I thought it would be on topic this National Poetry Month to mention that I read "The Lanyard" at my Mom's funeral. My brother said he hadn't cried all week until I read that poem. Something to think about concerning how poetry can matter in life, and death.
Dana Gioia's essay, "Can Poetry Matter?" (originally published in 1991, also found in his book Can Poetry Matter?) is must reading on this subject. His concern is that poetry now belongs in a subculture in America and has been lost from "the mainstream of artistic and intellectual life."
It is time to experiment, time to leave the well-ordered but stuffy classroom, time to restore a vulgar vitality to poetry and unleash the energy now trapped in the subculture. There is nothing to lose. Society has already told us that poetry is dead. Let's build a funeral pyre out of the desiccated conventions piled around us and watch the ancient, spangle-feathered, unkillable phoenix rise from the ashes.
One of my all-time favorite poems is by a famous writer of frontier/adventure novels, Louis L'Amour. "An Ember in the Dark" is found in his book of poetry, Smoke From This Altar.
An Ember in the Dark by Louis L'Amour
Faintly, along the shadowed shores of night
I saw a wilderness of stars that flamed
And fluttered as they climbed or sank, and shamed
The crouching dark with shyly twinkling light;
I saw them there, odd fragments quaintly bright,
And wondered at their presence there unclaimed,
Then thought, perhaps, that they were dreams unnamed,
That faded slow, like hope's arrested flight.
Or vanished suddenly, like futile fears--
And some were old and worn like precious things
That youth preserves against encroaching years--
Some disappeared like songs that no man sings,
But one remained--an ember in the dark--
I crouched alone, and blew upon the spark