Sometimes the right poem arrives at the right time, like fire to Prometheus. The stanzas that turn an otherwise purely sorrowful occasion into something remembered with a wistful smile. What would be ‘the awful prom night’ is now ‘the awful prom night with the discovery of T.S Eliot’s The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock at the end of it’. Art in general has the quality to add a silver lining to bleak times, but for me poetry has the greatest ability to stamp a gilded layer upon a melancholic time.
Being fifteen and frustrated I, like many of my ilk, found comfort in the poetry of Charles Bukowski. I’m now a little embarrassed by sway he held over my thought process, but at the time he was like a Sherpa, guiding me through the mountains of budding dissatisfaction and youthful fury. I still read his poems on occasion but find myself turned away by the blatant misogyny and overall crudeness. However, I still reminisce on spring days, where camped outside my therapist’s office, I devoured his ribald lines.
Sylvia Plath found me during an especially bland summer. It was of those summers where the cross country road trip, and all other thrilling expeditions I’d planned, had evaporated into fantasy yet again. I instead spent the days pacing around the house and playing the same video game ad nauseam. On night walks around the block, I’d think I’d spotted a friend in the distance, until recalling that they were off in Aruba, or the like, and I’d been presented with some modern form of mirage. On a stretch of boring summer days like these, I flipped open my Mom’s book of Plath poems and became engrossed.
Shelley’s Ozymandias finds you when you think you’ve wasted your wonder away. Yeats The Second Coming is like a radio signal straight into the pits of your doldrums and disillusionment, somewhere you thought you could not be reached. Perhaps we give off pheromones that attract the right poetry to us at the right times? It seems that if anything divine squats over us, instead of providing any form of direct-spiritual-intervention it sends us a care package of some good writing. Sometimes that is enough.