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The Poetry Project 2010

One of my reading resolutions (I've given up making any real ones, like eating healthier or being a nicer person) for 2010 was to try and find and read more poetry. Poetry is often considered part of the Nonfiction Universe, after all, so I feel like I should at least try to read it sometimes. I have found it hard to read and enjoy poetry in the past for several reasons:

1. I don't know anything about poetry; 2. I don't understand most poetry even when I do stumble across it, and 3. I like for people just to say what they mean, damn it.

But there is no denying I have found some joy in poetry. Although I loved Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-5, one of the things I remember most about it was not written by Vonnegut, but rather by the poet Theodore Roethke, and it is one of the lines from a poem: "I learn by going where I have to go." Likewise, I have never found a string of words more beautiful than the lines from Aeschylus that Robert F. Kennedy* spoke in tribute to Martin Luther King Jr., and which are carved on Kennedy's tomb in Arlington National Cemetery:

"In our sleep, pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God."**

I have attempted poetry before, but it never took. So what I am going to do this year is try to find and enjoy some poetry the way I always do: without putting pressure on myself to understand it. To stop reading poetry I'm not enjoying at all. To read snippets of poetry, and enjoy the cadence of words and thoughts, even if I don't make it through the whole poem or book. And I'll post snippets that I like here.

Koethe So, to kick things off, a snippet from a poetry collection titled Ninety-Fifth Street, by John Koethe, which I really only picked up because I liked the cover. Evidently Koethe is the first Poet Laureate of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, so consider this post a nod to my state pride, as well. On Wisconsin! The snippet below is from a poem titled "Clouds," and I love it because it explains exactly why I love travel, even though I am not good at the mechanics of travel:

"I love the insulation of strange cities;
Living in your head, the routines of home
Becoming more and more remote,
Alone and floating through the streets
As through the sky, anonymous and languageless"

*I am conflicted in my feelings for Robert J. Kennedy, but the man could really use poetry.

**We owe translator Edith Hamilton for the beauty of this line as well.