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 boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor—
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 Amazon.com
** For more information about Langston Hughes and his poetry visit http://www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/83