A Few of My Favorite Things, #2: Good Poetry

I love reading poetry, and some of my favorite poets are Yeats, Eliot, and Auden. In college I took a class on Modernist poetry and fiction, and I really enjoyed reading some of the World War I–era poetry we discussed, like Isaac Rosenberg’s “On Receiving News of the War” and Wilfred Owen’s “Dulce et Decorum Est.” The poetry from that period speaks to the senseless tragedy going on at the time and gives a human voice to the suffering, which is crucial in how we process and understand these historical events. An ache for redemption amidst misery and despair is something that can be universally understood regardless of its era, and we can learn from and sympathize with these voices that speak to us from the past.

In my class, we also delved into T.S. Eliot, and the rhythm of his sentences totally captivates me. Reading “Prufrock” helps me relax when I’m feeling tense; in a way, it stretches my heart to feel more when I’m numbed by the stresses of everyday life:

Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question …
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.
[…]
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.
For I have known them all already, known them all:
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
               So how should I presume?

A few other favorite poems: “La Figlia che Piange” and “Preludes” by Eliot; “Easter, 1916” and “Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven” by Yeats; and “As I Walked Out One Evening” by Auden.

Reading poetry helps me to become a better writer—it makes me more aware of the subtleties of language and of how I’m using each word on the page. I rarely write poetry, although I did take a poetry writing class in college. But an awareness of poetry improves my ability to write prose, and mostly I just love soaking in well-written, lyrical poems.


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