December 12, 2017

You’ve Gotta Hear This. It’s Amazing.

The Rock of Ages in the Big Room (Carlsbad Caverns), Ansel Adams

The Rock of Ages in the Big Room (Carlsbad Caverns), Ansel Adams

You’ve Gotta Hear This.  It’s Amazing.
By Damaris Zehner

Jeff Dunn insists that American readers will refuse to read poetry.  He’s always counseled me to leave the poetry out and in fact removed all the poems I had snuck into the manuscript of the book he’s publishing.  I trust Jeff’s experience , but sometimes I can’t help myself.  Sometimes the densely packed, singing lines of poetry are the only way to express what I experience of the immensity of nature and the mercy of God.

The poet who captures the immensity of nature and the mercy of God best is Gerard Manley Hopkins.

I’d like to introduce you to his most sublime poem – with perhaps the worst title in poetic history:  “That Nature Is a Heraclitean Fire and of the Comfort of the Resurrection.”  My goal is not to make you like poetry if you don’t, but to glory in a spiritual truth vividly expressed.  Think of me as that person in your household (maybe it’s you) who follows people around with book in hand, saying, “You’ve gotta hear this.  It’s amazing,” and cornering you until you listen.  I’ve got you cornered and I’m going to read you the poem, but I’m going to break off to explain as we go.  I hope that’s not too annoying.  I will include the uninterrupted poem at the end.

First, the Heraclitean fire of the title.  Heraclitus was the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher who said that “no one ever steps into the same river twice.”  Change was foundational to his idea of the universe; there was no constant but change.  All creation is simultaneously participating in transformations in which elements replace each other:  “The death of fire is the birth of air, and the death of air is the birth of water.”  The first part of Hopkins’ title, and the first part of the poem, traces those transformations.  Don’t let Hopkins’ habit of jamming words together or playing with ing parts of speech bother you.  In his efforts to make words into symphonic chords and not just notes, he couldn’t help himself – language had to be jammed with more meaning than its everyday usage allowed.    You can figure out the progression of what he’s describing:  clouds, the merry-makers (roysterers), dance through the first two lines; they transform to rain lancing down to earth.  Next wind dries the ruts and puddles of yesterday’s tempests into crusts and dusts, leaving footprints in the caked earth.  These transformations, “nature’s bonfire,” never cease.

Jeffrey Pine-Sentinel Dome, Ansel Adams

Jeffrey Pine-Sentinel Dome, Ansel Adams

That Nature is a Heraclitean Fire and of the Comfort of the Resurrection

Cloud-puffball, torn tufts, tossed pillows flaunt forth, then chevy on an air-
built thoroughfare:  heaven roysterers, in gay-gangs they throng; they glitter in marches.
Down roughcast, down dazzling whitewash, wherever an elm arches,
Shivelights and shadowtackle in long lashes lace, lance, and pair.
Delightfully the bright wind boisterous ropes, wrestles, beats earth bare
Of yestertempest’s creases; in pool and rutpeel parches
Squandering ooze to squeezed dough, crust, dust; stanches, starches
Squadroned masks and manmarks treadmire toil there
Footfretted in it.  Million-fuelѐd, nature’s bonfire burns on.

Hopkins then contemplates the place of humankind in this roiling universe of transformation.  The changes that keep nature ever renewed seem just to erase man.  As our elements are recycled and our essence is drowned, we view the approach of our nothingness with pity and indignation.  (The “her” below refers to nature.)

But quench her bonniest, dearest to her, her clearest-selvѐd spark
Man, how fast his firedint, his mark on mind, is gone!
Both are in an unfathomable, all is in an enormous dark
Drowned.  O pity and indignation!  Manshape, that shone
Sheer off, disseveral, a star, death blots black out; nor mark
Is any of him at all so stark
But vastness blurs and time beats level.  

Then Hopkins answers his own bleak ponderings:  Heraclitus’s transformations are not the only ones, and drowning people can be rescued.  Flesh may be eaten by worms and return to ashes; but the refining fire of Christ will burn away the trash and leave behind the heart of what He is and what we are in him.

Enough!  the Resurrection,
A hearts’ clarion!  Away grief’s gasping, joyless days, dejection.
Across my foundering deck shone
A beacon, an eternal beam.  Flesh fade, and mortal trash
Fall to the residuary worm; world’s wildfire, leave but ash:
In a flash, at a trumpet crash,
I am all at once what Christ is, since he was what I am, and
This Jack, joke, poor potsherd, patch, matchwood, immortal diamond,
Is immortal diamond.

Maybe Americans don’t read poetry, but maybe they should.  These lines lift my soul, fill my eyes, and give me hope and purpose; my mind and my heart are both set on fire.  By struggling to work through it, I opened myself up to a larger truth than I could previously comprehend.  I don’t just acquire information about the Gospel but plunge into it the way I’d plunge into a wave in the ocean.  I am all at once what Christ is, since he was what I am, and This Jack, joke, poor potsherd, patch, matchwood, immortal diamond, Is immortal diamond.  This is the Gospel.

Of course I could scrap the effort of reading poetry and just trot out the more “accessible” phrase, “God has a wonderful plan for your life.”  That cliché, however, is not going to make me follow you around the house with book in hand, overflowing with delight that has to be shared.

• • •

gerard-manley-hopkinsThat Nature is a Heraclitean Fire and of the Comfort of the Resurrection
By Gerard Manley Hopkins

Cloud-puffball, torn tufts, tossed pillows | flaunt forth, then chevy on an air-
Built thoroughfare: heaven-roysterers, in gay-gangs | they throng; they glitter in marches.
Down roughcast, down dazzling whitewash, | wherever an elm arches,
Shivelights and shadowtackle ín long | lashes lace, lance, and pair.
Delightfully the bright wind boisterous | ropes, wrestles, beats earth bare
Of yestertempest’s creases; | in pool and rut peel parches
Squandering ooze to squeezed | dough, crust, dust; stanches, starches
Squadroned masks and manmarks | treadmire toil there
Footfretted in it. Million-fuelèd, | nature’s bonfire burns on.
But quench her bonniest, dearest | to her, her clearest-selvèd spark
Man, how fast his firedint, | his mark on mind, is gone!
Both are in an unfathomable, all is in an enormous dark
Drowned. O pity and indig | nation! Manshape, that shone
Sheer off, disseveral, a star, | death blots black out; nor mark
                            Is any of him at all so stark
But vastness blurs and time | beats level. Enough! the Resurrection,
A heart’s-clarion! Away grief’s gasping, | joyless days, dejection.
                            Across my foundering deck shone
A beacon, an eternal beam. | Flesh fade, and mortal trash
Fall to the residuary worm; | world’s wildfire, leave but ash:
                            In a flash, at a trumpet crash,
I am all at once what Christ is, | since he was what I am, and
This Jack, joke, poor potsherd, | patch, matchwood, immortal diamond,
                            Is immortal diamond.

 

Comments

  1. Damaris, I am happy for you, and others like you, who find poetry appealing. I don’t, never did, and usually just skip it for simple prose.

    So, OK, I can see the appeal in this particular piece, but I just don’t have the patience for it. Sorry, I guess I am just a typical American…

    • Me too Oscar and I’m from the land down under – actually I think there’s a lot of us who don’t read poetry. Possibly because it was badly taught in school. For me most poetry of modern times seems to be authored by a random word generator, because it doesn’t make much sense. Perhaps poetry appeals to certain personality types and not others.

    • Dana Ames says:

      Oscar, I have a hard time with poetry, too, which is strange in that I am an auditory learner and a musician, and the sounds are so much a part of what poetry is about. What helps me is to read it out loud. Be sure as you’re reading that you DON’T pause at the end of the written line; read to the period, wherever it falls, and observe the cadences of the punctuation otherwise. Hopkins is challenging because he plays so much with the punctuation, but the richness of the sound overcomes that for me. Try reading it out loud a couple of times and see if it’s any better for you.

      Dana

  2. Robert F says:

    Actually, Americans are reading more poetry than ever, and writing a lot more, too. There are so many small printed and online journals, heavily frequented by readers, and contributed to by more writers than ever before. It’s actually encouraging.

  3. Robert F says:

    And thank you, Damaris, for sharing this beautiful poem. Poetry is part of the language of God, along with silence.

  4. Robert F says:

    The Buddhist went one logical step further than Heraclitus. They said, if everything is in constant flux, the reason you can’t step in the same river twice is that both you and the river are in constant flux. In addition, there are no categories of “you” or “river” that aren’t also in constant flux, so: you can’t step in the same river twice because neither you nor the river exist to do so.

    I think Hopkins was right. Many things are in constant flux, but they exist and endure as themselves because of Christ, and his resurrection.

  5. Robert F says:

    In the small meadow
    between the river and road
    life and death buzz on.

  6. Adam Tauno Williams says:

    > Of course I could scrap the effort of reading poetry and just trot out the more “accessible” phrase,
    > “God has a wonderful plan for your life.”

    But the effort is everything. The poet, even if they aren’t very good, isn’t lazy, he or she has a message important enough to them that they are willing to invest in it. The alternative – the “God has a wonderful plan for your life” – is too easy, there is no reason for anyone to listen, if that is your answer to me all it says is that you do not care, a better answer was not worth your time.

    > Maybe Americans don’t read poetry, but maybe they should.

    They don’t, and it is sad.

    Like the line of Walter de La Mare – “Tell them I came, and no one answered, That I kept my word.” Maybe no one answers, but the poet has the dignity of having been there.

  7. Jeff Dunn says:

    What do I know???

    🙂

    Thanks, Damaris. Great poem! (And for the record, I said Americans won’t buy poetry. They may read it, but it doesn’t sell. And that, indeed, is sad.)

    • Jeff Dunn sighting: yes, the CUBS will rise….. hope and pray your summer goes well

      • yes, the CUBS will rise…

        The Call of CUBthulhu?

        Sorry, being just another American poetry-underappreciator, I have little else to contribute. :-/

    • Damaris says:

      You know a lot.

      You’re right, Jeff — I didn’t mean to misquote you!

    • Christiane says:

      I’m not sure that Americans are so unmoved by poetic images . . . even ‘primitive’ American culture rejoiced in that which is filled with such images:

      take a look at Hopkins’ words, these:
      “. . . A beacon, an eternal beam. | Flesh fade, and mortal trash
      Fall to the residuary worm; | world’s wildfire, leave but ash:
      In a flash, at a trumpet crash,
      I am all at once what Christ is |, since he was what I am, . . . ”

      and then listen to the shape-note hymn ‘Idumea’ from our American heartland:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9f5pkzzmhNI

      “And am I born to die? To lay this body down! And must my trembling spirit fly Into a world unknown? A land of deepest shade, Unpierced by human thought; The dreary regions of the dead, Where all things are forgot! Soon as from earth I go, What will become of me? Eternal happiness or woe Must then my portion be! Waked by the trumpet sound, I from my grave shall rise; And see the Judge with glory crowned, And see the flaming skies!”

      In the magnificence of the same Power that formed Creation, I think we can sense the Force that will, with a Word, call forth the Resurrection. For me, there is great comfort is the prayer: “Jesus Christ, I trust in You.”
      I think often of the beauty of the Anglican burial service’s triumphant proclamation from Chapter 19 of Job, this:
      “25 For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:
      26 And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God:
      27 Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.”

      with this kind of proclamation, it is not too difficult to envision the words in Revelation that tells how, at the command of Christ, the sea shall give up its dead . . . (my husband is to be buried at sea after his death . . . )

      All is grace.

    • Robert F says:

      Hi, Jeff. Good to hear from you, however briefly. Hope you and yours are well.

      Yes, plenty of American will gladly read poetry, but they won’t pay for it. It has been so for a long time. Renowned contemporary poets, the kind that belong to the class of poets from which we get our Poets Laureate of state or nation, and who publish in the prestigious poetry journals (usually associated with a university), for the most part make their living as academics in the academic world, often as professors and poets-in-residence (there are some exceptions, who work in some occupation outside of academia, but even those usually are heavily networked in the academic world, and could not support themselves solely on sale of their poetry).

      Books of poetry are very expensive, if you think of it in terms of words per dollar, compared to novels and other forms of popular literature; in addition, as we all know, poetry, especially contemporary poetry, demands much of the reader, and certain learned reading skills akin to the special listening skills appreciation of classical music demands. When contemporary poets publish, it’s a labor of love, because they will never get rich from their poetry (although, to be transparent about the subject, failure to publish would likely endanger many of their university jobs; publication is everything in the world of academia, and failure to publish can and will often lead to the death of an academic career).

  8. One very nice thing about this place is that people feel free to post poetry, their own or others. Sometimes it’s great, sometimes not so, but it’s all okay to do. Can’t think of anywhere else where that is so.

    In searching birth and death dates online to see whether Dylan Thomas might have been Hopkins reincarnate, I discover that Hopkins knew Old English and learned Welsh in his education, which, while interesting, is probably not proof. But if so, Dylan got to make up for all the things Gerard didn’t get to do. Well, maybe not all of them.

    Who am I trying to think of that was a British poet killed in World War I? I had thought it was Hopkins, but not so. Things get fuzzy after fifty-some years of storage in the brain. I find it interesting that as a result of hanging out here over the past year, vague thoughts of picking up the poetic pen again surface from time to time, dimple the water and disappear. Maybe more than any other factor, W has stirred things up.

    • Charles, Wilfred Owen, Rupert Brooke, and Siegfried Sassoon were the big WWI poets. Owen and Brooke were both killed in the war; Sassoon survived to die of old age.

      • Thanks, Damaris, no none of those three. Somehow I managed to confuse Hopkins, WWI, and Francis Thompson of Hound of Heaven fame in my addled mind. Hopkins was highly radical for his time, even for the later time of the war, but he was almost unknown in his lifetime. What did stay in my mind unconfused after all this time was his sound, which you acknowledge in the title of your piece. I might regard it as somewhat overdone today, but it greatly influenced me at the time and I suspect still does. Was why I started down the Dylan Thomas rabbit trail. Glad you took us on this side journey today, complete with appearance by the legendary Jeff Dunn.

        • Damaris says:

          “Complete with appearance by the legendary Jeff Dunn” — I thought I could flush him out with the poetry! 🙂

          I also love “Hound of Heaven” and Dylan Thomas, Charles. All people who got drunk on words, as Peter Wimsey would put it.

      • Your reference to Owen and Sassoon reminded me of Pat Barker’s Regeneration Trilogy. Ever read “Regeneration”?

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > Can’t think of anywhere else where that is so.

      +1

  9. I got distracted at this line:
    *
    ” heaven roysterers, in gay-gangs they throng; they glitter in marches.”

  10. Ric Schopke says:

    A poet that is fast becoming one of my favorites is the 17th. century Anglican priest, George Herbert.

    • Hard to go wrong with 17th Century religious verse from England — Donne, et al.

  11. Poetry is word music–I don’t like all forms of music, and I don’t like all forms of poetry. But the poetry, like the music, that I do like moves me. This particular poem did not (although other Hopkins’ poems do), but like other forms of music I can learn to appreciate, I could study this one to figure out why others find it moving. Recently, I’ve loved the sonnets and poems of Malcolm Guite. His structure and form appeals to my personality type (INTJ) and his use of words and language astounds me and makes me jealous (as a writer and lyricist). I think poetry will make a comeback, but only if offered in varying forms for varying tastes, and all valued equally.

    • Christiane says:

      Hi CLAY, I recommend Guite’s writings on the Sarum ‘O’ Antiphons . . . so very beautiful!

    • Rick Ro. says:

      Just read a couple of Guite’s poems. Thanks for the suggestion, Clay.

  12. Rick Ro. says:

    I’ve written probably a thousand poems, some good, some not so good. My favorite poems are ones that have good wordplay (clever or fun pairings of words or phrases) and aren’t too ambiguous.

    The difficulty with poetry is that “good” is so subjective. I’ve read garbage that other people love and vice versa. But that’s actually a strength, too. Unlike the short story or novel which you might have to invest some time into it before realizing it isn’t your cup o’ tea, if you begin reading a poem you don’t like it’s easy to move to the next one.

  13. David Cornwell says:

    When one is 77 the phrase “God has a wonderful plan for your life” is empty, useless powder that has blown away with little left but a sting in the nostril. But

    “I am all at once what Christ is, since he was what I am, and
    This Jack, joke, poor potsherd, patch, matchwood, immortal diamond,
    Is immortal diamond.”

    says all I need to know. Thank you for sharing Gerard Manley Hopkins with us. And may God give us the patience to read poetry.

    I’ve noticed that to read poetry I must always slow down. Most of it I can’t read, digest, and dispose of on the fly, like so much we commonly do these days. We glance down pages, turn them, on the internet dispose of them with a click or two, and then forget. Not so with poetry.

    “The New Yorker” of 11 May 2009 reviews a biography of Gerard Manley Hopkins. The review itself is a respectful, reverent discussion of Hopkins’ brief life. When he died he was not thought of as a success, and his poetry didn’t come into its own until later. This from the review: “When he died, of typhoid fever, the following year, at the age of forty-four, his friend Bridges—a respected man of letters, who was to become England’s poet laureate—pronounced Hopkins’s life a total failure.”

    The review ends with a description Hopkins gives of the “success” of Jesus:

    “Above all Christ our Lord: his career was cut short and, whereas he would have wished to succeed by success—for it is insane to lay yourself out for failure . . . nevertheless he was doomed to succeed by failure; his plans were baffled, his hopes dashed, and his work was done by being broken off undone. However much he understood all this he found it an intolerable grief to submit to it. He left the example: it is very strengthening, but except in that sense it is not consoling.”

    (For the article itself Google the following: How Gerard Manley Hopkins remade English poetry)

    • Rick Ro. says:

      Ah, Jeremiah 29:11. Most misused scripture in the Bible, in my opinion. Here’s my poem about it:

      Jeremiah 29:11
      (Rick Rosenkranz, 2014)

      ‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.’

      I’ve seen blue sky turn dark in minutes,
      clouds black as coal, heard the sirens,
      but I’ve yet to see a swirling vortex
      pick up a fleeing ’67 Chevy,
      father and daughter inside,
      and throw it like a toy.

      I’ve seen the shark in Jaws swallow
      a character named Quint whole,
      but have yet to see real blood in the water,
      a man actually torn in two.

      I saw the casket of my father-in-law,
      the sad faces of lives changed forever,
      but I didn’t look inside his motorcycle helmet,
      nor go see the wreckage of his Honda Gold Wing.

      And now I’ve seen the hairless head
      and pale, pale skin of my wife’s sister,
      heard the words, I’m stopping treatment,
      but I’ve yet to see the tiny murderous cells,
      the ones killing her plans for the future.

      I’ve heard Jeremiah’s words held up and preached
      as if they held some kind of magical power,
      but never will I understand them.
      Never.

      • David Cornwell says:

        Those who use this passage to guide others would be wise just to read your poem and forget the magic. Thanks Rick.

      • Damaris says:

        Thank you for this, Rick, both writing it and posting it. If only we could read the whole Bible in one instantaneous gulp, like taking a pill; as it is, we remember first the encouraging verses, then the sad ones, then the words of judgment, or the words of forgiveness. It’s too easy to think each is the whole truth when we perceive it. The mismatch between two chunks of truth (We suffer vs Isn’t God good? for example) can be painful.

  14. CrazyChester says:

    I’ve admired Gerard Manley Hopkins ever since I discovered his works in a Victorian lit class. However, I agree with Jeff. In America, at least, poetry has lost its place as a prevailing art form except in academic circles. Who is the current U.S. Poet Laureate? Can we name one significant living American poet? Even if there was a 21st century equivalent of Rod McKuen, he wouldn’t sell. The modern modes of verbal artistic expression are novels, cinema, and lyrics of rock songs. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

    • Robert F says:

      There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of poets equivalent to Rod McKuen today, and most them work for Hallmark.

      The current Poet Laureate of the U.S. is Juan Felipe Herrera. My favorite living poets are W.S. Merwin and Gary Snyder. Denise Levertov is another favorite of mine, though she died around the turn of the millennium.

      But you are right, popular arts have displaced poetry, except in academia. Even the growing interest in poetry among the populace in things like poetry-slams and spoken-word events is always linked to the popular arts, from which they get their current cultural influence. Without that link to popular arts, they wouldn’t see the light of day.

      • Damaris says:

        I like Billy Collins and Taylor Mali, too.

        • Robert F says:

          Mark Jarman is a wonderful, living American poet. His collection, Questions for Ecclesiastes, touches on matters of God and faith in a way I’m sure you’d appreciate, Damaris. The eponymous poem of the collection re-imagines a harrowing pastoral visit of Jarman’s father, who was a Christian minister, to the home of a family whose daughter had committed suicide that night in their house. This poem is so powerful and moving, and is an example of one of why I continue to read poetry, and always will.

          http://www.amazon.com/Questions-Ecclesiastes-Mark-Jarman/dp/1885266413

        • Robert F says:

          Btw, Damaris, in the 1970s I took several poetry workshops at Michigan State University with the American Midwestern regional poet Diane Wakowski. Although I never cared much for her poetry, she was a good refiner of young poets; under her tutelage I produced a handful of around ten poems that were probably publishable. Unfortunately, in one of my episodes of self-destruction, I destroyed them, and concertedly set out to forget them entirely; I succeeded in doing so, and also in completely losing touch with the muse that inspired them.

          Diane was an interesting and eccentric figure. She loathed religion, and let those of us in the workshop know it on a couple of occasions, not to prevent us from writing poems dealing with religion, but to give us forewarning that she was unfit to act as constructive critic for any poem which had religion as a central them. I think she was in a post-evangelical wilderness herself, and a post-Christian wilderness.

        • Robert F says:

          Here is a wonderful poem by Jarman about receiving communion: “At the Communion Rail”:

          http://www.rattle.com/poetry/at-the-communion-rail-by-mark-jarman/

          • Robert F says:

            I see from the note beneath this poem that Jarman has passed through the evangelical wilderness, and arrived in one high liturgical tradition or another; the perfect Poet Laureate for iMonk.

          • Damaris says:

            Wow! Thank you for this, Robert. I will read more of him. I had never heard of him. And thanks also for the story about your poetry teacher. I’m glad you’re writing again. I love the poetry you’ve posted here.

  15. I’ve had Hopkins’ “Carrion Comfort” hanging on my office wall for the better part of 20 years. And for the worst part of 20 years, for that matter.

    Biographical question that it’d be too boring to look up myself on Wikipedia: Was Hopkins, as his name suggest, actually Welsh? The Welsh have always punched well above their weight when it comes to poetry. (Dylan Thomas, Wilfred Owen, etc.)

    • Damaris says:

      He was English, as far as I’ve ever read. The English have also had a few good poets.

    • From the Wikipedia entry on Hopkins: “Hopkins was influenced by the Welsh language that he acquired while studying theology at St Beuno’s near St Asaph. The poetic forms of Welsh literature and particularly cynghanedd with its emphasis on repeating sounds accorded with his own style and became a prominent feature of his work. This reliance on similar sounding words with close or differing senses mean that his poems are best understood if read aloud.”

      And from the same source: “Hopkins was a supporter of linguistic purism in English. In an 1882 letter to Robert Bridges, Hopkins writes: “It makes one weep to think what English might have been; for in spite of all that Shakespeare and Milton have done […] no beauty in a language can make up for want of purity”.[14] He took time to learn Old English, which became a major influence on his writing. In the same letter to Bridges he calls Old English ‘a vastly superior thing to what we have now’.”

      Yeah, mebbe.

      • Well, in one sense, i wish that we had a modern form of Anglo-Saxon, as poetry in that language (what little we have) is quite striking. In another sense, i can’t agree with him at all – no language is “pure,” and English is what it is because of all the loan words, along with the way Norman French infiltrated Anglo-Saxon. (Which was not a “pure” language, either – too many loan words from Nordic and “local” Celtic languages – but, being a dead language, it can appear, in some senses, perfect, in the way that insects trapped in amber are perfectly preserved.)

      • Keep in mind that there was a major revival of Welsh culture during Hopkins’ time. I’m sure that’s part of what made him wish that there could have been a continuous thread linking pre-Conquest language and poetry to his era.

  16. What you said Damaris!

  17. The one and only poem I know: “I eat my peas with honey; I’ve done it all my life. It makes the peas taste funny, but it keeps ’em on the knife.”

    • I heard another poem with the honey/funny rhyme a couple of years ago when one of my daughters graduated from college. The guest speaker was a diplomat from Canada, and he talked about growing up speaking French among English-speaking Canadians, and not always understanding jokes—but laughing at them anyway in order to fit in. He recited this poem from his boyhood:

      “When you’re out with your honey
      And your nose is all runny
      You might think it’s funny,
      But it’s not.”

      That’s the only thing I remember from his speech. Or any other graduation speech, for that matter.

      • Damaris says:

        You led a deprived childhood, Ted. I remember weeping with laughter at the wit of that doggerel when I was eight.

  18. Robert F says:

    Scanning the comments, it seems that most of the poets referenced belong to the Dead Poets Society. Does anyone have any favorite living poets?

  19. Damaris, if you click on my name and go to Contact and send me an email with a mailing address, I’ll send you a copy of a one-issue literary magazine i co-published and co-edited in the early 60’s. We did the whole thing ourselves, edited, formatted, hand set, and hand printed on an old platen press. Some things I would change in retrospect including a glaring spelling error, but all in all one of my finer moments along the way.

  20. Robert F says:

    They call it a weed,
    but its tiny purple heads
    hold a flower’s light.