Friday, December 20, 2013

The woods are lovely, dark and deep

The view from my bedroom window this morning.
As a teenager I put a great deal of effort into memorizing poetry. I doubt I have many entire poems lodged away in my brain anymore, maybe a half-dozen, but once I could recite many long and beautiful poems.
Some lines still come to me in certain situations. Like on summer days, when the sky is especially blue, I can hear the words,
"Inebriate of air am I,
And debauchee of dew
Reeling – thro' endless summer days
From inns of molten Blue."

Likewise, on very snowy days like yesterday and today, my favorite poem by Robert Frost runs constantly through my mind. It's the first poem that I can remember deciding to learn.
Once, on a dark night as my dad and I drove through the tree-lined backroads of Minnesota, and snow fell in fat, fluffy flakes - my dad pulled the truck over. We got out into the "easy wind of downy flake." It wasn't terribly dark or terribly cold; snowy nights like that are usually surprisingly bright and warm.
And my dad recited the poem, "Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening."
We got back in the car and drove home.

And it totally changed me. That is the story I told in all my college application letters. It was a story of wonder, of words, of a teenager discovering a love of poetry beyond Shel Silverstein.

It was the story that convinced professors to give the girl with mediocre grades, and a love of writing a scholarship. And it was the story that convinced me that poetry is, indeed, the food of love. (A good stout love, that is.)

I've been feeling lately like I need more poetry in my life. I used to write poetry constantly, but it's one of those things that you can write, and feel, and love, and still be pretty awful at.
It's not something you can read distractedly as your children destroy the house around you (like an easy novel or something more absorbing). It's something you have to read slowly. Pay attention to. Savor.

I would love it if you could leave your favorite poems, poets, or books of poetry in the comments.
Anyway. Here it is. I even looked it up, to make sure all the words were in their proper place.

Stopping by the Woods on Snowy Evening
by Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

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Chris said...

The first poem I memorized was The Ballad of Sir Patrick Spens. Favorite? Out the Cradle Endlessly Rocking by Uncle Walt.

Marge Bjork said...

Gwendolyn Brooks. Robert Service.( e e cummings of course and Emily Dickinson.) Also this video of Matthew Dickman reading his poem Slow Dance:
The Poetry Foundation has a great app.

Anonymous said...

Love this one by Robert Frost...I could feel every.single.word. It seems odd, though, while thinking of favorites, that The Cremation of Sam McGee should come to mind!! Oh well, it's been that kind of a day!

rebecca said...

I love A.A. Milne's 'Now We Are Six'. I was actually just reading some of the Pooh-bear poems to my daughter at bedtime and thinking about all the lines my Dad would quote to me, even in high school and college, like "I'm feeling rather funny and I don't know what I am".

Anonymous said...

Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

Pablo Neruda, 'Me Gustas Cuando Callas...' specifically in Spanish.