The Poem's the Thing

What is your favorite poem? Why?

Long before I was an English major or had tried to analyze Thomas Pynchon or even wrote my high school senior honors’ paper about James Baldwin, I was a more than slightly precocious little girl who discovered her love of literature and pop culture at a very early age. So when I received a very adorable dachshund for my fifth birthday, no one blinked an eye when I named him Hamlet.

Now, lest you think I was reading a pop up version of the sad tale of the Prince of Denmark and his comrades, let me mention that one of my favorite shows on the telly was Gilligan’s Island. And my favorite episode (aside from the radioactive vegetables one) is the one featuring that rapscallion Harold Hecuba and the all-singing, all-dancing musical version of Hamlet. From epic pop culture nodding to classic literature a doggie was named.

Thus began my relationship with Shakespeare – one that’s only gotten stronger with time. Given that, it’s no surprise that my favorite poem is a Shakespearean sonnet. One that I have loved since I was about 15 years old. I was a slightly-awkward, drama-loving, secretly-shy girl who, unbeknownst to family, friends and even herself, felt most at home on stage. And was asked to participate, with mostly upperclassmen, in a school-wide Shakespeare festival. Even now, a thousand years later, I still get a little farklempt when I think about it. To me, it was a Big Deal. I played a small supporting role in a scene from Henry IV, Part 1 (Mistress Quickly – sharing a scene with the characters of Falstaff and Prince Hall was no small feat – scenery chewers both) and recited a dramatic interpretation of a sonnet. Sonnet 116 to be exact.

And in that moment in the program when it came for me to do my thing, presenting words older than I could ever imagine at my tender age, standing alone on a stage in front of peers and parents, I, for perhaps the first time during my emersion as a young woman, felt like my true authentic self. I owned that moment. Those words, their sentiment, though much more mature than my limited life experience could grasp, their rhythm – they became part of my essence that day. They have never left me.

So I give you my favorite poem. Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116. Typed from memory.

A bit of my soul on paper.

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken.
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

No comments: