poetic lenses

Poetry has served as a way to focus some of my writing of late. Whitman’s Song of Myself framed one post, and Eliot’s The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock was the basis for another.

Today I helped proctor an English lit exam for a colleague, and the students were given a choice of two poems to critique. One was the delightful “An Introduction to Poetry” by Billy Collins. I couldn’t help but think of the wonderful YouTube video of a three-year-old reciting Collins’ poem Litany:

It’s been many years since anyone has asked me to write an essay analyzing a poem. But there’s something to be said for inquiring into one’s self about why a given poem resonates–and for putting the answers, however tentative, into writing.

Tonight, for me, Litany is about boundaries. What I am, what you are. How someone else can embody some of (but not all of) the beautiful parts of the world around me.

I said goodbye tonight to a friend who’s been a big part of my first month in Dubrovnik. Having him here was a gift, and one that I’m deeply grateful for. But I have to remember that he is not the bread, nor the knife.


More importantly, he is neither the ocean nor the rock. Nor am I, because unlike me, the rock will be unmoved by his departure, and the ocean will show no trace of his passing.


(Photos by me. Cover image stolen from Clay Carmichael. I hope he doesn’t mind.)

3/29: I found an interesting blog post talking about the similarities between Litany and the Baghavad Gita. I wondered whether I have that Stephen Mitchell translation at home, and suddenly I was homesick for my house full of books, especially the poetry. I can find poems by Eliot or cummings online, but it’s not the same as paging through a well-worn and beloved copy of The Four Quartets or Tulips & Chimneys. I do love that I can scan my bookshelf virtually using LibraryThing, though, and be reminded of beloved books waiting for me at home. (And no, that’s not all of the books I own. Just the ones that are currently out on shelves at home or at work. I’ve yet to add the contents of the boxes in the basement to my collection.)

Sometimes being separated from the clutter of my accumulated possessions in Rochester is liberating, but today I miss that tangible evidence of a life well-lived.

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