Is There a Poem that Constantly Runs Through Your Head?

Photo of a closed book with glasses on top on a bed

April is National Poetry Month.

I don’t read much poetry these days; usually, when I do, it’s because a book that I’m reading includes a quote from a poem, and that makes me interested enough to look it up.

I found one of my favorite poems that way. I was reading Marjorie Williams’s wonderful collection of essays, The Woman at the Washington Zoo, and that led me to read Randall Jarrell’s brilliant, haunting poem of that name. Read it here.

When I was researching my book Forty Ways to Look at JFK, I came across the fact that at Jackie Kennedy’s funeral, Constantine Cavafy’s Ithaka was read at her funeral. Beautiful.

Or a poem is called to my attention in another way. The other day, I was walking with a friend, and she pulled up a poem on her phone and said, “Reading this has been a huge epiphany for me.” I see why! That last line! Read Rainer Maria Rilke’s “Archaic Torso of Apollo.”

I’m obsessed with the subject of color right now, and it’s clear that the patron poet of color is Wallace Stevens –“The Man with the Blue Guitar,” to take just one example. (In my obsession, I’m truly hunting down any color-related material I can find.)

In middle school, I had to memorize a lot of poems, and I can still recite them.  Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Ozymandias,” Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky.” I will recite them in my head if I’m feeling anxious in a dentist’s chair.

You know what I was, you see what I am: change me, change me!

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