Dream of: 25 December 1997 "The Art Of Poetry"

Standing in a spacious room, surrounded by wooden wall-shelves richly laden with books, I was aware of new-born impulse: the need to study the art of poetry. My long-neglected poetic temperament needed to be nourished, and the thick books which girded me would supply the sorely needed fodder. I would find a thick volume and read and read, unconcerned with whether I understood every word and nuance, but concentrated on the poetic meter and form, until my hunger was sated.

As I ran my hand across the backs of the heavy tomes, searching for one which contained only poetry, I found one blue-covered hard-back which I thought I had already read. But when I pulled the book out and examined it, I discovered one of my book markers near the front of the book, indicating that I had only begun the book. The book was titled Rabbit, and I recognized it as one of a series of four books about the life of a man nick-named "Rabbit." I was sure I had read at least one of the books. But this one must be one of the set which I still needed to read. However, I was uncertain that it was written in poetic form, and thought it might have wait.

***

I was walking down a grassy lane, holding the hand of a young boy, whom I was teaching poetry. My method was straight-forward: we were only concerned with the form of the poetry and not the actual content. We were constructing nonsensical lines of verse which consisted of words in a continuous pattern of stressed and non-stressed syllables. Technically it was iambic pentameter with a final unstressed syllable. But I was only thinking of it as a series of low and loud sounds, whirling along one after the other. At the same time we would try to make the lines rhyme. It didn't make any difference what words we used – they didn't even have to be real words – as long as they fit into the pattern. For example at the end of one line I used the word "jetty." I had the vague notion that the word actually existed, that it had something to do with a piece of land in the water, but I wasn't quite sure. I just knew that it fit into the meter and rhyme, and that was all that mattered.

What I soon discovered was that the boy was a precocious young fellow and could spout out one line after another with utmost ease. I was even beginning to suspect that he had more ability than I, the teacher. After all, I was growing older, and had neglected this aspect of language through most of my life. Was it not a mite presumptuous to believe that I could be inventing poetry now? And yet I thought I could. If anything, the meter and rhyme seemed to rejuvenate and embolden me. My sluggish mind seemed awakened by the tripping sounds.

The movements of the boy were mirrored by his metric musings. As the boy would recite a line, he would glide along our downward-slopping path as if he were wearing a pair of ice-skates, effortlessly skiing in graceful curves over the luxuriant grass. At the end of each recited line, he would bend back in the opposite direction, still deftly clutching my hand and tugging me along.

After several lines and corresponding turns, I could sense that the boy wanted to see what I could do. I could also perceive an odd aspect about the boy's appearance: although he was young, he also somewhat resembled the actress Jessica Tandy (in her 80s or 90s).

I felt a bit old and stiff myself, uncertain I could match the boy's performance. But undeterred by my age, I began reciting the nonsense poems, and I also began skating over the thick green grass from side to side. My sweeps weren't as wide or as brilliant as the boys, but were impressive nevertheless. I thought as the path became steeper, I would be able to improve. However, we had unfortunately reached the bottom of the incline. Before us stretched a dirt road, a signal that at least for now we would have to stop our exercise.

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