Monday, September 24, 2007


I enjoy poetry. I enjoyed teaching poetry. It is a genre that expresses strong feeling in fewer words than other genres and is open for interpretation. In 9th grade English I had to memorize two poems. I picked “Two Roads Diverged” by Robert Frost because I liked it and “I’m Nobody” by Emily Dickinson because it was easy. I like Robert Frost’s poetry but don’t care for 90% of Emily Dickinson’s poetry.

I’ve always thought being able to recite poems or quotes from memory impressive. My father was always able to do that. Unfortunately, I am unable to recite full poems, just snippets from a few. Of course, I can recite the entire “I’m Nobody” poem – figures that the one I don’t like is the one I remember. While I don’t remember much of “Two Roads Diverged” I can recite most of “Stopping in Snowy Woods” by Frost.

As a person who likes “good” poetry I find it interesting that the only poems I know by heart are goofy poems. Shel Silverstein wrote poetry for children and it is entertaining, and I used it in my introduction to poetry for 9th graders. A bit simplistic but it was a lighthearted way to begin.

Teddy said it was a hat
So I put it on.
Now Daddy's asking where the heck
The toilet plunger’s gone?

My father was a fan of the Little Willy poems:

Little Willie
In his thirst for gore
Nailed his sister to the door.
His mother in her way so quaint
Said, “Willie, dear, you’ve spoiled the paint.”

Willie on the tracks one day
Hey, look out here comes the Santa Fe.
Wille gave just one less utter,
Before he was made into peanut butter.

Ogden Nash was a poet who was famous for his rhyming poetry. My father had a collection of his poems I now own. The only Nash poem I know by heart is

Candy is dandy
But liquor is quicker.

One poem introduction I love reciting is “Jabberwocky” from Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Saw by Lewis Carroll.

Twas brillig and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe

I probably haven’t memorized more poetry because I prefer unrhymed poems and they might be more challenging to memorize.

On a more serious note, the last two lines from poem “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley are ones I firmly believe and their message of accountability is sorely lacking in today’s society.

I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

To show how poems are open to interpretation, Timothy McVeigh recited the entire poem “Invictus” as his final statement immediately prior to his execution.

Since one of the recommendations for keeping the maturing mind healthy is to exercise it, memorizing a poem here and there might be a worthwhile endeavor.

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