Friday, October 23, 2009

Love of Poetry

I learned the joys of poems when I was in Phyllis Wells’s fourth grade class. Every month we had a day for writing in our poetry notebooks. She would write a title and the first two lines of a seasonal poem that we had composed together as a class on the blackboard. Then she allowed us time to finish the poem on our own and even compose more poems if we were inspired. She also encouraged us to decorate our poems with drawings and crayons, further encouraging us to realize that poetry was related to both art and color. Our October lines were something about black cats and pumpkins; we moved on through turkeys, Christmas trees and Easter bunnies, writing towards spring that year.

Mrs. Wells lived down the street from me in our small town. I rode my bike by her house when I pedaled down to the drugstore, and often on an autumn evening or a summer’s early morning, I could catch her on her front porch reading the local paper. I would stop, she would invite me to sit in the wicker chair next to her, and we would talk about a book report, a poem, or the latest Cartwright adventure on the Bonanza saga. I know now what a sacrifice it was for her to spend her precious non-classroom time chatting with a child. However, at the time, she made me feel like she longed to hear my every word, that what I had to say was important. Thus, she made me feel important too.

While I never learned to scan a poetic line correctly or to hear iambic pentameter perfectly, I did learn to love the cadence of a rhythmic sentence, to relish a delightful metaphor, to appreciate a well-turned phrase. Those first fourth grade rhymes were just the beginning of a love for poetry and literature. Now when I want rest from the world, I wrap myself in a comforting story and use a poem for a pillow.

October on the Plains
Early autumn, days of gathered corn shocks,
Fat orange pumpkins and ginger-colored mums;
But air and sky are harbingers of winter.
A nip of winter sneaks in prematurely,
And strong wind rattles the leaves on limbs,
Knocking some to the ground even before
They blush with reds and oranges.
Blue sky fades to the gray of steel grain silos and
Becomes a barricade of clouds bearing chilling rains,
Hiding the once radiant sun, veiling a harvest moon.
Flint Hills cottonwoods flutter yellow leaves on autumn winds;
Pasture grasses quiver in shades of tobacco stain and molasses.
Prairie animals, men too, burrow deep down under earth and cloth,
Readying for coming of cold and winter’s wet snows.

No comments: