“I don’t know. Poets are always taking the weather so personally. They’re always sticking their emotions in things that have no emotions.”–J.D. Salinger
I started to write poetry when I was 6-years-old. Back then, I thought it was a requirement to that poetry had to rhyme. And so I wrote about staring contests I had with lizards crawling up the marble blocks of my bath tub or about a blonde haired princess, who refused to take off her glittery tutu when it was time to go to bed.
When I grew up, I was surprised to learn that poetry has no rules. You can do what you want, if you please. Break lines in the same harsh, cruel way your heart was once broken. Throw out any and all punctuation because your thoughts are just one jumbled, chaotically gorgeous run on sentence disastrous mess. It doesn’t matter, my friends, unless you agree to tell a story with every ounce of courage that you have.
Today Is National Carry a Poem in your Pocket Day. Whether you’ll carry a scribble of words that make you melt around with you in your pants or you’ll take the time to read some poetry, I hope that you’ll understand the beauty of expression when there’s nothing holding you back.
Here are a few of my favorites:
I Go Back to May 1937 (Sharon Olds)
I see them standing at the formal gates of their colleges,
I see my father strolling out
under the ochre sandstone arch, the
red tiles glinting like bent
plates of blood behind his head, I
see my mother with a few light books at her hip
standing at the pillar made of tiny bricks,
the wrought-iron gate still open behind her, its
sword-tips aglow in the May air,
they are about to graduate, they are about to get married,
they are kids, they are dumb, all they know is they are
innocent, they would never hurt anybody.
I want to go up to them and say Stop,
don’t do it—she’s the wrong woman,
he’s the wrong man, you are going to do things
you cannot imagine you would ever do,
you are going to do bad things to children,
you are going to suffer in ways you have not heard of,
you are going to want to die. I want to go
up to them there in the late May sunlight and say it,
her hungry pretty face turning to me,
her pitiful beautiful untouched body,
his arrogant handsome face turning to me,
his pitiful beautiful untouched body,
but I don’t do it. I want to live. I
take them up like the male and female
paper dolls and bang them together
at the hips, like chips of flint, as if to
strike sparks from them, I say
Do what you are going to do, and I will tell about it.
Five Poems (E.E. Cummings)
1 into the strenuous briefness
handorgans and April
i charge laughing.
Into the hair-thin tints
of yellow dawn,
into the women-coloured twilight
i smilingly glide. I
into the big vermilion departure
(Do you think?) the
i do, world is probably made
of roses & hello: (of solongs and, ashes) .
On Turning Ten (Billy Collins)
The whole idea of it makes me feel like I’m coming down with something, something worse than any stomach ache or the headaches I get from reading in bad light– a kind of measles of the spirit, a mumps of the psyche, a disfiguring chicken pox of the soul.
You tell me it is too early to be looking back, but that is because you have forgotten the perfect simplicity of being one and the beautiful complexity introduced by two. But I can lie on my bed and remember every digit. At four I was an Arabian wizard. I could make myself invisible by drinking a glass of milk a certain way. At seven I was a soldier, at nine a prince.
But now I am mostly at the window watching the late afternoon light. Back then it never fell so solemnly against the side of my tree house, and my bicycle never leaned against the garage as it does today, all the dark blue speed drained out of it.
This is the beginning of sadness, I say to myself, as I walk through the universe in my sneakers. It is time to say good-bye to my imaginary friends, time to turn the first big number.
It seems only yesterday I used to believe there was nothing under my skin but light. If you cut me I could shine. But now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life, I skin my knees. I bleed.