When I was little, maybe seven or eight, my mom brought home Paul Fleischman’s Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices, and read it with me, and showed me how words can have rhythm even without a tune.
The stanzas look like this, one voice on each side of the page, sometimes alternating and sometimes in unison:
I recently watched a TED talk, Why People Need Poetry, and was overtaken with remembering poems I’ve loved, and wanting more to love.
When I got older, old enough to stay up with the grown-ups around the fire when my extended family went camping every summer, I heard our ritual recitation of Robert Service’s The Spell of the Yukon - no one remembers it all, but among us, we piece the stanzas together. I grew up in forgotten mining country, and I can’t forget this part:
There’s gold, and it’s haunting and haunting,
It’s luring me on as of old;
Yet it isn’t the gold that I’m wanting
So much as just finding the gold.
It’s the great, big, broad land ‘way up yonder,
It’s the forests where silence has lease;
It’s the beauty that thrills me with wonder,
It’s the stillness that fills me with peace.
And now, when I can look back and see a distinction between childhood and not-childhood, I value Charlotte Gordon’s Yourself :
It is not love you are missing,
it is yourself-tall, slender, young,
driving your old grey car
to the lake, singing those songs
which you hear now
and shiver-they bring you
back to your own hair
blowing, your hands on the wheel,
legs taut, stomach empty–yourself,
hungry as you were then
I like them long and short, wordy and simple, and I’m going in search of more.