The Words That Mean The Most

I developed a bad taste for poetry sometime during high school. I think the exact moment was a poetry presentation in 10th(?) grade. We were all assigned a poem from the textbook and it was our job to give a presentation on the poem, the technique, the meaning, all the fun stuff.

I've never really cared to understand the technicalities of poetry.  I know Shakespeare was a huge fan of iambic pentameter but if you asked me to define what that is, I'd probably find a way to change the subject. I don't spend my days pondering the poet's word choice. All in all I'm probably a failure as an English major. 

Anyway, back to that presentation. I know I spent a lot of time on that presentation, but the only thing I remember about it was that the meaning I took from the poem was "incorrect." Hearing that changed my feelings about the poem that I had read over and over again and grown to love. 

I subconsciously boycotted all talk of poetry throughout the rest of my education. I read it, when required, but I refused to connect with another poem again. Why bother when the meaning I took away from it could be incorrect? Then, one day, shortly after graduating from college, a poem found me. 

'The Journey' by Mary Oliver has been hanging somewhere I can see it for about six-and-a-half years now. It's a poem that has reminded me of my purpose and has helped me carry on when times get hard. At the time it found me I had no idea what curve-balls would come my way. This poem reminds me daily of what I can and cannot control. It reminds me to be true to myself and to listen to my intuition. 

Some time ago, I read the fabulous book Happiness for Beginners by Katherine Center. It's up there as one of my favorite reads, so if you haven't read it, then you really should. In the novel there is a character who carries around a portion of a poem and that poem gives him strength. It doesn't say how he found this poem, but I'm willing to bet it found him just like 'The Journey' found me. That's the thing about poems, you will find your poem when you least expect it and when you do you may find that you like poetry more than you initially thought you did. 

I'm not running out to read poetry anthologies, but when this poem no longer fits I hope that a different one will find me to take its place. 

What poem has special meaning to you? Do you have a favorite poet?

1 comment

  1. My favorite poem is Ithaka by CP Cavafy. I like it because of the message behind it. I never did well with poetry in my English classes in college. I was an English major but I prefer to read novels. One of my best friends is an incredible poet and I adore her poetry becuase it's just so beautiful and meaningful.


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