Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Everything Old Is New Again

I'm putting together a couple of poetry class ideas - one for grownups who probably don't know much poetry (or much about poetry), one for grammar school kids who we're trying to get not to hate poetry. To love it, even. Maybe. Hopefully. So I've been combing through poets as far ago as Wordsworth, and as recently as the copy of Smartish Pace that arrived yesterday, looking for ideas that suit my themes.

What's been striking me is how many similarities I'm finding in poems across the last several centuries. Oh, sure, Wordsworth wrote with a style that today we consider stilted (or worse), but if you can accept that the tendency toward sonnet was as much a part of his generation of artists as the avoidance of form is for (most of) mine, he might not be that different from us - from me, at least. He advocated "common speech", he didn't care for the epic, he wrote about people and things he saw as he walked and death and all the things that show up in so much contemporary poetry today.

Rediscovering Wordsworth like this has been fascinating for me. It has made me recall all the wonderful poems I studied in high school that instilled my love of poetry. All of a sudden, I'm looking forward to Poetry Daily's annual NatPoMo exercise where they call attention to poems in the public domain (read: old) that contemporary poets have selected for their meaning and value to them as artists. Until then, I'll try to treat my sense of wonder the way Wordsworth did his:

My Heart Leaps Up (by William Wordsworth)

My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die!
The Child is father of the Man;
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.

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