by Langston Hughes
Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.
Wilson Park, Fayetteville, Arkansas – April 2014
I turn to poetry when something hurts or feels weird, or when the world seems a bit tilted. It cuts it all down to the essentials…to the images, the metaphors, and the abstract thought condensed in a single verb and noun relationship. Poetry employs juxtapositions, which is a powerful technique. Playwriting should do the same with dialogue. It distills the complicated moment, the essentials of the characters, and the metaphysics that take place around it. Don’t worry, this is not an English paper. There is no time for that around here. This is an introduction to a contemporary poem by Poet laureate Ted Kooser. I turned to this poem last night.
I feel a great loss for the families in central Arkansas that lost their lives, their family members, their homes, their heirlooms, photographs – it hurts. This poem struck me in that place of great pain and loss. It was a place if empathy and compassion that I could barely stomach. That’s what I needed. I tossed it away “with great force”, as Dorothy Parker would say. It made me angry and I had to read it again. I battled with this poem all night. It pretty much describes the essence of how poetry is timeless and necessary in our cultural history when dealing with loss. I have not done a critical analysis of the poem, therefore it may not be about a particular storm, or a storm at all. It actually seems more like a story of a family losing their farm for monetary reasons. But for me it captured that loss juxtaposed with a sigh of relief I felt when I heard about the damage that the tornado on April 27, 2014 caused in central Arkansas. I felt a loss in that it is my own state, because I am a wife and parent, a family member, a friend, a homeowner, and all of the above. There is a story in every piece of rubble that remains from whatever storm may come through our lives.
BY TED KOOSER
He was a big man, says the size of his shoes
on a pile of broken dishes by the house;
a tall man too, says the length of the bed
in an upstairs room; and a good, God-fearing man,
says the Bible with a broken back
on the floor below the window, dusty with sun;
but not a man for farming, say the fields
cluttered with boulders and the leaky barn.
A woman lived with him, says the bedroom wall
papered with lilacs and the kitchen shelves
covered with oilcloth, and they had a child,
says the sandbox made from a tractor tire.
Money was scarce, say the jars of plum preserves
and canned tomatoes sealed in the cellar hole.
And the winters cold, say the rags in the window frames.
It was lonely here, says the narrow country road.
Something went wrong, says the empty house
in the weed-choked yard. Stones in the fields
say he was not a farmer; the still-sealed jars
in the cellar say she left in a nervous haste.
And the child? Its toys are strewn in the yard
like branches after a storm–a rubber cow,
a rusty tractor with a broken plow,
a doll in overalls. Something went wrong, they say.
I love nursery rhymes. I read them often to my children and they are pretty easy for them to memorize and most students learn them as early as Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten. We all know them. For this week, I am reworking some nursery rhymes to speak to the mothers (or any parent’s) heart. Below are some links that I am using to revisit old favorites. In the meantime, I will also be sharing the original nursery rhymes with my children and exploring ways to work with them and learn from them. So stay tuned and enjoy!
Nursery Rhyme General Information and Lists:
Nursery Rhyme Structure:
Authors and actors and artists and such
Never know nothing, and never know much.
Sculptors and singers and those of their kidney
Tell their affairs from Seattle to Sydney.
Playwrights and poets and such horses’ necks
Start off from anywhere, end up at sex.
Diarists, critics, and similar roe
Never say nothing, and never say no.
People Who Do Things exceed my endurance;
God, for a man that solicits insurance!
I jotted down the first thing that I heard as I flipped. I found it quite poetic:
Can you please tell her not to slap me?
Everyone thinks I was killed by the dragon that destroyed half of Baltimore, but once I was inside him, I stunned his belly and made him explode!
You’re going to chop my head off?
Hold on a minute! Is that really a little old lady? Do little old ladies have big, furry arms?
She suggested that instead of bobbing for eyeballs, we use apples. And I’ve gotta say apples just aren’t as sweet.
You, yum ,yum, yum, yum! Delicioso!
Now the information will be absorbed by my body! And in three hours it will leave to make room for more information.
You want a piece of me?
I’m sorry if you read ahead, but I have to teach to the lowest common denominator.
Then I guess I’ll just find a nerd and take his underpants.
Blah. Blah. Blah. That’s how daddies talk.
You know you really wear me out.
The real way to learn anything is to go out and experience it and let your curiousity lead you.
Quote for the day: “Everybody experiences far more than he understands. Yet it is experience, rather than understanding, that influences behavior.” – Marshall McLuhan.