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It sounds familiar

We all have them: those moments when our highly priced education seems to fall short. Maybe it happens at a party or talking with a colleague – or in my case, playing Botticelli, a guessing game where the classically educated mind reigns supreme, with my mother.

I've recently had occasion to be reminded of such pregnant pauses, this being the start of National Poetry Month. I have to admit I didn't take to poetry until late in high school, when a teacher introduced me to Wallace Stevens. I warmed to his work and even memorized a favorite, "The Poem That Took the Place of a Mountain."

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But other, more-famous poems? Maybe our missed connection is linked to my somewhat standards-free, liberal-'70s education, though that's not really fair to my fine high school. Still, something has to account for my response to a poem my son wrote last year. It was long, with a frequent refrain: "Let us stop pondering/Let us go awandering."

Nice, I told him. What prompted that construction?

It's hard when the source of a pregnant, "you're so ignorant" pause is your teenager. But no question: His customary air of superiority was warranted – if briefly.

Matt's assignment, of course, Mom,had been to write a poem in the style of T.S. Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." His teacher liked that poem. So did Matt. So, I happen to know, does Alice Quinn, executive director of the Poetry Society of America.

And me? Maybe I should blush that I didn't read it earlier. Or perhaps the timing is perfect – I enjoy it now, after all. But this week, my daughter had to write a poem for school. And as she read it aloud, I listened carefully before saying a word, to see if maybe, just maybe, I'd heard that cadence before.


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