Poetry


I completed the below poem on January 19, 1994. It is based on events which took place during a conference, “A Gathering of Artists”, which was held on the University of Delaware campus during the fall of 1993. The conference was focused on bringing together a broad-diversity of artists, whether visual, creative or performing — Basically, anyone you’d call an artist was invited to attend 2-days of workshops, forums and discussions. There was a modest fee of $25, as I recall.

As a founding-member and representative of AbleArts, a troupe of performing members with and without handicaps, I was very excited to exchange information & knowledge with other local artists. And, although I had confronted narrow-minded people throughout my life, I was completely caught off-guard by the words, and attitude, of Ms. E. Jean Lanyon during the conference.

Following the conference, I shared my upset with other members of AbleArts — Some of them suggested I should write a letter-to-the-Editor, which I never did. However, in January we had a snow storm (storms seem to kick me into action) which left me stranded in my apartment for several days. It was during my snow-bound state that I created the poem:
_____________________________________________________________________

It was at “A Gathering of Artists” that we first met.
As she proclaimed herself “Delaware’s Poet Laureate”.

In both large and small groups that day
She took the opportunity to say what she had to say.

I reckoned that one who exhibited such power
Could be a valuable ally at some needful hour.

So, I told her I was a closeted-poet, kind of.
And, that others, like myself, created poetry for love

That we must recite in our own homes, while at night
Able-bodied poets gather in non-wheelchair-accessible reading sites.

(Ten years now, budding poets have read at O’Friels;
Upstairs, 2nd floor — Not in chairs with 4-wheels!)

Vehemently, she protested thus (Delaware’s Poet Laureate),
“Reading space is scarce.  We’ve got to take what we get”.

“We can’t possibly be expected to accommodate all!
There are so many constituencies; yours is to small.”

“I don’t think you heard me, or understood”, I objected.
“My request is consideration when future sites are selected.”

“If mobility-impaired”, I asked her, “how would you participate?
Unable to climb stairs, shall someone carry the ‘Poet Laureate’?”

“I’m not important.  It doesn’t matter about me.
The work must continue, it’s got to be!”

“I wont argue”, she said.  And, then turned away.
“It’s not possible”, I thought, “what I’d just heard her say.

How could a poet, who should be sensitive and feeling,
Defend anyone’s exclusion?”  My mind was just reeling.

In stunned disbelief, transfixed where I sat,
I viewed the departure of Delaware’s Great Laureate.
___________________________________________________________________

Former Poet Laureate (I have subsequently learned that her official title ended in 1981) E. Jean Lanyon and I almost met on the campus of Delaware State College several years after our U of D confrontation — Del State was scheduled to hold a day of poetry near the end of the Spring Semester and we had both been invited.  In fact, Lanyon was to be the keynote speaker. Perhaps fortunate for her, the event was canceled before it took place and I got the opportunity to read in front of her!

I know the poem is a much greater retribution than a letter would have been. Even though I haven’t read A Gathering of Artists in public since my 2004 hospitalization, I have given more than 35 public-readings during my appearances with AbleArts; and at least 10 public-readings without AbleArts! I can’t begin to count the many other times I’ve read for friends and family.

Now, I place my poetic work into cyberspace — to be read by hundreds of thousands of people… How absolutely amazing! 😎 (more…)

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We are experiencing a significant snow storm this weekend.  Our Governor has issued a “State of Emergency” for the 2 northern counties of Delaware so far.  Total snow fall around Newark is predicted to reach 18-24 inches.

Our current weather reminded me of an earlier time — During December 1986 we also had quite a lot of snow.  In those days, the majority of answering machines used a cassette tape for both the outgoing message and to store incoming messages.  I used to enjoy putting humorous outgoing messages on my machine.

I wrote the following poem and read it as my outgoing message in 1986 — I had to buy a special 30-second tape, because the poem was to long for the standard 15-second tape.  Every winter for several years I put the message on my machine — my mother didn’t like it, though, ’cause she lived in Maryland and had to pay long-distance charges listening to the message.

With Winter’s icy grip firmly ’round my throat,
And, lacking a 40 below zero survival-type coat,

I’ve gone to seek solace, ‘neath ‘lectric blanket, down comforter, and sheet;
In pajamas, long-socks, with hot-water bottle replete.

I’ll dream of fishing in a warm summer breeze,
It helps me escape this dreadful hard-freeze.

Now’s your chance.  Leave a message, and make it heart-felt.
I’ll return the favor, when the ice starts to melt!

Stay Warm  😎

I spend several hours most days following interesting links.  I often am surprised at the things I find.  The poem below was written by a British soldier during what was known at the time as the “Great War”; today we call it World War I (WWI).

Wilfred Edward Salter Owen was born 18 March 1893 and died 4 November 1918.  He has been considered to be one of the best poets of  WWI writing about war and its effects.  Unfortunately, he was killed just one week before the war ended.  An additional irony is that, due to the slow movement of communications at the time, news of his death arrived back home on the same day as news that the war was over!

Because of word usage differences during the early 1900s, and perhaps more so because he uses “the King’s English”, it may be a bit of a strange read for you.  However, it still offers an insight into the struggles of soldiers wounded during War and how many of them look at their life ahead!

Disabled
by Wilfred Owen

“He sat in a wheeled chair, waiting for dark,
And shivered in his ghastly suit of grey,
Legless, sewn short at elbow. Through the park
Voices of boys rang saddening like a hymn,
Voices of play and pleasure after day,
Till gathering sleep had mothered them from him.

About this time Town used to swing so gay
When glow-lamps budded in the light blue trees,
And girls glanced lovelier as the air grew dim,-
In the old times, before he threw away his knees.
Now he will never feel again how slim
Girls’ waists are, or how warm their subtle hands.
All of them touch him like some queer disease.

There was an artist silly for his face,
For it was younger than his youth, last year.
Now, he is old; his back will never brace;
He’s lost his colour very far from here,
Poured it down shell-holes till the veins ran dry,
And half his lifetime lapsed in the hot race
And leap of purple spurted from his thigh.

One time he liked a blood-smear down his leg,
After the matches, carried shoulder-high.
It was after football, when he’d drunk a peg,
He thought he’d better join.-He wonders why.
Someone had said he’d look a god in kilts,
That’s why; and maybe, too, to please his Meg,
Aye, that was it, to please the giddy jilts
He asked to join. He didn’t have to beg;
Smiling they wrote his lie: aged nineteen years.

Germans he scarcely thought of; all their guilt,
And Austria’s, did not move him. And no fears
Of Fear came yet. He thought of jewelled hilts
For daggers in plaid socks; of smart salutes;
And care of arms; and leave; and pay arrears;
Esprit de corps; and hints for young recruits.
And soon, he was drafted out with drums and cheers.

Some cheered him home, but not as crowds cheer Goal.
Only a solemn man who brought him fruits
Thanked him; and then inquired about his soul.
Now, he will spend a few sick years in institutes,
And do what things the rules consider wise,
And take whatever pity they may dole.
Tonight he noticed how the women’s eyes
Passed from him to the strong men that were whole.
How cold and late it is! Why don’t they come
And put him into bed? Why don’t they come?”