Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Are poets born or made?

Are poets born or made? Nurture or nature? While academics write and rewrite another inconclusive tome on the subject, let me tell you about my grandfather.

Granddad was a farmer poet. Most of his scant work has been lost to time and neglect, but his claim to poetic fame was good natured lampoons he wrote aimed at friends, neighbors, and (if he was feeling really brave) family members. This was, of course, before social media, in a long ago time when community gatherings at the local church or Grange hall required some live entertainment. When the assemblage learned that Lee Wood was about to recite an original work, many would slide down in their seats expectantly—until they learned the identity of the unfortunate target. His performances complete with meter and rhyme always brought the house down and usually resulted in an encore request. The aftermath was often some good natured kidding or occasionally a ‘grudge’ held by the victim for a few weeks until a new target was acquired and all was forgiven.

Granddad also loved to recite poems by other authors. One of his favorite poets was Robert Service. That is probably why I still enjoy “The Cremation of Sam McGee”. I can remember standing in the barnyard watching him sit on an overturned bucket, milking the cows by hand, reciting poems from memory like the following.

They strolled through the moonlight together.
The heavens were blossomed with stars.
They paused for a moment in silence,
As he stooped to lower the bars.
She cast her soft eyes upon him,
But spoke not a loving vow.
For he was a rustic laddie
And she was a jersey cow.
[I know there are other versions, but this is how he recited it to me.]

 So did I learn to write poetry or inherit a magical gene from my grandfather? I guess we’ll just have to wait for the book.
©2014 William L. Steen


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