But April is National Poetry Month, too. Inaugurated by the Academy of American Poets in 1996, National Poetry Month celebrates poetry and its vital place in American culture. It probably has a commercial reason for coming into existence, but I’d like to focus on the aesthetic value of contemplating poetry. I’ve no plans to participate in any public poetry readings, festivals, book displays, workshops, or other events that may be planned this month. However, I have set a goal to finish reading Q’s celebrated Oxford Book of English Verse before the end of the month. And, I plan to post several of my favorite, shorter poems over the remaining days of April.
For starters, 17th century Anglican priest, George Herbert, is a good place to begin. His “Holdfast” is a profound lesson about our complete reliance on Christ, who “keepeth now, who cannot fail or fall.” Last year, I spent a memorable class period discussing this poem with my students (they were very morally acute high schoolers!). Their grasp of the meaning of “all things were more ours by being His”—well, with Herbert, “I stood amaz’d.”
I threaten'd to observe the strict decree
Of my dear God with all my power and might;
But I was told by one it could not be;
Yet I might trust in God to be my light.
"Then will I trust," said I, "in Him alone."
"Nay, e'en to trust in Him was also His:
We must confess that nothing is our own."
"Then I confess that He my succour is."
"But to have nought is ours, not to confess
That we have nought." I stood amaz'd at this,
Much troubled, till I heard a friend express
That all things were more ours by being His;
What Adam had, and forfeited for all,
Christ keepeth now, who cannot fail or fall.