discover your poetic possibilities
Romance novels are the go-to for beach reads, but don’t forget to bring along a poetry book or two! Gaze out over the water. Read a few poems. Let your thoughts wander to the places poetry will take you. Here are two to get you started.
J. Patrick Lewis is known for his children’s poetry. Creative and energetic, he has one of the most marvelous senses of word play I’ve ever read. Brilliant really.
So, if you don’t know, Lewis also writes for older audiences; his poems have been published in dozens of prestigious literary journals.
Porch Light is his second collection for adults. The cover alone invites you in and has a beautiful feel to it (both warm feeling and physical texture), and I like the generous size (about 7.5″ x 9.25″) for older eyes like mine! But the “porch light” that truly shines is inside.
It’s divided into nine sections and I suppose my one small quibble is that only the final section is named. I have no doubt Lewis could have given a clever title to each.
While there was something to love in all, some of my favorite poems came from the first section:
“The Elephant” (But he looks ahead to the watering hole / and a few drinks with friends . . .)
“Lonesome Albert” (The only telegram from dad read: “Upside down on Isabela Island [stop] The sky is blue [stop] Send help . . .”)
“Dusk, Back Porch, Canada” (Shy Evening paints all heaven gray . . .)
“Weather, by The Old Masters” (The Michelangelo thunder / of an April / cloudburst . . .)
Lewis writes about nature in unique and clever ways, often from an animal’s point of view as demonstrated above. He writes about love, love lost, missed opportunities, aging, dementia, poetry, historical figures, war, immigrants and emigrants, countryside, urban life, and more.
As always, with J. Patrick Lewis you will find humor sprinkled throughout—but there are also powerful and deep poems that will keep you thinking long after you’ve put the book down. Poems about writing and racism and autism are a sample of the varied topics that come to mind.
There are words and phrases and lines you will read twice just to savor, including:
“shadows / spear the afternoon” * “Let jungles whisper jaguar” * “Let the spider embroider the air” * “Let the turtle be” * “poets accept blind dates with enchantment” * “heavy with twins to rival a moon / of Jupiter” * “oxymoronicamerica” * “A daffodylic crowd”
I recommend grabbing two copies, one for you and one to give a friend.
Available from the following places. You can also ask your favorite local indie bookstore to order it (a win-win for everyone).
Laughing Fire: http://www.laughingfire.com/publications/j-patrick-lewis/
I’m a bit ambivalent about some poems in this collection (in a 231-page book, that’s bound to be the way, I think), but there is also much to treasure. The similes (“snow is falling . . . flakes like butterflies that fail to land . . .” and “dunes whirling in the streets where cars lay buried, humped and sleeping like camels”) and images (“a kitchen lit by lemons in a bowl” and “night-rinsed grasses”) are original and fit the mood of each poem—moods that range from contentment and acceptance to anger and despair. We get marvelous, bittersweet glimpses of Parini’s youth and also a peek into the wisdom he’s gained in reflecting as he gets older.
A few of my favorites:
“In the Library After Hours” in which Mrs. Willoughby dusts the books: “When doors are locked, you hear her talking / loudly to the authors. Why, she wonders, / did they choose to spend their lives like this?”
“The Lost Poems”—the ones that “. . . came and went / as I stepped awkwardly into a bath / or looked around me on the gravel path / or turned my back toward a wall of sleep.”
“Midrash” where God “. . . is singing without words / in brilliant passages”
“Blessings” for a childhood friend “that summer when we prayed by diving from a cliff / on Sunday mornings in the church / of mud and pebbles, foam and moss.”
“Fish-Eye View” about reincarnation: “One girl who favored woolen sweaters / has become a moth in her own closet.”
“The Art of Subtraction” where the poet “pared down the dictionary” and found “Ancillary parts of speech / seemed pointless and could go to hell.”
“Who Owns the Land?” offers answers from the animals, such as “Not I, the fox . . . I borrow time / I burrow and I bend to every season. / I will come and go, like you—and you.”
“Grandmother in Heaven”: You’ll have to read this one yourself. I can’t do it any justice by singling out a few lines.
“Sleepers” with the poet in bed, lover hanging onto him “. . . as if / the scalloped ocean of your dreams were much / too much to bear alone . . .” What is not to adore about those lines?
And, finally, a wish of many writers, including poets like me with day jobs, these lines from “Passing Through Vermont on Three Martinis”: “He vows to quit his salaried position / one fine day, returning to this spot / to sip forever as the mountains rise.”
Get your summer on with poetry!