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.”
My aunts and mother loved poetry
They rhymed in time
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
Now when I feel unfunny
Or if I need some honey
I put on my thinking cap
And feel the memory –
Their performance of
– 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