Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The Garden of Verse:What They're Saying About America



            Writing on this day (and night) of awe and trembling as American voters are on the brink of making a choice that could send their country on a downward spiral of destruction and despair, blighting their own lives and those of their children and grandchildren... I could go on. ("Don't! Don't! Please!")
            Writers in the current, November 2016, edition of Verse-Virtual offer poetic affirmations or denigrations about the state of the nation (or perhaps their own emotional state), plus memories, dreams, and fantasies on the suggested theme of "My America."
            The poem that got under my skin is "Outside the Trump Rally" by Joel Johnson, a work of imagination that appears to recount the experience of what, a generation or two ago, was called 'the forgotten man.' Hard laboring, and hard living, the poem's subject is a drifter who finds some reason to wind up "outside" a Trump Rally. Here's a taste: 

I’ve picked up garbage and dropped off mulch.

I’ve done a little plumbing, a little wiring

and so much roofing I can barely close my eyes

without slipping down the pitch of a split-level.


            Things deteriorate quickly after pay day, the poem's speaker confides, in a tone of neither bragging or complaining:  

I’ve slept in corn fields, wheat fields, peanut fields and clover,

beneath tractor-trailers, under overpasses, inside dumpsters..."

           
See http://www.verse-virtual.com/joel-f-johnson-2016-november.html for the rest.

           Bill Glose writes about a piece of his America, the Chesapeake Bay, in "Chesapeake Vision":

Wind sighs 

through sawgrass, carries the scent of salt 

and pine. Clouds tumble overhead,

bits of fluff that frolic through 

an amber sky


He imagines the first European explorer to arrive here, John Smith (a familiar anti-hero), asking himself whether he wants to conquer and 'civilize' this land. Better maybe to leave it as a green, untamed Eden. [See http://www.verse-virtual.com/bill-glose-2016-november.html]

             Another kind of first moment in America is found in Margaret Hasse's "Norwegian Grandmother's Song." The speaker recalls her immigrant experience: "By water I came to this country,
by train I went to its prairie."
             She recalls her tower of strength husband, a homestead, "daughters we had, sons we had," and the song that contains all the memories. [See http://www.verse-virtual.com/margaret-hasse-2016-november.html11]

            Something of unspoiled (or pre-colonized) America shows up in Kate Sontag's poem "Berkshire Territorial" too. Something big: an ursine encounter. Bears too have their America.
American as this rocky
terrain blasted to build our home, solitary forager 
 
among the lost timbers of her childhood, on a good
day, neighbors click the camera as she knocks down
 
a birdfeeder here, a gas grill there.


[See http://www.verse-virtual.com/kate-sontag-2016-november.html]

           The most universally American poem in the issue may be "If You Visit Our Country," by Dick Allen, a poem packed with all the sights, observations, transactions big and small we know we've seen somewhere, if not everywhere... But  this poem catches them in their moment -- the moment, so to speak, when they grow a tongue.

The world will be blinking lights

Racing toward you or away, your headlights
Picking up old things along the highway:  pensive
And dilapidated barns, abandoned railroad stations,
The culverts, junkyards, flagpoles of America
That never left the Thirties—the small-town bank
Closed for the Depression, then reopened.  Someone
 
Is always starting out or starting over; someone
In jeans and open shirt has seen her name in lights
Or told a cowlicked boyfriend he can bank
Upon the future....


[for the rest: http://www.verse-virtual.com/dick-allen-2016-november.html]

My poems about my America, a couple of blunt rants about what what I like and what I don't like about this dear old home of ours, can be found here:
http://www.verse-virtual.com/robert-knox-2016-november.html

Hang tight. I fear we're in for a ride.