National Poetry Day is a mass celebration of creative written word on the first Thursday of October. National Poetry Day encourages all to read, share and write poetry. Below are three poetry collections, both old and new, that reflect the importance of poetry and the complex emotions they can express.
Roy J. Cook’s “101 Famous Poems” is an indispensable compilation of famous poetry that survived the test of time, featuring poets like Emily Dickinson, Edgar Allen Poe, Walt Whitman and so many more.
Edmund Vance Cooke’s, “How Did You Die?” is a triumphant testimony to the indomitable human spirit.
“The harder you’re thrown, why the higher you bounce; / Be proud of your blackened eye! / It isn’t the fact that you’re licked that counts, / It’s how did you fight — and why?”
Humans have been brave and devoted to living for all of time. The poetry that seeps out of pain and struggle are often the words that resonate most with readers. Written nearly 100 years ago, these verses still connect.
William Ernest Henley’s “Invictus” survived the years passed as well. “Invictus”, Latin for “Unconquerable” is a devotion to taking control of one’s life. Also written nearly over 100 years ago, Henley concludes the poem with;
“It matters not how strait the gate, /How charged with punishments the scroll, / I am the master of my fate, / I am the captain of my soul.”
Poetry can often be neglected or chastised for the stigma it carries. Poetry is not a silly little exercise writers use to confuse readers, they are words ripped straight from the writer’s soul and often share the inner workings of the human spirit.
Sylvia Plath is one of the most tragically influential poets of all time. Her books and poetry often cater to the heavy human emotions that are still relevant today. Her poetry captures the feelings of femininity, heartache and the constant feelings of misunderstanding.
Plath’s poem, “Tulips” touches on the feelings of disconnection between the mind and body.
“I didn’t want any flowers, I only wanted / To lie with my hands turned up and be utterly empty. / How free it is, you have no idea how free—— / The peacefulness is so big it dazes you”
Humans are not simple. We think too much and feel things that often cannot be put into descriptive words. Poetry is as close as humans can get to true unfiltered emotions, as ugly and daunting as they may be.
The 1989 film “Dead Poets Society”, articulates the undying need to write. One of the most influential monologues derived from that film urges students to take part in the chaos that is poetry.
The main character. John Keating (Robin Williams) says, “We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.”
Just as the monologue iterates, poetry is a natural human reaction to simply living. It is the very core of what it means to be alive.
Plath’s poem “Lady Lazarus” reflects on the tragedy that accompanies life itself. Plath struggled greatly with mental illness. Her poem “Lady Lazarus” shares those heavy feelings.
“Dying / Is an art, like everything else. / I do it exceptionally well. / I do it so it feels like hell. / I do it so it feels real. / I guess you could say I’ve a call.”
The human experience is not inherently beautiful. In fact, it’s filled with as much pain as it is with happiness. Poetry can bring both emotions into the light.
Amanda Gorman, the youngest inaugural poet in history, shared her poem, “The Hill We Climb” for President Joe Biden’s 2020 inauguration. The poem is included in Gormans 2021 poetry collection “Call Us What We Carry”.
Gorman’s poem is a testimony to both acknowledging the struggles we endure, and still seeing the beauty in surviving it.
“And yet the dawn is ours / before we knew it. / Somehow we do it. / Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed / a nation that isn’t broken, / but simply unfinished.”
There is great power in seeing the cracks in the world around us and still taking part in it. No one product of any human is structurally perfect, poetry reflects the emotions that are consequences of simply living.
Gorman’s poem “Another Nautical” explains the connection between humans, and the words in which we use. “We, like the water, forget nothing, / Forgo everything. / Words, also like the water, / Are a type of washing. / Through them we cleanse ourselves / Of what we are not.”
Writing can have a healing effect. Scribbling and writing words that simply make sense to you alone can create a sense of safety and emotional release. Writing is a complex art that can often be just as ugly as it is beautiful.
National Poetry Day is a day to take part in the world of poetry. Read something, write something and find a bit of yourself in a poem.