One of my Favorite Poems is “The Highwayman” by Alfred Noyes. It is too long to include in this letter but may be found at https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/43187/the-highwayman.
Hearing it read was the first time that I understood the power of poetry. My 7th-grade teacher (I can’t remember his name but he was fired that year for incompetence) read that poem with rhythm and passion to the small class of 7th and 8th graders. I was agape (literally, my mouth hung open) at the beauty of those words. Later, I even memorized the poem and would say it aloud on my walks. (I was the only girl of my age in a town of 250 and much of my time was spent walking in the fields and hills above Washtucna.)
The strength and persistence of the Highwayman and of the woman he loved, introduced me to the importance of words. That is why it remains one of my very favorites.
When I went home after school, I saw that my parents had a book published in 1929 titled One Hundred and One Famous Poems, and I read them all! The poems of famous and well-known men and women were in that book but, for years, my favorite was the non-rhyming poem by Carl Sandburg: “Grass.”
Pile the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo.
Shovel them under and let me work—
I am the grass; I cover all.
And pile them high at Gettysburg
And pile them high at Ypres and Verdun.
Shovel them under and let me work.
Two years, ten years, and passengers ask the conductor:
What place is this?
Where are we now?
I am the grass.
Let me work.
The emotions of this poem, without rigid rhyming, touched my soul. As a child, I had seen grass cover many a body of dog, cat, and even a cow. I respected the recurring strength of those blades of green. And I respected the way the author, with tiny bits of words, grew such amazing meaning from a few lines.
Over the years, I have had a few poems of my own published, and I have certainly read, with gaping mouth, the poems of contemporary authors. But, because of how they were the door to a world I never knew existed, “Grass” is tied with “The Highwayman” as my favorite poem.
Thank you for the opportunity to remind others of these two poems.
Sue Pace, Driving Sharon Crazy
Sue Pace, Writer on Facebook posting from time to time