Wednesday, March 29, 2006


I haven't written much mommy-related poetry lately. But I've found that part of being a good mom, or at least a sane one, is taking the time to do your own thing, like attending the poetry reading last week at Meredith College. Ted Kooser, US poet laureate, and Kay Byer, NC poet laureate were worth the trip to Raleigh. The readings were great, but I was also interested in the poetry "scene." The politics. I realized that I may get an MFA and hope to publish more, but the scene is a bit yucky and sad.

The readings themselves were amazing. And if you think about the concept, really think about it, how cool is it that people packed a chapel to hear two people's words? Byer's poems are totally diffferent in the air than on the page, and Kooser is a true storyteller. I learned just from paying attention to pacing, line breaks, humor, presence. Here's a poem I wrote right after:

Delights in the Shadow

J.B. Rowell

Old poet crosses one leg in front
of the other, leans on podium, lets
his voice pebble the stage:
echo around audience.

He explains: his poetry is observation
of single moments expanded and ladened
with metaphor. He takes himself out
of the picture, unless, of course,
when writing about his own love
of women's love, his lapping of
feeblest of fame.

Eyes behind glasses focus far away
on well-worn yarn from one
appearance to the next, across land
in chapels like this, auditoriums, homes.
This is what he's paid for:
this stretching of the wool,
slight variations of texture
and color of his tweed coat.

No applause, each closure of
commonplace epiphany
followed by a collective moan
of surprise and quiet satisfaction.
He's got us. We shuffle before
next entrancement.

Afterward, someone will probably ask:
how he started writing poetry,
how he gets his ideas, how he knows
when a poem is done.
So he's ready with humor:
small, skinny kid tries to get the girls,
and sagacity: ideas are in attention
and the inevitable: a poem is never
complete, it's abandoned.

He removes glasses, wipes slowly
with a cloth, or maybe
that was in his poem. Either way,
it was for the effect of slowing
down time, tightening frame:
and it worked.

Check out Poetry Hut today to find out why Kooser recently said, "I was never much of a student, and now I'm a doctor."


Blogger Anna Greene said...

I like this: "a poem is never
complete, it's abandoned".

Kooser is one of my favorites, I think because he writes without pretense. You always feel you're getting a glimpse of something very intimate, even if very ordinary. It's honest. That's what I like about your poems, JB. Always honest and brave.

10:11 AM, March 29, 2006  
Blogger J.B. Rowell said...

Yes - Kooser maintains a totally humble persona, sprinkled with humor at his own expense. And the more I read his poems, the more there is to them. Not sure if my poems are always honest AND brave, but I'll take the compliment!
Thanks Anna,

5:24 PM, March 29, 2006  
Blogger reniebob said...

There's a great article on Kooser in this month's Writer's Digest magazine. I love it that he sold insurance for a living and still managed to become US Poet Laureate. It inspires me.

10:35 PM, March 29, 2006  
Blogger J.B. Rowell said...

Thanks for the article tip Irene - and I love Kooser's day job too. If a rerired insurance exec. can be US poet laureate - there's hope for suburban moms! :)

7:26 AM, March 30, 2006  

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