Caroline Kennedy. The torch bearer of a political dynasty, an advocate for privacy, a scholar, and a cultural icon.
She is also an author. In addition to writing books featuring facets of her famous family, Kennedy, like her mother before her, is a great lover of poetry and has edited and contributed to several collections of poetry. Her newest edition, published in 2011, is She Walks in Beauty: A Woman’s Journey Through Poems which features collections of poems that correspond with each stage of a woman’s diverse life.
She Walks in Beauty gets its name from the famous poem by Lord Byron which proclaims:
“She walks in beauty, like the night / Of cloudless climes and starry skies; / And all that’s best of dark and bright / Meet in her aspect and her eyes”
The book contains both classic and contemporary, long and short, metaphorical and literal, and happy and sad poems. Starting with poems on “Falling in Love,” the book continues to include entries on “Making Love,” “Breaking Up,” “Marriage,” “Love Itself,” “Work,” “Beauty, Clothes, and Things of this World,” “Motherhood,” “Silence and Solitude,” “Growing Up and Growing Old,” “Death and Grief,” “Friendship,” and “How to Live.”
Here are excerpts of some of my favorites:
From the chapter “Falling in Love” is the poem “I Do Not Love Thee!” by The Honorable Caroline Elizabeth Sarah Norton which begins:
“I do not love thee! – no! I do not love thee! / And yet when thou art absent I am sad; / And envy even the bright blue sky above thee, / Whose quiet stars may see thee and be glad”
From “Breaking Up”, the poem “Unfortunate Coincidence” by Dorothy Parker which is short and biting:
“By the time you swear you’re his, / Shivering and sighing, / And he vows his passion is / Infinite, undying – / Lady, make a note of this: / One of you is lying.”
From “Marriage,” another blissful and comical short entry titled “For Husbands” by Ogden Nash:
“To keep your marriage brimming, / With love in the loving cup, / Whenever you’re wrong, admit it; / Whenever you’re right, shut up.”
From “Beauty, Clothes, and Things of This World” — “Eagle Poem” by Joy Harjo, which begins:
“To pray you open your whole self / To sky, to earth, to sun, to moon / To one whole voice that is you”
From “Growing Up and Growing Old” – “Grown-Up” by Edna St. Vincent Millay:
“Was it for this I uttered prayers, / And sobbed and cursed and kicked the stairs, / That now, domestic as a plate, / I should retire at half-past eight?”
And finally, from the chapter “How to Live,” excerpts from the poem “Ithaka” by Constantine P. Cavafy:
“As you set out for Ithaka, / hope the voyage is a long one, / full of adventure, full of discovery, / Laistrygonians and Cyclops, / angry Poseidon – don’t be afraid of them: / you’ll never find things like that on your way / as long as you keep your thoughts raised high, / as long as a rare excitement / stirs your spirit and your body. / [...]
Keep Ithaka always in your mind. / Arriving there is what you are destined for. / But do not hurry the journey at all. / [...] And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you. / Wise as you will have become, so full of experience, / you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.”
Poems are inspiration. Poems are emotion. Poems are guides in happy and troubled times.
Poems are life.