heard him perform once when a very good friend invited a busload of friends to go to one of his broadcasts. Recently he ended a column about friends and snow and love with the sentence, “Do their kids learn poetry in school?” And my mind took off again on how important it is — how enriching it is — for kids to discover the wonders of poetry at an early age. But if they miss out on the “early,” they’re not doomed. It is never too late to become hooked. Poets say it as we can’t or don’t have to. An example: The time is fast approaching when garden space will be filled with the golden beauty of daffodils, and the lucky person will recall the words of William Wordsworth in his poem, “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud.” That’s where we see dancing daffodils as a poet sees them and gets us to ooh and aah as we admire one of spring’s exquisite gifts to us.

Robert Frost makes us feel beauty, then move on as in his poem, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” because he knows there are promises to keep and miles to go before we sleep. He has already reminded us of the road not taken. Alfred Lord Tennyson reminds us of what it must have been like for Ulysses to try to retire after his war experiences and that remarkable and horrific 20-year trip back home. Do our veterans still want “To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield” even though they no longer have the strength of youth?

We Hoosiers are proud of our writers, but I ask you how many parents do you think read “Little Orphant Annie” to their offspring? Shel Silverstein is fabulous, as is Dr. Seuss, as is Maurice Sendak, etc., etc., etc. But have we lost out with the delight of Riley’s, “The Gobbleuns ‘at gits you Ef you don’t watch out!”

There are narrative poems, telling memorable stories, like Longfellow’s “Paul Revere” and his “Evangeline.” I remember reading that to a class one day, and when I came to the part where Evangeline after the long search finds her lover wounded but still alive and calls out “Gabriel!” and there was the captain of our basketball team furtively wiping a tear from his eye.

You never know when a poem you memorized or just recall will reappear and help you live a special moment. But you have to become familiar with the poet’s picture first. Give yourself a treat. If you didn’t get inducted into the Poetry Lovers’ Society as a child in school (hey, teachers, don’t allow that to happen, please), it is never too late to learn the power of the written word, whether it’s about who has seen the wind or the bird saying “Nevermore.”

Have a lovely time.

Betty E. Stein is a retired teacher and resident of Fort Wayne. 

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