Mitchell-Lama Mama’s Blog

an ordinary life in an extraordinary city

Down to Roots, Poetry May 4, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — mitchelllamamama @ 3:11 pm
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Thinking through the keyboard, again. 


Last Thursday was Poem in your Pocket day in the NYC public schools (named after a poem of the same name by Beatrice Schenk de Regniers). The girl was thrilled, loved the whole concept, and I think relieved to find out Mama isn’t the only person in the world who reads poetry. 😉  We talked about poetry on the way to school this morning, what is a poem, no they don’t have to rhyme, etc.  For whatever reason it gave me some hope, some “oh yeah, something beautiful and worthwhile can come from anything, anywhere.”


Poems and poets are undervalued in our world.  The words usually heard in connection are along the lines of ;  frivolous, sappy, overwrought, angst–almost always these words are accompanied by eye rolling and a drawn out story of being forced to memorize something long and musty.  I used to write a lot of poetry, and I’ll be the first to admit that many of the poems were overwrought and angsty, though not long.  But.  There is no art as perfect. Like watching Masters play a game of chess, fluid.


Mama’s father liked poetry, so of course Mama thought she hated it.  Everything he showed me was looooong,rhyming, and usually a sonnet.  Not for me then or now.  But then I found a book of Carl Sandburg’s works smashed in the middle of the bookshelf over the telephone.  I think this was the first poem I ever memorized, and I’m not sure I realized what I memorized wasn’t the entire poem, but just the first stanza.


excerpt from Four Preludes to a Playthings of the Wind


The woman named Tomorrow

sits with a hairpin in her teeth

and takes her time

and does her hair the way she wants it

and fastens the last braid and coil

and puts the hairpin where it belongs

and turns and drawls: Well, what of it?

My grandmother, Yesterday, is gone.

What of it? Let the dead be dead.


Why did this poem speak to 10 yo Mama?  No clue, though I’m guessing the reason could be found in thirty years of analysis.  😉 What I know is it opened a whole new world, a world I’ve been able to visit throughout my life.  Some of the poems I used to love don’t do it for me anymore.  There’s a time and a place for Anne Sexton’s In Celebration of My Uterus, and that time is long past.  The beauty is in still being able to pick up the collected works of Sexton and find a phrase that sings, an image so clear it hurts, words that can be tasted.


5 Responses to “Down to Roots, Poetry”

  1. cmscribbles Says:

    thanks for this post.

    your phrases sing, your images are clear, and your words can be tasted too 🙂

    I’m glad you write for all of us Mama ❤

  2. Thanks ((((((((((cmscribbles))))))))))))

    Of course, now I’m thinking I should have posted Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle… 😉

  3. Susan Says:

    Ha funny < I had a similar experience. I wanted to be a poet. I always thought it was such a GRAND title. I would sit for hours trying to come up with flashy rhymes. It wasn’t until I was forced to memorize a poem ( I STILL remember some of it) That I actual GOT poetry. ….

    ” Trees”
    I think that I shall never see
    A poem lovely as a tree

    A tree that may in summer wear
    A nest of robins in her hair;

    Joyce Kilmer It painted such a pretty picture and was so melodic, it really didn’t need to rhyme, it just need to flow together. I was (OK still am) such a dreamer. Yes mama, you would make a grand Poet 😉

  4. CasaDe Says:

    Roses are red,
    Violets are blue,
    Sandburg’s a poet ~
    But so are you!

    Sorry. It’s my very, very best!

    Your writing is where prose’s path joins that of poetry.

    I love light-handed poetry; I also love light-hearted poetry. Nothing like a good limerick to brighten up a mood, at least temporarily.

  5. Hi Susan and CasaDe!! 🙂

    Who knew there were so many poets among us? If it weren’t for the whole eating thing, being a poet would be a grand profession. 😉

    Susan, for a long time I automatically turned my nose up at any poetry that rhymed. After my very first e.e. cummings poem–pity this busy monster, manunkind,– there seemed to be no turning back. Then I read Edna St Vincent Millay, and what woman among us can resist?
    My candle burns at both ends;
    It will not last the night;
    But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends–
    It gives a lovely light!

    ((((Casade))))) Thank you! I think you should be joining me in my writing quest, you have a gift, admit it or not. Maybe just save the limericks for us, though! 😉

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