I still like paper

I Still Like Paper

I am playing around with a parade of poems that might true up into a collection, one that has pieces for families & their young kiddos.

A poem that may not fit, because it is not silly enough,  but still, I like it,  is  “Thinking Cap.”

Thinking Cap

My aunts and mother loved poetry

They rhymed in time

About bugs

Like Emily’s bees

They recited verse from good to worse

Their performance tickled me

“The Quangle Wangle’s Hat”

by Edward Lear

Was one they held especially dear

They hooted at the way

Critters climbed the hat

And sat

And sat

Now when I feel unfunny

Or if I need some honey

I put on my thinking cap

And feel the memory –

Their performance of

That hat

That hat

– Jan Annino Godown

If you take poetry chapbooks along for travel reading you know they impress older folks, who begin to talk about poetry recitation/elocution/memorization assignments of their Youth. Here are two collections I keep close by on my shelves. And then I pick them up for travel around town or across the states.

Natasha Trethewey  NATIVE GUARD

“…jailors to those who still would have us slaves. They are cautious, dreading the sight of us…”

The biography of Sonia Sotomayer, a photographic history of Florida in the Great Depression & Jimmy Carter’s novel about the American Revolution are among my recent, non-poetry, bedside reads. So maybe it follows that in chapbooks I will migrate to ones that collect real & imagined memories of family & history.

Natasha Trethewey’s NATIVE GUARD marches into my heart with the news that in the Civil War, units formed up beginning in 1862 of black U.S. Army soldiers that would eventually guard Confederate  P.O.W.s  This tinderbox, combined with the author’s own Mississippi heritage of being born to a mixed-race couple at a time when that was illegal, helps form the drumbeat for a stark collection that references Faulkner, the Civil War Diary of Col. Nathan W. Daniels, Nina Simone, Winslow Homer & the murder of this poet’s mother when Natasha Trethewey was only 19. It is not easy to put down, unless it is to stare off  & think long & hard. NATIVE GUARD earned a 2007 Pulitzer Prize. And Trethewey was appointed U.S. Poet Laureate.

Nancy Willard  IN THE SALT MARSH

“My mother’s sisters knew the art

of telling tales, and lies so new

all those who heard them called them true”

Here in North Florida, the Gulf of Mexico coast curves like a dancer’s outstretched arm. A marsh grass shoreline evolves, not good for beach blankets. The rhythms of this Other Coast are described by Jack & Ann Rudloe, Susan Cerulean, Bruce Means & Ellie Whitney, among others.  Their non-fiction about this land dimples my bookshelf with a shallow curve, an echo of the treasured salt grass fringe. IN THE SALT MARSH, poems titled “Deer Skull,” “The Sandbar,” and “The Ladybugs,” could have been inspired from our region.  My favorites, “Houses,” (the fragment above) and “The Way She Left Us,” feel as if the poet is a relative who limned people I loved for these lines. Nancy Willard is from Michigan. She created a 1985 novel set in the 1940s that imagined baseball luminaries in an unusual game,  (before the A Field of Dreams movie arrived, adapted from Shoeless Joe.) Her writing has won the O. Henry Award, the Newbery Award, & the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award. She is a retired Vassar professor.  I found her through  children’s poetry & stories that she is beloved for, and continue to learn from her in her guides to writing (especially TELLING TIME), her adult poems, fiction, & her other magic, line drawings.

If you are still with me, when I came through recent astigmatism & cataract surgery (never better, thanks to a precision surgeon & staff) it was a soft notebook of thirsty, flecked, rag paper & a gaggle of pencils & pens that kept my ideas from racing away, before I could return to the glarish (is that a word? glare + garish) computer screen. So, I Still Like Paper, and think that I always will.

artwork c. Nancy Willard from an autograph on TELLING TIME

artwork c. Nancy Willard
from an autograph on TELLING TIME

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3 thoughts on “I still like paper

  1. Hi Jan, I met you through the SinC map. I am a fellow Floridian author. I indie authored a much less acclaimed book, and currently have a crime fiction novel in the works. The novel is in eversion only and I have the paperback coming out soon, because I, too, am a lover of paper, still. For my birthday my husband bought me a Roget’s 21st Century Thesaurus with print so fine I have to put on dime store readers to read it Ha! Although I was born, raised, and educated in Jimmy Carter country, I currently reside in Orlando and love everything Florida, especially what I refer to as “Old World Florida”. I very much look forward to reading “She Sang Promise”, and am pleased to make your acquaintance.

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    • Thank you, SK. I’m so pleased that you’re going to read about Betty Mae Jumper.
      You might enjoy the area history museums which not everyone gets to – with the other distractions of Orlando. Also if you visit Tampa, the Tampa Bay History Center is a treasure.

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      • Thanks for the tips. I have been to a few art museums and am particularly fond of the Morse Museum. We have a folk history museum here in Orlando, but I will certainly look for the others. I have only seen the Dali in Tampa,/St Pete.

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