What Is Poetry? Ani Knows The Answer…

 

 

Here be the first stanza of Ani D’Franco’s “32 Flavors.”  

Squint your eyes and look closer
I’m not between you and your ambition
I am a poster girl with no poster
I am thirty-two flavors and then some
And I’m beyond your peripheral vision
So you might want to turn your head
‘Cause someday you are gonna get hungry
And eat most of the words you just said

Although Ani may need an introduction to many folks, there is no way to properly introduce one of her songs.  You just let her sing it.  This in no way is the best version of her poem, 32 Flavors, being sung, but last night I enjoyed a live performance of STOMP!, and they made it clear the difference between a good version, and a version with audience participation.  To read the complete lyrics to this, one of my favorite Ani songs.  If you would prefer a better version to listen to, this is it.

DUH! What is poetry? This…

I’m going to call this the first stanza of Jackson Browne’s poem, “Your Bright Baby Blues.”  I love the commentary.  In five lines he nails our primary struggle–a struggle to feel relevant; the never-ending struggle of the ego to feel fulfilled.  It’s so much better to hear Jackson say it.

For the complete lyrics…

I’m sitting down by the highway
Down by that highway side
Everybody’s going somewhere
Riding just as fast as they can ride
I guess they’ve got a lot to do
Before they can rest assured
Their lives are justified
Pray to God for me baby
He can let me slide…

“I have not seen anything funny in a long time.”

My friends and I had fun analyzing some of the Frog and Toad stories.  Then we wrote our own back-of-the-book blurbs about them.  Here is my blurb for the story “A Swim.”  If you would like to listen to the story read aloud by Alan Philip Ormond, click here.

“I have not seen anything funny in a long time.”

Our dear friend Toad is uncomfortable with the way he looks in his bathing suit, so he tells Frog not to look at him when he’s out of the water. Since Toad admits that he looks funny, all of their friends wait on the riverbank to watch him come out. Toad eventually has to face his fears, and his friends. Will Toad be able to see the humor in the situation, or will he let his vanity get the best of him? Will Frog support his friend, or let Toad down? It is another classic tale involving two of our favorite childhood characters, and another classic situation that makes us think carefully about the responsibilities and limits to friendship and loyalty.

 

One of my favorite parts of doing this work with others is seeing how others interpret a story.  Here is my friend Carly’s blurb for the same story:

 

A Swim

Carly G.

“After I put on my bathing suit, you must not look at me until I get into the water, said Toad.”

It’s another day in the lives of our friends Frog and Toad. Today, the two pals are expecting a fun day by the river. The warm sun is shining. The grass is tall and green. The birds are happily chirping. But once they arrive at their destination, things take a turn for the worse.

Toad claims that his bathing suit looks funny on him. He doesn’t want anyone to see him wearing it. So Toad quickly hops into the water before anyone can catch a glance at him. But when rumors spread, and it’s time to climb out of the river, lizards, dragonflies, a snake, a turtle and a field mouse are already eager to see his hilarious attire. Will Toad face his fears of humiliation and return back to the shore before he gets too cold?

In this jaw-dropping story, the possibilities are endless. Help our favorite friends learn and grow in the lessons today’s adventure will bring. If Toad rallies up enough courage to muster himself out of the water, then anyone can face his fears. If he can, you can. But will he?

In this jaw-dropping story, the possibilities are endless. Help our favorite friends learn and grow in the lessons today’s adventure will bring. If Toad rallies up enough courage to muster himself out of the water, then anyone can face his fears. If he can, you can. But will he?

I Found The Answer To The Question…

Although poetry is my favorite subject to study with the young folk, I’ve often found myself being prosaic in discussing, “What makes a poem a poem,” or, “What is poetry,” or “Why does this poem work or not work?”

The real answer to the question, “What is poetry” is definitely not an answer.  I finally realized that.  I am now going to start posting examples of what poetry is, of what poetry can be, and of what poetry can look, sound and feel like in today’s world, for us, today’s people.

Here is my first example.  I was told by my daughter’s 8th grade teachers that they would be studying poetry soon, and that they would be looking at “Louder than a bomb.”  This is Nate Marshall from that documentary.

As the Beastie Boys said, “check check check check check check it out.”