There was an interesting article on HeraldNet about poetry, detailing the columnist Garrison Keillor’s suggestions on what to do about Poetry month. Surprisingly, he is addressing men:
“We resisted poetry in school because we could see that it is full of falsehood. Love is NOT the star to every wandering bark, and many true minds have married who should have stayed friends. April is NOT the cruelest month, March is. The best minds of our generation are NOT starving, hysterical, naked — most of them are well-fed, calm, and stylishly dressed, thank you. Robert Frost’s little horse was absolutely right: it IS queer to stop without a farmhouse near, the darkest evening of the year. Dishonesty has given poetry a bad reputation. You see that uneven right margin and you think, “Oh boy, here we go again. Hallucinationville.”
So I am not suggesting that you sit down and read poems for Poetry Month, but that you write your own poem for someone whom you dearly love.
Love is never easy to express. Rage is simple, loneliness, despair — a child could do it. And they do, especially preschoolers. But love is a challenge, especially for men.” (1)
There are no comments on this article, but I daresay if it were on some social media platform it would have been susceptible to objections of all kinds. Demeaning-to-women for some, and stupidly romantic to others. Some would think his advice is deluded from reality, and others may regard it as kitschy. The ending admittance of himself a poet would further gratify all those colorful criticisms:
“Write the poem in black ink on a sheet of white paper — poems should never be sent by e-mail and never never never text a poem — hand it to her and as she reads it, put one hand on her shoulder so that you’re right there when she turns with tears in her eyes to embrace you and forgive you for every way you’ve messed up her life. This is the power of poetry. Poets get the girl.
Football heroes get concussions or need hip replacements. My classmates who played football are walking with canes and moaning when they sit down and they find it hard to figure out the 10 percent tip at lunch. We poets go sashaying along, perpetually 17, lost in wonder at the ordinary, astonished by streetlights, in awe at lawn ornaments, bedazzled by baristas releasing steam into milk for the lattes.” (1)
What lies behind his advice is what has value. It’s about language. He uses the example of someone who would be bedazzled, touched, by a handwritten poem—an act that isn’t otherwise easy for the individual presenting it. Love requires looking beyond yourself and speaking to the other in their language, doing something in a way they would like, saying something that would make them feel touched—in short putting them first. It reminds me of a lesson I learned myself once, and have to keep learning unfortunately because it’s so difficult in nature and so hard to perfectly attain:
Certain exchanges between persons require a higher resolve. Sometimes even words and reassurance don’t work. Tangible sentiment in these instances only aggravates the obstacle, making it harder to cross, clouding the air with misunderstanding.
Instead, in these times, one must neatly fold his or her own needs, put them aside, and attend to the other person.
The miracle of the human heart is that it is actually able to defeat its own selfishness. It will surely feel this silent resolve. And it’s going to be painful at times. Breathing will become hard, not once but several times in the day. And days will be so much longer than the passing moments they are to another. But all it means is that you are indeed alive, not because it hurts, but because you’re able to quietly put someone else first.
Keillor ends his article reminding us not to underestimate the impact of even the smallest act—the few words we say—when we speak to whom we love in the language they want to hear:
“This is what you learn during Poetry Month. You may lose the vote, fall into debt, suffer illness and remorse, feel lost in the crowd, and yet there is in language, everyday language, a source of such sweet delight that when you turn it to a good purpose, two gentle arms may reach around your neck, just as is happening to me right now, and a familiar voice speaks the words I long to hear and my heart is going like mad and yes, I say, yes I will Yes.” (1)
(1) Garrison, Keillor. (2017). Keillor: April is Poetry Month: use it to your advantage. Challenging adverse reactions in children with food allergies. HeraldNet. Retrieved from https://www.heraldnet.com/opinion/keillor-april-is-poetry-month-use-it-to-your-advantage/