There are certain poets who have the gift of creating that one line around which an immortal poem circles and without which it would be just an ordinary poem. Of all poets, Yeats is the master of this. Of course, Yeats is the master of many aspects of writing poetry. I often wonder why God didn’t select Yeats to write the Bible. I mean no sacrilege here…I just love Yeats that much!
One of the most beautiful lines ever written comes from the hand of Yeats in his poem “When You are Old and Gray.” Without this one line, the poem teeters too closely upon sentimentality. With it, the poem is timeless, fresh, brilliant.
Here is the line: But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you
Wow. Does that not capture the way every woman wants to be loved? That one line, writ by W.B., summarizes the best love stories ever written. It is the whole world in one line. It catapults the poem off the page and into my heart. It’s also perfect iambic pentameter. It’s perfect.
Go find the poem and read it. Again and again. Reading Yeats makes me want to hang it up as a writer because I will never achieve such brilliance, but at the same time Yeats opens the lungs of my soul. Is there a better reason to be alive than you can read Yeats?
For the first time in my life…and this feels like a momentous shift in the tides of literature to me…I purchased a book of poetry for my Kindle. Having previously succumbed to the convenience and space-saving efficiency of Whispernet for novels and nonfiction, I still planned to always purchase the ACTUAL book when buying poetry. I revisit poems continuously and I feel like the visual of the words on an ACTUAL page that a tree had to die for enhances the experience of reading poetry. Plus I love the look of all those poets’ names stacked on my shelves. Makes me feel brainy, and unique, part of some kind of other-worldly club. Plus my poetry books are my friends. Poetry books are like pets–they always accept me unconditionally and welcome me into their little heterocosms and no litter box is ever involved. But yesterday, the cheapo, instant-gratification side of me won out. I recently discovered the poetry of Maurice Manning and yesterday the price of a Kindle version of his book “Common Man” was four dollars cheaper than a soft-back book of the same poems. That, and I knew if I I-clicked the Kindle version, the poems would be at my disposal in a matter of seconds. The jury is still out on reading poetry on the Kindle. I will probably love this book of poems so much that I will go back to amazon.com and purchase the book form so the entire transaction will end up costing me more money. I am conflicted.