Friday’s Features: Poetry 180 and The Pink Car
When I began looking at what I wanted to blog about today I really didn’t have anything specific in mind. I didn’t even have a poem I particularly felt like sharing. You see, in two days the one year anniversary of my dad’s death will arrive and I have been trying not to think about it. So I have been avoiding anything that might make me think about him or what the date is. But, I just recently bought Billy Collins’ Poetry 180 and I have been looking forward to reading it since I have the second book already. Last night I was able to sit down with it, despite the other books in my list I have to finish, and began reading. I even read the introduction and decided to participate in the spirit of Collins’ challenge, which is basically to read only a couple of poems a day. Let the words steep in my brain and enjoy the poems for poetry’s sake, instead of understanding. Not that I have a problem doing that at all. It’s exactly how I think poems should be read. Collins says it very succinctly in the last verse and lines of the opening poem:
But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.
They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.
Being a poet myself, I understand exactly how Collins feels. I have several poems where I do actually mean something more than what is written. But I have just as many, if not more, that I wrote to express a feeling I was having, a scene that I saw, or an emotion I was experiencing. I write for poetry’s sake, to just write, not to have my poem picked to shreds to find out what hidden meaning lies within. There is no confession to be had. It just is. That’s why I began Friday’s Features in the first place. I wanted to share poems that I like or enjoyed or loved. I wanted to help others to see what I see in the poems I post. Poetry gets a pretty bad rap in a lot of places, especially nowadays when, and if, you are a man who writes it. I am coming upon this view quite a bit actually. It is apparently not ‘manly’ to write poetry. Just like being feminine isn’t the same thing as being a feminist . Which goes back to the post I wrote a while back about Emma Watson’s UN speech about being a feminist in today’s world.
So, what does that post and feminism have to do with poetry? Because the poem I read this morning took me there without having to pick it apart. See, a poem should speak to you. It doesn’t really matter what the words say sometimes. It matters what your first impressions are, how it makes you feel, what the poem itself said to you. This is one of the purposes of poetry. Like art, it should have a voice, though not all poems will say anything at all to you. They shouldn’t because not all poems are meant for you. Some poems hold secrets meant for others to torture out of them while others simply say what they are.
The poem I am featuring today is titled The Pink Car by Mark Halliday. I read through it a couple of times listening to the words and letting it speak to me. And it reminded me of the one boy I knew in school who wore this one pink shirt that was always my favorite on him. At the time, a boy wearing anything remotely close to pink was labelled as being gay. But this boy wasn’t homosexual at all. He just liked the shirt, and it was a great color on him. The poem also reminded me of my own sons playing with this one particular toy car they had. It was a pink jeep that came from a boxed collection of Hot Wheels that someone had given them because I am an unashamed Elvis Presley fan, and these cars were vehicles from a few of his movies or his life. They didn’t care that it was pink. It was a toy car. That was all. And every single one of my boys played with my purses (because they were bags and they could carry things in them), put on my shoes (including my high heels because mom’s shoes are fun to play in), and they each and every one of them have gotten into my makeup and had me paint their nails (although they did prefer ‘boy’ colors such as green, blue, black, orange, red, or white-I blame society at large for that concept). None of that meant that they weren’t little men. As adults we put too much emphasis on adult thinking. Kids don’t think that makeup is for girls unless we teach them that. Purses are just carry-alls, shoes are costumes, and pink is just a color. Adults are the ones responsible for putting the meanings onto objects and ideas. Then we pass those along until it is accepted as taboo. We make life difficult for our children just by thinking something like the color pink should only be for girls because it means something completely different for your son who happens to like the color. This rant is what the poem made me think and feel and experience. And that’s what poetry can do. Sometimes, the most innocuous poems lead to the biggest ideas and feelings. That’s why you should read it. Gain new understandings, think new thoughts, have your passions excited, or not. Receive peace, serenity, love, or whatever you need. Poetry can give you that. There’s no reason to be afraid of them or to not like them; the odds are high that the reason you don’t like poetry is because it scares you in some way. Whether it is because you don’t understand it, or you had a teacher that just destroyed it for you, it shouldn’t cause you anxiety to read it or enjoy it.
So, I am giving you a personal challenge. The featured site for today is the Poetry 180 website from The Library of Congress designed for American high schools. It was created for the high schools to use to read a poem a day over the intercom/speaker system before each day’s announcements for the entire school season. But the poems aren’t just for high school students. I challenge you to go there and read a poem a day for 180 days. Just read it. See if it grabs you, touches you, or speaks to you. Let it steep in you. Sleep on it. Think about it. Don’t worry about what it means, except what it might mean to you. My friend CJ didn’t like poetry very much until she heard it read by someone who knows how to read a poem (The Love Book App by Allie Esiri). I tried to help encourage her by giving her books of poetry I thought she’d like, that she might be able to identify with (She Walks In Beauty: A Woman’s Journey Through Poems by Caroline Kennedy). And finally, she was encouraged to try writing it, and I don’t think she regrets it one bit. I’ve heard it said that poetry isn’t for everyone but I don’t think that’s true at all. I write poetry for everyone to read. I want everyone to read it. What I do think is true, though, is that not every poem is for everyone. It’s like reading. Find what you love. Inhale it. Make it a part of you. But don’t let it end there. Step out of your comfort zone every now and again to see if you might like something new.
For today’s featured poem I give you the poem that inspired this post, The Pink Car by Mark Halliday.
Have a great weekend everyone!
The Pink Car
By Mark Halliday
The pink car is in my head.
It rolls calmly and calmly.
Across the carpet in 1957 and in my head.
Why is it pink? The question does not come up.
The pink car is just what it is and glad so.
Pink is its own color, of its own, being that,
calmly along the quiet roads
(Pink not anything about sex
and not anything about femininity
and not anything about embarrassment or socialism
those meanings are from outside
whereas the pink car is not coming from an idea
it is a way of being its own self)
The pink car rolls slowly along a pale green lane
till it needs to go fast then it goes very fast
while still quiet. It knows what it is,
it is the pink car!
Along the lanes to be what it is
it goes around hard corners and far across a wide plain
and back again whenever it wants.
Other cars can be all those other colors
the pink doesn’t care they can be loud and big
the pink car doesn’t care that is why it can roll
so quietly and go slow until it goes fast for a while.
Other cars might honk their horns to seem big-
the pink car doesn’t honk and doesn’t worry
it just goes along the pale green lane
and around a sharp corner and down another lane
to stop in a special spot. Why is the spot special?
Because the pink car stopped there!
Stopping quiet but ready to go, to go
and be the pink car which is all it wants.
And when will I, when can
I ever be the man
Implied by that quiet sedan?