Often I have to remind myself there are many kinds of poets. When a poem dazzles me, it’s easy to throw shade on my own work, to feel drab next to their shine.
Dylan Thomas is one of my favorite poets, if not my absolute favorite. That said, I doubt I’ve understood two of his poems. Despite that, I love the density of his language and startling imagery. I feel inspired every time I read his work because it is something beautiful and out of reach that keeps me reaching further.
That said, I’ve been equally impacted by poets like Robert Frost or Philip Larkin. While their poems tend to be more accessible, they are full of their own beauty and feeling. If everyone were a Thomas, no one would be a Larkin, and the world would be poorer for it.
When I think of poems I’ve finished and thought, “That was just what I want a poem to be,” I realize how different they all are. Modern verse; sonnets; mundane images; bizarre scenes; meaningful; absurd…all these have a place in poetry’s bouquet. At the end of the day, I’m grateful for this garden of variety. And this makes it easier for me to see that my own blooms have a place, adding their own color and fragrance.
Below is a poem from my first book of poems, The Wind and the Shadows. This poem describes another kind of flower garden and explores the tension of differences and liberty.
Happy Birthday, USA On the Fourth of July my daughter and I drive across town, park on a hill, and watch this year’s fireworks display. It starts off, literally, with a bang: A white-hot stem snakes up into the clouds like Jack’s beanstalk, then bursts in a bright-blue bloom. Purple plumes, white cascading bells, orange POP! POP! Poppies, and other varieties flower in fire as a pyrotechnic garden flourishes before our very eyes. On the other side of the street, a drunken round of “Happy Birthday” erupts as some people raise beer cans to America. For a moment, a red rocket bursting in the air glares with me. But then I join in the song, adding a high harmony to their melody. Sweet land of liberty… of thee I sing.