Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green, The night above the dingle starry, Time let me hail and climb Golden in the heydays of his eyes, And honoured among wagons I was prince of the apple towns And once
poems & poets
My son rubs his skin and names it brown,
his expression gleeful as I rub a damp cloth
over his face this morning. Last night,
there were reports that panthers were charging
through the streets. I watched from my seat
in front of the television, a safe vista.
Since when did keeping things to ourselves
help us to better remember them?
We need tutorials from predecessors.
To restore what’s missing makes a science
of equating like with like, or touching
small pebbles on a larger mental abacus.
We hitch a memory of order
The word “gimmick” has derogatory connotations. It often suggests something cheap, tricky, fast, without substance, even immoral. There are intelligent people who attack the use of gimmicks or devices in teaching imaginative writing, on the grounds that such devices encourage kids to be thoughtless smart alecks, witty at the expense of substance, satisfied with a glib surface but insensitive to depth of feeling. Such critics usually emphasize the importance of meaning.
Were there a School of Gimmicks, its members might retort that the Defenders of Meaningfulness tend to be boring creeps who confuse self-expression with value, that the most sincere statement of feeling is no better than any other sincere statement, that what makes the difference in creative expression is style. In other words, concern yourself with style, and everything else will take care of itself.
These are two extreme points of view, of course. They sound like rehashings of the old conflict between
My grandmother Ruth Stone died on a cold day in November on the mountain in Vermont where our family land stretches over acres of tall grass and woods and a lean dirt road that cuts through, utterly unchanged in all the years I’ve been alive. That Arcadian mountain loomed enormous in my childhood, rife with plums and apples growing wild, clusters of fat currants jamming the backyard bushes, and a towering cherry tree that bent right over the old W. B. Stone mailbox and dropped its sour cherries onto the dusty road. I can still feel the gritty pits that seemed so unusual in my mouth and I can still feel Grandma’s hand at the moment of her death many years later, her last big sigh of breath like a great steam engine coming to a stop.
Her house was stuffed with books and papers, rooms of the true artist’s life—ninety-six years, at the time of her death—worth of poems, letters, marked-up books, photographs, piano music, quilts, tin cups, notes in her broad, loopy handwriting,
The focal point of the school, organizationally and mood-wise, is the principal. School principals, I find, may be helpful or not particularly, or may delegate helpfulness, but seldom trouble the poetry program as long as one is on time and seems confident. There’s little, however, the visiting poet can do about the mood of the whole school. One operates class by class, where the teachers are supremely important. The teacher is the bellwether of the class, of its developed attention. When the teacher writes along with the student, or simply listens alertly, this participation catalyzes the whole room.
On a more practical note, the teacher can exert authority, which the visiting poet doesn’t have, when it’s needed for the proper degree of order. For me, quietness is important when poems are being read aloud, and it’s an eternal little battle to bring classes “down” after the hurly-burly of creation. Essentials are learned in each state, the listening state and the composing