For years, as much as I tried, I couldn’t get into poetry. It seemed too formal and unapproachable. Then I heard Funeral Blues by W.H. Auden recited in the movie Four Weddings and a Funeral. It’s hard to hear this and think of it as unapproachable. It gets under your skin. That’s power.
Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.
Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He is Dead.
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.
He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.
The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the woods;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.
That’s when I realized my problem –poetry is meant to be recited. Poets use words with precision. Poets understand rhythm. When it’s spoken, it takes on dimension that you’d never suspect when you see it on a page.
As soon as I got that, I realized that poetry was all around me. It was part of my every day, not some rare arty thing that existed outside. Yes, I should have realized that song lyrics were poetry, but I didn’t think of them that way until my ears were opened. Being able to sing along didn’t take away its impact.
What Sarah Said
Death Cab for Cutie
I would show the lyrics to What Sarah Said, but unlike Auden's poem, this is still under copyright, and I have to respect that. However, a simple search on the internet will take you to the lyrics. I suggest you take a look, because this song/poem is incredible.
Recently, friend Steven Reigns released a book of his poetry. (Inheritance. Lethe Press) I’m glad I went to the reading, because now as I read his poems, I hear his voice and it brings life to his words. Maybe that’s the key to appreciating poetry - approach it as living art rather than simply words on a page. And when you can, sing along, or even dance, but always let it get under your skin.