If you’re like me, you selected No. 2, which are the opening lines of a story poem titled “The Shooting of Dan McGrew” by British-Canadian poet Robert W. Service, known as “the Bard of the Yukon.”
The first choice are lines from Romantic poet John Keats’ “Ode on a Grecian Urn.” An urn is a term most commonly associated with a vessel for holding the ashes of a loved one. Keats was a British poet whose contemporaries were George Gordon Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley. All of them lived in the 1700s and 1800s, a far cry from the world in 2022.
So, if you’re still awake, you may be asking: Exactly what is this all about? Good question. As I’ve grown older, I spend considerable time trying to hit the rewind button that takes me back to my days at Tulane in the 1960s. I do this because I don’t want to forget the memories I still cherish today. I absolutely loved my experience at Tulane, the good and the others.
I was an English major and in a weak moment I registered for a class in Romantic poetry. Why I did that I can’t answer. I probably needed the credits. Maybe I needed a course where I could take a nap. I can’t speak for today’s students who may enjoy a Romantic poetry course but I can honestly say I was genuinely bored. To me the poems were dreary, melancholy and deadly.
I sorta wanted to like poetry so I went to the TU bookstore and bought a paperback entitled Story Poems. And in it I discovered Robert Service’s “The Shooting of Dan McGrew” and another, “The Cremation of Sam McGee.” (Ironic title compared to “Ode on a Grecian Urn.”) Maybe because I read literature more than poetry growing up, but I really enjoyed stories. And that’s what Service wrote: Story poems.
Through the years I grew to love music: rock, pop, oldies, Motown, blues, country, New Orleans sounds. And the lyrics fascinated me. In fact, I think that the songwriters, especially country songwriters, are the last great poets.
George Strait, often referred to as the “King of Country,” wrote, “All my exes live in Texas/And Texas is a place I’d clearly love to be/But all my exes live in Texas/And that’s why I hang my hat in Tennessee.”
One singer with strong ties to New Orleans (since his career began here as a busker in the French Quarter) is Jimmy Buffett. His timeless hit, “Margaritaville,” is one of my all-time favorites. “Wastin’ away again in Margaritaville/Searchin’ for my lost shaker of salt/Some people say there’s a woman to blame/But I know it’s my own damn fault.”
And my fault for taking that poetry class.