Category Archives: Poets

Welcome, Atticus

As many of you may already know, I have recently welcomed my son into the world.

His name is Atticus Michael Hylton.  He was born on Thursday morning, and everything went very, very well.  My wife is already almost fully recovered, and my daughter is fascinated with her new little brother. He is calm and easy to please; most of the time he is content to let us hold him while he snuggles up and watches us.

When my daughter, Clara, was born, I did not think I had the capacity to love anything the way I loved her from the very first moment she took breath into her lungs.  As my son was growing in the womb, I worried that I had reached the limitations of my ability to love.  It is a good thing that God’s compassion, wisdom, and grace is eternal and infinite, and that he will frequently give to us a measure of His love so that we may share it with others. As soon as my son opened his eyes, I loved him dearly; I loved him fiercely.

The greatest thing about having children is that it can give one a small glimpse through the eyes of God.  We can learn, in part, what it is to create.  It can be learned, in part, what it means to truly love.  We can come to understand what it means to desire and yearn for someone else, a creature who is flesh of our own flesh and spirit of our own spirit. We know that we would go to whatever ends are required to cover our children with our love.

In honor of my son’s birthday, I would like to share with you a song and two poems.  Please enjoy.

To the Future

He, the unborn, shall bring
From blood and brain
Songs that a child can sing
And common men;

Songs that the heart can share
And understand;
Simple as berries are
Within the hand:

Such a sure simpleness
As strength may have;
Sunlight upon the grass:
The curve of the wave.

William Soutar

***

Words for My Daughter

Come, the cap of birth is dry,
my labouring is done, your cry
has split the world’s roof.

Be comforted, the womb
returns to wrap around you.

Sweet darkness, velvet-blood
from which you came, as night
will cup you again, again

move you outward into light;
a brilliance to be danced in

is life. Your staggering steps
will grow to trust this earth;
it meets both sure and unsure feet.

That shifting pain will shape
the edges that define you.

Know the body that confines
is a new kind of freedom
to find the fullness of you.

Move through yourself. See,
the future is with child

and needs your labouring.
Be done with pasts, walk away.
I’ll watch. I’ll guard your back,

blinded by my own time. Go forward
from the shadows mothers cast.

As old women shrink, rich fruit
seeds into the garden.
I have been. Now you. So live,

we have both shed our tears
for miracles, for coming new.

In birth-sleep heavy at my breast,
love child, first comes the dream
and then the making true.

Janet Paisley


The Art of Intentionality

I apologize in advance for the hastily-written nature of this post.  I did not intend for this to be today’s entry, but I had to get this content up as quickly as I could.

I just had to.

I also apologize in advance to Mr. Billy Collins.  To you, sir, I would like to say that should you ever in the future come across this post (A person can dream, can’t he?), please understand: I had no idea what was going to happen.  I was horribly offended, for your sake, and for the sake of poets and poetry everywhere, and did my due indignant diligence.  Your poetry is very dear to me.  I in no way intended the defamation or defacement that occurred during the event about which I am writing today.  I am sure, however, that you have a fantastic sense of humor about such things. 

At least I hope so.

A few weeks ago, I became inspired by this article: Poetry has the Power to Inspire, to Foster Community.  I also ran across this art project on Stumleupon: “Before I die, I want to ________” street art.  I continually thought about these two articles for the next several days.  I really wanted to try something like this on my own.  I pondered it long and hard, and eventually I decided I would do it; I was going to hang some poetry in a public place and see what would happen.

To get started, I to decide on the first poem I would display (I write “first” because I intend for this to be a regularly occuring thing).  I considered one of Pablo Neruda’s love poems.  I thought something by E. E. Cummings would be unique and inspiring.  I even considered something as quintessentially American as Whitman or Frost.  In the end, I decided on Billy Collins’s “The Dead.” I know that I have a bit of an infatuation with Mr. Collins, but I believe it is justified.  I find that his poetry is great for introducing readers not comfortable with the genre. He lures one in with apparently simplistic forms and vocabulary, and once “in,” he turns the poem on the reader, and suddenly he or she is thinking about something.  I decided on “The Dead” because it is a relatively short poem, and I did want to arrange things so that my neighbors would be more likely to stop, read, and participate. In the end, here’s what I did:

This was my attempt at a little community building project in my apartment building.

I hung the paper above my building's mailboxes. I also attached a string and an ink pen so that people could record their thoughts on "The Dead."

I was really excited.  I couldn’t wait to see what happened.  I have always been able to solicit from my students fantastic responses to poetry, and I thought that I might be on to something cool here.

I guess one might already be able to tell by the tone in my writing that things did not go the way I believed they would go.

Before I write any further, I need to mention a couple of things.  First, I live in an affluent area of St. Louis County.  Second, I live in a pretty nice apartment complex.  The majority of the tenants are families and medical students at Washington University.  Thirdly, there are no teenagers or tween-agers living in my particular building.  The mailboxes, where I hung the paper, are each located in the buildings with their corresponding apartments. There are only eleven apartments where I attempted this exercise, thus, only eleven mail boxes. I know all of my neighbors (even the new guy *ahem), which is interesting, because it gives me a sneaking suspicion who is the author (*ahem) of the brilliant comments to be displayed momentarily.  That is neither here nor there, however, except to reiterate that I do not believe a teenager responded to my poem. I have seen teenagers respond to poetry.  I know what teenage thought and writing looks like.  I am a high school teacher, after all.

Anyway, I thought that the worst that could happen would be that no one would respond to the poem.  Days would go by, someone might steal my pen, but Mr. Collins would receive no comments. Perhaps it would be removed by apartment staff for some weird lease agreement violation.

At worst. 

All of this information is intended to assist with the  illustration of my consternation as I write this post.

I taped up the paper at around 11:30 on Sunday night.  I was hoping to inspire a little intrigue on Monday morning as the majority of my ambitious, adult, well-educated neighbors headed out the door on their respective ways to work.  I went to sleep that night with dancing visions of profound reflections being written down on my humble piece of paper, idea-provoking conversation happening over poetry around my mailbox, and a long, illustrious future of sharing poetry upon a public wall in my place of residence.

I had plans the next day to meet up with friends early in the morning so that our kids could play together.  I have to admit that during the calamity of waking a two-year-old, feeding her, dressing her, and getting her out the door, I forgot about my activities from the previous evening.  Fewer than ten hours after taping the sheet of paper to the wall, I walked downstairs from my apartment, daughter in tow.  I glanced at the wall on my way out the door, and behold! There was a flurry of scribbling, all over my piece of paper! I was ecstatic.  I rushed over to read the comments.

As I approached the wall of mailboxes, and I could finally make out the writing, I froze, not quite understanding what I was seeing:

If it was such a waste of time, why did you stand there and write it all? Hey, at least now you are a published writer.

I still have no words for this.

I immediately took it down.  Not so much because I was ashamed, frustrated, or defeated, even though there was a little of those things.  No, it was because I didn’t want any of my other neighbors to be subjected to such ridiculousness.

I think I am going to try again, after I rethink my approach. I will try a new poem, too.  I now see this as a personal vendetta, and I will not give in! 

More to come.

Hey, at least the person that wrote this didn’t take my pen…


Guest Author: Andrew Deloss Eaton – “National Poetry Month”

National Poetry Month

Another reason April is so cruel
matters most to teachers daring to
bring a poem into class after
checking their email or visiting a website full of them.

I try to read a poem to my students
but see them in the corner of the room
searching laps, doing one of two
things, neither of which should be done

in public, I tell them once a week, but
someone else in the middle is asleep
and all the ones who stayed awake long
enough to hear the apple drop, witness

the nightingale’s raining voice, or know
how long & vacant evening lies
are also those who stay behind to talk
and in their talking tell me it was Deep

but do not see them let it dance or dance
with it to whatever depth is charged
or by what apparition in their mind
someone they once were is who they are.

Too deep from their slanted shoulder tone.
But consider what is deep is only
deep to us who live so far away
we watch it. I head down stairs through many layers.

***

This poem began on the campus where I teach, at a community college. A lot of my students have shown peaked interest in poetry, or the humanities in general. My early surprise at this revealed I am much more of a bourgeois pig than I thought. I think this poem attempts to articulate some of that. The obvious allusions to Eliot’s  “The Waste Land” and Keats’ “Ode to a Nightingale” come from poetic eidolons in my own reading. To break loose from Eliot would be like breaking loose of my house in January,  and I have recently returned to “The Waste Land” [after reading an inspirational essay by Mary Karr] with new fervor and fascination for the charges it releases internally when I “switch off.” Don’t analyze. It dances.

So, I think this poem expresses some of the tension between the high-brow perception of poetry and poets, a perception somewhat fostered by Modernist views, and the tender experience of living in a poem. After a little bit, I’ve settled on the fact that I will most likely continue revision, as most poems in fact help to revise us, while still enjoying it as it now sounds.

-Andrew Deloss Eaton


April is Full of Blessings

It’s National Poetry Month, so today I have decided to put up some things I would like to share with you. Today’s post is a bit long, but I hope it will be worthwhile.

To begin with, I would like to recommend a few poets and books of poetry you should check out.  The first is my absolute favorite collection of poetry, Sailing Alone Around the Room by Billy Collins.

This a great introduction to poetry. If you have struggled with poetry in the past, this is the book for you.  Billy Collins has a way of starting out a poem in a way that is light and humorous, often times irreverent, and by the end of the poem turning the tone around on the reader, plunging suddenly into sorrow, beauty, and, yes, even love.  Sailing Alone Around the Room is a collection of poems from Collins’s previous volumes, sort of a “best of,” if you will.  I highly recommend this book for someone who is dabbling with poetry as either a reader or a writer.  To see the man in action follow this link. He has also just released a new book, Horoscopes for the Dead (Make sure to read the news story below).

Another book I really appreciate is Frost: Collected Poems, Prose, & Plays.

This is a general collection of the works of the late Robert Frost, who is famous for the poems “The Road Not Taken,” and “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” two of the most celebrated poems in the American canon. Robert Frost is probably a poet you have heard from before, whether you realize it or not.

One final book I would like to recommend is Sinners Welcome by Mary Karr.

This book may be for the less-novice poetry fan, but I don’t think it is terribly dense linguistically.  What it is thick with is imagery and commentary on faith, and beautifully, beautifully expressed reflections on growing up, making mistakes, and finding Grace. My favorite poem from the book is titled “Disgraceland,” and I can barely get through the last three stanzas without tearing up. A good friend of mine loaned me this book, and it took me a while…most of a year…to return it.  Thanks, Andy.

Because it is National Poetry Month, there has been a lot in the news concerning poetry.  Here are a few stories that have appeared this week, in case you are interested:

Poetry has the Power to Inspire, to Foster Community

I really enjoyed this editorial because it gave me a good idea.  I wondered, after reading it, how I could share poetry this way in my apartment community.  I then realized that there are bulletin boards over the mailboxes and in the laundry facilities.  Now that I have had this realization, I find that it is my neighborly duty to plaster them with my favorite poems…

Poetry’s Role in Literacy Development

The English teacher in me couldn’t resist putting up this link.  It makes sense to me that learning short, repetitive verses would help foster in children’s minds patterns for sounds and the feel of language. My daughter’s favorite books, the ones she chooses for herself, are typically the ones that she can “recite” along with us.  Typically these are the ones that are written in some form of verse.

Collins Values Approachable Poetry, Not Pretension

This is why I appreciate this man so very, very much.  He has worked to grow an awareness and appreciation of poetry in America.  He used his post as Poet Laureate to promote poetry and literacy programs in public schools and libraries across the U. S.  I cannot wait to get his new book, Horoscopes for the Dead.

Okay, I’m done cramming things into this post.  I’ll finish up with a few housekeeping items.

I am working on adding a “submissions” page to the site. It would be a place for anyone who would like to contribute something to Poor Scribbler to submit their writing.  More to come.

As always, I am looking for feedback on the page. If there is something you would like to see or something you would like me to write about, please let me know.  If you have any complaints about the site, I want to know that, too.  I really want this to be a place to come enjoy, so I need to hear from you! Sign up, comment, and enjoy!

Lastly, thank you to everyone who has helped to make my first week doing this a successful one.  I’ve had a lot of traffic, and it humbles me to no end.  Thank you.  It has been uplifting.

See you on Tuesday. Blessings.

-Mike