According to the Maine Public Broadcasting Network, the founder of the Dead Poets Society of America has embarked on a 22-state tour of cemeteries to spur creation of a Dead Poets Remembrance Day on October 7 of each year.
(October 7 is the anniversary of the death of Edgar Allan Poe. Poe, of course, is known for poems such as "The Raven," "The Bells," "Annabel Lee," "If It's Yellow, It's Mellow," etc.)
I know, I know. It's a little ironic to celebrate hundreds of tree-hugging bards by encouraging tourists to burn fossil fuels hither and yon, but poetry lovers could honor their idols in worse ways. ("Ode to a nightingale? Let's EAT some of them nightingales! Skeet-shooting with Grecian urns? Count me in!")
The campaign missed out on some great publicity. Reflecting typical government nosiness and efficiency, the unused 11th question on the 2010 census form was to have been "How many dead poets are currently living at your address?"
It's sad that most of the deceased makers of rhyme have fallen into obscurity. At least they had a good run, benefitting from three major developments: (1) the invention of the printing press; (2) the spread of compulsory education; and (3) the incorporation of the village of Nantucket.
It's disheartening that the majority of students are traditionally bored or bewildered by poetry. And even the ones who "get" poetry become disillusioned after graduation when they run up against the Real World. ("What do you mean you're searching for layers of meaning in what I've written? It's a pink slip! It means you can haul your daydreaming butt down to the unemployment office!")
Perhaps poems could be made more relevant by updating them to reflect modern society. You could certainly do it with Lewis Carroll's "Jabberwocky." ("'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves/Did gyre and gymble in the wabe/Rehearsing for Gyring and Gymbling With The Stars...").
Walt Whitman could benefit from a little tweaking. ("I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear/Sounds like copyright infringement, I swear I'll sue their rears.")
Robert Frost spoke at JFK's inauguration, but that was nearly 50 years ago. Let's modernize his repertoire with "Two roads diverged in a wood and I/I took the one less traveled by/And that has made all the money I spent on a GPS seem like a total waste."
What about A.E. Houseman? ("When I was one-and-twenty/ I heard a wise man say/ Give crowns and pounds and guineas/ But not your old comic books away...")
Elizabeth Barrett Browning definitely needs bringing into the 21st century. ("How do I love thee?/Let me count the ways/That the intimate photos I e-mailed you have been spread all over the *&^%$ Internet..."), as does Lord Byron ("She walks in beauty, like the night/But in high definition, she's quite a fright.")
What about an updated William Shakespeare sonnet? ("Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?/Or would that imply you are a leading cause of melanoma?")
What's this? I'm already receiving e-mail about this column. Some of you have been inspired to write your own poetry. Here's one. "I think that I shall never see/ A poet as lame-o as Tyree."
Hmphh! Better watch which dark alleys you're near on your next midnight dreary, buster!
Note: Danny Tyree actually does welcome e-mail, at email@example.com.