Pursuing Poetry

It’s a good day to celebrate poetry! For the last couple weeks, I’ve been working through three books on poetry. I had started the first two and they reminded of a third I’d read many years ago, so I pulled it off the shelf as well.

The oldest one (published in 1969) is The Pursuit of Poetry by Louis Untermeyer. If you’re a poet (or an aspiring poet), this book is an invaluable resource! I know, I know. There are some who dispute the importance of poetry, so please humor me. Watch this video, Poetry: Why It Is Important and decide whether Mr. Griffin’s observations are valid, okay?

The other two books I’ve been reading are, oddly enough, both titled How to Read a Poem! The first is just over 100 pages and written by Tania Runyan for the Field Guide Series. (Indeed, it’s exactly the book to slip into your back pocket when you don a deerstalker cap and grab your magnifier for a poetry hunt!) Runyan’s unique approach involves using a Billy Collins poem entitled Introduction to Poetry and examining it … just as one might examine clues (Sherlock-style) as they present themselves!sherlock-deerstalker2

The second How to Read a Poem adds and Fall in Love with Poetry to its title. This volume by Edward Hirsch is a wonderful book! Fellow poet Charles Simic is quoted (on the inside page) saying:  “If you are pretty sure you don’t like poetry, this is the book that is bound to change your mind.” Indeed, Hirsch makes you want to fall in love with poetry. His passion for poetry convinces you he’s correct when he says:  “… poems breathe deeper meaning into our lives.” Continue reading “Pursuing Poetry”

Nathan Hale of Arkansas

David_Owen_Dodd_-_GraveBack in January, I neglected to pay tribute to a historical figure named David Owen Dodd. January 8, 2014 was the 150th anniversary of this 17-year-old’s notorious hanging. I’m afraid there are very few people (particularly outside the state of Arkansas) who know anything about this historical event. However, I’m pleased to note that the New York Times marked the anniversary with an opinion page article by author Cate Lineberry.

Depending on which narrative you read, accounts of Dodd’s activities and subsequent execution vary. We do know for certain he was seventeen years old and had been sent from Camden AR to Little Rock on an errand (perhaps a subversive one) by his father. (The distance between these two cities is slightly more than 100 miles.) We also know David was a trained telegrapher.

I’ll let you plumb the depths of history to your heart’s content. Just Google David O Dodd and a wealth of resources will pop up. In my view, though unpleasant, this is a piece of history we should know.patch

More than thirty years ago, I composed a longish poem commemorating Dodd’s life and tragic end. Because of its length, I was hesitant to post it here. Every so often, though, as I’ve looked through my archives, my cursor pauses at this poem. Realizing (belatedly) this year brought the 150th year of his death, I decided a commemorative post was in order (despite the poem’s length).

A shorter version of the poem (five 8-line stanzas) was awarded third place in the 1983 National Federation of State Poetry Societies, Patriotism Award category. The poem was also published in that year’s Prize Poems anthology. I’ve reproduced the full-length poem for you here.

Execution-of-David-O-Dodd, Nathan Hale of Arkansas, history, civil war, poetry, poem
Poem: The Execution of David O. Dodd