We’ve looked a poetry before on Slaw — “Law Firms Sponsoring Poetry“, “The Lawyer as Poet“, “Creative uses for law reports“, and another Friday Fillip about doggerel — so I thought that this might be of interest to the poetasters among us. I got on to the Poetry Foundation because of a piece in the recent New Yorker, “The Moneyed Muse” by Dana Goodyear. The article talks about Ruth Lilly, the old reclusive woman who was heir to the Lilly drug company fortune, and who gave a big chunk of her billion dollars to Poetry magazine, which, galvanized so to speak by this influx, transmogrified into the Poetry Foundation.
Very roughly, the notion is that the Foundation is doing what it can to bring poetry back to the masses and vice versa. Whether or not this is a Good Thing, it is interesting. The website still lacks the ginormous list of poems you’d think it would have. Instead, there’s a Poetry Tool, which lets you pick a poem or a poet by making a series of choices (an example of one path: poets/by school or period/fugitive/Randall Jarrell). You may want to roam around and see if there’s something here for you.
If you’d like to bring things closer to home, you might like to take a look at Library and Archives Canada’s Canadian Poetry Archive, which lists 100 poets and samples of their works (none, I think, more recent than 1950).
Where, for me, masses and verses come nicely together is in popular music. A good illustration of this, I think, is a song I just happened to hear today on CBC by Kurt Weil, lyrics by Ogden Nash (better than which it rarely gets, unless you look at Cole Porter, or, nowadays, at Tom Waits and Randy Newman — for my money, at least). The song is “It’s Him” and it’s from the 1943 musical, One Touch of Venus. Here are some excerpts, which you really have to hear Dawn Upshaw singing…
…He is as simple as a swim in summer,
Not arty, not actory.
He’s like a plumber when you need a plumber:
…He’s like a book directly from the printer,
You look at him, he so commenceable.
He’s comforting as woolens in the winter: