Happy World Poetry Day 2012!

I must confess that I have never been very attracted to poetry. When I was younger I found it quite bewildering. My linear mind was tripped up by every line of creative syntax, I was too naïve to grasp the emotional content, and any biblical or literary allusions went right over my head. Now that I’m older and my brain has filled out a little I am a more curious about poetry. Today’s observance of World Poetry Day has inspired me to crack open my copy of World Poetry, which I recently picked up at a thrift store.

It occurred to me that part of my problem with poetry is that I somehow got the idea that if a poem is printed in a book, it must be good and so I should like it. After reading a few poems I noticed that I liked some right away, but many others simply did not interest me. Perhaps that’s OK. It may be that poetry is a more personal matter than prose. At any rate it is probably a good place to start, so here is one of the poems I like:

An Answer to Viceprefect Zhang

In my later years I care only for quiet;
Affairs of the world no longer concern me.
Communing with myself I find no plan –
I only know I must return to the forest.
Pine winds loosen my clothing,
The mountain moon shines on my lute.
You ask me about success and failure?
Listen! a fisherman’s song floats upstream.

—Wang Wei (699-759)


8 comments on “Happy World Poetry Day 2012!

  1. kcecelia says:

    We are alike in many of our tastes, but we differ here: I’ve loved poetry since my earliest memories. Poetry, particularly poetry that requires more work to enter into it, is individual; even within the work of a poet to whom I’m deeply attached, there are poems I don’t like. Often, I try reading again and again to find the pearl, but eventually, if I find nothing that moves me, I move on from a poem from even my most beloved poets when it refuses to speak to me.

    Your poem from Wang Wei is marvelously beautiful and soothing. I let out a sigh of relief at the end. I see why you like it.

    • Sylvia says:

      Thank you, I’m glad to hear from an experienced poetry reader that it is an individual thing, even poem by poem. I’m glad you like the Wang Wei poem too. Again that is probably one I would not have related to when I was young and just starting life but now it is very sweeet indeed!

  2. Stefanie says:

    Happy World Poetry Day! I love poetry and how it can be short and complex or long and sprawling and everything in between. Sometimes it takes a lot of work and sometimes everything is obvious. I think being a good poetry reader takes practice just like being a good prose reader does and we often make the mistake of thinking that because a poem is short it should be simple and easy or we had a bad poetry experience in school so think all poetry is written in a symbolic code that must be cracked and that’s just too much work. I hope you enjoy your World Poetry anthology and find enough that you like to inspire you to read more poetry. Thanks for sharing the Wang Wei poem, it is lovely.

    • Sylvia says:

      You’re right, I think I’m still traumatized by that poem about the chicken and the wheelbarrow or whatever it was from grade 8. But one has to move past these childhood issues, right? 😉

  3. I love poetry. It’s probably genetic, if that’s possible. 🙂 My Dad wrote beautiful poetry for my Mom when they were dating. My sister, too, writes great poetry. I myself dabble in writing poetry – mostly haiku. I find it quite satisfying when I can express myself using only 17 syllables!

    Thank you, Sylvia, for this piece of information. Before you posted this, I wasn’t aware that there was such a thing as a World Poetry Day.

    By the way, love the poem by Wang Wei!

    ~ Matt

    • Sylvia says:

      Ah, now I see where you get your romantic side, Matt! 😉 Nobody in my family writes poetry, as far as I know, so perhaps you are right about it being genetic. We are all scientific and technical types. I’m glad you like the poem by Wang Wei, it seems to be a universal favourite. I must look for more poetry by him.

  4. AndrewL says:

    I’m the same way Sylvia – have always been a huge reader, but never poetry until the last couple of years. If I remember correctly, the work that got me into poetry was that new translation of Beowulf by Seamus Heaney, which I loved.
    The technical aspects are beyond me so far, one of these days I should spent a few hours getting the basics down.
    Most poetry I still don’t ‘get’, but I like haikus from the zen practitioners like Basho, and I quite enjoyed Leaves of Grass.

    • Sylvia says:

      Yes, I think haikus are about my speed. The are small enough to wrap my mind around and delve into without getting lost. I think with longer poems all the potential connotations can send me off in all sorts of directions that maybe have nothing to do with what the poet intended.

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