Poetry can help us celebrate life, put the ultimate questions in perspective, and sometimes give us a good laugh. On this page, Ray and Donna offer links to some of their favorite poems and poetry collections. The page is indebted to Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac and the Poetry Foundation.
Stephen Dunn’s Stories also evokes 1950s TV. It will remind anyone who grew up in that era of what has been gained and what lost over the course of our lifetimes.
W.H. Auden’s take on the passage of time in As I Walked Out One Evening is anything but wistful. In another poem, Auden captures the human dilemma — we alone have knowledge of death:
Happy the hare at morning, for she cannot read
The hunter’s waking thoughts, lucky the leaf
Unable to predict the fall …
Grief is the subject of William Carlos Williams’ The Widow’s Lament in Springtime. “Sorrow is my own yard …”
Billy Collins’ work is replete with lines that trigger memory and reflection. This 2011 NPR interview on his collection Horoscopes for the Dead is followed by excerpts that illustrate this point.
Jane Kenyon reminds us that Happiness can come at any moment, to those who least expect it.
Ted Kooser’s poetry collections are invaluable in helping seniors gain perspective on their own lives and the lives of others. His 2014 Splitting an Order is well worth buying. Two, Splitting an Order, and The Rollerblader can be found in that book.
Grandfather’s Cars, by Robert Phillips
Forgetfulness, by Billy Collins. Suggested by Bonnie Barney
Ray writes the occasional poem himself. It’s no surprise that many of them bear on memories and on aging.
Donna, meanwhile, has always been partial to Lewis Carroll’s
You are old, Father William,” the young man said,
“And your hair has become very white;
And yet you incessantly stand on your head–
Do you think, at your age, it is right?”
“In my youth,” Father William replied to his son,
“I feared it might injure the brain;
But, now that I’m perfectly sure I have none,
Why, I do it again and again.”
“You are old,” said the youth, “as I mentioned before,
And have grown most uncommonly fat;
Yet you turned a back-somersault in at the door–
Pray, what is the reason of that?”
“In my youth,” said the sage, as he shook his gray locks,
“I kept all my limbs very supple
By the use of this ointment — one shilling the box —
Allow me to sell you a couple?”
“You are old,” said the youth, “and your jaws are too weak
For anything tougher than suet;
Yet you finished the goose, with the bones and the beak–
Pray, how did you manage to do it?”
“In my youth,” said his father, “I took to the law,
And argued each case with my wife;
And the muscular strength which it gave to my jaw
Has lasted the rest of my life.”
“You are old,” said the youth, “one would hardly suppose
That your eye was as steady as ever;
Yet you balanced an eel on the end of your nose–
What made you so awfully clever?”
“I have answered three questions, and that is enough,”
Said his father; “don’t give yourself airs!
Do you think I can listen all day to such stuff?
Be off, or I’ll kick you down-stairs!”