Never Underestimate a Poet

This past Saturday was the 30th annual Poetry Rodeo (or Podeo, as some call it) in Denver. This event traditionally goes for 12 hours and includes a wide variety of readings and workshops. It’s a candy store for poets. The Mercury Cafe, its home, is a tasty venue and I felt comfortable there, and well entertained, nay, more than entertained. I was inspired. Especially by the introduction of one poet’s first book, Dream On, by Darcy Reed. The first book is a milestone for any poet, but hers is significant for us all.

The author’s note from this book reads, in part, Darcy “is a non-speaking person with autism who uses augmentative communication to write and present her poems.” Think, Stephen Hawking. Darcy’s parents and her brother support her on stage, clearly, but the poetry is her own, and it’s fine work indeed. Appropriately, the first poem is “For Stephen Hawking,” in part: “There will be other dramas / in this void. / I will meet you there,/ my friend./I will meet you there.”

I hope that they do meet in the cosmos, and I’m ridiculously happy that technology, scary at it is at times, has made it possible for us to hear Darcy’s deeply felt and well crafted poems. And now we can read them as well. Dream On is published by Blue Heron Publishing.  I suggest you read it.


Pickled Poem



The first poem I remember writing was an ugly little thing, sort of like the bird house a kid makes at day camp, or the drawing a three year old slaps under a magnet on the refrigerator, hoping for greater things to come. The message of that poem was how impossible it would be to resurrect a specimen long stored in a jar of formaldehyde. Well, we all start somewhere, and at least no one was hurt in my experiment.

I remember standing in the kitchen of our house in East Sebago–a small town with no movie theater, no shopping center, no center at all, so what was a girl to do but mess around with words? My mother was at the sink, getting ready to boil the dirty dishes. She had a big aluminum dishpan that she filled with soapy water and left it full of dishes to heat on the wood stove. I suppose that was either a domestic shortcut, a hygiene tactic or disguised procrastination. I never questioned her dishwashing for fear of getting trapped into washing them myself. But I do remember reading her that short, ugly poem. If she paid attention at all her response was as tepid as that dishwater.

Maybe I shocked her, worried her: Oh, shit, this girl’s literary but has no talent. Either she’ll starve or I’ll be feeding her forever. But if she thought that, she didn’t say it out loud. Nor did she rave and display that embarrassing bit of dreck on the refrigerator. Her neutral response was a harbinger of what I still get often: Thanks for sending this. Good luck publishing it elsewhere. And, writing friends, that’s what we get, elsewhere, right? No false praise, no advice to find paid employment. So why, why, why, do we keep scribbling? I can’t answer for you, but I can’t stop. As my friend Cyndeth says, writing is like chocolate; in moderation it soothes, energizes and satisfies. At least writing makes as much sense as boiling the dinner dishes.

Tuesday Tip #2: Don’t Be Afraid of Poetry

Here is a poem from Laura, a new Colorado poet–not new to the state, just new to the art form. She says this poem came to her fully formed, her first ever. And when she told me about it, I could see the confidence she felt in offering it. She knew it was a poem and had the courage to say so. I’m inclined to want more poems from her.

Sleeping In
 The mountains breathing


The weight of their cover
    Not so much.

The beasts in sync.

The weight of the world.

Too much to rise.

I like the clarity, the tension between the title and the body of the poem, the turn at the end. And I especially like the fact that we experience the awareness that the speaker felt. It’s global but not heavy. Let me know your response.