We don't read and write poetry because it's cute

April is National Poetry Month!

 Proof that I speak true

I bring it up because, this morning while I was at the Shelf, a donation came in that included a three-volume set of the poems of William Wordsworth.  I picked up one of the volumes and opened it to a random page.  It happened to be the beginning of the section entitled "Residence at Cambridge", from the third book of The Prelude:

It was a dreary morning when the wheels
Rolled over a wide plain o'erhung with clouds,
And nothing cheered our way till first we saw
The long-roofed chapel of King's College lift
turrets and pinnacles in answering files,
Extended high above a dusky grove.

My immediate thought was that not for the first time had poetry given expression to an experience of mine.  I could relate because Cambridge was pretty dreary -- cold and windy -- when we were there a couple of years ago, but the sight of the long-roofed chapel of King's College cheered me, too.

My second thought was how different it was in Wordsworth's day to write your life story as a long poem, and then to have people sit around and read it to each other instead of watching television.  Can you imagine listening to a lengthy poetic version of someone's college days?  Or the retelling of a medieval legend?  Or the train of thought of a depressed man?  Or the musings of a woman who has just caught a huge fish with a bunch of old hooks in its nether lip?  Can you imagine spending more than ten minutes reading that kind of stuff to yourself?

My third thought was that I'm glad I have poetry as part of my life.  I have about 92 favorite poems, as well as lots of others that I like to one degree or another.  Poems entertain and enlighten me; they give voice to my feelings and impressions.  A few move me to tears.  Sure, fiction can do the same thing for me, and music, and movies, and photographs, and paintings, and plays, and certain tv shows, and even some modern dance programs that I've seen.  But not Hallowe'en costumes.  Not them.

But this is National Poetry Month, not National Movie Month or National Modern Dance Program Month.  Adrienne Rich (who recently passed away -- may she rest in peace) once said, "I have never believed that poetry is an escape from history, and I do not think it is more, or less, necessary than food, shelter, health, education, decent working conditions.  It is as necessary."  (From What Is Found There:  Notebooks on Poetry and Politics)

I hope you'll do something to celebrate National Poetry Month.  If you need some ideas, check out this site.