Monday, May 31, 2010

Remember How Much You Love Poetry: Write It!

In some cultures, poetry is taken for granted because everyone writes it.  Alas, that's not the way it is in this culture.  We seem to think only Poets Write Poetry, and Poets are mythical creatures akin to unicorns and leprechauns.

Jerry Orbach, the actor in one of my favorite television shows, Law & Order, wrote poems every day to his wife, Elaine.  I just read the book Remember How Much I Love You, which had a selection of poems, along with narrative about their lives together.  Jerry died in 2004.

I remember when Jerry died.  It was on a Tuesday, right after Christmas.  I was on the Amtrak up to Manhattan when I heard the news.  I have loved Manhattan from the first time I stepped onto the platform at Penn Station, and I loved Jerry Orbach and Law & Order because I got to see first-hand every week the city I loved.  I was so sorry when I read about his passing in the newspaper as I sat in the dining car traveling north in the weak winter sunlight.  I was truly sorry for the loss of such a talent and such a good man, and I suspected the enormously talented actor was as good with the pen as he was with a line.)

Elaine composed the book, dying soon before it was published (and, as only the consummate performer would do, after the final manuscript was in the publisher's hands).

Jerry's poems to his wife were lovely and personal, full of allusions only she would understand.  They were not always Great Poetry, but they always were great.

The book's coda by Elaine encouraged people to "put pen to paper" and write down the love they feel.

I think it's a lovely idea.  I plan to do it — and I'll share the (not-too-personal) ditties with you.

I challenge you to do the same.  Make someone's day.  Put pen to paper.  Write that poem.  Even if it's a groaner, the recipient will be thrilled.  I know I would be.  I'll be glad to share your poems, even anonymously: just send them to me and I'll do the rest.

Go be a poet.  It's easier — and a lot more fun — than you think.

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