Percy Dovetonsils was the Poet Laureate character played by the brilliant Ernie Kovaks on his 1950's TV show. Percy would recite a poem every week on the show.
San Ramon's Poet Laureate, Kathy Moore, is more up to date. She is emailing a poem a day this month in honor of National Poetry Month. Two of the poems she recently emailed out seemed particularly relevant to me.
One that hit home is Billy Collins' "Forgetfulness." Collins is about one year older than I am. Click the link on the title to read the poem and hear Collins recite it. If Percy Dovetonsils doesn't give you a chuckle, Collins should for anyone over 50.
Today, April 18th, is "Poem in your pocket," day. One of my favorite poems is William Wordsworth's "Daffodils." I printed it out and put it in my pocket, but it shouldn't be kept hidden away. Click here to hear Oscar winning actor, Jeremy Irons, recite this magnificent ode to flowers. Wordsworth, who is so aptly named, creates a marvelous visual treat with his words.
That's what poetry is about. It's not just that it rhymes, even though I miss rhyming in most contemporary poetry today. Poetry is painting pictures with words. It's creating an emotional atmosphere through vocabulary and meter.
I was particularly touched by the poem Kathy Moore sent on April 16th, the day after the Boston bombing.
"THE PEACE OF WILD THINGS
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and
my children's lives may be, I go and lie down where the wood drake rests
in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief. I come into the
presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free."
- Wendell Berry
It is the right poem to help us get through this wrong time. I emailed Kathy about her choice of each poem. Here's what she said about how she picks the poem to send out each day and the Collins and Berry poems in particular.
Thanks for the feedback. This Poem A Day project is something I have done each April for the past ten years. I began by initially sending it to my colleagues at the SRVUSD district office, but over the years, people have forwarded the daily poems to friends and dozens of others have asked to be added to my distribution list. Some high school teachers on my list share the poem with their students each day; others share those that they find particularly meaningful or connected to the curriculum. The most interesting part for me is that every single day I hear from someone (or two, or occasionally ten) who says, "today's poem was my very favorite!"
Here's my process I collect poems that I love over the course of the year and store them in an electronic file. Every morning, I look through my collection and select one that matches my mood!
The Billy Collins poem I took from his website: http://www.billy-collins.com/2005/06/forgetfulness_b.html
(Billy Collins, "Forgetfulness" from Sailing Around the Room: New and Selected Poems. Copyright © 2002. Random House.)
The Wendell Berry selection can be found at http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/171140
(Wendell Berry, "The Peace of Wild Things" from The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry. Copyright © 1998. Published and reprinted by arrangement with Counterpoint Press. Source: Collected Poems 1957-1982 Counterpoint Press, 1985)
I asked Kathy if she chose Wendell Berry's poem as a response to the bombing.
"Yes, that's the reason for choosing it. I really do believe in the healing power of words, of poetry's ability to help us make sense of the world."
To be added to Kathy Moore's, Poem a Day email, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Percy Dovetonsils would approve. Kovaks, along with Jonathan Winters, brought a new brand of wacky, character-based comedy to TV. Unfortunately Kovaks was killed in an automobile crash in 1962, and we lost his great talent.