Friday, December 07, 2012

Poetry Friday: Best of 2012

This week I got an email from the Academy of American Poets giving the results of the voting on the best poems of the year. I've mentioned before that I get a daily email from the AAP (not the American Academy of Pediatrics), whose site is I didn't vote in these elections, but when I looked at the choices, I was surprised and interested to see that of the ten chosen, five were ones I had particularly liked myself. ( I always save the ones I like best and delete the others from my email.) Considering that voters had about 350 poems to choose from, this seemed a high level of agreement. You can look at the list here of which poems were chosen. There are links to all of them.

I had some trouble deciding which one of them to share with you here, but finally decided on this Rafael Campo poem, entitled "Love Song for Love Songs," for a couple of reasons. First, I've been reading a lot of love poetry this week, drafts from my seventh and eighth graders. I'm touched and amused in about equal measure by their take on romantic love, the pain and embarrassment and ecstasy and misery. At this age, at least in our school, they are mostly talking about crushes and adoration from afar, which is no doubt just as it should be. Still, these emotions are real to them, and I'm glad they can write about them. And secondly, isn't all poetry love poetry in its broadest sense? Poets write about our love for people and places and times and living, and even when they are writing of suffering or of topics that seem to have nothing to do with love, they still remind us of our rootedness in this earth, and of the joy and sorrow of being human. This poem is light and funny (and I enjoyed searching out more of Rafael Campo's poems, and his ironic touch), but it also makes me think of the job of poets, to make the oldest ideas and experiences in the world fresh and new. Sometimes they succeed and sometimes not, but I am so thankful that they (and I, in my own way) keep trying.

Love Song for Love Songs

Rafael Campo

A golden age of love songs and we still
can't get it right. Does your kiss really taste
like butter cream? To me, the moon's bright face
was neither like a pizza pie nor full;
the Beguine began, but my eyelid twitched.
"No more I love you's," someone else assured
us, pouring out her heart, in love (of course)—
what bothers me the most is that high-pitched,
undone whine of "Why am I so alone?"

 Here's the rest.

And here's today's roundup.


Liz Steinglass said...

Thanks for sharing this poem. I really like the idea that broadly speaking all poems are love poems--love of people, love of nature, love of words, love of life.
Happy Poetry Friday.

Tabatha said...

Very interesting about the agreement over the poems! It's funny how poetry speaks to us all so differently, so personally, that we never really hear the same thing -- but we can still like the same poems, even so.

Have you heard that all poetry is really about death? I think I like your idea that it's really about love better!

Marjorie said...

That's amazing that 5 of the top ten were in yours too!

And it's great that you are getting your classes to pour their emotions into poetry. I can only imagine the rawness of what they are writing compared with the light ironic almost detached touch in Rafael Campo's.

jama said...

Hah! Great poem. Enjoyed hearing your thoughts about poetry being about love in the broadest sense, too. :)

Author Amok said...

Hi, Ruth. I'm reading this one as a long-term love-song -- maybe because I've been married 21 years. But its a rich poem that can speak to new love and longstanding love at the same time!

Linda B said...

I didn't remember that you teach middle school aged students. That's what I taught for a long while-love them! And we used to write love poems too. Terrific! I love the first four lines of this, Ruth. And despite the rather jaded look, he makes it all sweet when taken together. Thanks for your own ideas too, about all poems being love songs. Nice to ponder.

Robyn Hood Black said...

No surprise, Ruth, that you have wonderful taste in poetry! That's quite a percentage of "winners" you had also liked.

Thanks for sharing this wry love offering today.

Heidi Mordhorst said...

I get these emails, too, Ruth, but I missed the one about the Top Ten! Thanks for hooking me up with Rafael Campo--clearly a formidable talent. There are so many ways that all poems are love poems...

Tara @ A Teaching Life said...

Love in middle school - so fleeting and yet so overpowering. And I love this poem, Ruth - it sort of captures that, in a sophisticated way!

Steve Peterson said...

Thanks for pointing me in Campo's direction. I'm looking forward to reading more of his work. Also, I love your words: "...they still remind us of our rootedness in this earth, and of the joy and sorrow of being human." I read them and said, yes!

Janet said...

What tends to keep me flopping over into discouragement as a writer is that "it's all been said." That's what I hear in this poem. And yet, we can't help but find our own words and write about our experience anyway -- even if it ends up sounding like everyone else -- even if it doesn't get it quite right and makes us keep trying.

Violet N. said...

I enjoyed the poem, Ruth, but most I loved your observations on the love poetry of your students, and the thought that all poetry is love poetry. Wise words!

Mary Lee said...

I actually liked your words about all poems being love poems MORE than Campo's poem. Maybe you should write a poem...