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I love to read.  This has been an established fact here at the Jungle Gym for quite some time.  However, the one aspect of literature that was never able to fully grab my attention was poetry.  I can’t explain why I have never taken to poetry.  It just has never really lit a spark in my mind the way that prose has.

However, before any readers who are poetry fans begin to bombard me with jeers and/or suggestions of poets that I really must read let me clarify a bit.  I don’t dislike poetry, I just fond very little of it that seems to speak to me.  There are individual poems (“The Road Not Taken”) and even a few poets (Poe) which I hold dear.  I just never understood poring over collections of poetry for hours unless they had the names Silverstein or Seuss on the cover.

There are certain pieces if some of the poems I have latched onto that lodge themselves in my subconscious at times, however.  And these will often become mantras for me in times of stress.  These little snippets of poetry flit through my head, or escape my lips in barely perceptible whispers.  At times it feels like they are the rawness of my emotions come to life. 

There are two in particular that come to me more than others.  I’ve come to know them as spirits of Defiance and Despair, and I never know which will visit me in times of trouble.

If Despair comes home to roost, it will circle through the whorls of my brain like a bat trapped in an attic.  It will infect me with its panic and pause only to perch on my shoulder like a demon from Pandora’s Box and whisper its words in my ear.

“Things fall apart, the center will not hold” 

And with this simple phrase he manages to loose the desperation of Yeats’ “The Second Coming” upon me.

Defiance is a different sort.  He comes and houses himself within my mind, bolstering my courage and turning my nerves to steel.  He shouts out his battle cry, daring the troubles of an imperfect world to break themselves against the mighty cliff of his resolve. 

“Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

And with those words, he strengthens me with Dylan Thomas’ ode to fighting against the frailty of existence, “Do Not Go Gently Into That Good Night” echoes in my ears and in my voice as I face down my troubles and overtake them.

We all have Despair and Defiance within us.  They whisper to us in words that have meaning for us that is unique among all other men.  Yeats and Thomas call to me, as they have many others.  But, the one thing I do know about poetry, and respect the art because of it, is that it may affect all of us but it touches us all in a way as individual as our fingerprints.

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