Poetry is a beautiful, expressive art form.
It tells the reader about the past, the present, which moments once made us happy, which demons we have fought, what happened when we lost and what happened when we won. It celebrates humanity and shines a light on problems that need attention. Poetry is versatile and generous in its contribution to any discussion of the history of mankind. Delving into poetry is definitely a worthwhile endeavor.
However, there is just so much of it. There are books of silly poetry, dark poetry, romantic poetry and contentious poetry. It can be overwhelming to begin exploring without a little guidance.
With the idea of bringing a selection of some of the greatest poems together in one book filled with gentle humor and insight, actor John Lithgow compiled a collection of favorite poems from his childhood. Coming from a theater background, Lithgow grew up in a family that appreciated beauty and drama in words. In "The Poets' Corner," Lithgow brings together an assortment of poems almost any age can enjoy.
Lithgow brings poetry from various time periods and places together. He introduces each poem with information about the poet's life and work and goes on to discuss why he believes each poem he picked for the book best represents the poet's work.
His musings are focused and hold gems of interest that spur on curiosity. Within the introduction of Geoffrey Chaucer, Lithgow explains, "The job of the poet in the 1300s was not to invent stories: it was to find stories, borrow them, and twist them into new and entertaining shapes." Lithgow describes the process that brought about Chaucer's celebrated poetry and prepares the reader to admire the use of "fart jokes" and "snappy insults."
When Lithgow introduces the poetic work of William S. Gilbert, he chose the poem "Love Unrequited, or the Nightmare Song." This quirky poem illustrates a restless, agonizing state of being that most can relate with. While many may know Gilbert's works within the musical theater realm, they may not have considered him a poet.
Lithgow challenges the reader to think of poets and poetry in a new light. He also brings out many trusted favorites to introduce. The works of Robert Burns and Lewis Carroll mix it up with Emily Dickinson and William Butler Yeats.
"The Poets' Corner" introduces thoughtfully selected poetry in a way that makes each new poet exciting to read about. Lithgow brings an amusing, enjoyable twist to the exploration of poetry.
Mariah Luebbering is the reference and children's clerk at Missouri River Regional Library.