Book reviews, art, gaming, Objectivism and thoughts on other topics as they occur.

Jan 31, 2006

Good Poems for Hard Times

I love poetry, so I snagged this book off the clearance shelf at Barnes & Nobles. The poems are certainly enjoyable to read, but I don't sit down and read a book of poetry the way I would read a novel. I like to open it to a page, sample a thought or two that strike me, and then put it away until some other time when I'll pick it up and open it to a new page.

Garrison Keillor's introduction, though, is definitely worth reading, I'll quote some of it here:

Poetry is free speech. It is ever on the side of the irrepressible spirit and in opposition to the censor, to Management, to the protocols of the company psychologist, to the roomful of men in blue suits who casually cheat schoolchildren. It is on the side of exhilaration and the stupendous vision, the sight of the stars through the barred window, the perfection of small birds, the democracy of their chittering language and of our own yakfest and hullabaloo. Poetry is made of the grandeur that is available to a man with no fortune but with somewhere to walk to and ears to hear and a mind to transport him. He may be defeated in love and finance and yet the night belongs to him, he feels entrusted with the stunning sky, the guardian of the houses on the street and all the people in them. So are poets, the angels and shepherds of the sleeping world.

The poems in the book are not ones that I would have chosen, but I don't often enjoy modern poetry that neither rhymes nor scans, and there is a lot of that in this book. But, I thought I'd take this opportunity to mention a poet that I adore: Badger Clark.

Ayn Rand quoted, briefly, his poem "The Westerner", in The Romantic Manifesto, so being curious I looked it up to read the whole thing. Mr. Clark captures the essence of the cowboy, the solitary man facing the wide-open world alone and unafraid so perfectly that you can almost smell the fresh air.

If you know of more poets like this, please, recommend them. Hard times come when you least expect them and you need some grandeur close at hand when that happens.


softwareNerd said...

Recently, I've been searching the web for recordings of poems. There are a few sites, but most seem to focus on recordings done by the poets themselves and thus limit themselves to fairly modern poets.

A few sites have older poems, read by others, but it's rare to find those. If you ever come across something like that, do post a link.

Myrhaf said...

I followed your link to amazon and bought the book, despite the presence of Garrison Keillor's name on the cover. He can be hard to take.

Toiler said...

Hi, Jennifer! Poems are usually hit and miss for me, too. Most of the collections I have contain only a few real gems. (Maybe I just lack experience reading verse.) Anyway, here are a few good ones that leap to mind. How about "If" by Rudyard Kipling. Or "Caged Bird" by Maya Angelou. And one of my childhood favorites by Emily Dickinson: "Adrift! A little boat adrift!". (She's religious, but I didn't know that when I was only knee-high.)

Speaking of this last one, my favorite poetry collection would probably be: "A Child's Treasury of Seaside Verse". It's a beautiful book, and a lot of the poetry is lusty and Romantic, even a bit sentimental.

I hope we live to see the day when New Romantic Poets begin to appear. It's exciting to imagine reading wordsmiths from the 21st century.

I also hope this list of mine brings you some cheer! Happy writing!

EdMcGon said...

Thanks for sharing that poem. It is a good one.

One question though: Regarding the line "For all clean men are as good as I,/And a king is only that.", is he saying a king is only a clean man, and by inference talking about the old cliche "a land where every man is king"?

Jennifer Snow said...


I'll keep a lookout.


I agree about Keillor, but I've developed the ability to filter out the worst of the garbage while still enjoying it when people say interesting things. I do hope you enjoy it, at least.


I really enjoy Rudyard Kipling, in fact, I was planning to do some looking around to see if I could find a few of his poems to blog about today.

I sort of enjoy Shel Silverstein, personally, but I think he's still alive so good luck finding anything of his online for free; he's still got copyrights.


I have no idea, but if I were to hazard a guess I'd say thathe meant, a king is only a king, there's nothing special or magical about a title.

softwareNerd said...

Kipling's "Ballad of East and West" is a nice yarn. "Gunga Din" was nice enough. Those two can't compare to "If", though.

I like Longfellow's "Psalm of Life"

Hannah Gerber said...

I love that introduction by Garrison Keillor more than the book itself! His line,'..the perfection of small birds' made such an inspiration to me that I titled my poetry book just that!