“Because I never know when I’ll find the secret something I need to get through the day, in a handful of oddly spaced words.” — from The Joy of Poetry, by Megan Willome
Guest Post by Megan Willome
Suppose — for funsies — you decide to read a poem today. Just one. Nothing too long. Something from this century. Let’s say you pick Dana Gioia’s “New Year’s.” You pick it because you know what New Year’s is; you’ve celebrated it every year of your life.
It’s going to be a hard day at work, nothing you can’t handle but not the kind of day you’re looking forward to. You don’t really want a “You go, girl!” You’re not in the mood for the bland comfort of “It’s gonna be OK.” Maybe you need to be distracted.
You have 5 minutes.
You read the poem.
Hmmm. There’s a lot there.
The words are clear, although you’re not completely sure what it all means. If you had more than 5 minutes, there’s a lot you could unpack. But you have 5 minutes.
You like this sentence: “The present is / The leaky palm of water that we skim / From the swift, silent river slipping by.”
Oh, look — “present” and “palm” both have P’s. And “swift, silent river slipping by” sounds great. You say those five words aloud. Hey, there’s some rhyme.
But you like most the “leaky palm”. You remember being a child on a camping trip, scooping water from a river. Your hands couldn’t hold it all. The water leaked out through your palms (although you would never have used those words). You never got a good drink.
Your 5 minutes is up. Time to go.
At work you pour a cup of coffee and think about the “leaky palm.” You’re so glad the mug you’re holding doesn’t leak. Later in a meeting someone uses the word “skim,” and you think of the poem and smile, and no one knows why you’re smiling. The day is exactly as unfun as you expected. On the drive home you notice the river you drive past every day. You notice it’s always “slipping by.” How did you never notice before?
Those 5 minutes with the poem, they didn’t change your life, didn’t supply the secrets of the universe. The poem didn’t even change the facts of your day — it was still a tough day. But those 5 minutes, they weren’t wasted.
Maybe tomorrow you’ll read another poem.
Tea. Poetry. Tea. Poetry. Tea. That’s how Megan starts her writing day.
She serves as managing editor and contributing writer for the WACOAN, a monthly magazine in Waco, Texas.
The Joy of Poetry, a memoir-ish look at her long relationship with poetry (published by T.S. Poetry Press) is Megan’s first book.