I’ve enjoyed posting poetry series themed around the Christian year in the past couple of years (see “Poetry for Lent” and “Poetry for Easter“). I will continue that with a series called “Poetry for Ordinary Time.” Ordinary time includes two sections of the church year between Christmastide and Lent and Easter and Advent. The word “ordinary” here derives from the word ordinal by which the weeks are counted. Still, ordinary time does serve an opportunity to embrace the ordinary spaces and places of our lives, and the themes of the poems will express this.
Here is Marilyn Nelson’s poem “How I Discovered Poetry.” Marilyn Nelson is a contemporary American poet, translator, and children’s book author. She is a professor emeritus at the University of Connecticut, and the former poet laureate of Connecticut.
It was like soul-kissing, the way the words
filled my mouth as Mrs. Purdy read from her desk.
All the other kids zoned an hour ahead to 3:15,
but Mrs. Purdy and I wandered lonely as clouds borne
by a breeze off Mount Parnassus. She must have seen
the darkest eyes in the room brim: The next day
she gave me a poem she’d chosen especially for me
to read to the all except for me white class.
She smiled when she told me to read it, smiled harder,
said oh yes I could. She smiled harder and harder
until I stood and opened my mouth to banjo playing
darkies, pickaninnies, disses and dats. When I finished
my classmates stared at the floor. We walked silent
to the buses, awed by the power of words.
Previous poems in this series:
- C. S. Lewis, “Evensong”
- Tomas Tranströmer, “Open and Closed Spaces”
- James Weldon Johnson, “The Creation”
- Denise Levertov, “Living”
- Wang Wei, “Morning, Sailing into Xinyang”
- Gerard Manley Hopkins, “Pied Beauty”
- Mary Oliver, “The Kingfisher”
- Osip Mandelstam, “Consider the River”
- Kwame Dawes, “Peach Picking”
- Anna Kamieńska, “A Prayer That Will Be Answered”
- Judah al-Harizi, “The Sun”
- Wendell Berry, “The Peace of Wild Things”
- Tu Fu, “Clear After Rain”
- John Milton, “On His Blindness”
- Rainer Maria Rilke, “It’s Possible”
- St. John of the Cross, “Living Flame of Love”
- Jacqueline Osherow, “Autumn Psalm”
- Gerard Manley Hopkins, “Spring and Fall”