July 3, 2009

Poetry Friday--How I Find a Poem

Let me tell you about the way I look for poetry. I go to the poetry section at the library and pull a book from the shelf. I open it at random and start flipping through the pages. If the poems are all long, if there are no white spaces, I shut the book and pull another off the shelf.

I had my fill of long, dense poems, in college. After I graduated, I stopped reading poetry. I had had enough of "What is the theme?" "How does the poet use metaphor?"

I eventually found my way back through children's poetry. Children's poets say what they have to say then close their mouths and move on. No overblown language, no hidden meanings, no extended metaphors, etc. Clear, concise, playful, understandable!

Now, I look for big-people poets who have a talent for clear, concise, playful, and understandable writing. I don't want to have to unravel a literary allusion, or read a poem that is eight pages long, so I go for short. If I find a short poem, I'll stop and read it. If it speaks to me, then I'll read more from the poet. Perhaps it's because I'm easily distracted, or maybe it's pure laziness, but it works for me!

Yes, I admit I may miss out on some outstanding longer poems. So be it. I've never claimed to be well-read!

Today, I'd like to share the following with you, from the late Jane Kenyon. It's one of those poems that make you say, with great satisfaction, "Ah, yes."

Finding A Long Gray Hair

I scrub the long floorboards
in the kitchen, repeating
the motions of other women
who have lived in this house.
And when I find a long gray hair
floating in the pail,
I feel my life added to theirs.

This week's Poetry Friday Round-Up is taking place at Tabatha A. Yeatts.

Have a great 4th of July weekend!


  1. Oh, this is wonderful. I love what Jane Kenyon I've read, which I confess is pretty much "Let Evening Come" and maybe 10 other poems. I really need to get a collection of hers.

    And I'm so with you on the preferring short poems. I've really enjoyed Kay Ryan's Elephant Rocks. Short, but so much in each poem. Going to get more of her stuff!

  2. I love how you start your search for a poetry book by randomly picking one up off the shelves. I tend to do that too (although I need to do it more frequently at the library and not the bookstore!). This poem is great. I'd read it before--a long time ago--and had forgotten about it. Thanks for bringing it back into my awareness! I need to pick up a collection of hers, too!

  3. I found this kind of sad. I saw this long line of women scrubbing floors over the years, and there was this woman, still scrubbing floors. Nothing changed.

  4. . . . and have I ever told you how much I love your banner?

  5. I share your sentiment about children's poetry. I, too, tend to look for poems that are not too dense or oblique. Thanks for sharing this one today.

    I love your banner too.

  6. I love Kenyon's poem. I remember this one. I like longer poems and I've learned they're all not complex or difficult. They are a chore to share for Poetry Friday.

    Anyhoo, thanks for another good read. Please check out, "Invitation" at Color Online. The poet is amazing and she's eleven. Oh, and the poem is short. :-)

  7. Diane,

    Ah, another blogger with multiple blogs. Another reason I like you. I received your gift of A Maze Me. Thank you so much! If you haven't read any of it, you should. I knew the work but didn't own. I'm so glad to share with our girls thanks to you.

  8. Laura and Melissa--Yes, look for more of Jane Kenyon's work, I don't think you'll be disappointed!

    Barbara--I didn't look at the poem the way you did. I read it as women sharing the care of a well-loved house. Sometimes housework is therapeutic, too. (Not my kind of therapy, though!)

    Barb and Yat-Yee--I'm glad you like the banner. I had to stretch it a little to fit, and the lettering looks a little fuzzy, but I still like it--a lot!--especially the noodles. I'm a big ramen fan.

    Color Online--I read "Invitation" and I love the lines "It seems they have/heard my song." Nice! (And, you're welcome! I hope the girls will like A Maze Me.)