In the last few weeks I’ve had the pleasure of encountering poetry in unlikely places. I was visiting my Aunt Nancy in Socorro, New Mexico, while she was selling her photographs at a craft fair coinciding with The Festival of the Cranes.
My aunt takes amazing bird photography around the Bosque del Apache area. One of the local gallery owners came up to her for the sole purpose of reading some poetry to her. He was excited about a new find. He saw us and hesitated. I told the main I was also excited about poetry and he introduced us all to the work of Danish poet, scientist, mathematician, inventor Piet Hein and Hein's own form of poetry called “grooks.”
Here is the poem read to us in the middle of the craft show floor:
There's an art of knowing when.
Never try to guess.
Toast until it smokes and then
twenty seconds less.
Here are some other samples I found online:
Those Who Know
Those who always
know what’s best
a universal pest.
A Moment's Thought
there's a lifetime
in a second.
The Road to Wisdom
The road to wisdom?
-- Well, it's plain
and simple to express:
and err again
Hein’s Wikipedia page had this to say about the more serious layer of his poetry:
“The Danes, however, understood its importance and soon it was found as graffiti all around the country. The deeper meaning of the grook was that even if you lose your freedom ("losing one glove"), do not lose your patriotism and self-respect by collaborating with the Nazis ("throwing away the other"), because that sense of having betrayed your country will be more painful when freedom has been found again someday.”
Losing one glove
is certainly painful,
compared to the pain,
of losing one,
throwing away the other,
the first one again.
On our way into work, Monsieur Big Bang and I were listening to a class on the history of the English language in a Great Course class called "The Secret Life of Words" by Anne Curzan. Curzan was introducing a section on wacky English spelling and she alerted us to this poem by an unknown author called “English is Tough Stuff.” The spelling anomalies in the poem really challenge your ability to read it.
Hear me say, devoid of trickery,
Daughter, laughter, and Terpsichore,
Typhoid, measles, topsails, aisles,
Exiles, similes, and reviles;
Scholar, vicar, and cigar,
Solar, mica, war and far;
One, anemone, Balmoral,
Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel;
Gertrude, German, wind and mind,
Scene, Melpomene, mankind.