Many years ago, in what now seems like a past life, I was an English teacher. I loved teaching poetry to students right at the cusp of their high school years, who for the first time had cognitively developed an appreciation for, and understanding of m, abstract thought, such as what you will find in poetry: metaphors, similes, symbolism, and the like. What a marvelous thing it was to read their interpretations of lines of poetry and, as part of the creative writing component of the class, to read write their own poetry.
I always said in the years that followed that I had never really appreciated poetry until I actually taught it, which required reading it carefully and attentively.
In generations past people read a lot of poetry, written by immensely popular poets such as Emily Dickinson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Edgar Allan Poe, John Greenleaf Whittier, Robert Frost, and the poets of the people such as Carl Sandburg and Edgar Guest, who was, in fact, known as the “People’s Poet.”
Nowadays is there anyone you know who reads poetry in this fast-paced world of smart phones and the Internet? I can’t think of anyone. I barely do do myself, and that’s a shame since I was an English major in my youth and was exposed to so much American and British poetry. In those days 50 years ago literature study was not as multicultural, unfortunately.
I even went through a brief period 20 years ago when I wrote a considerable number of poems that I was quite surprised to have been able to produce, and pleased with the results. But the well dried up and there’s been nothing since, except for perhaps one or two forgotten poems.
The fact is, though, I was exposed to the very finest poetry in my college years and have never forgotten reading and studying many of those poets, particularly William Wordsworth.
Also, at this time of year I renumber certain autumn poems, one of which I taught for three years in the early 1980s.
Nothing Gold Can Stay
Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
— Robert Frost
How would you interpret the poem?
In our part of the world the leaves are just starting to turn here where we have a very muted autumn, with color mostly hard to spot unless you’re looking for it.
But after living here in coastal South Carolina for almost 30 years now, I know where to look for it.
Here are some recent photos: