It’s cold here today. Yesterday it was mid 60s. This morning? In the 30s. That’s why it wasn’t really surprising to see a dead butterfly on the sidewalk. Poor insect is as confused as I am about the weather. Yesterday, shirtsleeves, today, winter coat. But he didn’t have a winter coat. He was frozen but still beautiful.
It reminded me of poetry. Is that morbid? Definitely dark. But then, I’m one of the best poets you’ve never heard of, and I’m thinking it might be difficult for many people to name ten living poets off the top of their head, anyway. Because poets don’t become household names anymore.
Robert Frost said, “Poetry is a way of taking life by the throat.”
Carl Sandburg said, “Poetry is an echo, asking a shadow to dance.”
Considering the competition between these two poets, sometimes one-sided, it’s not surprising that these two poets had very different views of poetry. What has always intrigued me was that people paid attention to that rivalry. It was a different time, I suppose. These days, poetry is a hard sale. I see it every day in my store. I have shelves of used poetry—some modern, some classic—in my bookstore. I also have a section of local poetry, including my own.
It’s the classic poetry people still want. Byron, Dickinson…Frost, Sandburg. I understand that want. Those poets wrote about things that aren’t our reality. They’re a higher brow type of escapism than bestselling fiction. I myself have two poetry books sitting on my desk right now. One is The Complete Haiku of Matsuo Basho and the other is A Little Treasury of Modern Poetry (published in 1950). I study haiku, so that’s my excuse for that one, but I love the pastoral themes of past poets. I adore reading about love and beauty and passion as if I hadn’t a care in the world.
But I know modern poets are important. We are dreamers and truth speakers, but when we put those dreams of truth out into the cold December mornings, there’s the danger that they may die of the cold.
Photo by Michelle Garren-Flye