Monday, June 27, 2011

Poetry Is Story

Poetry looks  both inside
and out,  filled with emotion
and  introspective thought, it
tells a story of nature
and  high adventure,  faith in God,
and ancient  history. It relays a
tale, and helps  one relate ,
contemplate justice versus injustice;
 Romantic  love, parental love,
childhood memory, and hopeful
endeavor.  It can be blank verse,
free verse,  a limerick, sonnet,
allegory, cacophony, ode or
ballad.  And matters not the
type or style  - metaphor, simile,
falling meter, feminine rhyme
poetry can make us laugh, make
us cry , make us think, lift our spirit , and
warm our heart. 

In a  book I purchased last week ,  The Best Loved Poems of Jacqueline  Kennedy Onassis , Selected and Introduced by Carolyn Kennedy,   my  spirit was lifted and my heart warmed  by many  of the poems she had chosen  -  some I had read before , and some for the first time ,  like  Mother to Son  by  Langston Hughes:

Well, son, ’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair,
It had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor—
Bare .
But all the time
I’se been a—climbin’ on,
And reachin’ landin’s ,
And turnin’ corners,
And sometimes goin’ in the dark
Where there ain’t been no light.
So, boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you set down on the steps
‘Cause you find it’s kinder hard.
Don’t you fall now—
For I’se still  goin ‘, honey,
I’se still climbin’,
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.

I  get it that Hughes is writing  from  a black woman’s experience ,  and  about the many  difficult challenges  people of color were subjected too, but I can’t help but think of  his poem in broader  scope,  relating it to all women  in general , and how difficult it once  was for them  before laws changed.    I remember  when my parents divorced in the early 1960’s,  after my father left,  our landlord told mom she would have to move as  they didn’t rent to divorced women.  It was a shock , not only to my mom, but  also to my brother and me , as we had lived in  our duplex for several years. It was  sad thinking we’d have to leave the neighborhood , and friends we  were so familiar with.  When  mom  went house looking, and inquired about another rental ,   she told the landlord   there  would be  three living in the house.  He asked , “ You, your husband, and child ?”   She replied , “No, me and my two children”.  The landlord  didn’t hesitate a minute before saying  , “ I’m sorry  I don’t rent to divorced women. They have wild parties”.     The point I’m trying to make is ,  life can sometimes be hard, and poetry  like  what Hughes writes , speaks for us, and helps us become aware, and by becoming aware, we  begin to understand, and grow , and are encouraged.
In her introduction, Kennedy writes  “ Sometimes, knowing that someone else liked a certain poem can cause us to take another look at it, puzzle over why they might have liked it,  and before we know it, be captivated by  it ourselves. Poems often express  what we believe to be our  thoughts alone, and poets can become our companions as we journey into new worlds   of  imagination, feeling , and possibility.”  How true it is.

** Carolyn Kennedy's latest compilation of poetry  She Walks in Beauty, A Women's Journey Through Poems, can be found at most books store , and on line at

** For more information about Langston Hughes and his poetry visit


elizabethbrinton said...

This is brilliant. I thought of getting that book, but it was a fleeting moment, lost in time. Now I do want to purchase it, and love the fact that Caroline knew what poems her mother loved.

Mary Jane Honegger said...

I enjoyed your thoughts, too, Kathy! Last year I put together a program on the history of aprons. I was amazed at the number of heartfelt poems written about aprons - such a commonplace thing. Each related them in different ways to thoughts of home and family life, and, of course, mother or grandmother. As you said, those poems took me into a "new world of imagination, feeling, and possibility. I was so touched by them that I included three in my presentation.

Nancy Owens Barnes said...

Thank you, Kathy, for reminding us how poetry can affect our lives and enhance our experiences in so many ways.

Kathy Cooney Dobbs said...

Thank you, dear Bloggettes for your comments - you encourage me! I learn so much from each of you