Thursday, October 16, 2008

Throwin' Out the Bait

Whatcha wanna talk about today? Hmmm. How about your favorite poem, or at least a few lines? Remember when you had to memorize those ghastly long ones in school? But now that you're a mature adult...well, older, anyway, what poet or poem really moves you?

I have a lot of favorites. Some are local and well known; others are international superstar poets. When I think about all my personal favs, I think the common denominator is they are accessible, I don't need a pick and chisel to figure out what the hairy heck they're talking about (although they do have hidden meaning and images and layers through which I can wander at my leisure). They also usually speak to universal human emotions and experiences.

Here's the poem Flounder by one of my top ladies of poetry, Natasha Trethewey:

Here, she said, put this on your head.
She handed me a hat.
you 'bout as white as your dad,
and you gone stay like that.
Aunt Sugar rolled her nylons down
around each bony ankle,
and I rolled down my white knee socks
letting my thin legs dangle,
circling them just above water
and silver backs of minnows
flitting here then there between
the sun spots and the shadows.
This is how you hold the pole
to cast the line out straight.
Now put that worm on your hook,
throw it out and wait.
She sat spitting tobacco juice
into a coffee cup.
Hunkered down when she felt the bite,
jerked the pole straight up
reeling and tugging hard at the fish
that wriggled and tried to fight back.
A flounder, she said, and you can tell
'cause one of its sides is black.
The other is white, she said.
It landed with a thump.
I stood there watching that fish flip-flop,
switch sides with every jump.

Isn't that beautiful? I'm sitting on the pier fishing with the people of this poem, absorbing the beautiful scenery and lessons imparted. The meaning is so subtle and powerful, beginning with the title. I was lucky enough to hear Ms. Trethewey speak before she won her Pulitzer, and get signed copies of her books. More here--->

Okay, share your poetry favs, or one of your own! What is it you love about poems, or don't you? If you haven't checked out some of the great contemporary poets' work available now, you really should treat yourself. Many writers believe reading and writing poetry helps them with their prose too. What's not to love?


Anonymous said...

Enjoyed the poem. Fishing and poetry, who knew. Most of the language I have heard(and used) while fishing is not fit for mixed company.

Terri Tiffany said...

I wrote this whole comment and it disappeared so I am persevering. I don't read poetry but really enjoyed this one. Wish I could write free verse but can't!

Kathryn Magendie said...

Well, you described your own poetry - accessible...relatable...I'm a big fan of prose poetry, since it tells little mini-stories - as yours do :-)

love this poem, too...

all about the images and then the way the images relate to us either internally or externally or other-worldallllyyyy

Lori said...

I have two favorites, the first is e.e. cummings:

"she being Brand... (XIX) by E. E. Cummings
she being Brand

-new;and you
know consequently a
little stiff i was
careful of her and(having

thoroughly oiled the universal
joint tested my gas felt of
her radiator made sure her springs were O.

K.)i went right to it flooded-the-carburetor cranked her

up,slipped the
clutch(and then somehow got into reverse she
kicked what
the hell)next
minute i was back in neutral tried and

again slo-wly;bare,ly nudg. ing(my

lev-er Right-
oh and her gears being in
A 1 shape passed
from low through
second-in-to-high like
greasedlightning)just as we turned the corner of Divinity

avenue i touched the accelerator and give

her the juice,good


was the first ride and believe i we was
happy to see how nice she acted right up to
the last minute coming back down by the Public
Gardens i slammed on

brakes Bothatonce and

brought allofher tremB
to a:dead.

;Still) "

The other by William Carlos Williams:

"This Is Just To Say
by William Carlos Williams

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold "

Angie Ledbetter said...

Kathryn, you are too kind. I like your explanation of why poems move us. ;)

Lori, the eec one revs me up and the WCW makes me smile. Here's one I wrote after his Red Wheelbarrow:

From a Teacher with Apologies to W.C.W.

so much hinges

the green grade

marked with coffee

atop the old brown

Carrie Wilson Link said...

I like the really short poems that pack a punch - probably because my attention span is short, and my patience even shorter!

Janna Qualman said...

That was a fantastic poem, though I've never been one to read or write much poetry.

I did write one after the birth of my first, when I was so full of love and thanks. It's called My Fortune, but I hesitate to post it, due to length. Maybe I'll throw it on my blog soon. :)

colbymarshall said...

I don't really have a favorite poem...I don't know what that says about me!

Holly Kennedy said...

I'm drawing a blank....
How embarassing!

I do know, however, that I prefer short poems vs. overly long ones, mostly because I have a wicked attention span that bounces all over the place.

Barbara said...

Speaking of poetry--there's a new writer "in town" can read her at

Angie Ledbetter said...

Carrie, I bet if you found a poet you really loved, your attention span would stretch. ;) Try Billy Collins -- an absolute jewel!

I hope you do post your birth poem one day, Janna. Don't be shy. Poetry digs down into our center deeper than prose. A great exercise too.

Colby...maybe ya like 'em all the same? ;)

Dear Holly, see above suggestion to Carrie. LOL. I really enjoy your blog. Go, Mom Writer Woman!

Thanks for the suggestion, Barbara. I'll check out that blog.

WendyCinNYC said...

Love, love, love Dylan Thomas. Do Not Go Gentle Into that Good Night is one of my faves. Also like Allen Ginsburg, Langston Hughes, and sad old Emily D.

Oy, my picks are depressing!

Angie Ledbetter said...

LOL, Wendy. I'm partial to a few of your pics too. The vast variety available (D'ya like all those V's??) to poetry readers.

The Paper Whisperer said...

I adore poetry, reading it AND writing it! This is one I wrote recently for a friend who requested a writing for her wedding.

My Prayer For LeAnne and David
By The Paper Whisperer

Let us never take for granted,
God's blessing we've been handed.
Let us wake up every morning...
"Life is short," be our warning.
Let us dance through every day,
To the music of our souls.
Let us sing from our hearts,
Whilst fine tuning all our goals.
Let us never be unkind in a moment of disdain,
Let us live God's precious ways,
Free from sadness, free from pain.
Let us promise to be one,
Through the good times and the bad.
Let us not forget this moment...
The best friendship to be had.
Let us carve out a legacy,
That will make our children proud.
Let us love eternally; His arms shall be our shroud.
Let us watch the sun go down,
drop to our knees and pray.
Let us take the others hands
As we give thanks for this beautiful day.

Anonymous said...

That is a terrific piece of writing. Nothing else needed.

Angie Ledbetter said...

That was wonderful, PW!

Anonymous said...

"Flounder" was wonderful! Thank you for sharing it. This is mine, one of an on-going series of poems on color.

It's very long, so I'll understand if you remove it. It was originally posted on my "Waltzes with Words" on 3/2/08...

"I, Viridis"

[An evocative journey into the color green and all that it may hold for you, the reader.]

By Deb Lambert

“It’s not easy being green,” warbles Kermit the Frog, to the delight of youngsters.

I am Viridis, giving voice to green, rejoicing in my multitude of manifestations.

I am resplendent, in all my many hues. From the churning green of heaving, storm-driven seas to the fragile green of a maidenhair fern, I intimidate and stir admiration.

I am the pale hexagonal foliage of Lady’s Mantle, beaded with raindrops.

A leather-bound first edition, with gold leaf on its spine. Black-green velvet, lining an old jewelry chest. Distressed leather, covering a dome-topped trunk, idling in the attic. The leather collar from your first puppy, lying dry and cracked in the bottom of that old trunk. Heart-shaped Cyclamen leaves, subtly covered with lacy netting. Yes, I take credit for all these things, as well as the bitter dandelion greens you pushed ‘round your plate, as a small child... “Eat your greens, they’re good for you,” your mother chided. Equally abhorrent to children, is the pale green Lima bean... I humbly beg your pardon for my part in the creation of the latter two.

The good news is, there is a strong probability that Brussels sprouts will become more tasty, as you reach adulthood. The bad news is, that slimy, pointy, distasteful asparagus spears never improve with age (yours) - you’ll always be an “asparagusophobe”... or, you’ll always consider them a springtime delicacy, paying exorbitant fees to maintain your status as an “asparagusophile.” In any case, I, Viridis, extend my apologies.

I am snapping beans into a pot, shelling peas into a colander and the handles of your favorite secateurs, the pair you keep losing in the grass. Iceberg lettuce you are told to eschew, unpalatable dark “greens” it is the fashion to enjoy, cracked rubber wellies that let in the rain, the new green wellies on your wish list and a gardener’s tote bag.

I am the hazel green eyes of a proud father on graduation day.

The green thumb on those silly yellow garden gloves... not in my “top ten.”

Being green, or environmentally friendly is a good thing... gardening in this manner is an even better thing. Green, however, in firewood, bananas and stale bread is a bad thing. If I’m to be brutally honest, I have some quirks, foibles and short-comings. But, for the most part, I am eminently embraceable. You drink in my essence like a springtime tonic, after the long, bleak winter. You seek my cool, shaded glens when grasshoppers perch atop the dry, brittle green grasses of summer. You revel in the final weeks of fall, when heavy dews drip from my autumn-tinted green leaves.

I am smooth and cool as table linens, yet wild and woolly as Virginia creeper, engulfing everything that stands in its way. I am the bindweed that suffocates your roses and perennials. You say you’ll keep up with my vibrant new shoots, but I always win!

The lusty wave of fox grape, flinging itself up the hill, invading your gardens under the dark of night... me, again. In an old camp, smelling of ancient pine, I am the dark green window shades, creased and punctured from too many revolutions around the roller. At the bottom of a forgotten cedar chest, I am that green and gray woolen snowsuit that kept you snug, as a child of four.

I am the coarse corn husks that protect the tender kernels, stuff mattresses and become delightful corn dolls. I dwell in the kelly green border of your favorite patchwork animal coverlet, so lovingly crafted by a great grandmother, a hundred years ago. I was the pale green of the old-fashioned push lawnmower, propelled by you at the tender age of nine.

I am not the golden johnnycake, but I am the pea soup, on the side.

I am the grassy hill at your grandparents’ house, the site of youthful rolling contests, largely responsible for grass stains on light summer clothes. The rusty metal frame, upon which your pole beans climb, was once covered with my shiny enamel. From it, hung an assortment of swings, slides and teeter-totters. It hosted such athletic events as hanging upside down until your nose bled.

The center of interest, I am the village green, around which are clustered the library, town hall and white steepled church. As a green, I support concerts at the bandstand and boast comfortable wooden benches, strategically positioned beneath verdant, venerable shade trees. I am also the green painted crosswalk, leading you safely from the drugstore to the library.

The first time you mixed yellow and blue finger paint, you created me.

Part of the rainbow, I also dot the hillside with myriad hues of green, just beyond your office window. I color the disagreeable, slimy algae and congestive duckweed that chokes ponds and swamps in summer.

I proudly claim every green calyx that securely fastens every blossom to every stem.

I am the chartreuse haze of maple blossoms, the first green sprout of a fall-planted bulb and the multitudinous variations of quilted hosta leaves.

And what a part I play in coloring the tightly-knit turf, where argyle-clad gentlemen chase small white balls, high atop the craggy cliffs of St. Andrews. What else? The green in a grandfather’s black watch plaid flannel shirt. A 1950’s green ruffled apron and a set of Fire-King green mixing bowls. A green marking pen, wandering off the paper to inappropriate venues, in the hand of a five year old.

Part of the rainbow.

The olive drab of a soldier’s uniform.

Grass tennis courts and the rolling greens of old estates. A turf race course, where horses thunder around the oval track. The limes in your lime rickey and mint julep. The tangy key lime filling, sequestered beneath a top hat of meringue. The twist in your sparkling water or cocktail. These are all an integral part of green.

I may be your favorite jelly bean, lollipop or Life Saver. The olive in your martini. The avocado in your guacamole. The “green screen” of television and movies, awaiting electronic intervention. The forest-green broccoli trees, pushed ‘round and ‘round the dinner plate.

I am not the bright yellow mustard, but I am the green tomato relish on your hot dog. I am the green hatchback you drove in college and the green metal pail that spawned so many sandcastles.

As buds swell and their scales give way to the blandishments of spring, I am revealed. You’ll find me unfurling in the fiddleheads, that poke through leaf litter. In the leathery green of oak leaves and the vulnerable green of seedlings, I make my statement. I’ll entice you with emeralds and peridots and rebuff you with noxious weeds.

I am the color of “Go.”

An enormous bullfrog, bellowing “jug-o-rum” from his glistening lily pad.

And how you relish my pungency, as you snip my basil foliage into a bowl of fresh tomatoes. For I am the green of all these, and more. The jaunty, green bandana around a Retriever’s neck and seaweed, gathered on the beach, to nourish your garden. Swollen daylily buds, waiting to explode.

The tenacity of chicory, surviving in a sidewalk crack.

The fragile green cloak that spring assumes, as she heralds the start of a new gardening season. The dull green of summer, as plants languish under the crackling scourge of an endless heat wave.

A ‘Granny Smith’ apple.

The deep green sea of a mother’s dress, a flotilla of large white dots floating across its silken surface. An algae carpet lining the bottom of a sun-dried swamp in August. A retired green rucksack, slumped in an attic corner, its glory days of mountain hiking, long since past.

Fried green tomatoes and odd, green potatoes.

Baize covering of a billiard table. Lawns blushing spring-green.

I am the green of “Green Goddess” fame... a term of endearment, employed by a father, to tease and amuse his sickly child. Green gingham oilcloth, covering a camp dining table. Forest-green shutters on a sunny-yellow farmhouse. The rolling green of Vermont and the level green of an Iowa cornfield.

The irregular green of abandoned fields, reverting to forest, yet still constrained by tumbling stonewalls. I am the regimented green of western farmlands, whose neat squares are stitched together into an enormous quilt... you peer through a jet’s porthole and are duly impressed.

The verdigris of a venerable copper weathervane.

A toddler’s favorite crayon, worn flat from overuse. The myriad greens of watercolors, oils and pastels, with which artists capture and pay tribute to nature. And the advancing green of a moss carpet, seeking the dampness of a woodland brook.

Confuse not Fenway Park’s ‘Green Monster’ with the green-eyed monster. Be not green with envy that you’ve never seen Vermont’s Green Mountains. Treasure always, and carry with you, the memories evoked by this simple phrase... “The green, green grass of home.” Most importantly, always remember that the grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence!

©Deb Lambert 2008

Angie Ledbetter said...

Deb, thanks for sharing! That was wonderful I especially liked the mixture of scientific/natural and personal experience. Also the color itself being the narrator. Kudos! My fav stanza:

I may be your favorite jelly bean, lollipop or Life Saver. The olive in your martini. The avocado in your guacamole. The “green screen” of television and movies, awaiting electronic intervention. The forest-green broccoli trees, pushed ‘round and ‘round the dinner plate.

I once did a short version with a certain shade of blue. Fun to craft, eh?

Lori said...


I LOVE your poem to your teacher, Angie! I hope that helped your grade. :)

Angie Ledbetter said...

LOL, Lori, I wrote that when I was teaching! ;)

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