Monday, May 03, 2010

Weekend Assignment #316: My Poetry Declamation Day

Weekend Assignment #316: National Poetry Month: As April wraps up, let's not let it get away without celebrating National Poetry Month. For this assignment, please share with us something about poetry. Tell us about your favorite poet, or quote us a few lines of your favorite poem, or if poetry doesn't happen to be something you enjoy, tell us why!

Extra Credit:
Write a Haiku!
I had an very busy Saturday this week, starting with Eva's funeral and continuing with lunch with a friend followed by Doctor Who. But a certain Saturday in late March was even busier. March 20th started for me with a 7:30 AM meeting of the church's finance committee, followed by Morning Prayer, morning Mass, a Vestry meeting and then a funeral Mass for a former teacher and principal at St. Michael and All Angels Day School, Sheila Roberts. I didn't know her at all, but I served at the funeral mass anyway. Sheila was a close friend of another retired teacher at the school, well known organist and composer Alan Schultz. Many years ago, Alan instituted something called Declamation Day at the school, in which students memorize and recite short works of literature. Declamation Day is still a school tradition, and I think it's a pretty cool one.

onetwothreefourfiveThe funeral was followed by a reception, and after that I dropped my friend Jan off at Barnes and Noble and went in myself. I only meant to check the magazine rack for the last Doctor Who Magazine issued before my subscription, but some people from a local poetry club had just set up a microphone in the magazine area, and were introducing an open mike poetry reading.  Well, I couldn't resist! Shortly after the reading started, I recited an E.E. Cummings poem from memory:

Buffalo Bill's
       who used to
       ride a watersmooth-silver
and break onetwothreefourfive pigeons justlikethat

and so on.

Somebody else did a poem, and somebody else, and meanwhile I was scribbling bits of my poem Pilate's Answer (And All Ye Need To Know) on the back of a piece of paper from the Vestry meeting, so I could recite it without long pauses for recollection.

But I didn't stop there. Darned if I didn't jump in front of that microphone again and again. I recited, again from memory, a little-known companion poem to Ogden Nash's Adventures of Isabel, entitled The Sniffle:

In spite of her sniffle
Isabel's chiffle.
...which I see now I've been misquoting for over 45 years.

I was on firmer ground when I recited my favorite part of One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss:

Look what we found
In the park,
In the dark.
We will take him home.
We will call him Clark.
He will live at our house.
He will grow and grow.
Will our mother like this?
We don't know.

Incidentally, I once wrote a Tolkien/Seuss mashup pastiche based on the above:

Look what I found
In a cave
Dark as a grave.
It's a magic ring.
It's a precious thing.
I put it on to vanish.
Its hold on my thoughts grows.
Should I pass it on now?
Gandalf knows.

I'm trying to remember what else I did, possibly another Ogden Nash piece, possibly A.A. Milne. I was astonished how many poems I wanted to share, really, and ultimately had to hold myself back from overstaying my welcome! Maybe I only did one Seuss, on Nash and no Milne at all. But I did introduce a poem I memorized off a bus placard from a Poetry in Public Places project in the mid-1970s:

If it's not one thing it's another
(Muffler I have to wear)
Don't you know I come from
A stronger breed of Vikings?
We ate you people for breakfast.
--Author unknown
I've posted that poem before, for Weekend Assignment #105 in fact, hoping that someone could identify the author. So far, no luck.

You see which way my poetic interests lie, mostly with the light and humorous.  I don't think I have a favorite poet, but rather a handful of them.

Okay, extra credit haiku:

Incense to Heaven
Rises from tiny round grave
Praying for Eva


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