OK, Poetry Lovers, Speak into the Mike
Weightman, Sharon, The Florida Times Union
Somewhere on my book shelves is a falling-to-pieces,
secondhand volume titled 100 Best-Loved Poems of the American
But Robert Pinsky wants an update.
Pinsky just started his job as America's poet laureate this
month at the Library of Congress. One of his first assignments
will be to recruit 100 Americans from all walks of life to pick
their favorite poem and read it aloud.
The Library of Congress will make both audiotapes and
videotapes for posterity.
According to an Associated Press story, Pinsky wants the tapes
to be "a record, at the end of the century, of what we choose,
and what we do with our voices and faces, when asked to say
aloud a poem that we love."
What a great idea, I thought initially.
Then another poet pointed out,"You might get lots of votes for
The Purple Cow. "
Or Green Eggs and Ham, a second writer suggested.
I can quote both those poems with fervor, but I'm not sure
that's what I want as "a record, at the end of the century, of
what we choose."
Anyway, Gelett Burgess would not be happy at the prospect. He
later composed this ditty: "Ah yes! I wrote the Purple Cow! /
I'm sorry now I wrote it./ But I can tell you anyhow,/ I'll kill
you if you quote it!"
That didn't stop folks from quoting it to me in the hallways
and cubicles of the newsroom, but there were lots of other
quotations being bandied about as well, many accompanied by
Sara Teasdale and Bob Dylan and Ezra Pound and Lord Byron and
Robert Frost and Rita Dove and John Greenleaf Whittier and Maya
I'm sure you have favorites of your own, and, in fact, I want
you to send them to me. We probably can't come up with 100
responses, but maybe we'll have a list of "20 Best-Loved Poems
of Jacksonville Readers."
I'll go first.
Or, um, maybe not.
The prospect is so intimidating, picking just one single
solitary poem by which one's taste, education and panache may be
I imagine sophisticated readers rolling their eyes and saying,
"Sheesh, what an obvious, predictable choice."
Or, alternatively, "What! No Shakespeare!?!"
No single poem can stand up to that kind of judgment. I figure
if David Letterman gets to have a Top 10, so can I. They are: