another sip

For my Masters (in English) degree I majored in 20th century poetry with my thesis about W.H.Auden.  I made this choice for several reasons: 

1) I had just been engaged to my future  husband - on the night of the day I had received my application for  Columbia University to work on my Masters degree. I was 19 years old, a bit young, my parents (father) thought, to get married ("to throw myself under the wheels of happiness" - a line from Christopher Fry's The Lady's Not for Burning - don't make me look up the dates now, this is not totally relevant).  I compromised - it didn't feel like compromise.  My father reminded me I had always (?) intended to get m M.A. and I should stick to that plan. A postgraduate degree would be good insurance, he said. How right he was! Just about the only insurance I had, as it turned out.  So then it was a question of where to focus in my studies.  

2) I chose 20th century  poetry because I didn't read poetry as easily as I read prose.  I wanted to train myself to read poetry the way I read a mystery thriller.

3) I wanted to work with the best mind available to me at the university: Chester Duncan  (1913-2002: wrtier, broadcaster, university professor, pianist and composer). He was particularly knowledgeable about W.H.Auden and had composed music for many of his poems, still doing it when I signed on. 

4) I didn't want to go away. If I had left Bill then it was likely that we wouldn't have been married. After a year apart at that tender age we would have been strangers. 

So I stayed home and we had a long engagement.  I convicted with my  M.A. in May of the following year and I married 17 days after that.  Thank goodness. We had been married 20 years when he suddenly died.

This is about sipping poetry.  I still read poetry and I still find poets who get inside me, and stay there,  That's a long preamble to introduce Eleanor Ross Taylor (1920-2011)  whom I first encountered in The New Yorker.    Her second book of poetry, Welcome Eumenides (1972), its title taken from a diary note of Florence Nightingale, has a long poem written int he first person as if by Nightingale, very moving.  I didn't find the book until after Bill had died and I was still raw when I read it, so my underlines are selfish and personal.  Good poetry, though.I won't dwell too long as i have taken too long now. I'll just take a few lines from a poem called "Sirens".

The ambulance

Arriving for one

I never expected

To leave.


Siamese partner,

If  your heart fail

Shall I not panic?