I came across the poem below, and it gave me an idea. But before I share that idea, take a moment to read the poem.
How I Discovered Poetry
By Marilyn Nelson
It was like soul-kissing, the way the words
filled my mouth as Mrs. Purdy read from her desk.
All the other kids zoned an hour ahead to 3:15,
but Mrs. Purdy and I wandered lonely as clouds borne
by a breeze off Mount Parnassus. She must have seen
the darkest eyes in the room brim: The next day
she gave me a poem she’d chosen especially for me
to read to the all except for me white class.
She smiled when she told me to read it, smiled harder,
said oh yes I could. She smiled harder and harder
until I stood and opened my mouth to banjo playing
darkies, pickaninnies, disses and dats. When I finished
my classmates stared at the floor. We walked silent
to the buses, awed by the power of words.
This poem is so alive, I can feel how she made this discovery. And it makes me think of how I came to love poetry.
For as long as I can remember, poetry was a part of my household. My oldest brother wrote poetry, volumes of it. He’s six years older than me so when I was about nine years old, he was writing his forlorn, lovesick poems. It seemed to me writing poetry was the normal thing to do when hanging out at home.
Of course, I also learned about poetry in school. I remember writing haikus. I learned poetry was a way to express feelings, awaken the senses, paint a picture with words, evoke thoughts, and make the ordinary extraordinary. My ever-expressive mother had no problems projecting her wide range of emotions—she had enough expression to fill the house, with little room for our own feelings. Poetry and writing became my outlet.
When I was a senior in high school, I sang in our school concert choir. Our instructor decided to do something different and have us perform, A capella, the poem “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost in our state competition. We learned the poem by rote, and sang mundanely over and over again until Mr. Holmberg, our instructor, would erupt. This poor man tried to get us to feel the words, to feel the poem, and we just didn’t get it. The cool kids all thought it was lame. I wasn’t about to admit that I did feel something when I sang this poem. I loved this poem.
To this day, I still do. Whenever I read “The Road Not Taken,” I am reminded of how this awkward, young girl fell in love with poetry and discovered the power of words. Thank you Mr. Holmberg, and thank you Mr. Frost.
Every month, I will be sharing a poem of the month as part of a new feature on this site. May these poems touch your heart as they do mine.
(Image found here.)