the dulcet sound of poetry murmurs in my ears

I’m working on editing a book of poetry for a friend. It’s been absolutely delightful. Much more aesthetic than prose, words play on the page, creating a vivid picture in sound.

A few weeks ago, I went to Powells with my friend, Clawson. For those of you not in the know, Powells is the city of books within the city of Portland.  Walking into the store is like walking into a different country. Tall bookcases are jammed with titles, each of them clamoring for attention; hardback, paperback, softcover, and even some with plastic covers. The store smells of paper – of gently turned over page corners, long afternoons in the sunshine, hot cocoa being sipped on the couch, study sessions in the library, dead trees alive once again with adventures and stories. The Powell’s crowd is a motley crew. On any given day you can find so many Portland cliches: hippies, berkenstock-wearing executives, handsome men with square rimmed glasses (ala Sam Adams), men and women with carefully coifed dreadlocks, and men in black utili-kilts. (side note: if you are a male who is thinking about wearing a kilt, pair it with combat boots or Chucks. Please take note, NEVER wear one with Birkenstocks or Crocs. People will laugh.)

There’s one section in Powell’s in which I haven’t spent much time. That’s where I found my friend, staring at a silent shelf full of thin volumes. It was the poetry section. No wonder poets are poor. For all fanfare they recieve, no one buys their books.

Clawson was trying to decide on which poetry book would be best for her trainride to the Midwest. She would have quite a bit of time on her hands and wanted something to stimulate her mind with. Between the two volumes, she chose the cheaper one. Not always the best way to decide but it works.

Seeing the empty aisle made me stop and think. Who haunts the deserted aisle? What kind of person really lingers over words? In the day and age of instant information, who really wants to have to read and re-read to get the gist of what the author is trying to say? Or at least, what they think the author is trying to say. I looked at the books and felt sad. In today’s economy, most of the books wouldn’t have the chance at being published. There would be hundred’s of poets without the thrill of having their work bound up and in ink.

In college, I tried my hand at poetry. Okay, that’s not quite true. I wrote a sonnet and half a dozen haikus. That’s not true either. One sonnet and closer to one hundred haikus. There’s something about haikus that just click in my brain. I wrote them when I should have been paying attention in class. I wrote them on a napkin while I was eating lunch. I scribbled them down right before I went to bed. As far as poetry goes, haikus offered me instant gratifaction. The inspiration could come and be on paper just as quickly. Too bad there’s no demand for them in the real world.

I did read quite a bit of Wadsworth when I was a child.  We had a thick green volume that I used to sneak when I should have been doing math. Big shocker. It was an old book, it had color plates and a nice, thick binding. I never made it through the complete Song of Hiawatha, but managed to get through Paul Revere’s Ride, The Skeleton in Armor, and The Wreck of the Hesperus. I also had a steady diet of Alfred Noyes’ works, Song of Sherwood and The Highwayman. Are there poems like that nowadays? Do people even read them?

Read a few of the above and tell me that you can’t get into them. Read them aloud and let the words glide off your tongue.  Let your spoken words take you to places far off and imagined. Let your imagination make you smile, express emotions outside of your current feelings or situation. Then tell me that poetry is useless and should die. Then tell me that poetry is wasted paper. Until then, read and enjoy.

3 Responses to “the dulcet sound of poetry murmurs in my ears”
  1. fig says:

    Wow, so much I want to say about one post. But as it is late, and I’m falling asleep, I’ll limit it to hey, Sharon and I were just discussing our thoughts on poetry and our attempts at it… I at one point had The Highwayman memorized (along with The Walrus and the Carpenter)…. and my husband just told me he wants to go to Powells around noon tomorrow (today?). Wish I’d planned ahead some. I’d love to meet you sometime.

  2. fig says:

    We’re just driving through on the way home from Spokane but apparently despite three internet capable phones have still gotten horribly lost, so who knows when or if we’ll actually make it…?

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