I often write poetry to warm up my writing muscles. Poetry helps me practice the elements of rhythm, flow, metaphor, simile, imagery and symbolism. Although these poetic elements are not as concentrated in prose as they are in poetry, they still exist in prose and I think it is very important that writers understand how to use the core elements of poetry to improve the stories that we tell. I decided to feature works of poetry in my book recommendation series because I believe that works of great poetry are essential reading material for all writers.
Unfortunately, this is another area where I’m not an expert in. I haven’t read as much poetry as I would like and that’s why I’m excited to hear all of your picks so that I can add them to my reading list for the upcoming new year.
But before you go on recommendin’, here is my list of The 3 Poems You MUST Read Before You Die:
Poet in New York by Federico Garcia Lorca
Lorca is my most favorite poet of all time. His poems have a passion and a lyrical quality to them that is unmatched by anyone else I have ever read. His metaphors and similes practically bleed off of the page. I don’t know how he does it, but it’s astonishing. I think Americans will find his collection of poems, “Poet in New York“, more accessible than his other works, just because these poems were inspired by the Spaniard’s stay in the United States. Nonetheless, in that one stay, Lorca manages to break down The United States to its very core. He strips the country of all of its fake clothes and renders it naked, stained, bloody, beautiful, and cruel. I didn’t even mention that Lorca was also a religiously skeptical, openly gay man–and in 1920′s and 30′s Spain that was not an easy thing to do. He was even rumored to have had a fling with none other than Salvador Dalí. Lorca’s impassioned life was a burst of fire that was extinguished too quickly. Good thing he left behind his amazing poetry before he was tragically murdered during the Spanish civil war.
If by Rudyard Kipling
There are few poems you can say that can be carried with you every day of your life, and can hold within them every lesson you would ever need to confront every challenge you could ever face. That’s “If,” by Rudyard Kipling, in a nutshell.
The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost
This poem is probably an obvious pick. But I’m not sure if the reason I picked it is so obvious. It’s important to note that Frost doesn’t say flat-out that by taking “the road less traveled by” he succeeded. The poem is not about success, it’s about willing to take a risk when others didn’t dare. It’s about carving out your own place in this world, regardless of those who tell you to follow the normal path. It’s about taking the journey, taking the adventure over the expected, day-to-day alternative of bench-sitting and people watching. It doesn’t matter where you end up, it’s about taking that uncharted road and having fun on that path. Where “the road less traveled by” takes you is besides the point, it’s the very fact that you took that unique journey, over the obvious one, that makes all of the difference.
What poems do you think everyone should read at least once before they die? You can recommend more than 3 if you like.
“If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;
If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build ‘em up with wornout tools;
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”;
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run –
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man my son!