Monday, April 14, 2008

Make room in your pockets for poetry

Home to the likes of Ann Bradstreet, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost and Mary Oliver (not to mention my poetry-loving grandfather), Massachusetts has long been a hotbed of poetic inspiration.

The Boston area in particular has had a long relationship with poetry. Who couldn't love the city with the nation's oldest all-poetry bookstore?

Boston is also the birthplace of the Favorite Poem Project, begun by Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky as an attempt to encourage the role of poetry in the lives of Americans. View the website's collection of fifty short videos of Americans reading their favorite poems and explaining how poetry has touched their lives.

My two favorite videos so far (I haven't viewed them all) include Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's A Psalm of Life read by Rev. Michael Haynes and Eavan Boland's The Emigrant Irish read by Stephen Murphy.

The Emigrant Irish
is a touching tribute to the brave Irish that struggled for their very existence in new lands generations before us. Its use of light as both simile and metaphor struck me. I can't resist sharing it here on A light that shines again. Here is the poem:

The Emigrant Irish
by Eavan Boland

Like oil lamps, we put them out the back —

of our houses, of our minds. We had lights
better than, newer than and then

a time came, this time and now
we need them. Their dread, makeshift example:

they would have thrived on our necessities.
What they survived we could not even live.
By their lights now it is time to
imagine how they stood there, what they stood with,
that their possessions may become our power:
Cardboard. Iron. Their hardships parceled in them.
Patience. Fortitude. Long-suffering
in the bruise-colored dusk of the New World.

And all the old songs. And nothing to lose.

Enjoyed this poem and want to share it? Have other favorites that have touched you or that you have memorized and made a part of you? Why not place a copy in your pocket for Poem in Your Pocket Day, Thursday April 17. If you can't come up with just the right poem, take a look at these choices, already pre-formatted into pocket size.

Happy National Poetry Month!

A challenge to all readers who write their own blogs: Share a favorite poem on your blog for Poem in Your Pocket Day, April 17, 2008. I look forward to reading all of your favorites!

Source: Eavan Boland, "The Emigrant Irish," from Outside History: Selected Poems 1980-1990. Copyright © 1987 by Eavan Boland.

1 comment:

Thomas MacEntee said...


I have my faves posted at Some Poems In My Pocket.



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