This year, one of my resolutions will be to talk more about one of my big mysteries – and that’s not the JFK assassination or the Nixon administration – no, indeed to talk about poetry.
Billy Collins was the poet laureate of the United States during the Clinton administration, and he has struck me as one of the most approachable poets I have stumbled across.
One of his efforts was a two-volume collection of modern, approachable poetry.
“Poetry 180” and “More Poetry 180” collects poems edited and presented to high school students as a resource for teachers to keep up with poetry in it’ modern form, while also acting as a way to educate young up and coming poets about poetry, the importance of reading poetry and especially as a resource for those who write poetry but don’t find themselves reading in the genre.
From the introduction of “Poetry 180.”
“High School is the focus . . . because all too often that is where poetry goes to die.
What some students experience when they are made to confront might be summed up on a frightening syllogism:
“I understand English
This poem is written in English
I have no idea what this poem is saying.”
Been there and done that and I agree.
I have struggled to be a fiction writer but realized that I am not a fictionist, but instead a poet. I write snippets that capture a moment in time that often need not be expanded upon – especially into something as expansive as a novella or longer.
I joke that my real job is to be that television show scene writer who drafts that first scene for a crime thriller when a body is found and to then put the scene to dramatic tempo starting with the discovery of the body to the witty comment from the frumpled detective that closes the scene before the opening credits roll. That is as deep as my fiction writing gets.
James Dickey wrote “Deliverance.” An all too memorable film but an even more powerful novel. But all most no one knows that before his only novel, Dickey was another Poet Laureate of the United States and considered an artisan of the free verse and approachable “everyman” verse
Whitman was the first poet I stumbled on as an adult when a gun wasn’t placed to my head to read a poem and contemplate. As an English Literature major in college in Gunnison – poetry was considered an afterthought and I put off taking the required poetry credits until my last semester – with the gun to my head to pass and graduate and be done with it.But in my senior year of college, I found Whitman and the ease and expanse of free verse. (Apparently, one could write a poem and not have that tick tacky singy songy rhyming meter. – what a revelation.)
Over the next 360 days, I will publish the poem of the day and provide my take and maybe even a poem of my own as inspired by what is there. The source(s) by “Poetry 180” and “More Poetry 180,” edited by Billy Collins and sourced from the Library of Congress as part of the Poetry 180 project.
Let’s do this together and experience “A turning back to poetry.”