The title quote is from Marianne Moore’s poem “Poetry” where she agrees with those who find poetry obscure, but also defends the writing of it. Since I have been choosing which poems of mine to post, I have been thinking about the barriers between poetry and readers. Poetry was never meant to be full of “hidden meanings.” (Well, I take that back. There are poets who are intentionally obscure. I am not one of them, nor do I have any interest in reading them.) English teachers often do poetry a disservice by implying it is something that you have to “figure out.” Worse are the teachers who ask leading questions which only have one answer–their answer–about poems.
I like poetry because it has a unique way of putting words and images to experience. Many times poems will help me to see something I have overlooked. Other times I feel companionship when I read a poem, feeling that at least one other human being understands something I understand.
In the following poem I reflect on the neighborhood boys who spend hours shooting baskets down the street from my house. I admire their perseverance, a trait I sometimes lack.
Mostly they miss,
Those boys endlessly
Trying, trying, trying
To make the ball
Swoosh lightly through the
Battered, wobbly, rusty hoop.
They dream, too.
And, more willing than I,
I hope that as you read this you can tell that my neighborhood isn’t wealthy(see the description of the hoop.) I hope that you think about boys whose one avenue out of the neighborhood might be sports. I hope you admire their sticking to it, no matter the odds against them. But I would rather you come to these ideas on your own just from reading my words. There is no right way to read this little poem. I just hope to communicate something about those kids to the reader.