Save a Stanza – Adopt a Poet Today

I have been enjoying this excellent and comprehensive site quite a bit lately, gorging myself on Dickinson and Burns and Keats and Shelley and Byron and Tennyson and Poe and Plath and Browning and more Dickinson, etc.

It’s easy to browse, for poetry nerds and novices alike. It has biographies and photos and articles and audio of poems.

This is perhaps the time, dear reader, when I should confess my secret.

I love words…to an absurd degree, really.

I will sift through the available word options in my head until I find the word that has the most nuanced meaning, the best sound and texture and color. I will select this word with the utmost care, garb it in all its gleaming perfection of context, and then gently release it to the world like a baby sparrow into the sky…where it promptly face-plants onto the pavement.

“What?” is usually the response, though I also enjoy the frequent “huh?” or blank stare. Words, the basis for human communication, tend to be useless when seldom used. I will continue the fight though, blindly blithe in my optimism that one day I will speak and be understood.

Anyway, back to the purpose of this post which is to champion poet adoption. Perhaps you love Carl Sandburg or Langston Hughes, or maybe “Howl” stirs you or “Ode to a Grecian Urn”. This site is run by a non-profit, the Academy of American Poets; they have¬†developed an ingenious fund-raising idea.

You can select your favorite poet and for a mere $30/year (roughly $0.08 cents a day), your name and city of origin will be listed on that poet’s biography page. Now how to narrow down?

I can only adopt one this year, but doubtless more will call out to me. The poetry books on my shelf glare at me in mute entreaty – how shall I choose?

The splendor falls on castle walls
And snowy summits old in story;
The long light shakes across the lakes,
And the wild cataract leaps in glory.
Blow, bugle, blow, set the wild echoes flying,
Blow, bugle; answer, echoes, dying, dying, dying.

O, hark, O, hear! how thin and clear,
And thinner, clearer, farther going!
O, sweet and far from cliff and scar
The horns of Elfland faintly blowing!
Blow, let us hear the purple glens replying,
Blow, bugles; answer, echoes, dying, dying, dying.

O love, they die in yon rich sky,
They faint on hill or field or river;
Our echoes roll from soul to soul,
And grow forever and forever.
Blow, bugle, blow, set the wild echoes flying,
And answer, echoes, answer, dying, dying, dying.

-The Splendor Falls, Lord Alfred Tennyson

Returning to Narnia

My parents had a wonderful old cedar closet in their bedroom. It was so large that you could climb inside it and close the doors. After I read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe at the age of seven or so, that’s exactly what I did. I had yet to grow so tall that I couldn’t tuck my knees under and stare out through the crack in the doors. Try though I might, I could never seem to find the way to Narnia. I would bump around my way through the dark, intoxicated with the smell of cedar, half suffocated in the folds of rayon and silk and wool, to rap and tap on the back of the closet.

 

I never found my way through the wardrobe, never met Mr. Tumnus by the lamp post, never chased a talking lion through the woods. And no, I was never Queen of Cair Paravel.

 

But to this day, occasionally, when I glimpse the wardrobe, which now stands in my own bedroom…I can’t help but wonder if today is the day I’ll return to Narnia.

Secret Garden

The Secret Garden by Tasha Tudor

When I was younger, I had a copy of The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. The cover had a single illustration by Tasha Tudor (above). I used to lay on my bed and stare at this picture. I wanted to discover a secret garden, more than anything. I was a plain little girl, just like Mary, and with a smart mouth too. I wanted a walled-in mystery, blooming in secret.


/ Come spirit, come charm
Come days that are warm
Come magical spell
Come help him get well /

Whenever I envision my little cottage by the sea, it always has a walled garden, with tangled wild roses behind ivy-draped walls. Never mind that I have no skill in gardening or even, really, the ability to keep potted plants alive. Apparently, the invisible gardeners will tend to them. The same ones that rake the paths and mulch the beds and weed and spray for bugs.

This garden should be behind an overgrown door with a rusty lock. The kind that only opens with a key hidden away. There should be stone benches beneath sagging willows and gurgling fountains ringed in green. There will be wild lavender and herbs and reckless overgrown roses and the smell will be transcendent.

On late sunny afternoons, when the shadows are long on the lawn, the only sound will be the buzzing of fat, self-satisfied bees, and the tinky-trickle of the water and the rush-rush of the wind through the branches.

There, the only other sound is the beat of my heart and I will be able to write to its content.

/ I need a place where I can go,
Where I can whisper what I know,
Where I can whisper who I like
And where I go to see them.

I need a place where I can hide,
Where no one sees my life inside,
Where I can make my plans, and write them down
So I can read them.

A place where I can bid my heart be still
And it will mind me.
A place where I can go when I am lost,
And there I’ll find me.

I need a place to spend the day,
Where no one says to go or stay,
Where I can take my pen and draw
The girl I mean to be /