Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Poetry Of Love

February, a sometimes hated month because of the snow and cold it brings to many parts of our country, is one of my favorite months. When I was a kid in school, there were two guaranteed holidays---Washington and Lincoln's birthdays---celebrated separately. There was another birthday I used to eagerly anticipate---my own. Then of course, there was Valentine's Day and the poetry of love printed on flimsy paper valentines and passed out in the classroom. The valentine verses were usually pretty bad, but it didn't matter to me, as long as I had an acceptable pile on my desk.

Today, I am thinking about the poetry of love and whose poems would be considered the best. I'm not going to mention the obvious amorous geniuses, but write about two poets who happened to appear---one in a book that I borrowed from a fellow poet yesterday and one that popped into my memory today.

The book "Valentines" is by Ted Kooser, a former U.S. poet laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner. This slim volume of poems, published in 2008, is a collection of the annual Valentine Poem Ted sent to women fans and friends on Valentine's Day for twenty-two years. He printed them on the back of a postcard and had them mailed from Valentine, Nebraska. He started with fifty postcards and ended up sending them to twenty-six hundred women in 2007, which was the last year for his lovely tradition. Alas, I was never on the list, but here they are all in one book.

What a mensch and what good poetry.

The other poet who came to mind is Phyllis McGinley (1905-78), also a Pulitzer Prize winner in 1961. She is known mainly for her humorous poetry. I dug out an old book of her poetry (published1954), "The Love Letters Of Phyllis McGinley" and became re-enamored of her wit and skill. I'm going to let her words ensnare you---with just three stanza's from her poem, "A Kind Of Love Letter To New York".

Love is a mischief,

Love is a brat.

Love is, admittedly, blind as a bat.

So I'm in love with

The City of New York.

Too new for an empire, too big for its boots,

With cold steel cables where it might have roots,

With everything to offer and nothing to give,

It's a horrid place to visit, but a fine place to live.

Ah! some love Paris,

And some Purdue.

But love is an archer with a low I.Q.

A bold, bad bowman, and innocent of pity.

So I'm in love with

New York City.

What can I say but---Phyllis McGinley, I love you.