Just back from a long road trip to Kingsport, Tennessee, where I went to the wedding of a friend in college. Lovely and exhausting. One advantage to writing poems about sex, drinking, and family tension: no one ever asks you to write a poem for their wedding.
Thanks, Jessica, for tagging me—-and sorry for the delay!
The first poem I remember reading was...my first collection of poetry was an anthology called Piping Down the Valleys Wild, edited by Nancy Larrick. God bless the Scholastic Book Fair; the $10 bill my mother gave me seemed like a fortune. I loved poems by Sara Teasdale, Vachel Lindsay, and one by Karla Kuskin that declared “I’m a lean dog, a mean dog, / a wild dog, and lone…”
I was forced to memorize numerous poems in school and...I voluntarily learned Emily Dickinson’s “[My life closed twice before its close]” while wandering up and down my grandparents’ house. I was a moody little third grader.
I was never forced to memorize poems for school. I kind of regret that, because it develops a skill that is lost otherwise. When I was translating the poems of Miklos Radnoti, I worked with a Hungarian woman who noted that in her childhood, they recited Radnoti’s poems every morning the same way that American kids recite the pledge of allegiance.
Oh, I also learned Dorothy Parker’s “If [I don’t drive around the park]” in college. I was a moody little third-year at UVA.
I read poetry because...This is a cheesy thing to admit, but rereading a poetry collection I love is like a conversation with an old friend. Literally: I’ll talk aloud to the poet when turning to certain pages. I also read poetry for selfish gain, because reading makes me want to write.
A poem I'm likely to think about when asked about a favorite poem...”When you are old [and grey and full of sleep…]” by W.B. Yeats. There’s a tonality in that one that just sticks with me. But I find it odd that no one ever notes that this is Yeats responding to a French poem by Ronsard (from Sonnets for Helen), and not a fully original work. Great poets openly steal. I envy them.
I write poetry, but...I worry at the end of every poem that it will be the last one. The happier I am in whatever romance holds me at the time, the more I worry.
My experience with reading poetry differs from my experience with reading other types of literature...I never regret having spent time with a book of poetry—even if it turns out I don’t care for the style. Weak fiction, on the other hand, is like a bad date with a guy who still makes you pay for dinner at the end of the night. I will reread poetry, but never prose.
I find poetry...in The New Yorker to be dry as hell. I only know this because my boss keeps showing me poems from each issue and asking “what do you think?” It bothers me deeply that there is a substantial portion of smart, accomplished intellectuals (the same ones who give a lot of money to the arts, ahem) who judge trends in contemporary poetry entirely based on The New Yorker.
The last time I heard poetry...Carolyn Forche at the Folger last week, and it knocked my socks off.
I think poetry is like…a spoonful of peanut butter chased with a mouthful of scotch. The association may be based purely on the fact that both typically occur for me after midnight.
I tag Deborah, Paul, Steve, Carly and Angela.