When I was little, one of my favorite books was one we called “The Thick Book”; a collection of children’s stories and poems that my mom would read from. (After much internet hunting, I’ve discovered that it is actually called “The Illustrated Treasury of Children’s Literature”) While I’ve never been one to devour poetry, I spent hours listening to Mom read “Animal Crackers” and “The Raggedy Man.” That was when I realized that poetry, while often more sparse in its prose, could be just as descriptive and imaginative as a paragraph of words in the middle of what I called “real writing.”
In high school I discovered our family’s copy of the Poetry Anthology. To this day, I can sit down with that collection and be captivated by some of the best work of the 20th century. It is filled with poems like “Black Maps” and “Ozymandias“; the sort of poems that never let you go.
I’ve uncovered a few more classic gems since I’ve been out of school; Carl Sandburg captured me from the moment I read his simple “Fog“, and I will always think of “Chicago” as the “City of the Big Shoulders.” Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Requiem” was actually a school memorization assignment that I never appreciated until I didn’t have to memorize it anymore.
But no matter how melodramatic, simple, thought-provoking, or thrilling a poem may be, my favorite still comes from The Thick Book. We would beg for Mom to read “The Duel“, but after the tragic and thrilling conclusion to the Gingham Dog and the Calico Cat, we would need something to calm us down for the evening.