rime & reason

Whenever I think about primary school, grade five is the year that stands out the most. Grade four was pretty good, too, I suppose, but I remember a lot from grade five. These aren’t necessarily educational things or what we actually learnt about, but just random memories. I remember that we played “sky ball” a lot, we did a lot of multiplication grids, we took turns being the “reading monitor” whenever we had quiet reading time, and it was the first time that we had a classroom with a whiteboard instead of a blackboard.

Something else that is quite prominent in my memory of that year of my childhood is that we had this sort of “guest teacher” who would come in for maybe an hour each week, for several weeks of the year, and he would teach us poetry. Every lesson, he would hand out copies of poems, and he’d tell us about the stories behind the words and the poets. I don’t remember exactly what he looks like (his image is a bit blurred in my memory, but I think he was a jolly old man who was a bit round in the face and waist) but he had the sort of voice made for poems and storytelling. Whether the poem was solemn, lively, suspenseful or morose – he told it perfectly.

When we were kids, my sister and I owned this big illustrated book of children’s poems (you know, the sort of big hardcover book with nice glossy pages), so this was certainly not my first exposure to poetry. I’m pretty sure that I liked poetry before this guy came along, but when I think of poetry – and the power of poetry – I think of those lessons in fifth grade.

It was back then that I first learnt about “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Of course, he didn’t teach us the full poem – just an excerpt, which happened to include the following verse:

Water, water every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water every where,
Nor any drop to drink.

This happens to be, for reasons beyond my grasp, my most favourite poem verse, and the only one that I can recite by heart. Some of you may have noticed that the title of my previous post was inspired by this verse.

I actually used to write poems – mostly about sunsets or rainy days or birds flying or something similar – and I would sometimes just sit down and write verse after verse. More commonly, however, I reckon I’d just be looking out the window, or day-dreaming, and then I’d just start composing an impromptu poem. It was like my thoughts just naturally morphed into verse, as naturally as ducks flying in formation.

I don’t write poems any more, of course. I probably haven’t written poetry since high school. And I don’t read poetry either (sorry to all those bloggers out there who write poetry – as soon as I recognise your post is a poem, I skip right over it).

So what has changed?

This might seem quite immature but, in my opinion, good poems should rhyme. It doesn’t matter how beautiful your imagery is, or how emotionally evocative your words are, if it doesn’t rhyme, I probably can’t read it without rolling my eyes (at least a little bit). Haikus I kind of get, but they’re probably the only exception. My theory is that as I grew up and was introduced to non-rhyming poetry, I kind of got put off by its ubiquity, and eventually rhyming poems didn’t appeal to me either.

Also, I don’t know anyone who likes/writes/reads poetry, so maybe it’s just “uncool” in my crowd, and somewhere along the line I subconsciously decided to lose interest in it.

Don’t get me wrong here – I don’t hate poems. I just don’t really like them either. I think they have their place in special occasions – to give solace at funerals, express love at weddings, or provide encouragement through hardships – but they’re not an every day thing; they don’t come naturally to me any more.

(To be perfectly honest, I didn’t really know where this post was going to go… I just randomly felt like writing about my relationship with poetry… Feel free to share some of your own favourite poems, but, you know, I probably won’t read them unless you really sell them to me.)

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2 thoughts on “rime & reason

  1. I don’t write poetry, way beyond my capabilities, but I have always loved it. I love how a few lines can contain a fragment of experience, humanity, loss, desire, an autumn sky or whatever. I love happening on a poem that speaks to me, reading it over and over and see how it changes, how the nuances become clearer and I am also the lone person who sends poems to friends and family when I find them appropriate to one person or circumstance. The New Yorker is a good source of my poetry but I veer towards contemporary and early 20th century hermetics (Eugenio Montale is a favorite).

    • Sometimes I wish I appreciated poetry more because I know there’s gotta be some amazing poetry out there. I reckon it’s cool that you send poetry to friends & family! Maybe I’d like poetry more if it was more of a shared experience…

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