Arc of the Poet, Part 1: Life Poetry
To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure that I’m capable of summarizing my childhood in just a few lines, but I do want to paint enough of a picture here to be able to show the ways in which poetry factored into my early life, and came to be something I saw as my ticket to success. Here goes.
Like all kids of the late 1960s, I was exposed early and often to Dr. Seuss, and those fantastic rhymes of his really made deep impressions on me. But there were other rhymes my older brother and I were exposed to, which had accompanied my mother’s upbringing in a rural setting in Southern Illinois, at the hands of her Tennessee-born parents. From early ages, we heard this favorite time and again, inspiring our many adventures in the woods, and framing them in our minds.
with a hole in the middle that just fits me
so I climb inside and pretend I’m a bear
and I growl and I grumble and I rumble there.
My mom also performed a special version of Humpty Dumpty, where we’d sit on her knees until she’d get to the “fall,” when she’d (gently) let us tumble to the ground, and finish the rhyme with a smiling flourish, and a big tickle.
For me and Scott, our early years involved a lot of moving. Although we nearly always returned to Greenville, within a matter of months, we were off to somewhere else, as our industrious dad continued pursuing new career opportunities.
Whenever Dad was around, our family seemed to do pretty well together. We had many adventures, usually involving boats and the water. Unfortunately, his career always seemed to keep him away from home, and eventually, Mom realized she just wasn’t happy. Looking back, Mom often seemed to be writing during those evenings, using a typewriter she brought home. After her own father passed away, her marital commitment to our dad dissolved. Her administrative skills were soon sharp enough to put her back to work on her own. I was eight and Scott was 10 when we learned about divorce firsthand… and in those days that followed, living in Central Florida, my mother refashioned herself.
It’s very easy to color those days with our main activities: school, baseball, long summers, and Scott moving back and forth between our parents. However, when I think about my mom during those times, I think of her searching inwardly, and writing these poems that represented her actual means for coping with life. She had written many poems during the early days of child rearing — “Scott, Age Three” and “Roger, Age Three” were ones we casually cherished, loving our starring roles within our mother’s clever verses. The poems of those years following the divorce were something else; she didn’t share those. Rather, they were her secret scrolls of hard-earned wisdom, apparently just meant for private study.
By the time I turned 13, I started having some original ideas about poetry, writing, personal values and my self. Here’s one of my first poems. I don’t recall exactly when I wrote it, but I know it was before my 13th birthday, and after watching a Western film that set me off.
“This is my land; it was so from the start
and if you steal it from me, you’ll steal my very heart.”
“Well, now the land is mine – my wish is your command.
We’ll give you a piece of desert; you can build up from the sand.”
“But what of our wild buffalo, our sacred buriel ground…
will you take from us all the good things we have found?”
“We have no need for buffalo, nor grounds of buried dead.
We’ll make land for new buildings. That’s all that needs be said.”
Based on this introduction, I’m seeing that poetry arose within me as a means for connecting meaningfully with my mother, and demonstrating my writing abilities to her… and in that, I was using it to deal with life. I know she was the first person to see that poem, most others I have written since, and even this entry online. As I progressed on through high school and began shaping my own adult life, poetry helped me put things in perspective, and grow. The feedback I received meant a great deal to me, and eventually I came to feel that I could become famous, and accomplish all my lofty personal ambitions, through poetry.
Arc of the Poet
Part 1: Life Poetry
Part 2: Tour de Force
Part 3: True Love
Part 4: Spinning Out
Part 5: Wake-Up Call
Part 6: Serious Dreams
Part 7: Home Stretch
Part 8: Feedback
Part 9: Dear Departures
Part 10: Good Poetry
Part 11: Rewrites
Part 12: Resistance
Part 13: Fame and Fortune
Part 14: Ramblings
Part 15: Being