I have long considered a potted plant to be too great of a commitment. It’s not as though the thing would be in danger of falling down the steps if I neglected to put the baby gate up, or that it might possibly stick its fronds into an electrical outlet. Even so, a plant requires some level of care which makes the small raised-bed garden I keep in my back yard something of a large raised-bed irony, since during the growing season I visit it multiple times a day to see how the plants are faring (and later in the season, to see what sort of plump juicy gifts the sunshine yellow cherry tomato plants have to offer). The potted plant, though, is sure to be neglected and die a slow, withering death.
I tell you this because cut flowers fare even worse, which I imagine has something to do with their flowery nature which does not endear them much to me, and also the knowing that they have already died, their stems snipped so they could be shipped to the florist, and even if I did manage to tend to them, it would just be a matter of days. So I forget to freshen the water, and I forget to simply appreciate them, and usually, I forget to toss them out even after they have used up all the water and have curled up in their vase.
It’s strange, then, to keep getting this glimpse of cut flowers over my shoulder at my desk, in various states of demise, but still altogether lovely in the way flowers are meant to be. You see, I went to my local florist last week holding a copy of Megan Willome’s new book, The Joy of Poetry. “I need a flower, ” I told the woman who was arranging sprays of something on shelves packed full of votive holders and napkin rings. “A yellow one.” I pointed to the yellow flower on the cover of Megan’s book and said, “It would be good if it could look something like this.”
“You need a tulip, ” she said. “Or a daffodil.” She disappeared into the cooler as though that’s where they would keep such flowers, though she reemerged carrying an orange lily of some sort. “Or maybe a rose.”
The orange lily was unconvincing, so I asked for a rose spray to go with it for good measure. Clearly, tulips and daffodils were just a tease. I took them home and laid them with Megan’s book as though they were made for one another (the orange lily, in particular, nearly had me believing), snapped some pictures and then dutifully trimmed the stems and put the flowers in a cup of water. As though in some act of flowery defiance, they sit just behind me, opening up a little bit every day that they should be fading. I’ve told them they’ll get no more water from me. It seems to make them perk up even more.
The subtitle of Megan’s book arrests me: How to Keep, Save and Make Your Life with Poems. She quotes an interview Maureen Doallas did with poet Patty Paine who says, “poetry, the reading and the writing of it, has saved my life.” When I first started reading poetry, I did it to help me become a better writer. (It did.) When I started writing poetry, I did it to make my friends laugh on Facebook. (They did.) It didn’t take long, though, before I read (and wrote) the poems that would convince me that it needn’t be considered overly dramatic to say what Patty Paine did, that poetry can save one’s life.
So I am excited to be reading Megan’s book, which in some ways invites a person not only to find joy in poetry, but also to let it save him. And I am also excited to announce that we will be accepting Megan’s invitation together in our next book club, which will begin on May 4.
Here’s how it works:
We invite you to get a copy of the book (you can purchase The Joy of Poetry on Amazon) and read according to the schedule below. I’ll have a post each of the three weeks on the assigned chapters with some thoughts and some questions, and we’ll share our musings in the comments. If you have a blog and choose to post about the book you’re welcome to drop the link in the comments as well.
The Joy of Poetry Reading Schedule:
May 4: Chapters 1 – 6
May 11: Chapters 7 – 12
May 18: Chapters 13 – 18
We also invite you to explore the ideas in How to Keep, Save and Make Your Life With Poems beginning on page 148 and consider, at least for the duration of our book club, keeping a poetry journal or signing on a poetry buddy.
Featured rose image by Pedro Fernandes, Creative Commons license via Flickr. Post and book photo by LW Lindquist.
Megan Willome’s The Joy of Poetry—part memoir, part poetry reflections, part anthology—takes readers on a journey to discovering poetry’s purpose, which is, delightfully, nothing. “Why poetry?” Willome asks. “You might as well ask, why chocolate?” Poetry reflects nothing more and nothing less than the pure joy of living, loving, and being, in all of its confusion and wonder. Willome’s book will gently guide you to read, write, and be a little more human through language’s mystery and joy.
—Tania Runyan, author of How to Read a Poem: Based on the Billy Collins Poem “Introduction to Poetry”