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Three Favorite Poems and More

April 16, 2014


Dancing with Daffodils, Mother Nature, and ‘Mother of Exiles’:


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



Never tiring of reading and re-reading a poem is a major criterion in selecting the three favorite poems that inspire me to read more poetry and write more poetry. Surprisingly, these three choices came to my mind quite quickly: Emily Dickinson’s “Letter to the World,” William Wordsworth’s “Daffodils,” and Emma Lazarus’ “The New Colossus”—all poems of the 19th century.


How I wish I could write poetry with the brevity, depth, and brilliance of Emily Dickinson! Her two-quatrain poem “Letter to the World” presents an intriguing, evocative, and unique idea in the first two short lines. In writing, I am drawn to all genres in which a letter becomes a focal point. Perhaps, the poet gently reprimands in her opening lines; but she moves through the eight lines to the imperative tense in her final line: “judge tenderly of me”—a line with which I, like many people, can fully relate. Such a phrase could be the mantra for many poets who offer a bit of the poetic soul for others to judge.


In addition to two of my favorite themes—nature and vision from a new perspective—being embedded in the brief Dickinson masterpiece, these themes attract me to the famous “Daffodils,” by William Wordsworth. While Nature or Mother Nature is mildly personified in the Dickinson poem, personification is abundant in the four-stanza poem of Wordsworth. “Tossing their heads in sprightly dance” is one of my favorite phrases of “Daffodils.” For me, the two final lines are a treasure for one’s memory: “And then, my heart with pleasure fills/and dances with the daffodils.” Through the contemplation and dance with Nature in both poems, readers are graced with a new perspective of vision. In the two-stanza poem of Dickinson, the second quatrain starts with “Her message is committed/to hands I cannot see.” In Wordsworth’s fourth and final stanza, he writes of a mental exercise which I, as a blind person, frequently employ and relish: while he is doing nothing else (except resting or relaxing), he brings to his mind’s eye the picture of the “wealth” of daffodils.


Another picture that often comes to my mind’s eye is the Statue of Liberty, which all four of my grandparents passed before going through Ellis Island to enter the United States of America during the first few years of the 20th century. Thus, “The New Colossus,” by Emma Lazarus, has always had a special place in my heart. I even have a twelve-inch tall “Mother of Exiles” music box. Despite my cherishing books and growing more tolerant of e-publishing, to have a poem on the base of such a magnificent monument is a dream! This well-honored poem inspires me to continue and someday complete a collection of poems about my Italian-American family. When hearing too many news stories of recent years, I hear echo in my mind one of the outstanding lines of this remarkable poem: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free ….”


If I am waiting in a line, waiting for someone or a cab, I try to turn that time into creative waiting by remembering lines from these three selected poems and then by being inspired by these monumental poems to develop the kernels for my own poems (such as the one that follows this essay).



A Gardener’s Globe


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



First from China, Tibet, Russia, and Afghanistan–

once worth more than a Rembrandt masterpiece,

once food for the empty plates of war-torn Holland,

the globe of the treasured tulip tantalizes my gardener’s valise.


While Autumn’s hand bedecks the land,

my hand digs in the cool, damp, Wisconsin dirt

to plant each bulb—each precious globe–

that, on Spring’s runway, will fashion into a bright, petaled skirt.


Book Note: If you are interested in the historical references incorporated into my poem, I highly recommend the book Tulipomania: The Story of the World’s Most Coveted Flower and the Extraordinary Passions It Aroused, by Mike Dash. Copyrighted in 1999, this nonfiction book is still available in paperback. For patrons of the National Library Service’s Talking Book Program, this superb book is RC 051515. The history of the tulip will fascinate and captivate you, as well as give you a much deeper appreciation for these up-lifting flowers of spring.


Dreaming of daffodils and tulips, I wish you a Happy Easter!



April 16, 2014, Wednesday



From → Uncategorized

  1. One of my favorite scenes in the spring is when the daffodils trumpet out their spring song. I love poetry, and I love the melody of rhymed verse. Nothing is more soothing to the soul than when a beautiful painted picture is brought to paper. Great post. It painted a sunny picture for me on a snowy day in April.


  2. One of my favorite poems is The Lanyard by Billie Collins. Another is by Marge Piercy, but I’ve forgotten the name of it. It’s about coffee, and it inspired me to write a poem about Dr. Pepper. Happy poeming.

    • Abbie–Since you mentioned Billy Collins (poet laureate from 2001-2003), I will add that three of my favorite poems of Mr. Collins are “Introduction to Poetry,” “Sonnet,” and “The Names.” Thanks for sharing your favorite poems. Happy poetry reading in April and all other months of the year! Alice

  3. You have inspired me to celebrate National Poetry Month with my prekindergarten students by inviting a poet to our class and by reading spring poems to the children. We may even write a class poem about spring!
    Love, Mary

    • Mary–Exploring poetry with your little students sounds like fun. Lisa N. will be a wonderful poet to have as a guest for your classroom. A & Z

  4. Paula Lumb permalink

    Love this, Alice! Helps me to conjure up images of spring flowers as we continue to wait for the last of our snow to be gone. I have a few lovely skirts of my own, patiently waiting to show their colors off once all conditions are right! Happy Spring!!

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