I Think That I Shall Never See

It’s still April – and still National Poetry Month. In my son’s school, they’re doing a unit on poetry that has led us to write a few original poems. Our two best? “My Favorite School” and “Roller Coaster.”

But what poems do you think of from your childhood? Two, in particular, spring to my mind: Emily Dickinson’s Joyce Kilmer’s poem that begins, “I think that I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree” and William Carlos Williams’ “The Red Wheelbarrow.”

I’m not pretending to understand “The Red Wheelbarrow” or why you can sing all of Emily Dickinson’s poems to the tune of “O Susannah!” but they were good introductions to poetry.

Currently, my two favorite poems are “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley and “Continuities” by Walt Whitman.

In Henley’s poem, the last two lines particularly inspire me to keep trying, no matter how discouraged I may get:

“I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.”

Whitman’s poem means something more to me. It’s consolation that no matter who – or what – I think I may have lost, they remain with me.

“Nothing is ever really lost, or can be lost.”

When I am most troubled, nothing speaks to me the way poetry does. Like prayer, it is concise and rich and enduring. I hope to pass “poem dependence” along to my son because it is comforting to realize that others have felt what I feel and endured.

But for now I’m content to write a few couplets with him and maybe get him giggling at a little Ogden Nash. There’ll be time for Frost, Yeats, Rosetti, et. al. in the years to come.

* CORRECTION – My Aunt Barbara noticed that I had gotten the poet wrong who wrote “I Think That I Shall Never See A Poem As Lovely As a Tree;” it was Joyce Kilmer (who is actually from New Jersey and has a rest stop on the NJ Turnpike to prove it.) Thanks for catching that, Aunt Barbara!

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