Advice given to me at graduation by one of my English professors, Judith Plotz: “Carry a good anthology of poetry on your travels.”
As a scholar of Romanticism, Professor Plotz introduced me to some of my (now) favorite poets, including the English peasant poet John Clare. She taught me to memorize poetry, believing in its powers to sustain a person. She measured her love for poetry like the cadence of one’s gait, each word dropped like a step upon the earth. I’m thinking back to her advice now, as I do more walking and prepare to spend over 8 hours straight walking in the Sierra Club’s annual One Day Hike.
Recently, another of my former English professors, Margaret Soltan (University Diaries), has begun to record an online poetry lecture series at Udemy, called Modern Poetry. Her focus is on Modernism and Post-Modernism. It’s a free online course, so no risk in poking around and seeing if you enjoy it. Every human being owes themselves this appreciation of language and its power. In particular, Professor Soltan goes through detailed analyses of certain famous poems, such as Ashbery’s “Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror“. But it’s also just nice to listen to her speak of poetry in general.
Give poetry a chance, especially if you’re only ever been forced to read it. Especially if you find it challenging. Poetry expands your understanding of the breadth and depth of human experience, shaping language to express desire, pain, tedium.
“The present moment is constantly slipping into the past…”