Dec 06

I awoke today and found a frost perched on the town…

Recently, some of my students have expressed an interest in poetry.

First, let us explore and try to learn what poetry is. Some noteworthy poets have proclaimed their definition of what poetry is; Wordsworth (an interesting name for a poet, right?) defined poetry as “the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings;” Emily Dickinson said. “If I read a book and it makes my body so cold no fire ever can warm me, I know that is poetry;” Dylan Thomas gave his definition of poetry: “Poetry is what makes me laugh or cry or yawn, what makes my toenails twinkle, what makes me want to do this or that or nothing.” Hmmm.

Well, it seems poetry means different things to different people. To a wordsmith, poetry is like a painting. The painter uses colors on canvas to demonstrate his art. The poet uses words crafted together to “paint” a picture with words. A poet will use imagination to combine words economically and effectively. We might say that poetry is a written expression of feelings or perceptions. I suggest that reading many different styles of poetry and the works of a wide variety of poets may be the best way to learn what poetry is.

A close relative to poetry is song. I think of poetry and song as twin sisters. Each with similar features but most definitely different in other respects. Often, one must read and analyze poetry to fully understand and appreciate the meaning. Songs, especially those from the popular era, are usually quite simple to ascertain. Some poems are married with music to become songs. Sometimes songs are spoken as poetry, but they maintain a cadence and rhythm very much like music. It is a great artistic talent to write songs or poetry that may gather broad appeal. A good poet or songwriter can speak to us in terms we may identify with. Some verses of poetry or song can reach inside of us, touch us and evoke some form of emotion. Follow this link to learn more about the differences between poetry and song.

“Urge For Going is a song that I especially enjoy at this time of year. The lyrics were written by Joni Mitchell, a singer-songwriter and painter from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. Listen to Joni sing and play her song, when she was quite young.

For those of us who reside in northern temperate climates, this time of year can be the catalyst that pushes us toward an “urge for going”. It was this morning when I woke to prepare for my daily chores and found that icy, frost perched on the town. Now as the noonday hour approaches that cold gray is still hovering and speaks to me with absolute certainty. Telling me that summer is gone. Even the sun in recent days has turned cold like a traitor refusing to do his duty! All the trees are bare of their greenery, shivering, standing in a naked row. I reflect upon the past summer’s garden and the bounty of fresh food during those warm sunny months and consider wishing for what is not to be; to call back summertime and have her stay for just another month or so, but she got the urge for going. The geese have begun their migration to warmer southern climes. They’ve got the wings to go. Indeed, all the grass in the meadow has turned brown and winter is closing in.

My favorite version of this song is sung by Tom Rush (a contemporary of Joni Mitchell). You can hear it here. Do you get a chill when you hear this music and read the lyrics?

Here are some links for more reading about poetry:

A glossary of poetry terms

Poems for children, The Classics

New York Times Poetry Pairing

Learning from poetry.

Learn how to write poetry.

100 Best Poems

Daily Haiku.


Here is a poem I wrote:

Winter’s Long Dark Night

by Kevin Neary

Born in winter’s long dark night when days are short and low is light.

Springtime view the world anew with colors rich and varied hue.

With summer come long- hot -sultry days that end in haze.

Autumn season’s colors glow then fade all in a row.

Fog rolls in and the rains begin.

Leaving bare trees to stand alone against winter’s long dark night.



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1 comment

    • Mary on December 16, 2012 at 9:31 pm
    • Reply

    I can feel the long dark night in winter and a man alone who feels cooler and longs for colorful life. Beautiful and sad poetry! Though it is short, it gives lots of information about the nature of the season and the poet. The poet was born in winter, maybe he thought the reason he feels alone is because the season when he was born was winter. Despite of the warmness and beauty in spring and summer, urge for going are the days when the world anew with colors rich and varied hue. With fog and raining coming, leaves are blown away, and leaving bare trees and a man alone in winter’s long dark night.
    A Chinese idiom said: now that the winter has gone, the spring will not be far away, will it?
    This poetry is like a sad picture, vivid and moving!

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