Tuesday, May 7, 2013

A Toad's Favo(u)rite Poem

Greetings to all my fellow toads and friends in poetry.
Today we are introducing a new feature in The Imaginary Garden:
A Toad's Favo(u)rite Poem. I have asked all our members to select a poem which is particularly meaningful or significant to them and to share it with us on Real Toads. Now, as you can imagine, this is no easy task. How does one sift through the accumulated poems of a lifetime and select just one which resonates?

I thought back to my earliest recollection of enjoying poetry, and remembered this book my father bought for me at a used book sale. It was a bit later than '72 since I was about 10 years old. I would read the poems aloud to myself in my bedroom, enthralled more by the sounds of the words on my tongue, than the actually meaning. The Brook by Lord Tennyson was my favourite then.

There came I time in my school years, when my relationship with literature underwent a remarkable metamorphosis - novels and poetry no longer represented study material; they were revealed to me as the secret formulae of humanity and I knew I would immerse myself in the written word for the rest of my life. I decided to become a teacher, not because I wanted to teach, but because I had no other excuse to study English Literature and answer my parents' question: "But what career will this open for you?" So I have decided to select one of those school day poems which made me fall in love with poets and the English language. T.S. Eliot wrote Preludes between 1910-1911, when he was 22 years old.

T.S. Eliot

Preludes by T.S. Eliot.

The winter evening settles down
With smell of steaks in passageways.
Six o’clock.
The burnt-out ends of smoky days.
And now a gusty shower wraps
The grimy scraps
Of withered leaves about your feet
And newspapers from vacant lots;
The showers beat
On broken blinds and chimney-pots,
And at the corner of the street
A lonely cab-horse steams and stamps.

And then the lighting of the lamps.

For the full text, please go to Poetry Foundation or listen to my reading below.

Wikipedia's brief explanation of the poem may be read HERE.


Grandmother Mary said...

What a picture in this poem of Elliott. I've seen this in the west of Irreland more than once and love how his words evoke this. I'm with you on the love of words and the feel of poetry in my mouth. Gorgeous and I can't get enough of it. Great idea for a feature. Do we write our favorites in these comments?

Fireblossom said...

The style would seem to presage one of my favorite poems, "The Love Song Of J. Alfred Prufrock." Eliot is without a doubt one of the great masters. There are some famous ones who elude me--I really don't see what's so great about them--but Eliot, my goodness, just read five lines and you'll never stop.

I was like you, the beauty of the sound of certain poems captured me long before the meaning got through. The first poem I can recall loving was Longfellow's "The Wreck Of The Hesperus". I loved how Longfellow's words sounded, and I also loved that it told a story. My father had it in a book called "A Treasury Of The Familiar", which I still have, and I marked the page and went back to read it again and again.

Jinksy said...

My favourite can be seen as it looked to me over sixty five years ago, as I still have the book - rebound, admittedly, but still loved. I've also typed it out HERE for you to read easily. :)

Abin Chakraborty said...

My favourite too.the one poet who continues to speak to us with that same power he once exercised.absolutely wonderful.The Waste Land and Other Poems is an anthology that I keep coming back to.T.S.E...our contemporary!

Kerry O'Connor said...

Yes, Mary, please share your favourites with us. Thanks to Fireblossom for giving us some titles and Jinksy for the handy link. I think it is vital for us, as writers, to return again to the masters, to read and reflect on what set them apart as the voices of their respective ages.

Susan said...

I am so happy to hear your voice reading this to me, and add that sensation to my memory and the snatches of this poem that rise to mind occasionally. Today,it is this:
"I am moved by fancies that are curled
Around these images, and cling:
The notion of some infinitely gentle
Infinitely suffering thing."

And his thousands and thousands and so much this poem brings me, down to the women of Eliot's last line.

In high school, it was TS Eliot's "The Wasteland" that I adored. In trying to think of the earliest, I remember the last page of "Children's Garden of Verses"--Robert Lewis Stevenson's "The Land of Counterpane." for its ideas of what I might see in my crazy quilt. He wrote a lot of poetry for children--and then "Treasure Island" and "Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde." Imagination Rules!

Scarlet said...

Kerry, this feature will be educational for me as appreciation for poetry came to me later in my life. Thank you for sharing his work (I will listen to your read later) ~

Great feature and I think its also a wonderful idea to link our favorite poems in the comments section ~

Janine Bollée said...

A post to treasure.
Shunning Eliot all my reading life, I was grateful for your verbal introduction. The wiki explanation is exceptional.
I can see why these four stanzas work synergistically, but I am one of those readers that feel alienated.[ as I always suspected I would be].
Still, one can't help being impressed by the workmanship even though the poet's contempt at times seems to get the upper hand.

A moving read, both yours and his.
"enthralled more by the sounds of the words on my tongue" :this phrase and concept delighted me most of all.
My Eureka moment came at the age of four, in the middle of a bombing raid.
Such are the building blocks of life.

hedgewitch said...

When I studied Eliot in school, I found him compelling but difficult. Only in the last few years have I come to really love his work, his meticulous, more-than-vivid descriptions that cut to the heart, his erudition that slips in painlessly, and of course, his great gift of hypnotic, aposite image. Thanks so much for the reading, as well, Kerry.

Like you and Fireblossom, I discovered poetry first in a book on my child's library shelf--my grandparents, at some sacrifice, I'm sure, because they were not affluent, bought me an encyclopedia set called Childcraft, which had illustrated volumes on everything under the sun, aimed at young readers.

My favorites were the volumes on astronomy, archeology, and poetry, where I first met Bess the landlord's black-eyed daughter plaiting loveknots into her long black hair for her lover, Afred Noyes' Highwayman. The sound of that poem became the first 'earworm' of my life. ;_) I can still recite many parts of it. Longfellow and Tennyson were also favorites.

I know I'm really going to enjoy this feature, Kerry. Thanks for kicking it off.

Helen said...

I remember reading ee cummings in high school ~ completely blown away! Still am.

Sherry Blue Sky said...

"And then the lighting of the lamps." Perfection.

I was already writing poems at fourteen when my heart took wing while reading Percy Bysshe Shelley's To A Skylark. How wonderful that you have immersed yourself in the classics through teaching.

Anonymous said...

I've been an activist for social justice since I was a sixth grader, licking envelopes for Bobby Kennedy's ill-fated presidential run. Carl Sandburg is to poetry what Upton Sinclair was to prose... and Mother Jones was to the union movement. I took his "Chicago Poems" #3, 'The Masses,' and read it into my mp3 recorder. You can see the full poem and hear me read it, if you wish, at:

Thanks so much. We have a wonderful variety of tastes and textures in our worldview of poetry here in the Garden, and I'm so happy! Peace, Amy

Anonymous said...

PS, sorry you all must cut and paste the link; I'm on Wordpress.

Also, Kerry, your beautiful reading of Eliot inspired me to dig up my recorder and do the same for today's SLPencil blog post. Thanks so much. Your voice sounds as lovely as you are. A

Kerry O'Connor said...

Your reading is wonderful, Amy. I so enjoyed the extract you selected.

Susie Clevenger said...

What a wonderful introduction to this series of favo(u)rite poems Kerry. TS Elliot has long been one of my favorite poets. The strength in his descriptions not only let you feel his work, but gives you the ability to "see" also. One of my favorite TS Elliot poems is "Hysteria." I can't read it without picturing the scene the woman created with her laughter.

It was great to hear you read the poem. Such a beautiful voice.

Anonymous said...

Hey Kerry - beautiful poem and beautiful reading. I agree that it presages Prufrock which has been a favorite since high school (when I memorized it and had great pleasure reeling it off.)

I'm trying to think of poems I liked as a little child. We had a book of Longfellow's Hiawatha which I found very intriguing, and I was very impressed by Whitman - Oh Captain My Captain, which seemed terribly tragic to me. (And is.) And Annabel Lee, Poe - also tragic and wonderfully rhetorical. I have to say the poetry that probably most deeply affected me at an early age was Romeo and Juliet, which I became rather obsessed by in late elementary school/early Junior HIgh. Clearly I went for the tragic. Thanks for your beautiful reading. k.

Kay L. Davies said...

Yours seems like a natural progression to me, Kerry, first the sound and feel of poetry, and then Eliot's words, perfectly chosen, revealing the reality.
I've always loved the line "and then the lighting of the lamps" and, when young, wanted to cry for "ancient women gathering fuel in vacant lots"...

Ella said...

Beautiful and so many memories now tangled in our favorite poems!
Gosh, so many favs, but the first one that made me feel struck by lightening was by ee cummings~

I love your pick!
Thank you Kerry this is a great addition to our Garden :D

Marian said...

I don't know why I didn't comment yesterday, I was here! This just stirs it all up for me, Kerry. Thank you.

Maggie Grace said...

Maybe I missed the linky time, but I posted Robert Frost's Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening to my blog. Have always loved the phrase "and miles to go before I sleep."

Kerry O'Connor said...

There is no link to a feature post, Maggie. Folks are sharing in comments.

Peggy said...

Somehow I missed this yesterday. Wonderful presentation of the poem as well as the story of why it is important to you. I have been wondering how to go about presenting our favorites and I am so glad to see this lovely example. What a fun idea this feature is.

Peggy said...

I want to add that as well as your post I thoroughly enjoyed reading the comments with all the mention of other well-loved poems that woke memories for me too. I am going to have a hard time picking one to focus on.

My earliest memories of poems is "A Child's Garden of Verses" as someone else mentioned and I recall my father dramatically performing "The Wreck of the Herperus" (which I thought was the same as "Annabelle Lee" but maybe I am wrong there) and "The Raven." Did not do much poetry in school until college and then just one class that did impress me.

Hannah said...

I love the thought trail you lead us on before bringing us this gem!! Excellent poem and what a great lead in to you r challenge, Kerry...thank you!