I just discovered NaPoWriMo – a blog challenging poets to sign up, write and post a blog a day for the duration of National Poetry Month. Maureen Thorson began the project in 2003, inviting other blogs to join and listing the participants on her website. The list of poets grows longer every year – this year she hopes to break a thousand. I love it. Think of all the poems that wouldn’t have been written. There will be some great ones among them – some may even make the lit books and show up in classrooms a hundred years from now! Look at the immortality of Casey at the Bat, Trees, or Daniel Boone.
You, think I’m making fun. I am – a little bit. Nevertheless, such poems were my introduction to poetry – not so much to the form, but to its impact. Their rhythm (they mostly rhymed) seduced my body, vivid storytelling engaged my mind, lush description captured my emotions, and the succinct tight packaging appealed to my character (hasty pragmatist among other qualities). I was hooked.
For instance, Daniel Boone (actually the sub-title of Sing the Pioneer by Arthur Guiterman. ) ends with a killer refrain:
East of the Sun and west of the Moon,
“Elbowroom!” laughs Daniel Boone.
I could just see that big burly man straddling a canoe with his head thrown back laughing, teeth flashing in the moonlight while stars wheeled over head. ” East of the Sun west of the Moon” – fabled directions to a mythical land like unto the Garden of the Hesperides where grow the golden apples of the Sun or Neverland that finds its bearings in the stars. I read a lot of fairy tales as a child, enough to catch the resonance cross-reference, association and back-story bring to a tale.
The poems may have rhymed somewhat hackneyed (to our eyes) sentiments, but the rhymes scanned beautifully – teaching meter without a word of pedagogy. Final lines packed a punch – or offered a clever twist. Sight, sound, taste, smell, touch – all covered with the smack of ball into leather, squishy mud, sweet flowing breasts, sunsets, smoke, or sickly silence … The poems showed me all that poetry could carry: history, theology, nature, story, joy, love, loss, tenderness, despair.
Decades later, I’m crafting my own poems, still in love with language, nuance and connection. Nevertheless, I need an occasional kick in the butt to get the (metaphorical) ink flowing. So thank you Maureen for challenging me with opportunity and incentive. I accept. And forgive me, followers of prose. This month I’m joining J.R.R. Tolkien on a road less traveled because:
- Still round the corner there may wait
- A new road or a secret gate,
- And though I oft have passed them by,
- A day will come at last when I
- Shall take the hidden paths that run
- West of the Moon, East of the Sun.