Welcome back to our blog! Covid-19 has slowed us down a bit, but we are eager to get to posting regularly once again. I had this entry written and ready to post in April, but then we closed and it lay forgotten. Therefore, I thought I would post it now rather than waiting for next April to roll around again.
For those who are unaware, April is National Poetry Month. I’m thankful that there is an entire month dedicated to poetry, as the great poets (past & present) have utilized their words to create some of the most beautiful, haunting and inspiring written verse.
Below are a collection of my favourite works, with added commentary on their meaning and imagery.
- I, Too by Langston Hughes
I, too, sing America.
I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.
I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,”
They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed—
I, too, am America.
Hughes wrote about the segregation of African Americans and whites, and how one day there would be no more segregation and he too would be looked at as an equal.
- Still I Rise by Maya Angelou
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
’Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
’Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history’s shame
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
One of Angelou’s most popular poems, Still I Rise has turned into an anthem for many victims of oppression. It offers an empowering message about the struggle to overcome the prejudice and abuse of power from those who sit in positions of power, ultimately delivering the message that hope wins the day.
- The Love Song for Shu-Sin by Unknown
Bridegroom, dear to my heart,
Goodly is your beauty, honeysweet,
Lion, dear to my heart,
Goodly is your beauty, honeysweet.
You have captivated me, let me stand tremblingly before you.
Bridegroom, I would be taken by you to the bedchamber,
You have captivated me, let me stand tremblingly before you.
Lion, I would be taken by you to the bedchamber.
Bridegroom, let me caress you,
My precious caress is more savoury than honey,
In the bedchamber, honey-filled,
Let me enjoy your goodly beauty,
Lion, let me caress you,
My precious caress is more savoury than honey.
Bridegroom, you have taken your pleasure of me,
Tell my mother, she will give you delicacies,
My father, he will give you gifts.
Your spirit, I know where to cheer your spirit,
Bridegroom, sleep in our house until dawn.
Your heart, I know where to gladden your heart,
Lion, sleep in our house until dawn.
You, because you love me,
Give me pray of your caresses,
My lord god, my lord protector,
My Shu-Sin, who gladdens Enlil’s heart,
Give my pray of your caresses.
Your place goodly as honey, pray lay (your) hand on it,
Bring (your) hand over like a gishban-garment,
Cup (your) hand over it like a gishban-sikin-garment.
Nearly 4,000 years old, The Love Song for Shu-Sin is the oldest love poem in the world! It was discovered etched into a clay tablet by an archaeologist in Iraq during the 19th Century. The author of the poem is unknown, but according to Guinness World Records, it “is believed to have been recited by a bride of Sumerian King Shu-Sin, who ruled between 2037 and 2029 BC.”
- The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
This poem is all about choices; the choice to follow the crowd or go it alone. Many readers assume this poem reflects that taking the “road less travelled” means that there is a right path and a wrong path, when in actuality, Frost never indicated whether the road he chose was the right one. The way he is going and the place he ends up, for better or worse, is the result of his own decision making, not the result of others. And that makes all the difference.
- Sonnet 18 by William Shakespeare
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date;
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm’d;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature’s changing course untrimm’d;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st;
Nor shall death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
Arguably the most famous of Shakespeare’s sonnets, this selection of verse is brimming with romantic imagery and idealism. His beloved is lovelier than a summer’s day as summer can be unpredictable with the scorching sun, blowing winds, and lack of shade. In addition, summer comes to an end, but his beloved shall never fade because she is immortalized in his written word.
- How Do I Love Thee by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right.
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
The love the speaker has for her admirer grows stronger with time. It’s innocent, passionate, faithful, and invokes a sense of longing felt between the two. Even in death, the speaker prays that she will be given the chance to love her beloved even better in the afterlife.