I love John Keats's slow melancholy in his "Ode to a Nightingale". Nostalgia rings steadfastly through the work and brings to mind a sure sense of loss over things that are no more coupled with an abiding gratitude for fine memories and the beautiful sensations they evoke. The nostalgia, the memories, serve as a balm for the weary soul crushed by the hard exile of life.
It’s Poem in Your Pocket Day! Celebrate by choosing and sharing a poem you love with others. My choice: the first poem I was ever required to memorize and which I’ve never forgotten, a selection from Sonnets From the Portuguese, by Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
“Sonnet 43: How Do I Love Thee?”How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love the to the depth and breadth and height My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight For the ends of being and ideal grace. I love thee to the level of every day’s Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light. I love thee freely as men strive for right. I love thee purely, as they turn from praise. I love thee with the passion put to use In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith. I love thee with a love I seemed to lose With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath, Smiles, and tears of all my life; and, if God choose, I shall but love thee better after death. – Elizabeth Barret Browning
Poetry can be a reminder of the beauty and range of emotion words can convey. It can remind us of a special person, place, or time in our lives. It can open our eyes to a new way of seeing or being in the world. It can set a musical rhythm to the simplest human experience and elevate it to greatness. Once learned by heart, a poem can rarely be unlearned and will be forever “in your pocket,” a valuable treasure that cannot be stolen.
The Academy of American Poets has other suggestions for celebrating Poem in Your Pocket Day, listed below. And if you’re late getting the memo, don’t worry. Every day is a good day to share a poem.* Hand out poems in your school or workplace. * Teachers: reward students “caught” with a poem in their pocket. * Local business owners: offer discounts to those carrying poems. * Start a street team to pass out poems in your community. * Add a poem to your email footer. * Mail a poem to a friend. * Post a poem on your blog or social networking page. Use #pocketpoem on Twitter.
Which poem will you choose?
I don’t think there’s any such thing as too much Shakespeare. The Bard never gets old and when his poetry is read aloud by the likes of Alan Rickman, well, it’s simply time to drop everything and be seduced.
Sonnet 130 has always been a favorite of mine because it is so unexpected in its use of metaphor. Renaissance poets used the sonnet form to wax poetic about the beauties of the lady of the moment, comparing her to roses and sun beams and wildflowers and jewels. Metaphors and similes, lovely though they were, described human beauty in classic motifs that were decidedly familiar and revered. Shakespeare himself is no slouch in this department — we need only recall his 18th Sonnet or the glorious metaphors in the Petrarchan-style love poetry of Romeo and Juliet.
But Sonnet 130 turns all of those classic comparisons of beauty upside down and celebrates the true Beauty of the ordinary, true Beauty which is often overlooked or ignored simply because it doesn’t measure up to the grandeur of what is deemed beautiful by the culture or by history. Sonnet 130 rejoices in quiet Beauty that is hidden and not ostentatious and it celebrates a love that is more than skin-deep. This makes it the perfect poetic selection for one tiny violet, which focuses on discovering extraordinary beauty in an ordinary life. Sit back, close your eyes, and enjoy.