I Think That I Shall Never See…
…A poem lovely as a tree.
Quick — name the poet who wrote “Trees.” Joyce Kilmer. Now can you recite the rest of the poem?
Many of us know the opening lines of poems but how many of the remaining verses and stanzas can you complete? In 8th Grade English, Mrs. Overman assigned Longfellow’s “Paul Revere’s Ride.” Each student chose how many stanzas to memorize for a particular grade; reciting the entire poem earned one an A. Being the underachiever that I am, I went for a B. I’m not sure how much that entailed for to this day I pretty much stop after “Listen my children and you shall hear, of the midnight ride of Paul Revere, On the 18th of April in ’75; Hardly a man is now alive Who remembers that famous day and year.”
My father was one of those few who remembered the many poems and Bible verses he learned as a child. When I first began answering reference questions, back in pre-Google times, I had to depend on Granger’s Index to Poetry to locate a poem when a patron could only remember a line or two. I soon learned it was quicker to call Art and ask him. Whether it was a novelty piece or something quite literary, nine times out of ten he had the answer (as long as it was something taught during his school years, circa 1920). I firmly believe memorization is a lost art. Fortunately I now have Google to come to my rescue.
Poetry is something that many people “don’t get.” I understand — I wasn’t a big fan until well into my adult years. Now I rather enjoy it; well some poems, certainly not all. Ted Kooser grabs my heart, often bringing tears to my eyes. Amanda Gorman made that same heart swell with her rousing “The Hill We Climb” (one of my bucket list programs would be having her read at the library but I’m pretty sure that will never happen).
April is National Poetry Month, a time to celebrate verse whether it be rhyme, iambic pentameter, haiku, sonnet, or free verse. Here’s a short quiz of well-known works you may have learned in school. See if you can name the poet who wrote the following opening lines (answers are at the end). Then look up the poems and recite them in their entirety — what better way to commemorate this lyrical month?
1) “When lilacs last in the dooryard bloom’d”; 2) “Half a league, half a league, half a league onward”; 3) “’Hope’ is the thing with feathers”; 4) “The fog comes in on little cat feet”; 5) “What happens to a dream deferred?”; 6) “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways” 7)” Oh, to be in England, Now that April’s there”; 8) “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood”; 9) “You may write me down in history With your bitter, twisted lies”; 10) “The cow is of the bovine ilk”.
Answers: 1) Walt Whitman; 2) Alfred, Lord Tennyson (“Charge of the Light Brigade”); 3) Emily Dickinson; 4) Carl Sandburg (“Fog”); Langston Hughes (“Harlem”); 6) Elizabeth Barrett Browning (“Sonnets of the Portuguese”); 7) Robert Browning (“Home-Thoughts, From Abroad”); 8) Robert Frost (“Road Not Taken”); 9) Maya Angelou (“Still I Rise”); 10) Ogden Nash (“The Cow”).
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