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The Writer's Desk

Five for Friday: R is for Really Bad (and Really Good!) Poetry

I love poetry and I love to write. You would think the combination would make me a decent poet. But you would be wrong.

Dead wrong.

The fact is, I stink at poetry. Sure, I can pen a few schmaltzy lines for my beloved on special occasions, and I don’t think they’re terrible. They come from the heart, they have a rhythm, they make him smile. But they aren’t publishable.

In high school, I wrote dozens of angst-filled poems, usually centered around love and longing. I don’t have any of them anymore, which may be a good thing. Except for this one I unearthed during my basement purge last week. It was written about Sal Rianna, a boy two-years my senior, who drove a cherry red Mitsubishi 3000GT, had beautiful blue eyes, a lithe and muscular body, and a sexy voice. We were best friends. But I wanted to be something so much more to him. In this poem, I imagined us finally getting together:

I once was in love,
With a guy named Sal.
But he only thought of me
As just abother pal.
But I stuck by him
In hopes that he would see,
That I was the perfect girl.
Why didn’t he love me?

As time passed on,
My love faded away
And planted itself at the bottom of my heart,
Until this day,
When Salvatore came back
To finally give to me,
The love we had, we shared.
And now we can finally be
Two souls adjoined
Forever in time,
Forsaking all others,
Together we bind.

Ok, really, what was I thinking?

So while I’m certainly no poet (don’t I know it!), I can still appreciate really good poetry. Here are my top five favorite poems:

After a While (Veronica Shoffstall): I read this in Sassy magazine when I was teenager, and had it taped to my wall to remind me of these things. I love it because it’s such an empowering poem for young women. I gave a copy to my stepdaughter and I will give copies to both of my younger daughters when it’s time.

The Peace of Wild Things (Wendell Berry): The world always wears me down, but I love the simple message of the poem—to remember that we are all part of a larger circle of life, and we can always find peaceful moments when we stand still for a moment and become a part of the natural world around us. When I stop to think about this poem, I imagine myself lying on my back in the grass near water’s edge, just soaking in the harmony of the bugs chirping and the birds squawking. It brings me peace—even while I sit here in a noisy Starbucks trying to get this post finished.

This is Just to Say (William Carlos Williams): I read this poem over and over, and it makes me feel something different each time. I don’t know what the critics and scholars say the meaning behind it is, I just know that to me, the poem feels sensuous, the poet partaking in sweet, forbidden fruit. Sometimes I’m the poet, wanting to take and taste the sweetness. Other times, I relate to the owner of the plums, feeling cheated or perhaps ravaged, depending on my mood that day.

The Road Not Taken (Robert Frost): Perhaps an unsophisticated choice, but one of the reasons this is such a well-known and beloved classic is because the message of beating out your own path universally resonates. At times, I find the poem uplifting and encouraging; at others times, it shames me and makes me lament that too often I make the safer of choices, whether it’s the best one or not. That’s the hallmark of a great poem, in my opinion—to continually make you feel.

Crowded Tub (Shel Silverstein): The first poem I ever memorized (that wasn’t a nursery rhyme). It’s silly. It’s Shel Silverstein. Need I say more?

What are your favorite poems? Are you brave enough to share any of your own really bad poetry?


About Cate Tayler

Mom, Wife, Writer, Catholic, Thinker, Reader, Amateur Gourmand, 'Phins Fan, Superwoman--not always in that order. Fueled by passion and too much caffeine. Lost my cape--it's buried somewhere under that mountain of laundry. Once I find it, look out world!


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