Poetry and the top of my head

I am very picky about poetry. Sentimental, forced rhyme annoys me. Abstruse poetry bores me.  I’m too lazy to work hard to extract meaning.  My poems of choice must surprise me; at least  a line or two  should provoke me to think, feel, or see things in a new way. Emily Dickinson famously said: ” I don’t know what poetry is but if I read something and I feel as though the top of my head has been blown off, I know that’s poetry.”

That’s what I’m talking about.  The best poetry  seizes on the right metaphor to jolt perspective.  Since I’m impatient, I like the efficient compression of poems. I like poems that cut to the chase  – short and to the point.

My favorite poems have an air of melancholy and a rueful, wistful tone- slightly regretful but with a thread of optimism at the same time… poems that make me say “Ah, yes. That is the way it is.”  I try to write poems like these. I’m always on the look out for new ones and keep a supply of my favorites close. But a poet doesn’t necessarily  have to be 60+ to capture just the right tone… that world-weary, seen it all, here’s what I’m left with tone.  A younger poet can do it, too, particularly if he or she has passed through an event that wasn’t forseen or suddenly captures a glimpse of the raw, unvarnished  truth. However,  being located  in the last ” box” of life does tend to focus the mind and fuel the poetry I savor.

5 year old Zach's first poem

I am  stunned by Zach’s first haiku- like poem with instinctive alliteration.

Food and Fruit

I eat  food
I peel fruit
and cut fruit
and I put them
in a bowl

(Here are some by more polished poets)
I Leave Her Weeping

I leave her weeping in her barred little bed,       
her warm hand clutching at my hand,
but she doesn’t want a kiss, or to hug the dog goodnight
she keeps crying mommy, uhh, mommy,
with her lovely crumpled face
like a golden piece of paper I am throwing away.
We have been playing for hours,
and now we need to stop, and she does not want
to. She is counting on me to lower the boom
that is her heavy body, and settle her down.
I rub her ribcage, I arrange the blankets around her hips.
Downstairs are lethal phonecalls I have to answer.
dying, I need to call.
My daughter may be weeping all my tears,
I only know
that even this young
and lying on her side,
her head uplifted like a cupped tulip,
sometimes she needs to cry.
-Liz Rosenberg


The day, of no great merit,
ended- a dandelion gone to seed,
minutes squandered, hours spent,
no bright gold. Yet in the ledgered

plainness of the day, overcast, common,
some subtle brush of meaning
held me. Was it those unexpected
words of thanks, or the single lilac

plunged in a paper cup,
there on a stranger’s desk?
Something, a fragrance,
lingered well past dusk.
-Jean L. Connor



Categories: observations

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