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Archive for April, 2011

Path InterruptedApril is National Poetry Month. At the beginning of this month I set out to read at least one poem a day. I scoured my shelves for poetry books, and found that I had apparently given most of them away during one or more of my “purging” sessions. I’m sure the library book sale people were happy, and I hope these books found good homes, but I was somewhat regretting giving away a volume of poetry that I bought back when I was in grade school. I was looking forward to re-reading at least some of the poetry in it. Oh well.

The one volume of poetry I did find was The New Pocket Anthology of American Verse from Colonial Days to the Present, edited by Oscar Williams. Copyright 1965 by Washington Square Press. My aunt gave me this book years ago. It used to be her son’s book back when he was in school. He left it in his old room after he moved out and got married. My aunt knew I liked books so she said I could have it. I took it, and it has sat on my bookshelf, unread, for nearly 20 years and 5 moves. Now, if it has sat so long without being read why didn’t I give this one away, you ask? Well, I think it’s because I thought that I “ought” to keep it. It’s one of those books that, at least on some level, subconscious if you will, that I feel “should” be on my bookshelf if I am to be called an educated person. “But if you’ve never read it…”, you say. I know. It’s something I struggle with and one day I’m hoping to get to the point where the only books on my bookshelf are books that I intend to re-read or books that have meant a great deal to me. In the meantime I struggle with this irrational thinking.

But, for this month, I intended to at least read some poetry from this volume. My initial intent was to read a poem a day. That didn’t last for long. Some days I wouldn’t read any (sometimes out of laziness, sometimes because I had other things to do), sometimes I would read three or four or five poems. I tried to not just read poetry by people I’d heard of before, but I wanted to branch out and read poems from poets I have never heard of before. After all, I had not heard of Mary Oliver before I read her poem “The Journey,” in 2001. And, that is one of the most powerful and meaningful poems to me still to this day. So, one never knows….

Unfortunately, in this volume of poetry, reading many of the poems by poets unknown to me just left me with a feeling of “Huh?” None of the new (to me) poets’ poetry spoke to me at all. However, these poems did speak to me:

To My Dear and Loving Husband,” by Anne Bradstreet. Self-explanatory.

The Road Not Taken,” by Robert Frost. There was one day in the month of April when it was 84 degrees. My husband and I went to a park with a blanket and a book. There was a lone, shady, untaken spot at the base of a fork in a hiking trail. This spot reminded me of “The Road Not Taken.”

The Mending Wall,” by Robert Frost. I’m of the mind “Good fences make good neighbors.” Recently I moved into a subdivision where the subject of fences has been quite contentious for years between residents and the Homeowners Association Board. In the April meeting, the Board voted to not allow any new fences. I guess I’ll have to live without a fence…* But, I’m already thinking about what sort of living fences will look nice around our property. We are still allowed hedges and bushes, with Board approval.

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*Picture taken April 23, 2011 by Joyce P. Simkin. Path leading from the side yard of my house to the backyard, interrupted by a low fence. Yes, that’s a fence around my yard. The previous owners had a dog. This was to keep the dog in the yard. Despite my “good fences make good neighbors” philosophy coupled with the “no new fences” rule imposed by the Board, my husband and I still intend on removing this fence. We both agree that removal will be an improvement overall.

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April is National Poetry Month. How will you celebrate?

Maybe some of you will go the high-tech route. Yes, there’s an app for that. Maybe some of you will go the low-tech route. Visit the library, a favorite book store. The Curious Book Shop is a local favorite here. Maybe some of you will want to celebrate with others. Find a poetry event near you on poets.org. Maybe some of you will not venture so far. Open up an old, dusty, long-forgotten volume of poetry that’s been sitting on your bookshelf for years. Scribble a beloved poem on a piece of paper and stick it in your pocket, ready to share with a loved one, coworker, or friend.

Poem in Your Pocket Day is April 14th!

Then others, the creative type, may just write a poem or two this month. (But, don’t think that you have to be the “creative type” to do just that.)

I think that I will go the low-tech route and find some poems upon my shelf,
but I will also try to find the time to write some poetry myself:

A Lesson Learned

The ice has melted,
the warmth has come,
the river flows once more.
The geese along the shore
say “Welcome Spring!”
“But, ’tis March,” I say,
“The warmth will not endure.”

A goose honks back: “I know!
Each year papa says ‘It’s time!’
and each year I say ‘No.
Don’t you remember last year,
when our feet froze in the snow?'”

“‘This year will be different,’ he says,
and this year it is so.
For now the warmth is here,
but…”

“The cold will come,
the flurries too,
and the river flow
will stop once more.
Some more suffering we must endure
before the Springtime warmth is here.”

“Then this year papa will say ‘It’s time!’
and I will say ‘Yes it is!’
Time to find my true love
and start a family all my own!”

“Next year I will be the papa.
The papa that says ‘It’s time!’
But I will wait until April or May
when Spring is warm,
and flowers bloom,
and the river flows unceasing!”

I smile at the goose.
He smiles at me.
Then suddently he cocks his head
and thinks most seriously.

“No,” he says, “I won’t do such.”
“I must say ‘It is time’ in March
just as my papa does.”

“Without the cold,
the flurries too,
without the river flow ceasing,
I would not appreciate
the warmth, the beauty,
the river flowing deeply.”

“And as a papa, I must teach
my little ones the same:
The warmth is warmer,
the beauty more,
after one has suffered pain.”

Creative Commons License
A Lesson Learned by Joyce P. Simkin is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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… I wondered if I should go to confession the next day….

It was back to Hannah Community Center for me and my husband on April 1st. This time it wasn’t for a Community Sing, although the “community” did do some singing. It was for a folk concert. The singers/songwriters/musicians this night were Archie Fisher and Garnet Rogers. We found out about this concert at the Community Sing back in February. The emcee for the night announced that unlike most folk concerts put on by Ten Pound Fiddle, this one would be at the Hannah Community Center because there was an overflow crowd last time they played at their other venue at the Unitarian Universalist Church nearby. Figuring we shouldn’t pass up a chance to hear some obviously fabulous singers. Fabulous singers who also sing Scottish folk songs (my husband, Dan, is part Scottish), Dan whispered to me “we should go!” I agreed, though I’m not a big fan of Scottish folk songs. But, I dragged my husband to many a Polka Mass and he keeps reminding me of his bad experience at the Orchard Lake St. Mary’s Polish Country Fair a few years back. I was having a wonderful time listening to Big Daddy. If I had a partner, I would’ve been on the dance floor polka-ing (my husband does not dance!) He kept complaining how loud it was. Alas, we eventually left before Big Daddy’s set was over… So, basically, I owed him. That was my attitude going into this night.

By the end of the night, however, I was glad that I went. These two artists are “earthy,” as Dan likes to say. I’ll just call their humor “raw.” Hence the thought: “should I go to confession after exposing myself to such language?” Dan assures me that Joel Mabus is much more “earthy,” but I don’t think so. (I’m a fan of Mr. Mabus and have enjoyed his concerts immensely!) Perhaps, “earthy” in a different way. I’ll concede that. Despite the “earthiness” this night, I laughed so hard! Haven’t laughed quite so much in a long time! It was wonderful to laugh like that!

So, if I’m laughing and having a good time, why did I also cry, you ask? It wasn’t so much out of sadness, as it was out of sentimentality. Many of the songs sung were just so beautiful and romantic. Garnet Rogers sung a song called “Small Victory” that made me tear up. Perhaps it’s a song that any animal lover would get tears in their eyes over. Here are the lyrics, but truly it’s best to hear the song sung. Alas, I could not find a YouTube video suitable.

Small Victory
(Garnet Rogers)

You’ve no business buying a mare like that
But buy her if you must
He bit the end off his cigar
And spat it in the dust
She’s old, she’s lame and barren too
She’s not worth feeding hay
But I’ll give her this, he blew smoke at me,
She was something in her day.

I recall her well 10 years ago
She was a winner in her prime
She was fast and lean and willing
But they raced her past her time
And though she had the heart
Her legs were gone
It wasn’t hard to see
But they kept her at it in the hopes
Of one more small victory

She was shunted round from track to track
From Kentucky up to Maine
They’d run her in cheap claimers
All doped up to mask her pain
And if its my advice you want I’d say
The poor things had her day
You’d be thowing good cash after bad
Its best, he turned away

Oh they led her round the auction shed
And bidding started low
She’ll go for dogfood someone said
The markets been that slow
But she raised her head and pricked her ears
And before the hammer fell
She’s was mine
My friend turned round to me
You’re softheaded I can tell

But she’d been shoved from pillar to post said I
And always done her best
They used her up they rung her dry
You’d think she earned her rest
So if she does not bode out her day
Beneath some shady tree
I’ll have saved her from the knacker’s yard
And that’s enough for me

Oh that was near two years ago
She’s filled out some since then
And more so since she’s been in foal
She eats enough for ten
And this morn as I crept to the barn
Around ’bout half past three
There stood nursing on still trembling legs
One more “small victory”.

Tearing up yet?

Then there was this song, sung by Archie Fisher. He had the audience get involved by singing the refrain. As far as I’m concerned, this was the most beautiful song sung that night.

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