Thursday, July 7, 2016

O, O, O... as in "O, Azaleas..."

Savannah is known for its azaleas about the second week in March. One spring in the 1990s our poetry society had a poet from Auburn, New York, visit to do a program. I remember his program on the haiku, but at this moment I don't remember his name nor the name of his book buried on my poetry shelves.

I do, however, remember clearly something he said and a subsequent poem I was moved to write called, "O, Azaleas." 

This poet, you see, was advocating the judicious use of "O" and other such poetry-society-sappy-purple prose-romantic poet- language in our poems. He said, "Each poet is allowed only two O's in a lifetime." 

I knew immediately what my first O would be used for, because I had longed for something that properly expressed my feeling about the head high azalea-lined streets like Washington, and those at Bonaventure Cemetery which lay just beyond the marsh behind us and beyond the Wilmington River. They were old and massive and the sheer color made you feel like wallowing about in the blossoms.

Using the second O has not been so easy. Once used, it would be gone. And, after all, much mushy lyricism subsides simply with age. So far, I've never been willing to give up the second O. This morning, however, as I reminisced at yet another frothy bed of white heads in my front yard, I thought I might consider the use of my second O:

Ah, the O!
O, Queen Anne's Lace! O, Pink Perfection! O, Plumbago! O, Lettye! O, Gerald! O, Arthur! O, Katonah! O, dear Carolyn! O, flowers of Savannah! Gone.  

Ah, Anthony Navarra! I have found both your books on my shelf--the one I bought when you and Mary visited the poetry society and I introduced you. Books jog the memory, especially when they hold the copy of a personal note from William Stafford who said, "Like the collie in your poem, I have been a drinker from the bottom tier; now I am glancing up and deep into what haiku can provide." I remember him and his wife in Charleston and my handing his wife my poem to him. "You must know," I said to her "that two women in Savannah, my friend Sara and I, are in love with your husband." "Just two?" she quipped with a smile.

Ah, Tony. You read my poem and extended the number of O's I might use, citing Basho as an example: "How about Ah's? The great Basho put three Ah's in just 17 syllables.

Ah, Matsushima, 
Matsushima, Ah,
Ah, Matsushima"

Dear readers, if you are still here after such meandering, tell me, how did I come up with my title here"Ah, the O!" when I had absolutely zero recollection of Navarra's note and this comment about the use of Ah...

Ah, the mystery of writing. In looking for Navarra's work, I found a book Anne George had published of contemporary Alabama poets, A Baker's Dozen, 1988. In her essay, "A Momentary Peace," she writes and I have highlighted this: 

"I write because I need to, because life is so sad and ridiculously funny. And sometimes when I finish a poem, when I have captured a moment in the music of words, I almost think things make sense. A momentary peace. It is enough."

Anne George attended that same conference at the College of Charleston. It was there that she met an editor who sent her to an agent with her prose. I have not thought of Anne in some time, nor any of this detail: she was one of the first publishers of my poetry in her annual Oktoberfest competition in the 80's.

Ah, the synchronicity! I'm posting this now or I won't be able to believe it myself. Edit as you please, but this is a true story of my strange, strange life as a writer. 

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Farm to City...

Saturday July 2, 4:49 p.m.

Dear Diary...

This morning my daughter and I shopped for peaches, watermelon, and tomatoes, green beans, tomatoes, shelled lima beans and peas--all good for an upcoming Independence Day. A local farmers market, replete with live music, is new to our neighborhood, brought on, I suppose, by the current farm to table craze that everyone seems to have adopted.

I even tried a small garden myself this year; my brain had temporarily blocked out the markers of failure--the deer that prevail here, pesky squirrels and chipmunks, soil of clay and red clods, and cut worms as big as my thumb who like Big Beef tomato foliage as well as I like the fruit! There is still a smidge of hope if blooms are an indicator: I've added an aluminum pie pan and a flapping plastic bag which may get me kicked out of the neighborhood, along with a fence, alas, not fine enough to keep rabbits out; therefore, my singular Jubilee watermelon plant and the Heirloom cantaloupe are blooming like crazy all over the garden spot.

This day was to be all about shopping for happy weekend for grilling out and making ice cream by the gallon in a freezer. But I had my mother-in-law coming, so what would I serve for dinner tonight that would be simple after all the planning/shopping? The good old standard fruity chicken salad would be easy.

I've boiled the chicken breasts, bone-in, chopped that and the celery, halved the green grapes, toasted a few pecans, chopped those, drained mandarin oranges, mixed some sour cream, mayo, and Italian dressing mix--did I leave anything out? My initial taste said something was missing.

The chicken salad knows: I'm unhappy. A mother can only be as happy as her unhappiest child.

The chicken salad knows: I'm frustrated. My blogspot has been out of whack and I've had to add three upgrades to my computer, and this is the first effort at a post in months.

The chicken salad knows: I really wanted the taste of fresh veggies with warm cornbread tonight.

With a bit of luck, I may get this blog actually posted and available. And once the dressing has time to sink in, the chicken salad may be edible. And if that doesn't work, I'll slice that Jubilee II watermelon. "Whatever," I begged of the happy, if hot and weary seller of farm produce, "happened to the original Jubilee, the best-tasting watermelon in Alabama?"

Message in a Blog

  About twenty Birmingham language arts teachers endured my holding forth yesterday in my current gig as a Road Scholar ...