Generally, I try hard not to make New Year’s resolutions. Anything important enough to resolve to do should be started right away, not deferred till the start of a new year. For this reason, when I do make New Year’s resolutions, they’re inevitably inconsequential. This year’s resolution is a case in point: I have resolved to read a poem a day, every day in 2010.
I’m not sure what prompted me to do this, other than the fact that I like poetry, but very rarely make time for it in my life. If I make a point of reading a poem a day for an entire year, maybe by next December I’ll have developed a habit. Additionally, I often come across poems that apply to specific days, but I forget to go back and re-read them on that day. By marking these in my Franklin Planner as much as possible, I hope to read a lot of poems on the appropriate day in 2010.
It doesn’t hurt that my father-in-law will be self-publishing a book of his poems this year. That will no doubt fill some of the coming days. My other choices here at home (all of which are available through your local bookstore) are Mary Oliver, whose work I love, Robert Service (of course!) and my Grandparents’ copy of The Complete Poetical Works of James Whitcomb Riley, which they gave to me before they passed away. I’ve already read a few of his this year. His Lil Orphan Annie will be the poem for Halloween, I’m sure. Then there’s Seamus Heaney, W. B. Yeats, and Juliet Lesch. You’ve probably never heard of her, but she was my neighbor in Sitka. Her book, Poems From Alaska includes poems she wrote about Mom, my sister, Beth, and other people dear to me.
At least I should have a high likelihood of success with this resolution. The poetry shelf in our home is at my right elbow at my accustomed place at the table. I can pull out a book and read while I have my morning coffee. I expect it to be a nice, quiet, thoughtful start to each day.
My main concern is making sure it’s not a perfunctory reading; I want to read each poem, not zip through it in order to check it off my daily list. I resolve to do this for the bad ones as well as the good ones; even these few days into the New Year, I’ve already read some poems that I didn’t care for, and am unlikely to ever read again.
The inevitable fallout from this resolution is likely to be a sprinkling of quotations from poems I read this year. As to whether reading a poem a day will prompt me to write more poetry, we’ll see. If I do, I resolve to keep it to myself. I guess it’s only fair to point out that I may also pursue a long-intended, yearlong study of Charles Dickens and his works. If my prose leans toward the Dickensian later this year, you’ll know why.