Events, Musings, Poems

Handmail

photo2This is the 2nd post about a snippet from my one-woman poetry show POEM LIFE which premieres on Mar. 21.

One segment of the show describes the crime of Receiving Stolen Goods. Part of the segment includes a poem about my cousin. She used to write me long notes and draw mazes for me when we were in junior high. She had a hard life, abandoned by her mother then neglected and worse. She has lived in my psyche all of my life because I regret that I was not kinder to her. She died many years ago in a car accident in Oklahoma City.luannpapers_001

This is one stanza from a long poem about her:

She smelled like urine when she was younger.
They said there was something wrong with her bladder.
She wanted to race me down our grandparents’ hill
and she would always win. She wrapped cheap paper dolls
in purple tissue for me one Christmas. I was embarrassed,
and she gave me things and she was alive.

I still have the 15-page note she wrote me when we were in 7th grade and another shorter one and one that I wrote to her that somehow made it into my grandmother’s things and I got back after she died. In the note, she mentions a Dickinson poem that I told her about and that she wrote out and we taped to the wall of her bedroom once when I stayed overnight with her. That poem always reminds me of her.

I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you – Nobody – too?
Then there’s a pair of us!
Don’t tell! they’d advertise – you know!

How dreary – to be – Somebody!
How public – like a Frog –  
To tell one’s name – the livelong June –  
To an admiring Bog!

Be kind, her life reminds me. Be kind.

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–Shaun Perkins

Events, Musings, Poems

Ibid

EliotPaperIt is March, and the premiere of my one-woman poetry show Poem Life is fast approaching. Until then, I am going to post snippets of things that will be in the show. Here is the first one.

My senior paper submitted

In Partial Fulfillment

of the Requirements for

English IV

was turned in on March 10, 1980 to Mrs. Akers at Locust Grove High School. Mrs. Akers was a beloved teacher at LG High School for more years than anyone knows. My father was one of her students. LG folks had the experience of generations of their family being taught by her.

She taught Senior English, and when I was a child, the LG Schools Open House was a BIG DEAL. One of its highlights was visiting Mrs. Akers’ room where all the student shadow boxes would be on display. These were elaborately-made scenes from books the seniors had read. Paper-mache, woodworking, clay, painting, sculpture–all kinds of arts went into constructing these dioramas. I loved visiting her room every year to see them. When I was a senior, however, I copped out on all the artistry and picked a Zane Grey novel, bought some plastic cowboys and Indians and made a scene from it. I’m pretty sure I didn’t even read the book. Anyway . . . Mrs. Akers

EliotPaper2_001I remember two things from her class: memorizing Macbeth’s tomorrow and tomorrow speech and diagramming sentences. Mrs. Akers rarely moved from her desk. She was as wide as she was tall, which was short, and her bosom rested on the desk. No one acted up in Mrs. Akers’ class, nor came in tardy, nor threw spit wads.

My encyclopedia-riddled term paper was about T. S. Eliot. I had been writing poetry since I was a child, but I wasn’t familiar with a lot of poets. Eliot was in all our anthologies, and I liked Prufrock because of its elements of doom and rhythm and snooty mermaids. I made an A on the paper and the comment on the cover sheet was “An interesting and most informative paper.” I find it funny that this description is a phrase I use as a teacher when I have nothing better to say. To say a paper is “interesting” is to say it bored the hell out of me but oh well, you tried.

There is nothing original in this paper: I avoided plagiarism at all costs to make it “interesting.” I “Ibid” all over the place. Young folks: Look it if up if that word throws you. There are unintentionally funny lines, such as this one about his wife, “She was clever, witty, vivacious, depressed, nervous, and a death-muse.” I also like this line, “If ordinary people couldn’t understand such writing, then it was too bad for them.” Ibid.

In Poem Life, (premiering March 21), I will devote a few minutes to reading selected portions of this essay while also playing the frame drum, which will add the appropriate note of seriousness to the affair. The last line of my 6-page essay reads, “Eliot, though often difficult, demands thoughtful study.” Ibid., p. 606.

Musings, Poems

In February, which is coming

eros-e1354571794589When I remember that I am the god of love, I am not surprised by how my body responds to beauty. I am not surprised that the love I feel came to me unaware, something outside the reach of my conscience, beyond the intricate workings of the cerebellum bumping against the medulla bumping against the midbrain. And yet in that jungle, the sensory cortex lives on top, near the crown, the place where I am reworked each moment by the way the world picks up its corner and shakes cobwebs and magic into my path.

A poet who wrote more of death than of love (although loving was always a part of the passing) spoke of birches being bent by ice storms, when really what he wanted to talk about, what he

. . . was going to say when Truth broke in
With all her matter-of-fact about the ice storm
(Now am I free to be poetical?)
I should prefer to have some boy bend them
As he went out and in to fetch the cows—
Some boy too far from town to learn baseball,
Whose only play was what he found himself . . .

Truth with its brain diagram flashing in my mind wants me to know why I love and why I feel and do what I do, why I can’t leave Psyche to her path, why I want to chase after her and why I continually hover on the edge of the picture frame she fills with each task that takes her farther from me.

Or is it closer?

Toward the end of the poem, the poet says,

May no fate willfully misunderstand me
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to return. Earth’s the right place for love:
I don’t know where it’s likely to go better.

Yes. Yes, I believe that. I who can fly with abandon know that earth is where Psyche will live with me. Bone to body to bone. Bone of our bodies to bone of the earth. That never changes. Heart and soul and body, the very nature of our breathing, the fire that burns inside us or refuses to rise from ashes: all of these things change with time and growth. Not bone to bone. Psyche, you know that I am here. You know where you will find me when you have found yourself.

Earth is the right place for love.

Can you hear me whispering that to you? Would this help you stay on your path?

My questions fade with the day. Days spin their fabric into new clothes unfamiliar and fitting. Whatever I wear does not change the fact that I feel.

Blood will not relent or back down or fade into apparition. It forever returns me to myself as . . .

In the greeting card aisle every February, strange mutations of me exist in red and pink. I am coupled with roses and endearments and gilt lettering. Gold-lined envelopes compete with the fluorescent lights above. This is the path that others have chosen for me. A fledgling hip hop singer in a Britney Spears perfume ad where she is Psyche. The matchmaker with the physique of a Chippendale’s dancer in porn videos.

Choose your own image, Psyche. Or better yet, choose to know what breathes behind the image.

This evening as I sat on the windowsill gazing at nothing and everything that earth astounds me with, I felt your thoughts turn to me. I have been living with poetry, and so have you. Your words open me more than I thought possible. You have given your life to a promise again.

When I return to you, I will whisper
What I dreamed on the road
Into your ear, smooth down your wings
With the tips of my fingers and lie
In the warm curve of your body
Like a question mark followed
By parenthesis. I do not know
If I will survive, yet if I do,
I intend to retain everything,
To share it with you, to come to
The end of my dreams and to open my eyes.

This time, Psyche, when you open your eyes, I will be there in the glory of whatever light we make. I will be there, and we will know each other for the time that is to come. Stay on your path and know.

–Eros

(Shaun Perkins)

Musings

Poetry has no part in society

nopoetryA friend of a Facebook friend (neither of whom I know personally) posted this today:

I feel like poetry has no part in society. We never use poetry in our lives but sometimes it is fun to read. I feel like if poetry doesn’t rhyme then it isn’t a poem.

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I feel like poetry has no part in society.

Young One, you are right. It has no “part.” It has, in fact, a “whole.” It is the whole of our society. It exists to take its flashlight into the darkness of the human soul and shine it around and show everybody else what’s going on in there.

Shelley said in another century that poets were the unacknowledged legislators of the world. I still believe this to be true. A poet is a special kind of being who feels compelled to use the form to uncover truths about our world. It, thus, does not have a part: It instead demands the all.

We never use poetry in our lives.

My Child, the first tool of the poet is metaphor. Have you made any comparisons today? Bet you have, whether you said them, wrote them or just thought them. We can’t help but be metaphor-makers.

Has a poem ever enriched your life? Of course, it has, whether you think about it every day or not: It has impacted you. From the poetry in nursery rhymes you heard as a child to the specious poetry of advertising to the tales of Shakespeare and The Odyssey and The Iliad, passages from the Bible, poems that became songs and songs that became poems: These pieces all live in us.

You can’t use poetry like you use a blow dryer or a pencil or a chainsaw. You let poetry use you. You let the language and the experience embodied in those words use you to create a picture in the mind’s eye and a way of being in the physical body. We are the filters for the experience of poetry. We are the tools, not the poems.

But sometimes it is fun to read.

Agreed.

I feel like if poetry doesn’t rhyme then it isn’t a poem.

Is this a poem?

I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

Tomorrow,
I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody’ll dare
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,”
Then.

Besides,
They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed—

I, too, am America.

Damn straight it is. Langston Hughes. Word.

Innocent One, there is no definitive idea of what a poem is. My favorite definition of poetry is Emily Dickinson’s. She said that if she felt when reading as if the top of her head were coming off, then she knew it was poetry.

Saying a poem has to rhyme is like saying the sun goes around the earth. Both propositions were never true even when they were a part of the collective unconscious.

Musings

This World is Open

worldisopenWe have these stories about the perfect place. That first Biblical story of the land of love and fruit created in the image of the fruit-maker, the lover of all things sensory, all things finite and mortal. Potential blossomed on the vines trailing across the garden paths.

Paradise in the stories where people go to find the lost world of hope and opportunity, where the streets glisten with welcome and the seasons adopt the human to nurture through change. Continue reading “This World is Open”

Musings

Poem Town

national-poetry-month-520x271I just submitted a grant application for a project I’ve been thinking about . . . maybe all my life. Poem Town. There’s some inspiration there from Edgar Lee Masters who created Spoon River Anthology, a collection of poems from former residents of Spoon River talking from the grave. When I taught high school, we always created a town and emulated Spoon River by collaborating on a cast of characters and then writing poems to go with each one. Imagining a town and its inhabitants and the stories that intertwine and create the community is an exciting, inspiring act. Continue reading “Poem Town”