My Favorites: Poem

I am not a big poetry person. I just haven't taken the time or effort to appreciate it the way I think I should. My ideal self reads poetry on the deck while sipping green tea and looking out over the unobstructed prairie landscape as the sun comes up, but my real self reads thrillers while eating chocolate in the basement. So. You know. A little ways to go.

When I was in middle school, one of our language arts assignments was to memorize a poem and recite it to the class. We had to do this three times: once in grade 4, once in grade 5, and once in grade 6. In grade 4 I did The Tyger, by William Blake. It's a good poem, I guess, but not one that really spoke to me. I think I chose it because it was short. In grade 5 I did a poem by Shel Silverstein that I can't remember anything about, not even the title. Sorry, Shel. But in grade 6... oh, in grade 6 I chose a masterpiece, a poem I can still recite verbatim 14 years later. The title itself is a work of art. Here it is:

Ode on the Death of a Favorite Cat, Drowned in a Bowl of Goldfishes, by Thomas Gray

I remember getting this assignment for the third year in a row and not being very excited about it. First of all, I hated speaking in front of the class. Secondly, poetry was lame. I remember going to the computer lab and trawling the web for a poem, trying to at least find something no one else would do. (At least two other people did The Tyger the same year I did, and the year I did the Shel Silverstein poem half the class did his poems too.) I don't remember how or where I found the Ode, only that I loved it instantly and knew it was the one for me.

Sadly, my oral presentation of the poem wasn't that great (I forgot the words about halfway through but did manage to recover), but it was enthusiastic, and the poem's stayed with me ever since. It's a story poem, which is probably why I like it. Check it out.