Saturday, June 17, 2006

Winding Down After a Rough Week: Poetry That Heals My Soul

I'm slowly slowly going insane
I look at the signs and see your name
I'm slowly slowly going insane
How will life ever be the same

It's like a pain inside my head
It sits on my heart like a piece of lead

That, my friends, is as much as I can remember of a Bad Teen Poem I wrote when I was 16 for my quasi-punk/goth friend who was in love with a guy named Denis who prefered rocker chicks in bustiers. My friend kept seeing Denis's name everywhere and it was driving her nuts (there was a soda distribution company called "Les Boissons Denis" that parked its trucks near our High School, incidentally). So, one night when we were on the phone and she was telling me all about this guy, I wrote this poem. She absolutely loved it.

I was actually considered quite the poet at my HS and people would often remark that my poems could easily be turned into songs. It all ended, though, when I hit CEGEP. I was told by the snooty, Anglo, private school kids in the poetry club that (a) my poetry sucked and (b) only free verse poetry about Important Things (like The Environment or War or Alienation or Kurt Cobain) was cool. So I stopped writing poetry. Deep down inside, though, I still had a soft spot for the uncool lyrical, rhyming poetry.

Anyways, this week, I had a pretty crazy week at work, full of meetings and more meetings with some folks from New York (I used to think I'd like to live in NY, but now I think that all I'd get out of it would be high blood pressure) and my mind started to drift to "Lochinvar" by Sir Walter Scott. I had to memorize it in HS and it has stuck with me forever. It tends to play through my mind when I'm stressed. Have you ever had a poem stuck in your head during a heavy meeting? It's not fun.

To make matters worse, I had downloaded a CBC podcast discussing the different rhythms in poetry: iam, bacchus, "tripping girl wth her skirt up," etc. And that caused more poems to start popping into my head.

So, in the name of cathartic release, here are my top five favourite poems:

1. The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock by TS Eliott

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo

I analysed this poem for an English class once. I can't remember what kind of bullshit I wrote, but I'm positive it was bullshit. It doesn't matter, really, because (in my opinion) what really matters is how I feel about the poem. This poem makes me sad and introspective. You know that Joe Jackson song, "Stepping Out?" This poem reminds me of that song. It reminds me of parties I've been to where I've known no one and pretended to be having fun. It reminds me that you feel the most lonely when you're surrounded by people. And it reminds me that you should just go out and eat that damn peach! Grab life by the horns and get to it!

2. To His Coy Mistress by Andrew Marvel

Andrew Marvel says, "Yo, fuck, sleep with me," but in a funny, clever way that will guarantee that the girl will sleep with him. You can't not like that kind of poem (unless you have something against sex, but then you have other problems and you're probably not reading this blog anyways).

3. Annabel Lee by Edgar Allen Poe

For the moon never beams without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise but I see the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling, my darling, my life and my bride,
In her sepulchre there by the sea--
In her tomb by the side of the sea.

Don't you just want to go back in time, find Edgar Allen Poe and give him a big, giant hug? This is the most melancholy poem I have ever heard (OK, I have a limited knowledge of poetry, I admit). I know it's morbid and gothic and my mother yelled at me for liking this poem ("Why would you like something about a dead person?"), but the sentiment is so strong and pure that you can't help be moved. And when you've spent your day listening to business speak, it really does the soul good to feel some strong emotions.

4. Shakespere's Sonnet #130: My Mistress's Eyes Are Nothing Like The Sun

Brutal freaking honesty. It's so refreshing. And who can't love a poem that says, "My girlfriend may not be perfect, but she's better than any chick who has flowery superlatives applied to her." This sonnet is a love poem for every couple who's been together more than five years.

5. Poem #260 (I'm Nobody! Who are You?) by Emily Dickinson

Apparently almost all of Emily Dickinson's poems can be sung to the tune of "The Yellow Rose of Texas." I can't remember how that goes (something like "Oh Susanna" I think), but I'm pretty sure this poem is one of them.

I realize the irony of posting that I understand the feeling of wanting to be nobody on a blog (which is, by its nature, exhibitionist), but sometimes, you really feel like being nobody. You just want to blend into scenery and let someone else be asked the tough questions or be put on the spot. Or even, sometimes, you don't want to be popular. But the world hates a wallflower: it's all about being outgoing and happy. Of course, Emily Dickinson was a recluse, so I think there was more than just introvertness or a need to unwind going on.

I’m nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there’s a pair of us—don’t tell!
They’d banish us, you know.

How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog
To tell your name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!

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