Monday, April 13, 2009

Real Toads in Imaginary Gardens: Poetry

For a long time now, Marianne Moore's poem, simply titled Poetry, has seemed to sum up my love/hate feelings about poetry, the first lines being: "I, too, dislike it: there are things that are important beyond all this fiddle. Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one discovers in it after all, a place for the genuine."

There was time when writing poetry was my main game. I participated in poetry groups, poetry competitions, classes, etc., and submitted a lot of poems different places. Some of them got published. For a few years I even got handsome royalties from Papier-Mache Press! I edited a small poetry magazine, and perhaps that was the beginning of the end of my love affair with poetry. Reading through hundreds of envelopes full of poetry, looking for a poem I liked enough to publish, about did me in. Also, I became aware of the political nature of the whole poetry scene ("po-biz") and did not have the stomach for it. For a few years, I did enjoy facilitating a small poetry circle for seniors here at the Library.

In cleaning out my office files, getting ready to retire, I found some poems I'd saved from the West University Library Seniors' Poetry Circle. Fay Ann Powers, a senior who was losing her sight to macular degeneration, wrote all kinds of poetry, most of it rhymed, often for members of her family. We had a lovely poetry luncheon one year, with a decent audience, and Fay stood up to read. Except her vision problems had gotten so bad, she could no longer read from paper. She brought along her niece who sat quietly a few feet from where Fay faced the audience. The niece had the poems on various pieces of paper, so she could whisper Fay's lines to her should she forget. She did not forget a single line. She knew them by heart and recited them beautifully. I have to say that was one of the most moving moments of my life as a librarian. See below one of her more playful poems.

To a Can of Vienna Sausages

Do you wonder what became of me
As you sit there on that mute TV,
Abandoned in that motel room,
Lonely in the silent gloom,

Pondering why I left you there,
Thinking that I didn't care
Enough to tuck you in somewhere
Beneath my sox and underwear?

You saw that I was really rushed
And everything I had was crushed.
My bag was bursting at the seam;
I closed it up and left the scene.

I had no feeling of remorse
I deserted you, it's true -- of course.
My viewpoint changed when I got home,
Hungry and Weary to the bone.

And I had nothing good to eat,
Some crackers but no potted meat.
No Vienna Sausage could I find;
Too bad I left you there behind.

© Fay Ann Powers, 1999

Happy Poetry Month!

photo: Frogs at the Rodeo (with oil painting application) by KAO

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