Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Poetry in the Pub: Share a Pint with the Poets and You'll Discover Far More Than Rhyme and Verse

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Poetry in the Pub: Share a Pint with the Poets and You'll Discover Far More Than Rhyme and Verse

Article excerpt

Coleman's Authentic Irish Pub anchors the Tipp Hill area of Syracuse, New York, the only place in the country where the green traffic light shines above the red. Here the streets are named for poets. The pub itself sits on South Lowell--that would be Amy and her cousins James Russell and Robert. Amy promoted imagist poetry and women's rights in the salons of Europe and Boston.

To the right of Lowell and up a block is Tennyson, after the English lord whose head was filled with chivalry and thoughts of immortality. Up another block lies Bryant, named for the poet and abolitionist who communed with God in nature. He is followed by Whittier, another abolitionist and lover of rural life.

Bordering a fine park, Coleridge Avenue takes many a twist and turn, reflecting the tale the poet's ancient mariner tells a reluctant listener on his way to a wedding. Finally, directly under the unique traffic light stands Emerson Avenue, after the poet and philosopher.

The spirits of these "street poets" inhabit Coleman's pub. Amy stands under the Lowell sign smoking her perennial cigar. Inside, Tennyson gazes out a window and dreams of Camelot. Over at the bar, Coleridge lends an ear to a talker, while Emerson roams about, jotting down aphorisms for later use. Whittier and Bryant raise a few, the latter giving a toast, "I'll lift you and you lift me, and we'll both ascend together."

Pull up a chair, sip your favorite drink, and listen to these poets speak of love and war and the ever present God of mercy caring for us all. Emerson, Bryant, and Coleridge find the Creator present in creation--a flower, a waterfowl, an albatross. Out for a walk in the woods, Emerson chances upon a rhodora:

   Spreading its leafless blooms in a damp nook,
   To please the desert and the sluggish brook.

Only the poet is there to notice. He immortalizes the flower and all of the goodness and beauty that go unnoticed. [I]f eyes were made for seeing, he says, Then beauty is its own excuse for being.

While Emerson looks down at a flower, Bryant looks up at a bird making its solitary way home at nightfall. Sensing the divine presence, the poet believes that the God who guides the bird's flight will lead my steps aright.

By contrast, Coleridge's hapless mariner shoots an albatross and is doomed to wear the dead bird around his neck ever after. In old age he comes to wisdom. Heprayeth best, who loveth best, All things both great and small, for the dear God who loveth us, made and loveth all.

Poets discover God in nature, a presence that

is to be honored and revered. But what about human nature? What do these 19th-century Romantic poets have to offer 21st-century readers on love? Here is Emerson, again, this time with advice to lovers.

   Give all to love;
   Obey thy heart;
   Friends, kindred, days,
   Estate, good-fame,
   Plans, credit and the Muse,--
   Nothing refuse.

However, do not be surprised when the beloved does not give all to love, who, it turns out, is made of lesser clay, whose parting dims the day. What then? Take hope, the poet says, because when half-gods go, the gods arrive.

John Greenleaf Whittier writes about a young man who gave all to love. In his rural New England, when a family member died, it was the custom to "tell the bees," and drape a bit of black on their hives. …

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