This year has been a disappointment for so many people and a disaster for some. Almost all the notes written on holiday cards from friends include some reference to being shocked and depressed by the election results last month. We are all wondering what the spring and summer will bring.
At a time like this it is a relief to take refuge in some of the books I have loved since childhood. I remember a poem by Oliver Herford that I read many years ago:
I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December
A magical thing
And sweet to remember.
“We are nearer to Spring
Than we were in September,”
I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December.
That poem was in a book called More Silver Pennies that my mother bought in a second-hand bookstore. It has echoed in my head every January for years.
When I was growing up, my friends and I had access to many poems that we read and reread. As a preteen I remember finding a book of Dorothy Parker’s poems at the home of one of my Girl Scout leaders. My best friend and I used to giggle over Parker’s verses when the scout meetings seemed long. We especially liked this one:
Razors pain you;
Rivers are damp;
Acids stain you;
And drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren’t lawful;
Gas smells awful;
You might as well live.
That struck us as the most sophisticated and witty language we had ever heard. Parker gave us a glimpse of the glittering world of Manhattan just across the river from the quiet streets of Queens. We both decided that someday we would live in that world.
I know that school children today are encouraged to write their own poetry and express their feelings, but I hope they are also reading other people’s poetry. Poems, especially the old-fashioned kind that have rhythm and rhyme, linger in the mind and can be a lifelong pleasure.
Another favorite poet of my childhood was, of course, Emily Dickinson. Her works were everywhere—in schools and libraries . Teachers read them to us and we recited them back in class during Friday afternoon poetry sessions. Some of them are still with me.
“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.
At the end of this long and trying year, I am grateful I grew up with poetry. I hope children today are doing the same. Hope remains. Let’s all keep it in our hearts during the year ahead.
8 thoughts on “Another New Year 2017”
It’s amazing that you can remember so much poetry. That’s good! When I was about 11 years old, I thought my life was pretty dull and thought I should be a writer because then I could live it the excitement of the stories I would write. I started writing—mostly adventure stories—and, in that way, I entertained myself until I discovered chemistry at the age of about 13. As you know, I spent the rest of my life doing this.
My mother had a book of poetry which I looked at from time to time. There was one poem in this book that meant a lot to me. It was called “The Winning of Jenny”. The reason for this was that I had fallen in love with a girl named Jennifer when I was in high school and I actually read that poem to her.
Although the memory of Jennifer has dimmed, I would like to read the poem again but have no idea how to find it now. Any ideas?
I know how you feel, Paul. It is tantalizing to remember a poem but not be able to trace it. I couldn’t find any poem called “The Winning of Jenny”. Could it possibly be this poem by Leigh Hunt that I remember reading in high school years ago?
Jenny kiss’d me when we met,
Jumping from the chair she sat in;
Time, you thief, who love to get
Sweets into your list, put that in!
Say I’m weary, say I’m sad,
Say that health and wealth have missed me,
Say I’m growing old, but add
Jenny kiss’d me.
I’m familiar with that poem, and it’s a good one. The one that I was thinking of started out talking about some man and his love picking berries on a steep hill. As the afternoon progressed, the climbing became progressively more difficult. At the same time the man was talking with Jenny and telling her that life would be sometimes difficult but if they persevered, as a couple-to-be they would succeed—that was part of his marriage proposal.
Such a lovely reminder of the wealth we have at our fingertips each day through poetry. My 9 year-old and I read a poem each morning. It’s shown him how poetry can carry the soul. Thank you, Adele, and may you have many moments of peace, happiness, and creativity in the year ahead.
Reading a poem every morning is a wonderful idea! I’m sure your son will remember many of those for a lifetime. Best wishes to you and your family for the new year.
Adele, Lovely as usual. I get a similar reaction from familiar hymns hearing the music and remembering the words from many years ago.
Happy New Year to you and your family!!! Barbara
And Happy New Year to you and yours!
Absolutely! We need hope and we WILL find it, in poetry and in everything beautiful and meaningful.
Thanks for an inspiring post.