About 2 years ago, I was visiting a few old friends in Manhattan. I stayed with one Kerry Serini on Avenue C for the week, but we inevitably ended up around midtown once or twice. We hung out in Central Park for most of this brisk October afternoon, but the moment we ventured into the city itself was the one I remember so vividly. We stumbled upon a tiny storefront, tarnished gold letters on a emerald green sign over the door: Argosy. An antique bookstore. The first few shelves were anthologies of poetry published from 1940 and earlier… which meant that we were pretty much committed for the next 3 hours. My treasures were two of the rarer collections of Alfred Noyes’ work and one book of Tennyson’s poems, but Kerry’s purchase was the real find. It would have been just a book of poetry, except for the inscription. It really hit us hard as we stood there pouring over those flawlessly penned lines. I copied it down as soon as we got home.
Found on the inside of an anthology of American poetry printed October 1930:
“Words of my own.
Poetry is what you thought about when you were a child, somehow not forgotten in the business of growing up, and discovered to be true, and valuable, and possible, just as you always thought it was…. Poetry is the language of a hoped-for country of light, overheard when the road you walk on brings you nearer the unknown border than ever before…. Poetry is that amazement you feel when you understand that light can be like a sword, the voice like a hand caressing you, thought like a flower bursting into bloom, or joy like a star falling through the sky…. Poetry is the coin, out of the dull and leaden handful we throw down in payment for the hours of life, that rings true and clear, and lies glittering where it falls…. Poetry is the tree of life packed in a seed and planted in the heart and mind, where it takes root, and grows green and flowers, and is the tree again…. Poetry is what sight would be to the blind, speech to the dumb, walking to the crippled, and life to the condemned, but you and I see, speak, walk, live, and we have poetry.
People don’t speak that way anymore. Let us breathe a collective sigh.