"Everyone Goes Through Hard Times"
(Bet You Heard That One Before)
An anthology of poems
Edited by Grace Y.

When I read newspaper articles on homelessness and poverty in America, I feel fortunate in many ways. My family lives comfortably in a small but secure house. They have the ability to give me an excellent education, as many of my friendsí families do for them. I have a warm clothes, am able to eat three times a day, and yet I never give a second thought about how grateful I should be. But in the articles that I look at, I read about men, women, and children unable to find warm shelter, begging for the things I take for granted: money, food, clothing, and a home. Whatever reason these homeless people have for being out in the cold, with old, torn clothing, cardboard signs and cans for collecting pennies, is ignored by those who are in more fortunate situations.

Even though people who are able to support themselves financially have probably never experienced homelessness, they have a different sort of hardship. Those who work hard for their wealth and success sometimes discover that work has made them incredibly busy, and realize that they have no time to find personal meaning to life. Their material needs may be met, but they are unhappy emotionally and mentally. I know classmates who have so much pressure from schoolwork that they begin to hate school, even though education is supposed to be interesting and fulfilling. My brother is a law school student who is a complete workaholic. Yet he finds himself unable to take free time to just relax because he is so overwhelmed by stress caused by his professors. When he came home for winter break, he almost shocked my parents and me with how uptight and tired he looked. Even when watching television, you could hear him cite memorized quotes from his schoolbooks and chant the events of some lawsuit against a major cigarette company. My once outgoing, fun-loving, happy brother was now reduced to a scraggly, gaunt, and grim guy. It is impossible for me to say which life is more difficult: one where you are hungry, cold, and poor, or one where you cannot be satisfied with whatever you have earned or worked hard for. However, they are both themes Iíve found in this collection of poetry.

But why should anyone want to read literature whose themes are about hardships of life? True, it can be depressing, moody, and sad. But then, why is blues so popular? Why are the writers and artists inspired to reflect such themes? It is because compassion and the ability to relate to life being difficult can be found in all people, whether poor or rich. When you read this type of poetry, the words touch something in the audience in a way that poetry on, for example, dreams and hopes cannot. This poetry shows that life is not a "crystal stair" ("Mother to Son" by Langston Hughes), but instead, is full of flaws and imperfections, and it evokes much sorrowful and deep emotion within ourselves.

The reader will find "Mother to Son" by Langston Hughes as my first poem in this book. This is because it is a poem whose symbols reflect the difficulties of life in genera (not just specific ones like poverty or stress) such as in this passage.

Well, son, Iíll tell you:
Life for me ainít been no crystal stair.
Itís had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor--
The word "stair" as a symbol for life is fitting, because when you climb a flight of stairs, it sometimes seems increasingly tiring as you near the top. When you finish those stairs, there is another flight of stairs to go to the next floor or level, and another after that. Life gets harder the older you get, and is sometimes painful, as words like "tacks", "splinters", and "torn" suggest. Our speaker of the poem, the mother, talks in a Southern dialect that could suggest she was not educated in school, but nevertheless has wisdom that comes with age. She is bluntly honest, encouraging, and strong in voice, and is telling her son, or us as the audience, never to give up and to keep hoping, especially when the last thing we want to do is keep on trying. She knows that life is unfair, and deals with it by accepting unfairness as a fact.

"I Shall Not Care." by Sara Teasdale, is different in that the poet is addressing a more specific difficulty of life: sadness caused by lost love. I chose this poem because this sort of hardship is not an obvious one. It is not something you can clearly see. When you drive by a homeless person, you see poverty. When you walk by a person in crutches, you see physical pain. But when someoneís feelings are hurt, it is difficult to see within that person and how they are suffering unless they explain their situation to you. Before reading this passage of "I Shall Not Care" I did not even recognize this sort of pain as an obstacle people encountered.

WHEN I am dead and over bright April
Shakes out her rain-drenched hair
Though you should lean above me
Broken hearted,
I shall not care.
The word "broken hearted" brings to my mind someoneís love that is given to someone else, but is rejected or not returned. The speaker could have possibly loved someone who caused bitterness between them. Teasdale cleverly uses "death" and "rain" to give a darker tone, and makes the speaker seem resentful of her former love. I say former love because she doesnít even care what the person will think when she dies. In this passage, the speaker is declaring boldly that he or she is "over" that person for good, and if there is any sort of relationship between these two people, it is now more of an unpleasant acquaintance.

Other poets the audience will find include Robert Hayden, Padraic Colum, Louise Gluck, Robert Frost, Margaret Walker, and Walter De la Mare. You may have noticed that many of these poets are men, but it is still a varied collection of Modern American and Modern English poetry. I found these two styles important because of the many styles of poetry I encountered, these two seemed to focus on the types of hardships that I meet every day (such as work, having my feelings hurt, and more).

There are countless more difficulties: hunger, illness, death, falling in love with someone who doesnít feel the same way, sorrow, anger, failure, physical pain, and immorality. Yet I donít think of these things every day at every moment to remind myself of how hard life is. However, when I do become frustrated with life, my thoughts are expressed through writing. To me, it has so many forms and styles that whatever my situation is, I can put it into imagery accurately with words and descriptions. Poetry is among these many forms of writing. It is a technique that can give freedom to a person who wants to express their feelings without having to worry if others will understand. It is not just some odd-looking sentence structure with awkward wording. It is an art form that is meant to reflect us as people, as varied, beautiful, and unique as we are from each other. In this book, I hope the reader will find a satisfying array of distinct poetic styles, but all with a common theme: the difficulties of life.

Table of Contents

"Mother to Son"
Langston Hughes
"I Shall Not Care"
Sara Teasdale
"Those Winter Sundays"
Robert Hayden
"Little Brown Baby"
Paul Laurence Dunbar
"The Struggle Staggers Us"
Margaret Walker
Edgar Allen Poe
"You Would Have Understood Me"
Ernest Dowson
"I Was A Child"
Raven Suzanne
"What Work Is"
Philip Levine
"Tired Tim"
Walter De la Mare
"The Road Not Taken"
Robert Frost
"First Memory"
Louise Gluck
"Anthem for Doomed Youth"
Wilfred Owen
"In the City Without a Name"
Patricia Fargnoli
"An Old Woman of the Roads"
Padraic Colum