Saturday, April 13, 2013

Beauty Tinged with Darkness

My first-ever book of poetry was John Ciardi's You Read to Me, I'll Read to You, illustrated by Edward Gorey. Like most of my favorite children's books, it was a gift from my Aunt Vonna. Amazingly, it's still in print. Here's one of my favorite poems from the book:

The thing about a shark is—teeth,
One row above, one row beneath.

Now take a close look. Do you find
It has another row behind?

Still closer—here, I'll hold your hat:
Has it a third row behind that?

Now look in and... Look out! Oh my,
I'll NEVER know now! Well, goodbye.

This served as my introduction to poetry, and it may explain why my taste in poems still runs to the dark side. Here's a favorite passage from what might be my favorite poem, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, by T.S. Eliot—who, when he wasn't writing charming children's poems about cats, could be very dark indeed:
The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,
And seeing that it was a soft October night
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.

It seems to me that the most beautiful works of art, like the most beautiful lives, are tinged with darkness. Without darkness, you can't see the stars shine.

Happy National Poetry Month!

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