POEMS BY DEAD WHITE GUYS
A Poem Anthology
Edited by Laura A.

Must "diverse" mean excluding works that used to be the only ones taught? Do all works by minorities teach more valuable lessons than that of the majority? Throughout my life, Iíve felt very strongly about diversity issues, probably because my mother is so adamant about her beliefs. I think everyone on this planet, regardless of their skin color, is created equal and that people from different cultures and backgrounds bring unique views, customs and experiences with them. Diverse cultural views enrich everyone, but it seems as if Caucasian persons, especially artists, have been placed second, in favor of more diverse persons or artists, because of the current obsession with creating a diverse community. Both may have equally important views, lessons and stories, but the minority will be chosen, most of the time, over the Caucasian, who usually is associated as being the majority, although it is not always the case. Color and race should not be an issue, whether it be in a friendship or a job application.

Most institutions have exclusively taught literature by deceased, white males for as long as they have been around. Just recently, many schools and school systems have been criticized for the lack of diversity among the literature being taught. These criticisms and the spotlight of the issue, has prompted many schools around North America to change or alter their curriculums, to include more diverse authors and artists. Personally, I still donít believe that most schools include enough diversity in their English departments, but at least they are moving forward. However, while the emphasis has been being placed on diversity, schools are forgetting the reason they taught literature by "dead white guys". Educational institutions are just including works in their curriculum solely based on the color of the author or artistís skin, in the heat of trying to promote complete diversity in our school systems.

In collecting this anthology, I chose all deceased, American or European males poets, whose poems, I thought, had something important or beautiful to portray or illustrate. Many of the included poems discuss a crossroads or important decision in oneís life, and some describe the looks or life of a vivid character. The subjects of the poems are all different, but everyone touched me in a special way, or intrigued me. Most poems are new to me, such as "In Passing" by Roy Helton, although a few are old favorites like "Sometimes" by Thomas S. Jones, Jr.

In the poem "In Passing", the author is describing a scene, in which a woman is playing the piano. His tone is harsh, as he uses negative words to create images of the setting and character. Words such as dim, helter-skelter, splintered, too fat and old, greasy, grimly and heavy all represent looks and ideas which are looked down upon by society, as ugly or disgusting. I think what the author, Roy Helton, was trying to portray, to the reader, is a picture of an ungraceful woman, trying to be beautiful, but failing miserably. Pianos and music are regarded as delicate, harmonious and elegant, yet the womanís playing was sharp and trashy, perhaps just like her personality and looks.

Grimly she bends her back and tries
To stab the keys, with heavy hand;
A childís first finger exercises
Before her on the music stand.
The literal interpretation of "Sometimes", a man watching himself "just back from play" (3), isnít all that intriguing. I think the greatest joys of poetry come from reading a poem and applying what the character or author is saying to yourself and your own life. For example, in "Sometimes", I interpret the poem to be an older man, who thinks frequently about his childhood, trying to remember back to when he was a small child and remember if he dreamed of being the man he is now. Personally, I wonder if I will turn into the woman I hope to be, which is one with an exciting career, lots of travel and a dedicated, loving husband. When I am old and gray, Iím sure I will think back to my childhood, trying to remember what it was I wanted and respected, and wondering if I would have admired the person Iíve become.

My favorite poem in the anthology is "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost, because it relates to so many of the decisions Iíve made. I made the decision to attend private school, give up organized, team sports for the piano, and, even, sacrificed my time with friends and family to participate in all my extra-curricular activities. Hopefully, my expensive education, into which Iíve put so much extra time, will be useful and relevant in the career path I chose. Right now, Iím so glad I decided to continue my piano studies because Iíve been able to travel around the globe, experiencing new cultures and customs and fulfilling "once in a lifetime" opportunities. Looking back on the past five years, the decision has made such a big impact on my life, I canít imagine the person I would be without those experiences and friendships. It saddens me that I could not continue team sports, with my neighborhood friends, but "I took the [road] less traveled by/ And that has made all the difference." (19-20) Of course, I am "sorry I could not travel both" (2), and I hope I made the right choices to forfeit so many social activities for invaluable friendships and opportunities, that not many people will ever have a chance to experience.

I hope this collection of fine poems is able to convince you of the continued importance of reading the old poets, though Iím definitely not underscoring the importance of appreciating works by minority authors. If we continue to read these poets, as well as others, we will enrich our lives and minds with their stories and ideas.

Table Of Contents

"At the Crossroads"
Richard Hovey
"A Divine Image"
William Blake
"Poet to His Love"
Maxwell Bodenheim
"A Prouder Man Than You"
Henry Lawson
"The Rich Man"
Franklin P. Adams
"A Confession To A Friend in Trouble"
Thomas Hardy
"A Hand-Mirror"
Walt Whitman
"Dedication"
Robert Louis Stevenson
"A White Rose"
John Boyle OíReilly
"In Passing"
Roy Helton
"The Road Not Taken"
Robert Frost