Emily’s Day

IMG_0756It’s her day. Dec. 10, 1830, she came
Into the world and lived in its hands
The way she wanted to live and died
In its hands the way she wanted to die.

What she did not want is for us to see
Her witchery with words, but in the end,
The poetry breathed stronger than that wish
And we breathe stronger for her words.

In November, I got to visit the Emily Dickinson Museum and Homestead. I had a wonderful tour guide and met the museum director Jane Wald and spent an entire day in poetic euphoria. Please go visit this museum and/or support its work in any way that you can. It is truly a wonderful, personal, and lyric experience. Like ROMP, it is a museum, but not a cold, institutional-like environment in any way.

I also got lost a while in Amherst Books and visited the cemetery where she is buried and where a wonderful town memorial has her as a centerpiece.

[NOTE: I saw the word error in the sentence below but decided to keep it.]

Since following in love with E.D. when I was a teenager reading

I’m Nobody! Who are you?

Are you – Nobody – too?

Then there’s a pair of us–Don’t tell!

They’d banish us – you know!

she has been in and out of my life. I did not understand her poetry for a long time, still don’t understand a lot of it, but that doesn’t bother me anymore. I have developed a taste for the image, for the economy of words, for the beauty of the stroke of syllable that teases and leaves unsaid what lives inside.

Happy Birthday, Emily. We continue to weave your web.

–Shaun Perkins

Some of my photos from the day are below:

 

IMG_0755

Dickinson grave plot

IMG_0763

Portion of the mural at the cemetery where E.D. is buried.

IMG_0744

Front door at E.D. museum

 

IMG_0739

Back of the E.D. house

IMG_0721

There is a basement full of used books in this place!

IMG_0726

Home of Austin Dickinson, Emily’s brother. It was also on the tour. It is full of the original furnishings and has not been restored–peeling wallpaper and all kinds of ambiance. Unique.

IMG_0736

At a strip mall across the street from the museum

IMG_0737.JPG

IMG_0735

This shop is across the street from the E.D. house.

IMG_0753

That corner room on the 2nd floor is where magic happened.

IMG_0742

Lovely tree in the E.D. yard to the east.

IMG_0743

IMG_0752

Parking sign

IMG_0750IMG_0765IMG_0760

 

IMG_0747

A tour participant took this photo of me with E.D. house in background.

Accessory

printsbeginning2I wrote a poem on a piece of a grocery sack today. A few months ago I bought the above two pieces of artwork, or as they are called on the back “wall accessories” at a thrift store. They are both prints from 1972 that are titled “We Are Engaged.” I altered one of them and am waiting on inspiration to do the other.

I like the idea of a wall accessory. I suppose a rug is a floor accessory. Is a porch a house accessory? A hanging plant an air accessory? An ice box magnet a refrigerator accessory.

Apparently, I just like the word “accessory.”

–Shaun Perkinsbeginning to learnbeginning4

Place

Blanco-R-Photo-High-Res-HEADSHOT-20131Home. Place. Belonging. These are the three words poet Richard Blanco repeated during his June 11th talk in Lousiville at the Convention Center. Blanco, President Obama’s inaugaural poet who penned the very popular “One Today,” described how he became a poet, how he . . . became. He did not start out as a poet, and, in fact, still works as a civil engineer, the career he trained for. But civil engineering report-writing took him to poetry and poetry took him . . . back to home.

Blanco asked, “What is home to you?” This question has propelled his writing life. Memories of his mother, grandmother, father, and brother, filled with grainy Polaroids from the 70’s, highlighted the talk, interspersed with Blanco’s characteristically sensory-rich poetry of object, place, family and harmony.

He joked about one photo featuring a vinyl green couch which he said was an “Ode to My Plastic-Covered Sofa” and described his grandmother in loving, ornery detail as a woman who shunned the Winn Dixie as being elitist and who was good at backward compliments, such as, “I love what you did with your hair . . . finally.”

He read his poem “Mother Country,” which ends with the beautiful lines in his own mother’s voice:

” . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. You know, mijo,
it isn’t where you’re born that matters, it’s where
you choose to die–that’s your country.”

I had just read Blanco’s memoir of being chosen as the inaugural poet–the process and the poems that came from it–For All of Us, One Today (which I highly recommend for anyone interested at all in the power and the call of poetry)–before the event, and ideas of poetry’s place in our world were uppermost in my mind. It is the reason I started the Rural Okalhoma Museum of Poetry (ROMP), after all—to keep expanding that place in the lives of people from all walks of life.

Near the end of the memoir, Blanco said that he makes a “conscious commitment to keep connecting America with poetry and reshape how we think about it.” During the Q&A, I got to ask him about how he is doing that. He responded that one way was talking to the audience he had right then: A roomful of teachers, all of us in the city to grade AP exams for a week.

Children, we can hope, are first exposed to poetry at home–through riddles and rhymes, wordplay and narrative poems, songs and nonsense poems. Children are poets. And then . . . something happens. The reading and writing of poetry gets lost in the way that so many schools compose their curriculum, divorcing this essential journey with words from its natural place–which is in every aspect of our lives.

ROMP exists to remind people of all ages that poetry is essential to their lives. IT IS ESSENTIAL. It is still the best form of communication for reminding us of our common humanity and our need for home, for place, for belonging.

Thank you, Mr. Blanco.

–Shaun Perkins

Benches!

DSC05510ROMP recently received a grant for outdoor benches. The benches will replace all the mismatched and falling-apart chairs that I have used since we opened. They will be great for our poetry and storytelling events around the fire and also when we have guest speakers and other outdoor events.DSC05511

They are currently just lined up near the museum entrance, but they will be easy to move and arrange however they are needed. Next event is May 30: ROMP Wildflower Day. Come take a wildflower walk in the pasture, read some wildflower poems, write your own, and have a seat on a new bench in the beautiful natural surroundings.DSC05512

Also, be sure to come out on July 10, when ROMP will host Oklahoma’s newest poet laureate Ben Myers for an afternoon on The Possibilities of Poetry.

The grant was from the Northeast Oklahoma Electric Cooperative. Thank you NEOC!

April 4 Birthday: Maya Angelou

maya-angelou

Phenomenal Woman

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.

I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size

But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman

Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
‘Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

–Maya Angelou

NOTE: In honor of National Poetry Month, each day a person’s birthday will be celebrated with a poem about or by him/her. The poems come from all over the place.

Here’s Your Poem

recorderPOEM LIFE premieres this Saturday night, March 21, at the VFW in Locust Grove. Here is another post about something you will experience in the show–the chance to have a personalized poem composed on the spot and taken home with you. If you follow ROMP or know the activities I get up to, you already know what poem-in-a-minute is about. You give me 3 words you like or want to see in a poem, and I type up a poem on the spot with those 3 words somewhere in it.

Instead of typing poems during the show, I will have a segment where I cassette-record 2-3 poems for people. Yes, I have moved up in the technology world–from manual typewriter to cassette recorder. It will be quicker to compose the poem and say it straight into a recorder, rather than to type it–though I’m a quick typer . . typist.

Over the years, as a poet, I have discovered my true calling not in the typical poetic endeavors of publishing poems, teaching them and holding poetry readings (all heroic endeavors) but in creating experiences of poetry for other people. That’s the strong teacher side in me coming out. My family has a long history of accomplished educators, and though I occasionally throw in the towel with teaching, I always come back to it in some way.

Poem Life and the Rural Oklahoma Museum of Poetry itself have been ways for me to bring together the celebration of poetry with the facilitation of its practice in the lives of everyday people. Poems-in-a-Minute has been one way I’ve extended this philosophy of poetry as experience–having performed at many festivals and venues. Though I no longer strive to have my poetry published (other than on this website), I cannot not be a poet–a wise woman told me that once. I just want to be a poet for other people.

Come to the show, ya’ll!

There will be a $100 door prize drawing and other fun surprises.

–Shaun Perkins