I do not profess to be an expert on poetry. But I know what I like. I’m a big fan of Billy Collins, mostly because I appreciate his accessibility and his wonderment with the everyday. But I also love Lord Byron, and Dylan Thomas, and Keats. I guess that also makes me a romantic, at least when it comes to poetry. (Although I like to think I’m a romantic in other ways. I hope I am.)
But I wonder about how poetry reveals oneself, and others.
I recently had a wonderful conversation over coffee with a thoughtful, spirited person about the lyrics of Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, and a new favorite of mine – Craig Finn, the lead man and songwriter for the band The Hold Steady. Finn put out a solo album not long ago that is marvelous, mostly because of his incredible lyrics – his poetry. In one song – New Friend Jesus – he tells a wonderful story of how he wished he had been a better man for the woman in his life, the one that got away. On the surface, you expect this song to be about spiritual rebirth – and whether that is something Finn has experienced or not, I don’t know – but as the song progresses you realize it’s really not about religious or spiritual renewal, it’s about how he wished he’d been a in a better place — “knew Jesus” — when “you (she) loved me (him).” The superbly unexpected nature of this song is what makes it, for me, poetry. And that kind of thing sends chills up my arms, forms tears in my eyes. (Does that make me a romantic?)
My coffee partner felt the same way about poetry in song lyrics. And that, I believe, made both of us lovers of poetry — we had no need to be experts.
I urge you to read poetry. Go to a bookstore (a good independent), a library, look on Amazon, and browse, find something that resonates — buy it and read it; read it out loud to your friend, your lover.