A Poet I Admire

Before April Poetry Month ends, I want to pay a small tribute poet Ted Kooser, who whose verses I’ve enjoyed courtesy of our public library.

Part of the bio at his official website:
Ted Kooser is a poet and essayist, a Presidential Professor of English at The University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He served as the U.S. Poet Laureate from 2004-2006, and his book Delights & Shadows won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for poetry. His writing is known for its clarity, precision and accessibility.

Accessibility’s the key word that made his verses so enjoyable for me. Even with my limited enlightenment I could read his verses and understand them. I was happy to discover that his books are available on Amazon, in hard cover, paperback, and Kindle.

I see that, for those new to poetry writing, he’s published The Poetry Home Repair Manual: Practical Advice for Beginning Poets. I must order a copy, since some of my verses could stand a bit of repair!

From the blurb:
“Much more than a guidebook to writing and revising poems, this manual has all the comforts and merits of a long and enlightening conversation with a wise and patient old friend—a friend who is willing to share everything he’s learned about the art he’s spent a lifetime learning to execute so well.”

The Thistle of Favoritism

Today’s prompt at the Napowrimo site: Write a “The ___ of ___” verse

Begin by reading Bernadette Mayer’s poem “The Lobelias of Fear.” (Okay, I did, and it made very little sense to me, but you might want to check it out here. It may be clearer — or at least more poetic — to you.)

Now write a verse where the first blank is a very particular kind of plant or animal, and the second blank is an abstract noun. The poem should contain at least one simile that plays on double meanings or otherwise doesn’t quite make “sense,” and describe things or beings from very different times or places as co-existing in the same space. So…

The Thistle of Favoritism

Resume in hand I came
eminently qualified —
decades of experience —
to take a seat beside another
hopeful applicant,
a young chick with her resume
one single sheet
held casually in her hand.

“Can’t have much
experience at this job,”
I mused, feeling smug I’ll admit.
Looking her over I decided,
the employer wouldn’t find
much to recommend her.
Granted, a curvy thing, and lovely
young hair, no wisps of grey. But
my skill and experience will count.

Curious, I opened conversation,
probed a bit. “So, how many years
have you done this type of work?”
She looked me up and down,
noted my thicker resume.
“Six months,” she replied.

I’m sure she noticed my smirk
sensed my “You haven’t a chance.”
Her nose tipped skyward.
“My sister encouraged me to apply.
She’s the manager’s wife.”

Relationships are thistles
apt to scratch your chances
if you’re not of the right blood.
My skill and experience
she got the job.

A Family of Bards

Since it’s International Poetry Month, as well as posting new poems I want to mention some beloved poems of long ago. My Mom F (nee Vance, actually my birth father’s sister who raised me) loved saga-type poems and songs. She told me Grandma & Grandpa Vance also loved poems and could recite long ones. Uncle Steve and Uncle Charley were our family storytellers, but I suspect this love of story and verse goes way back in our Vance clan.

Great Grandma Vance may have picked up this skill too, though she probably never went to school. She couldn’t write her name on the land title to her farm, but signed with an X. However, poems and sagas were learned and recited long before people could read and write.

Five years ago I received a gift copy of Best Loved Poems of the American People © 1936 by Doubleday & Company) where I’ve discovered many well known verses from my childhood. Written in metered rhyming lines these verses were easy to memorize and teachers back then believed memorizing was a good way to exercise the mind.

How many can you remember?
– “For Casey, mighty Casey, was advancing to the bat…
– “That moss-covered bucket I hailed as a treasure…”
– “If you’re ever going to love me, do it now, while I can know…”
– “Abou Ben Adam (may his tribe increase!)…”
– “The Sabbath day was ending in a village by the sea…”
– “The boy stood on the burning deck…”
— “But a dastard in love, and a coward in war, was to wed the fair Ellen of brave Lochinvar…”
– “Wee, sleeket, cowran, tim’rous beastie…”

Finding A Poem

Seeing it’s National Poetry Month, I’ll try my hand at some different forms this month. This one is a CENTO.

Robert Lee Brewer, in his list of various poetic forms, writes: “The cento…is a form of found poetry that is entirely composed of lines and phrases from previously written poems.”

I feel like I’m the AI here: taking snatches of already-done to create something new. Probably Oh, well…good exercise.

I’ve drawn from these poems to create my CENTO:
She Walks in Beauty by George Gordon Byron
My Mother’s Garden by Alice E Allen
Let Me Grow Lovely Growing Old by Karle Wilson Baker

In Beauty, Growing Old

She walks in beauty, growing old –
so many old things do –
a garden old-fashioned, quaint
laces and ivory, forget-me-nots,
to full perfection brought.

Old streets a glamor hold,
we know as we pass by,
mellowed to that tender light
which heaven to day denies

Pansies bloom in tender thought
that softly lightens her face.
Love’s roses blossom, grow lovely
growing old, in goodness spent.

Songbirds always singing,
how dear their dwelling place
and from it floats forever,
the smiles that win, the tints that glow
a mind at peace with all below,
the fragrance of her life.

A Tale Well Told

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning is VIVID.

“Caught up in the river of people which flowed through the narrow streets, I wandered happily along under the sound of the bells, which competed with the subdued roar of voices.”

From THIS ROUGH MAGIC by Mary Stewart

The vivid description of Lucy’s first visit to the market on this island. Now available as an e-book, This Rough Magic was first published in 1964. Amazon blurb:
Lucy Waring, a young, out-of-work actress from London, leaps at the chance to visit her sister for a summer on the island paradise of Corfu, and what’s more, a famous but reclusive actor is staying in a villa nearby. But Lucy’s hopes for rest and romance are shattered when a body washes up on the beach and she finds herself swept up in a chilling chain of events.

I read this book, a compelling romantic mystery, a few weeks back and gave it five stars, though the ending does have some violence. This heroine isn’t one to avoid dangerous situations! Love how Lucy insists on rescuing the dolphin, and later the dolphin repays her in kind! It’s told in First Person and the character’s use of vivid words, phrases, and descriptions is amazing. I wanted to blog about this someday; today’s prompt can be my nudge.

For example, driving to town with the radio on: “Some pop singer mooed from under the dash.” I had to laugh. 🙂

In Chapter 4 Lucy, sunbathing on the beach, hears frantic chirps from the nearby woods and goes to see what’s troubling the birds. She spots a white Persian cat only a few feet from a baby blue tit, ready to spring, with the parent birds trying vainly to shoo the enemy away. So she grabs the cat. Though not happy, it submits to her holding it “while the parent birds swooped down to chivvy their baby out of sight.”

She carries the cat away and sets it down. “Still purring, he stropped himself against me a couple of times, then strolled ahead of me up the bank.”

This wording gives me such a vivid picture. However, I’ll be turning 70 on Monday and I’ve only seen the word STROP a few times in historical novels. Today it would be an anachronism – yesterday’s prompt word. I picture a man stropping a straight razor, but how many readers younger than me have no clue what the word means?

Anyway, Lucy follows the cat along a narrow path up the hill and comes upon a beautiful rose garden, where “the air zoomed with bees.” She admires “one old pink rose, its hundred petals as tightly whorled and packed as the layers of an onion.”

Here she meets the retired actor, Sir Julian, the cat’s owner, who tells her, “His name is Nit. Short for Nitwit. He’s a gentleman, but he has very little brain.”

A few minutes later… “The white cat rose, blinked at me, then swarmed in an elaborately careless manner up the wistaria, straight into Sir Julian’s arms.
“Did I say he hadn’t much brain? I traduced him. Do you think you could manage something similar?”

I had to look up TRADUCED, which means thoroughly insulted and offended. If you’re a lover of words, too, here’s a snippet from Merriam-Webster re: insults + my own examples:

TRADUCE: to expose to shame or blame by means of falsehood and misrepresentation. It’s one of several synonyms that mean “to injure by speaking ill of.” Choose traduce when you want to stress the deep personal humiliation, disgrace, and distress felt by the victim.

For statements that aren’t outright lies, MALIGN suggests specific and often subtle misrepresentation but may not always imply deliberate lying.
Like, “Guess what? John was on time for work this morning.”

ASPERSE implies continued attack on a reputation often by indirect or insinuated detraction.
“On time? John? That’s amazing!”

If you need to say that certain statements represent an attempt to destroy a reputation by open and direct abuse, VILIFY is the word you want.
“As long as he’s worked here, John’s been at least ten minutes late every morning.”

To make it clear that the speaker is malicious and the statements made are false, CALUMNIATE, though rarely heard these days, is a good option.
“The manager shook his head. Once in awhile John was late – but so were these others who were calumniating (or slandering) him.”

SLANDER stresses the suffering of the victim. It’s a false charge or misrepresentation which defames and damages another’s reputation.