Sunday, August 29, 2010

Poetry in Everyday Life

This is a guest post by Jenn from the Itch to Stitch group.

My sister and I have corresponded by email almost every day since about 1998. That was during the time that my sister, Stevie, was caring for our mother in Stevie's home. A couple of years later Mom moved to assisted living, then to a nursing home, but she was always near my sister's home in North Carolina, and Stevie did most of the caregiving and care management. We spoke every day via computer, though, and she has always said that she felt my support in that way.

Mom died in 2007, but Stevie and I were well in the habit of keeping in touch by then. We are 6 years apart in age, and we'd never been close as children, but we are best friends, now. During Mom's last years and since, we have treasured the time we get together in person. We share interests--dolls, crafts, cooking, family of course--and though we don't see one another as often as we did when Mom was alive, we still correspond almost every day. For years, the subject lines of the letters were simple greetings, or more often, a row of Re:Re:Re:Re and a simple greeting. Then one day, my brilliant sister had a brainstorm. She chose a poem. I don't even remember what the first poem was, but she used the first line for the subject line, and sent me an online link to the whole poem in the body of the letter, with the instruction to use the next line as my return subject line.

We have read a lot of poems together since then. One spring "When April with his showers sweet with fruit/The drought of March [had] pierced unto the root" we got onto Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, and went through the Prologue and several pilgrims, right into midsummer. Recently we've had Where the Sidewalk Ends and some Maya Angelou. We take turns, when a poem ends, choosing the next poem. What makes it even better is this: our mom loved poetry. She memorized poems in high school, and would recite them to entertain us at bedtime or while waiting for buses or during any of the times when restless kids need entertainment. So now one of us may start a poem and say, "Do you remember? This was one of Mom's favorites." Stevie doesn't know this, but around Halloween, we will be reading Robert Burns' story poem, "Tam O'Shanter", which is a long, spooky ghost story and Mother loved it!

So that's the story of how my sister and I have shared memories of our mother, and personal poetry favorites and all sorts of other ideas while staying connected and enriching our minds, or something! Now I'll close, and check whether I have email from Stevie yet today. We're about done with a favorite of Mother's and mine, "The Bacchante to her Babe", by Eunice Tietjens, and I can't wait to see what Stevie is going to share with me next.

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