I used to write a lot of poetry when I was younger. Bad poetry. Mysanthropic poetry. Maudlin poetry. Regardless of the quality, writing poetry was a healthy way to express my teenage angst, and a harmless enough past-time. Until I decided to show my beloved poetry to an English professor of mine, who told me it was "juevenile" and that I shouldn't waste my time attempting to submit it to any contests or publishers.
Silly, impressionable girl that I was, I stuffed my poor poems back in my satchel and slouched back to my apartment, where I hid them in a drawer and didn't write any more poetry for a very long time. Actually, I didn't write poetry again, at all, until my late thirties, if you can believe it. Yes, I was that shattered by a thoughtless piece of criticism.
But I've grown up since then, and although I still feel my eyes narrow whenever I picture that arrogant professor, I pat my old, hurt self on the back and write poems whenever I feel like it. I don't care if they ever see the light of day. Haiku are fun; so are sonnets, although they take considerable brain power and I don't usually have much of that left over after a day of work and evenings filed with building block towers and teddy bear tea parties. Still, it's therapeutic, and pleasing, to find just the right words to express something you've just thought of, or seen out the window, or day-dreamed about when you were supposed to be listening in on that conference call.
My mother loved poetry; so did my Nana. In fact, we read several poems at Nana's funeral because we knew she'd have liked that. I found lots and lots of poems she'd copied out in longhand after she died, tucked away in cookbooks and drawers and photo frames. I found it interesting that she had written this one out, because my Mother had this poem hanging on our den wall when I was growing up; Mom and Nana didn't always get along, but apparently they had the same taste in poets. Hmmm.
I like Rudyard because he has a stiff upper lip, and the kind of wisdom I wish I'd had when I reached out a shaky hand to collect my poor abused poems from that wank of a Professor. So here's a little dose of Brit wisdom for you...hope it helps!
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;
If you can dream---and not make dreams your master;
If you can think---and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:.
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build'em up with worn-out tools;
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings---nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And---which is more---you'll be a Man, my son!