90 – Top 100 Poems
Upon close count, not quite 100. But I’ll go by the claim, over reality.
Poetry is hard. Often I don’t have the patience for poetry, because it is too short. Where a 500 word article would walk leisurely through its idea, a poem might distil that same idea down to a mere 50. Reading poetry is decompression, writing it is compression. Both take effort.
This makes poetry both harder to read and harder to write. But much more satisfying and meaningful. Often for overcoming the challenge. But often also by having discovered how to hold the entirety of a complex thought in mind at once.
The Link Above
The Road Not Taken – by Robert Frost
We all face significant decisions with insufficient information. We cannot tell what’s wrong or right, better or worse, shallow or righteous up-front. Best to choose the best we can, because we’ll claim we made the right choice in retrospect anyway.
America – by Allen Ginsberg
I cannot claim to understand much of Allen’s poetry. Never had the patience to study it. But I loved the scene in the movie Howl where the equally named poem is performed. There is something hypnotic about the performance; the angry spitting out of words of condemnation and the almost-caressing of others.
I think the power of his poems lies more in the performance of them than the actual poem itself. These are definitely superior when watched rather than read.
A Poison Tree – by William Blake
Not a fan. Although the first stanza promises, the rest doesn’t really deliver to my mind. It appears to take as self-evident that the conclusion is to be avoided; but festering fights with foes would easily lead to a desire to see karma realised.
Well written, and well described, but lacking in enlightenment (to my eye).
The Past Below
I don’t really have a memory for poetry.
I enjoy the reading, and then it slips out of my head again. Same with jokes.
There is one exception. I cannot recall all the specifics, but I think it was on the news, while I was still in the Netherlands, about 20 years ago. There was a youth poetry competition for all ages (I assume it was up to 18).
The winning poem was by a young boy though; maybe 6-8 or so.
I doubt he realised all the ways in which what he wrote was aesthetically pleasing. At least to me, and presumably the jury.
In Dutch (from memory):
Als juf thee drinkt
drink ik water
Ik word meester later!
When teacher[female] drinks tea
I drink water
I’m going to be a teacher[male] when I grow up!
Just 11 words long in the original, but there’s so much there in symmetry and contrast, sympathy and aspiration, present and future; all three lines mutually interlocked in a precious little gem. Even if everything that is there probably hasn’t been put there intentionally, I really couldn’t care less.