27 January 2014


I am struck with how little poetry we are exposed to. I think I've had pretty good lit courses, from high school through my undergrad days. At one point, as late as my senior year of college, I thought maybe I'd change course and finish a degree in English lit rather than music. (Some days, I wish I had!) Good teachers, from junior high on, made me read great literature, and much of that was poetry.

Still, I imagine I'm not alone in this: When I think "Chaucer" I think . . .
Canterbury Tales
and . . .

Nope, that's pretty much it. Chaucer = Canterbury Tales. End of that unit.

So this was a nice surprise in my first few days of reading through The New Oxford Book of English Verse.

Love Unfeigned

    O YONGE freshe folkes, he or she,
    In which that love upgroweth with your age,
    Repeyreth home from worldly vanity,
    And of your heart up-casteth the visage
    To thilke God that after his image
    You made, and thinketh all n'is but a fair
    This world, that passeth soon as flowers fair.

    And loveth him, the which that right for love
    Upon a cross, our soules for to buy,
    First starf, and rose, and sit in heaven above;
    For he n'ill falsen no wight, dare I say,
    That will his heart all wholly on him lay.
    And since he best to love is, and most meek,
    What needeth feigned loves for to seek?

 repeyreth: repair ye
 starf: died

It's not too late for me to benefit from Mr. Chaucer's good counsel!

18 January 2014

Adventures with Words

One of my goals for 2014 is to read through the New Oxford Book of English Verse. Specifically, to read through my 1972 edition, which I've had since 1976 and frequently dip into but never systematically. The anthology is organized chronologically, which appeals to my nerdiness, but is nicely indexed and easy to use when looking for something specific.

Why poetry? Why an old anthology? Why English?

Well, English because it's my language, and the expression is more direct than with poetry translated into English. Not to mention that this is a resource I already have. (I have many books of poetry, but this is the most comprehensive.) Older anthology because, again, it is what I have; and also I am not sure I care to read through a lot of poetry written in the last quarter century. (There are living poets I admire and try to follow.) Why poetry? This just seems an important way for a lover of words to relish language, to grow in expression, and to explore the thoughts and hearts of women and men through the centuries.

A corollary to my reading is a softer goal for the year. I hope each day to write a phrase, line, or stanza of poetry. I am no poet, but I have dabbled over the years. Parody I'm pretty good with. Haiku has been a satisfying form to work in. I've written the occasional sonnet and valentine poem. My forte, my metier is probably doggerel. So far, on this 18th day of 2014, I've managed to produce something more days than not.

It is extremely unlikely that my own poetry will appear on this site. But I will be posting some of the poems that have especially caught my eye, my heart, my fancy.