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.
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.