National Poetry Month

poetry month

My uneven experiences with poetry started with Mother Goose.

I admired the little girl who had a little curl; and when she was bad, she was horrid. But I questioned Little Jack Horner’s IQ: with an entire Christmas pie to himself, he ate only the plum?

Then, during a lesson on rhyme, my fourth-grade teacher at Lake Shore Elementary had us write a couplet using the word day at the end of the first line. Inspiration struck:

The sun was shining bright that day
To cheer the birth of Janet Bray

When I read it aloud, my classmates giggled, and I decided to become a famous poet.

I abandoned my career plans in 5th grade, however, when Mr. Ralphs corrected me for saying “poyme.” He told me to repeat his pronunciation, “pome” three times, and then had the entire class chant it three more.

In high school, my exacting English teacher, Mrs. Cornaby, wondered why her students from Lake Shore said “pome” when the word was correctly pronounced “po-em.” “Is there something in Lake Shore’s water?” she wondered with a smile.

A few days later, when I answered a question in class and said “po-em,” she winked at me, and I returned to poetry.

College brought weighty discussions about the symbolism, significance, imagery and universal meaning of assigned poems. Students volunteered ideas until someone said what the teacher wanted to hear. The chosen idea was then expanded on in a lengthy lecture, and the students stopped thinking.

I gave up on poetry again, until my junior year when my roommate, a literature major, rescued me with the poetry of E.E. Cummings. His unique phrases danced with musicality and fascinated me:

“Anyone lived in a pretty how town
and up so floating many bells down.”

I continued to read poetry on my own, but never tried to write it. Then, four years ago, I started meeting with a group of poets whose work made me laugh, reflect, and feel. These good people gave me the motivation to write poems of my own and the courage to share them.

So, in honor of National Poetry Month and my poetry group, I’ve chosen to conclude with one of my efforts. Don’t bother looking for symbolism or universality. To do so would waste your time.

Dismissal

On a sun-dominated day
we hiked in cadenced silence
above a long-nosed jump where
in a ski-town’s season
winter-bright birds swoop then
soar in flashes of neon plumage.

A squared-off snout
led two cautious eyes and attentive
ears through the undergrowth
ahead then peered both ways along the
path like a parent-programmed child.

In the absence of heavy traffic,
the bear’s considered judgment
discarded us as distant-harmless
and launched its shaggy bulk
into a bowlegged shamble
up the path where we held breath.

Before the source of our
amazement popped away
into the far-side cover
of inter-woven brush and tree
the creature sent its disregards
by mooning us for thirty yards.

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59 thoughts on “National Poetry Month

  1. Haha – I love the ending of your poem (and the rest of it).
    Your pronunciation of ‘poem’ remind me of how puzzled I was for many years of the word ‘hyperbole’ that my dad finally told me was actually not pronounced ‘hyper bowl’!
    As for the analysis of poetry causing someone to go off poetry…. yep. I’m sure no poet writes a poem to have it taken apart.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Val. Aren’t we glad we had older folks who cared enough to correct our mispronunciations. I found when I asked my students two things — What did you like about this poem, and what do you think the poet wanted to tell you — they often discovered alliteration, similes, symbols, and universal truths on their own. But not always!

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  2. You bring a smile to my face every post you publish, Janet. I love your mixed relationship with Poetry and your incredible talent for painting a emotional, distinct picture of characters in your life with only a few beautifully chosen words and some perfect dialogue. One of my fondest memories of blogging thus far is cheering each other along through our Poetry 101, 10 days of creative challenge…you brilliantly rose to each day. I love the final thought of this poem, so funny and so worth the read.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was thinking about the poetry challenge you urged me to enter when I wrote this post, Carrie. It helped urge me further into poetry. I always appreciate hearing that my words and stories make you smile.

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  3. “Students volunteered ideas until someone said what the teacher wanted to hear.” Sadly, this was my experience with many of my English teachers. I remember analyzing a poem in a college English class and being told I was entirely wrong. In front of the class! Did I attempt analysis again? Nope. While I did continue to write little ditties, I hardly call them poetry.
    Your example of the differing pronunciations of “poem” was apt. For me it is still the Oxford comma and two spaces after the period. I think it depends upon when and where they went to school. Math isn’t like that, is it? Didn’t 2+2 equal 4 even if you went to Lake Shore Elementary? Sometimes a student’s only real choice is to figure out early what this particular teacher’s pet peeves are and adopt them for the duration.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I vowed I would never be like the English teachers you and I had in college, Lorie, and I admit that sometimes I failed to keep that vow. But usually I realized what I had done and straightened up my act the next day. I, too have entertained the thoughts about math and English and pet peeves you shared. I often thought I received good grades, not because of my diligence and intelligence, but because I could figure out what the teacher wanted.

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  4. I used the word “Astonished” in my first poem, about a snowman, at age 6, after a rollicking from one armed, dog-eared Mrs Ogilvie for being a grub, she gave me my first and only gold star. Ma kept the paper, to drag out every time it was recommended I be tested. Love your pome Janet, drama, pathos, astonishment, humor, nature, all a body needs. Thank you.

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    • You’re worth a gold star every day, Sheila. And I’m astonished that you used astonished in a poem at age 6. Is there a chance you could share the entire poem with me? And did your mom ward off all testing by wielding it? I hope so. Thanks for your kind words about my poym. That’s all a poet needs.

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      • We wheeled the snowman down the hill, we rolled him threw the kitchen door. The mother was astonished- to see him melted on the floor…My poem, from age 6, Mrs Ogilvies “Special Class”. Odd now my use of “The” mother. Ma did not respond when teachers called me aloof, she enjoyed the quiet. Indeed, a poet needs little but kindness, and you have my support in shovels.

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      • What a great poem from a six-year-old-head. But, of course, it was your head, so that accounts for it’s cleverness and use of astonished. Sadly, I think the school system didn’t understand what kind of special you were, Sheila. The bit about the mother is so funny. I think my mom might have responded the same way. Also, I’m going to quote your line, “Indeed, a poet needs little but kindness,” to my poetry group. I know they’ll agree.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Wonderful thoughts on poetry Janet! I like writing Haiku’s myself. We were introduced to the form in 6th grade and I seem to have a knack for it, or just a short poem as well. Could it be because I come from a long line of newspaper editors?

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    • I’m glad you enjoyed the post, Janice, and I admire you for having a knack for haiku, a form I struggle with, perhaps because it’s too short for my need to tell a story. I didn’t know you come from a long line of editors. We need to talk about that sometime.

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  6. Okay, so you made me laugh. I like you poyme, pome, po-em.
    In college, I discovered Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s book of poetry, “A Coney Island of the Mind” , and it is STILL a favorite of mine

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  7. I once heard Bill Moyers pronounce poem as “poyme” on public television and I’ve been wondering how to pronounce it ever since!
    Janet, you’re an excellent poet as evidenced by those two weeks of poems you wrote for an online class a year ago or so.

    I really enjoyed this poem about the bear encounter. Were you hiking Howelsen(sp?) Hill in Steamboat?

    Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks for confirming the spelling of Howelsen Hill. I was afraid that if I googled it while commenting on your post, my comment would disappear!
        Speaking of commenting, I put a new post on my blog yesterday and changed a couple of the comments settings. I don’t know if these changes will enable you to comment. I hope so.
        (There are way too many “comments” in this comment!

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      • I’ll never think you leave too many comments, Rita. Later today or tomorrow I’ll read your new post and see if I can successfully leave a comment. I’m sure the problem is mine.

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  8. Once again you enchant and amuse. No bears down under, so there was an element of surprise for me when the owner of the squared-off snout was revealed. For us the encounter would most probably be a snake.
    Having spent my career in health, I returned to university I my fifties to study arts. One semester of English literature was enough- I didn’t want my reading of poetry or novels to be spoiled by the need to analyse.

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  9. Hi Aunt Beulah

    I always thought poems were supposed to rhyme
    but then that is of course just a rhyme that rhymes
    I am certainly not a poet and I categorically know it
    I have tried to write poems dozens of times

    So since the month of April is poetry month
    I thought I would give it another crack
    Although this reads like more of a ditty
    Perhaps if you sing it, it will sound rather pretty

    So there you have it, my pretty ditty rhyme
    It is clearly obvious a poet I’m not
    Sometimes these things just need more time
    Throw me some slack, and I’ll tell you what
    Before ya know it, I will be a POET

    Aunt Beulah, I couldn’t leave April behind and not write a POME
    So please forgive my effort, you and your poetry group will be mortified, but I felt I needed to get into the spirit.
    You took me on an amazing adventure with your POEM, then the mooning bear simply takes the cake, a very funny, unexpected end to my adventure, I laughed my head off!!!!
    I love everything your write,
    You give everything life and meaning, musicality and fascination just like E.E Cummings, and humour is always in there somewhere which is such fun.
    Here’s to poetry month
    Big electronic hugs Aunt Beulah from
    Annie in Australia 🌞 🌴 🌊

    Liked by 2 people

    • i love your ditty, Annie. If you lived nearby, we’d walk to poetry group together and sip a cuppa as we praised the poems of the others and particularly those of one another. Thank you for liking my writing. Comments like yours keep me at it, even on days when I think I don’t have much to say. Electronic hugs in return, my dear.

      Liked by 1 person

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