The one…

I thought I should revisit my “Blogs I read” listing, and discovered in the process that C. Dale is no longer adding to his blog, Avoiding the Muse. But I found an interesting question  there: which poem first captured your imagination? Or as he put it: many poets can trace back and name the poem that first took hold of them, excited them beyond anything …the poem that elicited almost a conversion reaction.

For me it wasn’t really one poem, but a sort of stumble into poetry thanks to a beloved English teacher. I’ve written about this:

Poems by Heart

The first one I learned was for Miss Underhill
in seventh grade: Frost’s woods.
Then Márgaret,
with her melodious grief,
like nothing I’d heard before,
like the drumbeat of my tribe.

I grabbed onto poetry as if
it were the round, white circle
of canvas-covered cork
they kept by the lifeguard’s chair
when they hauled me out,
and stood me on my feet,
still flailing.

The poems meant that there had to be others.
They had left me a trail of words,
little candy lifesavers
in a rainbow of colors,
and I ate them, one by one,
as I made my way
across the acres
of suburban sidewalks
to find them.

I wonder which poem or book or piece of art first excited you?

And I do highly recommend memorizing poems; it adds a store of wonderful images to your life.

6 thoughts on “The one…

  1. My first memory is in Mrs. Elmberg’s 6th grade class. We were supposed to memorize a poem and recite it in front of the class. I didn’t know any poems — so Mrs. Elmberg picked one for me:

    The Children’s Hour
    by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

    Between the dark and the daylight,
    When the night is beginning to lower,
    Comes a pause in the day’s occupations,
    That is known as the Children’s Hour.

    I hear in the chamber above me
    The patter of little feet,
    The sound of a door that is opened,
    And voices soft and sweet.

    From my study I see in the lamplight,
    Descending the broad hall stair,
    Grave Alice, and laughing Allegra,
    And Edith with golden hair.

    A whisper, and then a silence:
    Yet I know by their merry eyes
    They are plotting and planning together
    To take me by surprise.

    A sudden rush from the stairway,
    A sudden raid from the hall!
    By three doors left unguarded
    They enter my castle wall!

    They climb up into my turret
    O’er the arms and back of my chair;
    If I try to escape, they surround me;
    They seem to be everywhere.

    They almost devour me with kisses,
    Their arms about me entwine,
    Till I think of the Bishop of Bingen
    In his Mouse-Tower on the Rhine!

    Do you think, O blue-eyed banditti,
    Because you have scaled the wall,
    Such an old mustache as I am
    Is not a match for you all!

    I have you fast in my fortress,
    And will not let you depart,
    But put you down into the dungeon
    In the round-tower of my heart.

    And there will I keep you forever,
    Yes, forever and a day,
    Till the walls shall crumble to ruin,
    And moulder in dust away!


    I found that I really enjoyed reciting; and I especially loved the lines:

    “Grave Alice, and laughing Allegra,
    And Edith with golden hair.”


  2. Actually, This was from Larry–He was logged in as me. And he’s always been taken with that golden hair.

  3. The first book I can remember loving, absolutely taking me over was:
    “Hamlet and Brownswiggle”. It was about hamsters and their miniscule offspring.
    It was 3rd grade or so. I remember once in NYC trying to find a copy (it was never far from my mind) I hunted down the book and was so excited but when the libriarian returned from the stacks she said that someone had stolen it, she seemed as upset by this turn of events as I was. I wanted to see if there was more to the story. Was it just that I was enchanted by the names of the hamsters? It was something in the way the author had described the fresh fleshy new borns.

    1. I googled it and found some copies out in cyberspace. Thanks for reminding me.
      I’ll get back to you when I have secured it.

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