Today is one my favourite days of the year. The 8th of October. But what’s so brilliant about the 8th October, you ask? And you ask rightly, as it seems rather absurd that I’d be so excited by a day which, frankly, is rather ordinary (and cold, if you’re in London). Yet, there is reason behind my words!: today is National Poetry Day.
There are hundreds of poets out there. From the great Wilfred Owen, who documented his harrowing experiences in the trenches (I recommend the truly magnificent Futility, which is one of my all time favourite poems), to the Instagram famous “r.m. drake”, whose short snippets of poetry often speak words of truth. Poetry, as an entity, does just that. It appeals to the sentimental, the emotional, the human inside all of us. It inspires too. TS Eliot’s The Waste Land inspired parts of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, which in itself has such poetic deliverance, each and every word contributing to the mastery that is the novel itself. The last paragraph demonstrates this completely, and reveals that poetry comes in all shapes and forms, and is not just contained by a rhyme scheme-
Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter- tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther… And then one fine morning–
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.
Despite this short tangent, this post belongs to one poem which means so very much to me. To help you understand why, I have to tell you a short story.
Three and a half years ago I lost my grandfather. He was very special to me, and I grew up incredibly close to him. I was very privileged to know him; he was brilliant, in every sense of the word: an intellectual, a survivor, a wonder. A truly magnificent man. Among the many lessons he taught me, there was one which I hold very dear to my heart, and that was strength. You see, when I was younger, I struggled a lot at school. I was bullied. I awoke in the morning and dreaded the day ahead. Every day after school I would visit him, and my grandmother, and they would comfort me, help me to understand that it was okay. That it would get better. One day, after a particularly difficult day, my grandfather took me aside and gave me a piece of paper. And on that piece of paper was a poem.
If-If you can keep your head when all about youAre losing theirs and blaming it on you,If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,But make allowance for their doubting too;If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;If you can meet with Triumph and DisasterAnd treat those two impostors just the same;If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spokenTwisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winningsAnd risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,And lose, and start again at your beginningsAnd never breathe a word about your loss;If you can force your heart and nerve and sinewTo serve your turn long after they are gone,And so hold on when there is nothing in youExcept the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,If all men count with you, but none too much;If you can fill the unforgiving minuteWith sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!Rudyard Kipling
If speaks for itself. However, I will say this: my grandfather gave me my love of poetry. The strength that carries me through the day. I thank him everyday for it. And it is for this reason that I believe poetry is so important. It reaches something within all of us, whether it be a particular emotion, or just our human side. So, on this grand day, I ask one thing of you: find a poem. Read it. Let it penetrate your mind, move you. Inspire the endless imagination. Because poetry truly is beautiful.
In memory of the brilliant Dr. Jack Adler.