Questions about Poetry

I was "tagged" by Michael Wells to answer this series of question. If you start to nod off, don't hit your head on your keyboard, you could damage it.

1. The first poem I remember reading/hearing/reacting to was....
when my mother read me nursery rhymes. I knew them all. I remember being concerned about how Peter put his wife in a pumpkin shell and the Old Woman in the Shoe-- "who whipped them all soundly and put them to bed." The newer nursery rhymes have been updated so child abuse is kept to a minimum. But I remember how much I loved to repeat the rhymes to my family. Of course, I'd end each recital with a request for them to "clap! clap!"

The first poem I taped above desk in college was by Thomas Hardy as I thought it was so surprising the first time a professor read it in class:

Ah, Are You Digging On My Grave?

"Ah, are you digging on my grave,
My loved one? -- planting rue?"
-- "No: yesterday he went to wed
One of the brightest wealth has bred.
'It cannot hurt her now,' he said,
'That I should not be true.'"

"Then who is digging on my grave,
My nearest dearest kin?"
-- "Ah, no: they sit and think, 'What use!
What good will planting flowers produce?
No tendance of her mound can loose
Her spirit from Death's gin.'"

"But someone digs upon my grave?
My enemy? -- prodding sly?"
-- "Nay: when she heard you had passed the Gate
That shuts on all flesh soon or late,
She thought you no more worth her hate,
And cares not where you lie.

"Then, who is digging on my grave?
Say -- since I have not guessed!"
-- "O it is I, my mistress dear,
Your little dog, who still lives near,
And much I hope my movements here
Have not disturbed your rest?"

"Ah yes! You dig upon my grave...
Why flashed it not to me
That one true heart was left behind!
What feeling do we ever find
To equal among human kind
A dog's fidelity!"

"Mistress, I dug upon your grave
To bury a bone, in case
I should be hungry near this spot
When passing on my daily trot.
I am sorry, but I quite forgot
It was your resting place."

2. I was forced to memorize (name of poem) in school and...
I went to public school and all I was forced to memorize was my name and address in case I became lost or was kidnapped and needed a ride home.

However, in college I took it upon myself to memorize "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." Two years ago, I almost *accidentally* memorized "The Waste Land" (Eliot) because I was listening to it on tape. Shakespeare's sonnets, which I also have on CD, are also quite similar in the accidental memorization. I learn much more through listening than reading; I always have.

3. I read/don't read poetry because....
I'm looking to somehow be changed emotionally. I want that gut-feeling that something has happened because of what I've read. I read it because I want to be taken somewhere else not just through story, but language.

4. A poem I'm likely to think about when asked about a favorite poem is .......

Here are two I always return to:

I Stop Writing the Poem

to fold the clothes. No matter who lives
or who dies, I'm still a woman.
I'll always have plenty to do.
I bring the arms of his shirt
together. Nothing can stop
our tenderness. I'll get back
to the poem. I'll get back to being
a woman. But for now
there's a shirt, a giant shirt
in my hands, and somewhere a small girl
standing next to her mother
watching to see how it's done.

--Tess Gallagher


A New Poet

Finding a new poet
is like finding a new wildflower
out in the woods. You don't see

its name in the flower books, and
nobody you tell believes
in its odd color or the way

its leaves grow in splayed rows
down the whole length of the page. In fact
the very page smells of spilled

red wine and the mustiness of the sea
on a foggy day—the odor of truth
and of lying.

And the words are so familiar,
so strangely new, words
you almost wrote yourself, if only

in your dreams there had been a pencil
or a pen or even a paintbrush,
if only there had been a flower.

Linda Pastan
Heroes In Disguise
W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.

5. I write/don't write poetry, but...
I'm not a poet in real life. In real life, I am everything but a poet. I'm a wife, a student, a mother, a pet owner, a daughter. This is what I am to everyone else, I'm only a poet to myself.

6. My experience with reading poetry differs from my experience with reading other types of literature.....
because I am more thankful and appreciative for what has been written because I am on that same path. Though I write in other genres, I feel a deeper connection with poets because I know if you're writing poetry, it's because you have to. It's not for the money or fame, but you have that switch inside you that has been turned on. I tend not to question the motivation of poets, but trust that like myself, they too are writing poetry because they cannot not write poetry. Of course, I may have had a few imaginary friends as a child, so I do tend to project.

7. I find poetry......
while I'm folding the laundry, in the shower, or digging beneath the clematis vines. When I've been away, I find poetry in my postcards, on my desk waiting, in my purse, and on scraps of paper in my jeans. I find poetry in most places, except on tv.

8. The last time I heard poetry....
I was sitting in a theatre behind four of my poetry friends, three of them have naturally curly hair. It was the first time I really noticed it.

9. I think poetry is like...
the odd but friendly cat that keeps returning to my back door.

Poets I'll tag: Peter Pereira, Jeannine Gailey, and Paul Guest


  1. Thanks so much for being such a good sport about this. I enjoyed an insight through your answers and I have absolutely no "key marks" on my forehead.



  2. hello kelli - we've never met, but i have read your poetry here and there, and most recently in the latest issue of pebble lake review. i wanted to let you know that among the many beautiful poems in the magazine, yours still stood out, and i find myself coming back to them. wonderful writing.

    all the best,

    ps i'll link to your blog from mine if that is okay with you.

  3. I used to write poems a lot more when I was a teenager than when I am now in my 40s. Instead of writing on a notebook, though, I blog or comment in a poetic form (except now). By the way, thanks for dropping by my blog at Global Recycled Products! :) I'm soon drawing the winner of the OWOH giveaway.


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