Saturday, June 5, 2010

Ramblings on Poetry

"Poetry is the coonnection to that time before time…It makes us remember what we were supposed to be. It makes us look at what we have become. The job of the poetry is akin to that of the shaman, to go out and bring back truth. To look ourselves in the face is the hardest thing."
Doris Seale in The Broken Flute

  Julie and Bob in North Carolina. She is one of my former walking pals. Miss her! But doesn't this lifestyle look like fodder for a good poem?                                                                                   

I took got up very early this morning so I could water all the flowers and tomatoes before the heat developed. Then I met my friend Bonnie at the Y track for a walk that was plenty warm enough already in the full sun. A quick trip to the farmer’s market and then home to relish my shady deck. There was enough breeze to keep it cool for a few more hours. I have to make a choice in weather like this. I can walk, bike, enjoy the deck, write, clean house, mow, or maybe bake. I can’t do it all though in the few hours before the Missouri inferno cranks up. This morning I chose to walk, ignore the grass, and let my mind wander over words and lines as I sipped cinnamon orange tea. The beauty of the morning was poetry itself.

When I was in school poetry was hard for me. The teachers all wanted students to count the beats, feel the rhythms. I never could count what it was supposed to be because I always “heard my own drummer”. Then I hated free verse because I never knew what they were talking about in the poems. At least with rhyming lines you could tell where the lines were “supposed” to end!

Now free verse seems to be the more popular form of poetry, and with age, I find I like it better. However, I will admit that there are still some works I read and gain nothing from because I am lost to what the poet is thinking. I can not see what he wants me to see. I have favorite modern poets like Ted Kooser, Mary Oliver, and Jane Kenyon.

I check Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac often at . Each day he posts a poem by a well-known or lesser known poet and adds commentary about birthdays and events concerning other writers. Keillor usually chooses poems so down to earth that you feel the poet is talking directly to you as in these lines from his choice for next Monday from David Ignatow’s poem “The Death of a Lawn Mower”.

It died in its sleep,

dreaming of grass,
its knives silent and still,
dreaming too, its handlebars
a stern, abbreviated cross tall weeds. …

You can listen to Keillor read the poems at this site as well, and it is always a joy to hear his readings.

I also have a Poem-A-Day delivered to my mailbox from I will confess to not enjoying some of their choices this spring. They seem too wild, too scattered for my tastes. However, there are still those ones that pop up every now and then to touch or move me reminding me why I subscribe.

I have been reading a lot of the new literary journals for poetry this spring. The River Styx , published in St. Louis for 35 years, is a quality publication. Their poetry contest just closed at the end of May with Maxine Kumin judging this year. It is a colorful and glossy publication that includes fiction along with poetry. For contests and submission info go to

Another favorite publication, new to me, is Poetry East. I have the Fall 2009 issue which is titled “Seasons”. I find myself carrying this magazine around with me for those moments I find myself waiting somewhere. Rather than let a minute go to waste, I turn to one of the lovely poems found here. Sponsored by DePaul University, the magazine has an open submission policy. For more information go to

Last year during Poetry Month, the then Poet Laureate of Kansas Denise Low ran a contest for poems relating to Kansas. She changed the topic every few days, and I entered  a poem in the topic Kansas towns. Denise made me a happy poet when she chose my poem to post on her blog. ( I reprint my poem here.


Eons ago, the earth here rumbled with the hooves of Black Dog’s tribe.
Later streets of a town thumped with wagon wheels,
Followed by pavement with humming tires on Main Street.
Now, the terrain calms again, sinking back,
As Kansas elements begin to reclaim its own once more.
The muddy Neosho meanders south of town
Like a dirty ribbon in an old woman’s hair,
But the bridge over it rusts, paint faded away.

The creamery sits silent, windows covered like a boxer’s swollen eyes,
And all the busy grocery stores have ceased to be.
Bank, video store, a lawyer’s office, and tavern
Still open doors for business with remaining neighbors.
Brick and metal churches yet dot the town like pats of butter
Dropped in a steaming vegetable dish.

The courthouse, once hectic, continues to transact
Tags and taxes, and stores the county history.
On the courthouse lawn, a cast iron kettle stands waiting
For summer, when fat back and beans cooking
Will draw folks back into town for a reunion.
Until then, I know what Dorothy learned at Oz,
That Kansas is home, where I belong.

Speaking of things Kansas, don’t forget the Solomon Valley Alliance Writing Contest where poetry is a category along with fiction, non-fiction, and essays. The contest does not close until November. No prize money but no entry fee either! For guidelines go to

Now that I am inside in the cool, I think a poem and maybe even a nap are in order!

1 comment:

Linda O'Connell said...

Claudia, no wonder your poem was chosen. It flows ... smooth and slow like two old timers swapping memories on the town square. Love it!