In the summer of 2018, I pulled my copy of Garrison Keillor’s Good Poems, American Places from the bookcase next to my desk. The book had been eyeing me for several months even though I read it in 2012, the year after its publication. I finally gave in like I give in to a dog that sits at my feet until I reach for it and stroke him on the back of his neck. I pulled the volume from the bookcase and placed it on my desk. “Okay, old friend,” I said aloud, “I will read you again, one poem each morning.” I’ve been true to my word and completed Mr. Keillor’s collection today. In all, over 300 poems are included and grouped under 15 topics. The poems Mr. Keillor selected for this collection are short – most, less than a page, but a few approach two – and lend themselves well to reading one a day for subsequent contemplation and reflection during one’s waking hours.
Poetry adds cadence to life beyond the circadian rhythm that brings us to consciousness each morning and ushers us to dreams at day’s end. With that tempo, poetry infuses our lives with emotion. It encourages us to laugh and to cry, to sympathize, to reflect, to love, sometimes even to dislike and loathe.
Here’s a poem by Harvey Shapiro (1924-2013) and American poet and former editor of the New York Times that makes me laugh and reminds me that life can be as simple and direct as a few choice words,
Caught on a side street
in heavy traffic I said
to the cabbie, I should
have walked. He replied,
I should have been a doctor.
When can I get on the 11:33
I ask the guy in the information booth
at the Atlantic Avenue Station.
When they open the doors, he says.
I am home among my people.
If poetry is not a part of your life, you have no idea of what you are missing. Read a poem today and find out.
“THIS is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks…”