What’s your favorite poem?
A few years ago, my aunt, uncle, and cousins got our whole extended family together for a poetry night. Before the party, we all submitted our favorite poem, and then at the party, all the poems were read aloud and we guessed which poem was which person’s favorite.
I’d just about forgotten about this party, but while cleaning out some old books I came across the collection of poems that my aunt created for us all. I flipped through – sometimes skimming the poems, sometimes reading closely. Always thinking about the person who selected the poem. Some selections surprised me. Some were really telling. My aunt Nancy’s favorite was Annabel Lee by Edgar Allen Poe. My cousin Mercedes liked The Tenth Try by Jim Carroll. Some were funny. Some were sad.
Thunder never frightened me.
I never hid beneath the sheets.
I never covered my ears
Or ran around the house
Crying and cowering.
Anyone can be loud.
But on those days when
The sky was a clear blue,
And my father was cooking
On the grill;
When mom was setting plastic forks
And paper plates
On the table cloth over the picnic table;
When my brothers were all playing catch
That really scared me.
Looking back, I think about what a random party this was. What other family gets together to chat about poetry? And then, what family submits poems written by other family members as their favorite? It just got me thinking – we get together with our relatives; we maybe call them on the phone; chat around the mashed potatoes and squash on Thanksgiving. But do you know what your grandmother’s favorite poem is? Do you know that your aunt loves Edgar Allen Poe? Did you even know that your uncle wrote poetry?
My family used to do random, fun things like this all the time, but we really don’t anymore, and it makes me a little sad. I mean, who else knows that their grandma loves James Henry Leigh Hunt?