Monday, September 16, 2013

Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

I don't memorize poetry.  It's not how my mind works and I have to be in the proper mood to even appreciate it.  Sort of like painting.  I can't draw a convincing stick figure and when walking through an art gallery I'm no more swayed than if I were a grade school art show.  I appreciate certain pictures, but I couldn't tell you why they are better than others and I'm sure that someone "in the know" would laugh at my plebian tastes.

In school we had to take art classes.  I nearly failed because I can't paint a water color and my art teacher was convinced I was being difficult - "Anyone can't paint water colors."  Wow.  That stung.  I wanted to paint water colors, would love to be able to do it, but I can't.

We also had to learn the Pythagorean theory and quadratic formula.  The only thing I remember about either is that my last math teacher had a t-shirt with the quadratic formula on it.  The shirt was yellow and the formula black.  There was a radical symbol in it somewhere.  Haven't used it since then.

We had to read Chaucer and Steinbeck.  Twice for "The Red Pony" and once for "The Grapes of Wrath".  I didn't get Grapes but thought it was better than the Pony.  I suspect I was too far removed from the setting and the trials of being an adult and caring for a family.  I argued terribly with my 8th grade English teacher about "The Red Pony" because she found symbols everywhere.  We had a test on the symbolism.  I remember asking, "How can you even say that?  You're making this up.  You don't know what Mr. Steinbeck was thinking when he wrote it."  She smiled sweetly and told me that if I wanted to pass I needed to accept that the black pot symbolized death.  I gave in and passed - with flying colors thanks to the end of the unit project.  I wrote "Ode to Billy Buck" and recited it to Vangelis' "Chariots of Fire".  It was so over the top (both the writing and the reciting) that even my classmates enjoyed it.  I of course, with the arrogance of youth, tossed the masterwork and couldn't recite a single stanza of the four minute monstrosity for you today.

That wasn't good poetry.  It was shtick.

But in the middle of being exposed to everything so that we might find purpose, some of my classmates and I did.  I found a poem that spoke very clearly and stayed with me not because of catchy rhyme but because I got it.  And those lines from Thomas were committed to my memory as I read them.

Today is Monday.  Be inspired – there is  a week waiting for you.  Don't give up.  Ever.

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