Whether you prefer a rhyme scheme or free verse, a tiny haiku or a lengthy elegy, poetry is known for its oftentimes confusing underlying meanings. What one believes is a simple poem about a red wheelbarrow actually requires a deeper understanding of the perception of an appreciation of the mundane, that which we take for granted. One of the greatest aspects of the poem is its ability to change for each reader; regardless of the poet’s intent, the text is entirely subject to reader response.
Poems are intentionally emotional; however, it is the reader who dictates what emotion will be evoked. Sometimes it is a single line with a poem that hits the hardest. Usually, due to the life events we’re currently experiencing. Someone going through a divorce might see a spewing for love in a cynical light and take for granted the joyousness of amorous feelings. An ode to the fragrant blooming flora of springtime could brighten the outlook of someone who recently lost a loved one.
It’s rather hard to express how you love someone or why you love them. I mean we could certainly list out a few things that made us love or fall in love, but what does it feel like? Does love feel different for each person, or is it the same? Nikki Giovanni, the first recipient of the Rosa Park Woman of Courage Award, wrote Resignation to convey her love for her child. But it truly resonates with anyone so enamored with their significant other that their love feels more like an integrated piece of themselves.
Poems of Hopes and Dreams
Langston Hughes is one of the most prolific writers of the 20th century. A leader of the Harlem Renaissance and voice for the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement, his poetry will endure for generations, if not centuries. Dreams a lesser-known poem of his, is only eight lines in length; but, the power it wields is mighty. It is the call to keep faith and dream of a better tomorrow, for equality and acceptance.
Poems of Loss
Probably one of Walt Whitman’s most famous poems—thanks, Dead Poets Society— O Captain! My Captain is a layered poem of loss, both for those around us and also for ourselves. Death is inevitable; no matter what we do or how we live or worship, it is the end that greets us all. Whitman’s nautical poem is like standing in the eye of a storm watching the destruction around you and knowing it’s coming for you next.
One of the English Romance Era’s greats, John Keats, died far too young. It is my opinion that Bright Star was his way of coming to terms with his impending demise. It is ripe with innuendo and symbolism, but it is the final five lines that break the reader’s heart.
Pillow’d upon my fair love’s ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake fr ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever—or else swoon to death.John Keats, Bright Star
Poetry has always been a medium to combat political and social issues. Today’s most serious topics are not left untouched by contemporary poets. Gun violence, especially mass school shootings, are one of the most important political issues that need addressing. Gill McCulloch’s Protect Kids, Not Guns will break your heart as you think of the hundreds of children and adults who have been lost and the thousands who will suffer from trauma due to school shootings. Her poem acknowledges the atrocities being committed while calling the government to action for not only gun reform but mental health and pharma reform, too.
Almost every day we hear of another book being banned or new legislation from states across the country that limit what our children have access to. Jim Yerman recently wrote Beware The Banning of Books and Speech which strikes hope in the hearts of those affected by such tyranny by using the authors linking his shelves to speak out against book banning.
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