Sunday, June 24, 2007

A Gesture Toward Sanity

Here's a quote from today's Writer's Almanac, by poet Stephen Dunn. It surely resonated with me. What about you?

Dunn said:

I think one of my early motivations for writing was that other people's versions of experience didn't gel with my own. It was a gesture toward sanity to try to get the world right for myself.
I've since learned that if you get it right for yourself, it often has resonance for others."

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Father's Day

Of all the gifts my dad has given me (a short list: straw forts with tunnels and hidden entrances, almost any pet I could name--excepting snakes, a college education, orthidontal work, and that vacation to see the wild Assateague ponies when I was 11), the best one is a love for poetry.

I remember snuggling beside him as he read from a thin and tattered volume of One Hundred and One Famous Poems, copyright 1958. Most of the poems were from the era of the Civil War and World War I. There were oval, tinotype-like portaits of each somber poet next to their poem. I was very little, and I had no idea what it meant to have a "rendevous with Death at some disputed barricade..." (Alan Seeger), but I reveled in the cadences, and in my father's own relishing of each word.

He is from one of the last generations who were forced to memorize poetry for school. I guess he never forgot the poems he memorized. Nor will I. One of them was "Thanatopsis" by William Cullen Bryant. In my memory, he recited the last stanza of this poem almost every night of my childhood. And so tonight I can hear his voice, with his slight lisp, savoring every syllable.

So live, that when thy summons comes to join
The innumerable caravan which moves
To that mysterious realm, where each shall take
His chamber in the silent halls of death,
Thou go not, like the quarry-slave at night,
Scourged to his dungeon, but, soothed and sustained
By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave
Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch
About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.

Perhaps a little dark, but that's my dad. And I love him. And I haven't thanked him nearly enough for the treasure he planted in my soul.