Fire and Ice
I wonder sometimes if poetry receives as much attention as it deserves. As our culture has become increasingly fast-paced, old-fashioned poetic expression has given way to dazzling video-based communication. According to a quick internet search, YouTube was acquired by Google for $1.65 billion in 2006 but now seems to have a valuation of more than $45 billion. That is pretty astonishing, both from a business perspective and also from a literary point of view.
Neither Robert Frost nor Emily Dickinson seem to translate well into our new YouTube culture. And although all of us benefit greatly from the power of seemingly unlimited video-on-demand, we might think twice before throwing away our almost-forgotten collections of poems. I suspect that most adults have not recently read a poem aloud, even those who are both worldly and well-educated. Compared with remote-control culture, poetry feels distinctively old-fashioned, almost antediluvian.
In attempting to reestablish the habit of reading poetry, I imagine that Robert Frost and Emily Dickinson would be pretty good places to begin. From Fire and Ice to “Hope” is the Thing with Feathers, theirs are sentiments not easily forgotten, to be sure. But Maya Angelou and Langston Hughes are worthy of some serious attention as well. Through their beautiful verses come voices of strength and self-sufficiency. And then of course let’s not forget Pablo Neruda, Judith Viorst, Roald Dahl, or our own Sylvia Plath--born in Jamaica Plain!
Do yourself a favor. Turn off your devices for a moment and dust off the collection on the bookshelf...