We’re all creatures of fossilized opinion. For whatever reason, we want our egg over easy, we think red hair is prettier than blonde, we prefer oxfords to slip-ons … it goes on and on.
We’re creatures of habit, too. For instance, I start each morning with two cups of tea, a slice of toast and a newspaper. A few years ago, I started reading a bit of the New Testament. Now, I’m also reading a poem.
I’ve always liked poetry. When I was a kid, our home library consisted of a set of encyclopedias, a Bible, a dictionary and “Best-Loved Poems of the American People.” My sister and I gravitated toward the poetry book, and often read favorites to each other. Children sometimes read books together, way back then.
I took a poetry class at Danville Junior College, and enjoyed it immensely, thanks to a super teacher named Ken Leisch. Through the years, I’ve cherished many favorites, including “Ode on A Grecian Urn” by Keats; “Song of the Open Road” by Whitman; “Tintern Abbey” by Wordsworth; “The Cane-Bottom’d Chair” by Thackeray and Longfellow’s “The Fire of Driftwood.”
I have several poetry books, but my latest morning habit is more high tech. Somehow or other, I heard about “Poem-A-Day,” a free, online service offered by the Academy of American Poets (www.poets.org). You just type in your email address and each morning you find a new poem in your in-box, plus links to other poems written by the same poet.
Poem-A-Day was launched by the academy in 2006 as a National Poetry Month program. Today it has approximately 68,000 subscribers.
Some of the poems are historical, some classical, some contemporary, some popular, some unknown. Often, the selection is tied to the season. For instance, Emerson’s “A Nation’s Strength” was chosen for Nov. 7, right after the election. “The Thanksgivings” was the selection for Thanksgiving Day, and “Pyrotechnics” was featured on July 4.
The archive includes all poems posted since 2006. You can search them by month or year.
A poem is now part of my morning routine; I look forward to meeting and greeting it. “Poem-A-Day” provides a little present; I never know what might be inside the in-box.
A couple of recent selections have been especially good. I had read some of Sara Teasdale’s pieces before, but I’d never read “Places (III. Winter Sun)”. It’s only eight lines long, but it speaks to anyone who has ever loved and lost … alas, almost everybody.
It ends: “Let come what may,” your eyes were saying, “At least we two have had today.”
I also liked “Failing and Flying” by Jack Gilbert, who died in November at age 87.
“I believe Icarus was not falling as he fell,” he wrote, “but just coming to the end of his triumph.”
How lovely. Once again, Poem-A-Day made my day.
Danville native Kevin Cullen is a former Commercial-News reporter. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.