Friday, February 18, 2011

Poetry Friday: Borrowed Names

I don't read many poetry books, but the Cybils challenge will have me churning through a whole list.  This will give me my only opportunities to chime in on Poetry Fridays, although I suspect I'll be grumpy about most of it.

My first taste was Borrowed names: Poems about Laura Ingalls Wilder, Madam C.J. Walker, Marie Curie, and Their Daughters, by Jeannine Atkins.  All three women were born in 1867, a fact that surprised me because I had associated Laura Ingalls with much more ancient times, although if I had paid attention I would have recognized historical events that identified things more precisely.  To put me in my place, I asked my niece when she thought the Little House books were set; she guessed the 1950's.  You know, back when Gramma was single and dinosaurs roamed the earth.

The book was great; it was fascinating to see the world through the daughters of these famous women, but I didn't feel the poems added much to the book.  Many of them felt more like prose with short lines; only a few had that elusive sense of poetry.  I also was frustrated sometimes by not knowing what was real and what was imagined by Atkins.   I was left with a desire to know more about all six women, mothers and daughters, but without adding anything new to my poetry notebook.  C+  (although I would have given it a B+ as a work of nonfiction instead of poetry)

My definition of poetry comes from a poem by Eleanor Farjeon, which is in my notebook:

What is Poetry? Who Knows?

Not a rose, but the scent of the rose;
Not the sky, but the light in the sky;
Not the fly, but the gleam of the fly;
Not the sea, but the sound of the sea;
Not myself, but what makes me
See, hear, and feel something that prose
Cannot: and what it is, who knows?
(Eleanor Farjeon)

1 comment:

Nancy said...

I'm not big on poetry myself, though I did like that poem on what is poetry.