Greg Asimakoupoulos’ first poem

Greg Asimakoupoulos’ first poem

National Poetry Month: Rhymes and reasons not to | Guest column

April is National Poetry Month. It was established 25 years ago this month by the Academy of American Poets. Having observed the success of Black History Month each February and Women’s History Month in March, the group opted to create a month dedicated to poets and their work in hopes of increasing the public’s awareness and appreciation of poetry.

My mom and dad’s generation studied poems in school as part of their exposure to the classics. Poems like “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud,” “Invictus,” “Thanatopsis,” “The Road Not Taken,” and “Jabberwocky” stretched their minds and capacity for memorization. Sadly, today’s curriculums don’t introduce our kids to such a treasure trove of verse.

However, given the recent popularity of rap music and spoken-word poetry, both appreciation and awareness of verbal artistry has been on the increase. Twenty-three-year-old Amanda Gorman’s poem “The Hill We Climb” gave poetry a major plug at President Joe Biden’s inauguration a couple months ago.

Seven years before April was designated “the rhyming month” in 1996, a Robin Williams movie captured the heart of our nation. “Dead Poets Society” celebrated the time-honored role poetry has played in our culture. In that memorable classroom speech by Mr. Keating (Williams’ character in the film), we were reminded that poetry and the arts are “what we stay alive for.”

While many poignant poems are not dependent on rhyming meters, that is not true for all. One of my favorite poems of all time was written by eight-year-old Fanny Crosby in 1828. The rhyme is not all that remarkable, but the meaning conveyed in the poem certainly is. Fanny was permanently blinded by an inept doctor’s treatment for an eye infection when she was six weeks of age. Her simple verse exhibited maturity beyond her years as she celebrated acceptance of misfortune rather than harboring resentment. She wrote:

Oh, what a happy soul I am, although I cannot see!

I am resolved that in this world contented I will be.

How many blessings I enjoy that other people don’t,

to weep and sigh because I’m blind I cannot, and I won’t!

That was the first of more than 8,000 poems that Fanny Crosby wrote in a lifetime that spanned 95 years. Many of her lyrics were set to music and published in hymnals throughout the world.

Speaking of poetry penned by 8-year-olds, while cleaning out my parents’ home last fall, I made an interesting discovery. Buried in an old chest of drawers was a file of my elementary school work my mother had saved. To my amazement, I uncovered the first poem I ever wrote. I had no idea the original still existed. I was over the moon. It was a Christmas rhyme written in second grade and dedicated to my dad.

I’ve written hundreds of poems since I was eight years old (including four published volumes of poetry). But for some reason I’ve always remembered the first one. Maybe it was the joy I felt inside being able to express a thought with the additional element of rhyming words. Lines that rhyme are like musical chords that resolve. There’s a sense of rightness.

But here’s the curious thing. In sixty years of writing poetry, when faced with tragic circumstances or attempting to comfort victims of despair, poetry that doesn’t rhyme seems more appropriate. Perhaps “blank verse” (as non-rhyming poetry is called) inherently speaks to a reality we all have come to realize in the past year: Life doesn’t always rhyme.

Ours is a world where unexpected hurt and pain often undermine the predictable (and comfortable) meter of daily routines. But it is against the backdrop of an injustice, heartache and confusion that the poet finds a voice as well as a receptive audience.

Guest columnist Greg Asimakoupoulos is chaplain at Covenant Living at the Shores in Mercer Island.


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@mi-reporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.mi-reporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

Guest columnist Greg Asimakoupoulos is chaplain at Covenant Living at the Shores in Mercer Island.

Guest columnist Greg Asimakoupoulos is chaplain at Covenant Living at the Shores in Mercer Island.

More in Opinion

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
2022 Legislature is on the horizon – here’s what to expect | Roegner

The upcoming session of the Washington state Legislature will be the short… Continue reading

Rich Elfers, “In Focus”
Do we take our neighboring nations for granted? | In Focus

Does the United States take Canada and Mexico for granted? The United… Continue reading

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at thebrunells@msn.com.
Honoring heroes goes beyond lowering flags to half-mast | Brunell

Lowering our flags to half-staff seems to be an all too familiar… Continue reading

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
Public safety takes centerstage in local elections | Roegner

In Seattle and most suburban cities, the overwhelming message was that the… Continue reading

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
Washington’s secretary of state leaves big shoes to fill | Roegner

Secretary of State Kim Wyman recently announced she will leave her state… Continue reading

Dr. Jayendrina Singha Ray serves as Faculty of English at Highline College. Her research interests include postcolonial studies, spatial literary studies, British literature, and rhetoric and composition. Prior to teaching in the U.S., she worked as an editor with Routledge and taught English at colleges in India.
What the Afghan wants to say: A story of resettlement | Guest column

The wind is strong. It carries the colored leaves of fall to… Continue reading

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
The rest of the story: Sound Transit, Rolovich and Lambert | Roegner

All of the reporters I know are ethical and trustworthy. But I… Continue reading

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at thebrunells@msn.com.
When it comes to power, Washington may be falling behind | Brunell

For years, Washington state masked its high business and regulatory costs with… Continue reading

tsr
Domestic violence victims need more housing options

Column: As a result of stay-at-home measures from the pandemic, domestic violence rates have worsened in King County.

Guest columnist Greg Asimakoupoulos is chaplain at Covenant Living at the Shores in Mercer Island.
Calendars help us to number our days | Guest column

It wasn’t until I was out of seminary and serving my first… Continue reading

Email editor@mi-reporter.com
Even more Mercer Island candidate letters | Election 2021

Editor’s note: Due to the volume of letters endorsing Mercer Island candidates… Continue reading

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
A look at city council races around the region | Roegner

Hot contests in Mercer Island and Bellevue.