Learning from the dead.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Poets teach us the power of brevity. They can get so much territory covered by using just the right word in the right place at the right time.

Several years ago I took a creative writing class at Mount Mercy University. Naturally, a portion of the session was devoted to poetry. I hadn’t read much poetry up to that point in time so it was a little bit of a struggle.

We were given several assignments of writing new poetry of our own. My poetry reading background was pretty slim at that time so I looked around to study—and ultimately–copy the rhythms of others to help get me jump started. Going back into class without anything to show was not an option for me.

There was one writer of light verse, however, that I was familiar with–Ogden Nash. He is an American product who excelled in light verse, sometimes deliberately misspelling words to create surprising rhymes as he wrote about mankind’s unending idiosyncrasies.

His lighter verse approach to various topics was something I could relate to. His works present a humorous yet effective playfulness, so I borrowed some rhythm from him to get something ready for class one night—using my own words, of course. It proved to be a fun exercise for me.

Lately, I’ve been trying to read a little more poetry by some of the grand masters–old and new. I’ve said this before, but I have to say it here again: If you want to learn about something, looking at how others have done it is THE ultimate learning tool.

Allow me to share Mr. Nash’s poem today, and my “student attempt” below that; his rhythm–my sentiment.

I didn’t go to church today,
I trust the Lord to understand.
The surf was swirling blue and white,
The children swirling on the sand.

He knows, He knows how brief my stay,
How brief this spell of summer weather,
He knows when I am said and done
We’ll have a plenty of time together.

                          (Ogden Nash)

*****

I didn’t go into work today,
The boss said she understood.
The house was empty, quiet and free
The fireplace beckoned with wood.

My heart, my soul knows this day I need,
How seldom such risk I do allow,
And when nighttime falls again
I will return to the Here and Now!

                (R. Groff, the student)

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3 thoughts on “Learning from the dead.

  1. A reminder of the many times I would have preferred to skip ‘this or that’ to do ‘the other’, if only for a day. You are right on about the succinctness of poetry–wherein lies the charm.

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