Poetry Club December 2019

A autumn/winter theme was the thread through several poems today. Leslie read “Stopping by Woods on a Snow Evening” by Robert Frost. Most of humanity is familiar with the final lines of “But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep.” The trivia fact that Frost wrote this poem in one sitting led to a discussion of how poets approach poems…do they set out to write in a certain pentameter or are they so well versed they just write that way? Leslie’s second poem was “Winter” by Barbara R. Vance, from the book “Suzie Bitner Was Afraid of the Drain“. She shared the book with us and I plan to order it! This is a collection of children’s poems with the air of Shel Silverstein.

Tece read “Twas the Night Before Christmas” by Clement Clarke Moore complete with the amazing fact that this poem, written in 1822, was what led to our current image of Santa. It also introduced the reindeer for the first time! We all discussed our various family traditions surrounding our childhoods. Tece’s father read the poem on Christmas Eve and the children were sent to bed. But they were awakened just after midnight to see what Santa had left for them! We also discussed the changes in the poem in different versions: Donder vs Donner and Happy Christmas vs Merry Christmas. (This is what I found with a web search: “Santa’s reindeer were first named in “A Visit from St. Nicholas” (better known by its first line, “Twas the Night Before Christmas”) in 1823. In the original printing, the final two reindeers’ names are Dunder and Blixem, which are Dutch for “thunder and lightning.” In an 1844 printing by Clement Clarke Moore, who is credited as being the author, these names are changed to Donder and Blitzen.”

Susan recited a delightful Dorothy Parker poem, “One Perfect Rose” which drew a chuckle from us all. She then read a Christmas poem (of sorts) by Parker: “Prayer for a New Mother” which is somewhat of a prayer for the new mother, Mary. The group decided all mother’s deserved what this poem requests. This was followed by Ode to My Socks by Pablo Neruda, another great winter poem. Very visual, and nearly tactile in his description of these socks knit by his friend.

Cindy found a new poet, Austin Smith. She had two of his books and after reading her top choice, “The Light at the End”, read a few more. This poem struck us all with the dramatic sorrow, but calm familiarity of walking down a gravel lane to the light at the end, which of course was death itself. My favorite line was “Several birds have volunteered to stay on longer.” We all reacted to the dog with tics and burrs, which led to a discussion about farm dogs vs city dogs. Austin Smith is a Wallace Stegner Fellow and lives in Oakland!

Kathy picked her poem while browsing through a book written by the poet Hans Ostrom, who happens to be related to a neighbor. She was entranced with the title “Emily Dickinson and Elvis Presley in Heaven” and the poem was true to the title, guiding us through how these two have become friends and “roommates” and taken on all the best of each other.

After a hectic Thanksgiving I felt the need to find a poem about gratitude. Carrie Newcomer is a songwriter, performing artist, and highly accomplished individual. This poem, “The Three Gratitudes” pointed out how a daily practice can lead to a pattern of life focused on the positive.