Monday Earworm: Simple Minds

This week classes begin in my part of the country. I know I will enjoy working with this year’s students, but right now, last year’s graduates are still on my mind. I saw several of them this weekend at a reading and book signing for The Sharp Edges of Water (Thank you for coming to that, by the way! What an amazing turn-out!), and I’ve been in touch with a few this summer as they prepare for college. This is always the case.

I know I speak for many of my colleagues when I say to them, Come back and visit now and then when you’re on a holiday from school and let us know how you’re doing. We’ve invested a fair amount of time and energy into getting you to this point, and we’re interested to see how things turn out for you. You might be nervous and scared and excited and scattered right now, but we have much confidence in you.

Everything is going to be just fine. You’re going to be wonderful. You have learned so much already, academically, and now you’re going to learn even more about living. Don’t forget these lessons, but be sure to keep them in context. College, on balance, is not always going to be easy, but it will probably often be good.

Drop us a line now and then. Your friends who haven’t graduated yet will be glad to hear from you, too.

All the best.

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National Poetry Month — Day 9

Sometimes when you write a poem, you work and work and work on that first draft and realize pretty far in that you’re just spinning your wheels. The spin is important, though. Terrible first drafts matter, and it’s good to embrace them so they — or the fear of them — don’t paralyze you.

One of my poetry professors in college assigned us to write fairy tale poems. I chose “The Frog Prince, or Iron Heinrich” because that story was one of my favorites when I was a child — no doubt in part because I had the recording of The Muppets version, where Kermit narrated, Robin was the prince, Sweetums was the ogre, and the princess was a young lady named Mellora. (Incidentally, I loved her name so much that I used it as the name of the protagonist in my first novel, although she and my character bear almost no resemblance to each other in any other way.)

My professor had given us a week to write these fairy tale poems. I threw everything I had at it for five days and ended up with what was arguably a funny prose-poem splashed across five pages. It was long. Very little white space. The night before the poem was due, I had to come to grips with the fact that the draft was terrible. I threw it all away and wrote this instead.

 

***

 

Plan B

 

Golden ball like a prophet,
predict for the princess her fate:
a frog lapping wine from her cup,
digesting the food from her plate,
his eager tongue tickling her belly,
his sticky feet crawling along her…
in the morning a man in her bed,
a quick arranged marriage by Father.
Golden ball, keep your playmate:
warn her not to whine for help,
but her freedom to keep a bit longer
and to fetch you for herself.

 

 

.

 

 

 

Featured Poet: Charlie Scott

This has been a wonderful month of poems. I’ve enjoyed all the work people have shared with me, and sharing it with you. As I’ve said before, I received so many wonderful pieces that I just couldn’t fit in for lack of days. If you had fun reading this series, I hope you’ll check out the rest of the works by these poets. We haven’t even scratched the surface yet of all the good stuff out there by these talented writers.

I’m going to end this year’s National Poetry Month series with one by Charlie Scott, my colleague and friend — and one of my poetry mentors from college. Speaking of college, news broke this week that the dorm complex where I lived when I attended there is going to be torn down. This news rallied literally hundreds of people who lived in those dorms within roughly the same decade and change to join together on Facebook and — reconnect.

Yes, many of us were already friends on Facebook. But prompted to share this news in a viral fashion, we found more than just each other. We found those we hadn’t kept in touch with. Friends of friends who were once friends of ours, like ripples in a pond, stretched in widening concentric circles until, within forty-eight hours, we had our own new Facebook group with (so far) 615 members (and counting — in fact, two more joined just since I started writing this blog post). People have been posting memories, anecdotes, photos.

I admit the volume of FB notifications has been overwhelming.

We’re planning a reunion before they raze the buildings. But honestly we’re having the reunion already, and it’s wonderful, and I cannot wait to be at that party and see so many people after the decades we’ve been apart. We’ll have to plan it far enough in advance for everyone to come back from the four corners of the country, from the outer bands of the planet. People are talking about doing this, and I hope they’re serious.

Bittersweet in all of this, of course, is that not all of us are still around. People have died. Our classmates, our friends. They died young and tragically and left so many behind. Some of them still have active Facebook accounts, and on the anniversaries of their births, Facebook reminds is to wish them a happy birthday and offers us a chance to send them a gift.

And we remember them, with love and fondness and occasionally the temptation to get, as Tim O’Brien cautioned against, sentimental about the dead. But we do not forget; we cling. And the fact that we can? That in itself is a gift.

 

***

 

ELEGY: TO BOB

 

Funny thing. When I sign up
for an on-line account
of some kind and am asked
to answer one of those
“security questions,” that question
has on occasion been, “What
was the last name of your first
childhood friend?” More
often than not (and I guess here
I’m handing all you hackers
out there a freebee), my answer
to this query has been
“Jordan.” The good thing is that
that answer will be always
the correct and, shall we say, perfect
one. Those memories do not
vanish. They persist. But people do
vanish and they don’t
persist, and when they do and do
not, my goodness, that’s bad.

 

***

 

Charlie Scott has published one full-length collection of poetry, So Much for Borders, and two chapbooks, The River Is Laughter and Methodoglia1. His poetry has appeared in several journals, including The New RepublicThe Antioch Review, Western Humanities Review, and Zocalo Public Square.