Friday, March 31, 2017

Poetry Friday: Memory and Desire

Tomorrow begins National Poetry Month.  Every year I quote the line from T. S. Eliot: "April is the cruelest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land, mixing memory and desire."  I've been thinking about that line, and its focus on the past (memory) and the future (desire).  I've also been thinking about the hundreds of poems I have posted on this blog in the nearly eleven years (my blog birthday is this month!) that I've been writing here.

Many of the Poetry Friday bloggers are full of fabulous project ideas for this month.  Amy's writing about colors.  Heidi's on a math kick.  And, of course, Irene's organized the Progressive Poem.  (And there are so many other creative projects planned! Here's Jama's list.)  I know myself better than to commit to writing a poem every day in April, because April in middle school is, indeed, the cruelest month.  Who knows what could happen?  But I do want to do a daily post this month.  (I'll be linking you to each new line in the Progressive Poem, at the very least.)

So here's what I came up with:  six days a week in April, I'll write a post linking up to a wonderful poem or two from my archives.  And on Fridays, I'll post something new.  I'll attempt to make it something newly written (by me), but some weeks it may just be something newly discovered.  In other words, Saturday through Thursday will be about memory, and Fridays will be about desire.  Or something like that.

So for today, I will link to the poems that got me thinking about this idea.  I was browsing past posts, and in June 2012 I had written about my husband reading "Tintern Abbey" while we were on vacation at our friend's cabin in the woods.  I wrote: "As we sat on the porch of the cabin, looking out over the woods, my husband said, 'This reminds me of Tintern Abbey.' He read the poem aloud to us. From now on whenever I hear or read it, I'll think of our friend P. killing bugs in a kind of rhythmic counterpoint."

I love that idea, expressed in Wordsworth's lines below, that our moments are precious not only for the delight they bring us while they're happening, but also for the memories we have to ponder later.

And now, with gleams of half-extinguish'd thought,
With many recognitions dim and faint,
And somewhat of a sad perplexity,
The picture of the mind revives again:
While here I stand, not only with the sense
Of present pleasure, but with pleasing thoughts
That in this moment there is life and food
For future years.

Here's that post.

And in December 2009, I wrote another Tintern Abbey related post, this time referring to Billy Collins' poem "Lines Composed Over Three Thousand Miles from Tintern Abbey."  This one skewers the idea of nostalgia, beginning:

I was here before, a long time ago,
and now I am here again
is an observation that occurs in poetry
as frequently as rain occurs in life.

Here's that post.

In this article, Garrison Keillor tells us that April isn't the cruelest month - March is.  (And it's almost over!)  He also suggests that you shouldn't read poetry, necessarily, but you should definitely write a poem to someone you love, and he gives some tips for doing so.

Here's to a fabulous National Poetry Month!  And Amy has today's roundup at The Poem Farm.

10 comments:

Brenda Harsham said...

I can't commit to writing a poem a day this year either. My novel is going too well to set it aside for another project. But I will enjoy as a reader where I can. I love what a champion for poetry Garrison Keillor is. And you, too, Ruth. Best of luck this cruelest (or penultimate cruelest) month.

Jane @ www.raincitylibrarian.ca said...

11 years of blogging, I commend you!

This is my first April dipping my toes into the online poetry community, and I'm beyond thrilled, looking forward to immersing myself into a world of poets and poetry!

Amy Ludwig VanDerwater said...

Your poetry plans are rich. Taking time to look back is a great idea, one I am now going to think about. I imagine rereading old notebooks and posts much more than I actually do it. But you are right. There is the doing and the writing and the reflecting. That matters too. Thank you for your words today, and Happy Cruelty-Free Poetry Month! xx

Mitchell Linda said...

Wow! I'm rounding the corner of one year of involvement in the Poetry Friday community. It's wonderful. I feel like I've grown as a writer of poetry but also wonderfully so as a reader. I can see examples of form and skill and word play in real life. I love it!

Poetry Month sort of overwhelms me. I am always tempted to say yes to activities...but I try not to. I want to keep the time I have saved for writing. But, we will see. There's always next year.

Kay said...

I am looking forward to all the poetry goodness next month, but my plan is to savor and enjoy (both reading and writing) rather than write every day. I hope to dip my pen to paper in a variety of ways through the month. I'm looking forward to your discoveries.

Linda B said...

I learn from you every time I read your posts, Ruth, and will look for "Saturday through Thursday will be about memory, and Fridays will be about desire". That's something to look forward to for sure. And you've echoed Wordsworht haven't you: "in this moment there is life and food /For future years." Nothing nicer than to look forward to remembering. Thanks!

Bridget Magee said...

'Memory and desire' - this is a great way to approach life as well as NPM, Ruth. Looking forward to your month of sharing. =)

Tabatha said...

Sounds like a great plan, Ruth! 11 years is quite an accomplishment, and quite a set of archives to revisit.
"We poets go sashaying along, perpetually 17, lost in wonder at the ordinary, astonished by streetlights, in awe at lawn ornaments, bedazzled by baristas releasing steam into milk for the lattes." Accurate, if sassy :-)!

Mary Lee said...

Thank you for all the links, but especially the one to the Garrison Keillor article. He's a national treasure. And I wholeheartedly agree that (especially this year) March is the cruelest month. I have kicked it to the curb and flipped all the calendar pages WITH GLEE!!

moreart4all said...

Your poem Written from Tintern Abbey, flows from one line into the next. My month is very full too, though writing always seems to find it's place in the thick of all. I look forward to visiting your poems through the month.