|Photo credit: Lyn Fenwick|
I don't know who is authorized to declare such things as "April is Poetry Month,...," but it raises a question that sounds like something Billy Collins might use to start a poem.
"It occurred to me
on a flight from London to Barcelona
that Shakespeare could have written
'This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England'
with more authority had he occupied
the window seat next to me
instead of this businessman from Frankfurt."
Excerpt from The Bard in Flight
Robert Frost said, "A poem begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a lovesickness." However, not every poet finds inspiration in the same way.
|Photo credit: Lyn Fenwick, "Day After the 4th of July, Waiting for the Trash Man"|
In 1955, Beat Poet Allen Ginsberg was inspired to write "A Supermarket in California."
"What thoughts I have of you tonight, Walt Whitman, for I walked
down the side streets under the trees with a headache self-conscious
looking at the full moon.
In my hungry fatigue, and shopping for images, I went into the
neon fruit supermarket, dreaming of your enumerations!"
Ginsberg's inspiration may not have been so different from that of Langston Hughes, who said, "I tried to write poems like the songs they sang on Seventh Street...," the block in Harlem where Hughes lived in NYC.
Years ago, my husband and I went to a poetry reading where we heard Maxine Kumin read, and in her book that I bought that day is a poem titled, "For My Great-Grandfather: A message Long Overdue," in which she describes the inspiration for the poem.
"...Great-Grandfather, old blue-eyes fox of foxes,
I have three pages of you. That is all.
1895. A three-page letter
from Newport News, Virginia, written
on your bleached-out bills of sale under the stern
heading: Rosenberg The Tailor, Debtor,
A Full Line of Goods Of All The Latest In
Suiting And Pants. My mother has just been born.
~ * ~
You write to thank your daughter for the picture
of that sixth grandchild. There are six more to come."
When I determined to share the journal of Kansas homesteader Isaac Werner at the center of history of the Populist Movement, it was a poem by Walt Whitman that inspired the structure of my book, "Prairie Bachelor." Isaac's journal did not inspire me to write a poem, but a poet inspired me to structure the history of the Populist Movement through the eyes of a forgotten Kansas homesteader, and to begin the book with a funeral.
|Photo credit: Lyn Fenwick|
"It is not only in the bird,
Nor only where the rainbow glows,
Nor in the song of a woman heard,
But in the darkest, meanest things
There alway, alway something sings."
Whatever poetry you enjoy, the annual reminder each April offers the opportunity to pull those neglected poetry books off the bookcase. A poem might be just what you need during this unnatural season of Covid isolation.