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The Power of Written Words

November 3, 2013 , ,

My father read Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn aloud to me when I was very young. There were other books that followed, but he really loved those two stories, and made them come alive while reading them.  He liked to sing and recite poetry.  We sang at parities all the time.  Since we had a player piano, talent was no barrier to musical contribution.  I pumped happily away for hours singing with the piano rolls.  I still know the words to most of those songs, or could with some prompting, remember the lyrics. I wrote songs myself as a teen, but do not remember them at all, which is funny.  I do remember The Cremation of Sam McGee by Robert W Service, which my father knew by heart.  As an Okie in Pennsylvania I know he identified heavily with Sam McGee because he frequently and randomly said “Since I left Plumtree, down in Tennessee, it’s the first time I’ve been warm.”

My dad was a funny troubadour of sorts who did not know that his 8th great grandmother was Mistress Bradstreet, Pilgrim poet.  He did often say,” You’re a poet, your feet show it, they’re Longfellows.”  Now that I have discovered the Bradstreet connection I am revising the rhyme:

Keep the beat,

Think on your feet,

You’re a Bradstreet.

Since I found Mistress Bradstreet at the Poetry Center I am wondering about my own relationship to words and poetry.  Do I have any poetic DNA that I need to develop?  Curious, I attended the inauguration of Arizona’s new poet laureate, Alberto, Tito, Rios of Nogales, AZ.  He addressed the crowd, read some poems, then answered some questions from the audience.  He is a professor so he found it easy to teach the group.  His style includes plenty of comedy, which holds the attention.  An audience question was, “What is the difference between writing poetry and writing prose?”  His answer was perfect and memorable.  He said, ” Each line in a poem should be able to stand by itself.  If one of my poems shattered and all the lines were left alone, each should be strong enough to get a good job in another poem.”   I love that. I also love the Poetry Center which is very near my home.  I don’t really think the lines in my poem above could find work elsewhere, but if I work on it, perhaps the spirit of Mistress Bradstreet will guide me to achieve better outcomes.

The other fine advice Mr Rios gave, which he illustrated with a story from his youth, was that you observe events and happenings in your life that will die without a story if you do not tell them.  His attitude is that all of us have the potential to use words in a poetic way, and the experience enhances our own lives when we do it.  We also liberate objects and events that want their stories to be told.  This magical reality view of the objects comes naturally from his bilingual and bicultural background.  In Spanish reflexive verbs make the world a highly animated place in which things take action.  I believe Tito Rios is the perfect artistic and cultural representative who could have been chosen as our official poet.  I am pleased to have been in the special inaugural audience.

What do you think?

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comments

Cremation of Sam Mcgee was one of my favorite poems. I remember it being read by my 6th grade teacher. All dramatic and spooky.

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Marc Zazeela

November 3, 2013

When he talked about lines getting a good job on their own I thought of the lines my dad used all the time..by themselves. The joke about It’s warm in here but I greatly fear that you’ll let in the cold and storm went with everything in the winter in Pittsburgh.

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mermaidcamp

November 3, 2013

This is a very nice article, Pamela. So you sort of “inherited” your proclivity for poems not only by DNA but as well by education by your dad. Cool.

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Brigitte

November 3, 2013

Thanks, Brigitte..and the funny thing is he knew nothing of the DNA..would not have suspected his blue blooded, Pilgrim situation.

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mermaidcamp

November 3, 2013

I am glad he did not know. If he did you might not exist as he would certainly have cared to marry someone who is blue-blooded, too. 🙂

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Brigitte

November 4, 2013

when my mum was suffering from dementia she could still remember all the poems she’d recited to me when I was little. We used to sit in the hospital going over them again and again.

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Fiona Maclean

November 6, 2013

I will know the songs of my youth as my last hold out, in all probability.

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mermaidcamp

November 7, 2013

such a great post. I am a huge fan of books of all kinds but the power of good literature of all types can create a new vision/life for someone.

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Stevie Wilson (@LAStory)

November 14, 2013

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