Friday, August 16, 2013

Poetry Friday: "First Crushes" and the Door to Wonder

Holland Cotter, art critic at The New York Times, winner of a Pulitzer Prize for Criticism, writes about his love of recited poetry in the wonderful new series "First Crush":

Here's a preview of the essay, titled "Finding Poetry on the Page and, Later, on the Canvas":

I was lucky to come from a family of reciters and readers. My great-great-aunt Helen, probably born a decade or so after the Civil War, was in her late 70s, maybe 80s, when I was 8 or 9. She came from a poetry-memorizing Victorian culture and knew long passages of Tennyson’s “Idylls of the King” and Longfellow’s “Song of Hiawatha” by heart. Whenever I visited, I asked her to “do ‘Hiawatha.’ ” To this day, I can still hear the rhythms and sounds of her delivery, particularly the way she enunciated Longfellow’s “Indian” names. They conjured up miraculous visual images, natural and supernatural: a woman descends from the moon to earth; a rainbow turns into a field of flowers; birds and forest animals speak. 

I love to see how a love of words - especially poetry - spreads to a love of all kinds of creative activities. Language is a door to wonder in general, isn't it?  
Click here to read Cotter's short and lovely essay. 

Poetry Friday today is being hosted by Lisa over at Steps and Staircases (on Tumblr.) Head over there for links to what other people have posted.


  1. Julie, I read this last night and I couldn't agree with you more; it is just lovely. I love the last lines, when he's describing his reaction to "Blue Window" by Matisse: "I liked that it had stories not yet told. There was room for a writer-to-be in there." A door to wonder indeed! Thanks for sharing this. It deserves a wide audience.

  2. That's a wonderful essay! And, any child is lucky to come from a poetry memorizing family! I did as well - my paternal grandfather memorized and quoted Shakespeare. I didn't know what it meant, but I sure loved it. Just before he died, he bequeathed his set of tiny Shakespeare volumes to me.

  3. Julie, Thanks for sharing about this First Crush series. I intend to read more in the series.

    Yes, there are many doors leading to wonder. Poetry and books are big doors for me!


  4. I wish I had memorized some poetry when I was younger. We were never required to do that in my classes in the late 50s and 60s. Now, I consider myself lucky if I can remember how to drive to work in the morning. Thanks for finding the essay for us!