May 202016
Key West Poet Laureate Kirby Congdon (Photo by Richard Watherwax)

Key West Poet Laureate Kirby Congdon (Photo by Richard Watherwax)

by Kirby Congdon…….

An important book on nursery rhymes, Iona and Peter Opie’s Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (1952), pointed out that those light-hearted poems from Mother Goose were, in fact, documentaries, not just making things up. In those days an execution could be your punishment for embarrassing any political figure accused of mishandling civil rights — as if there were any!

A few years ago, a local poet prefaced a reading of a poem by saying, “This really happened.” I asked myself, Does that mean that all the other poems this poet has produced never really happened except as fiction? Looking back at my own work, I saw where I had inserted fiction because it ties up the previous ideas in a neat way, gave the poem the nice finishing lines it needed and came off with some kind of a positive conclusion. In other words, they were Hallmark greeting cards, dismissing real facts and, so conveniently, wished you well. The sender, of course, went back to his chores, put your troubles out of his mind and politely let you die in whatever coma you were in.

We can see here the difference between verse and poetry. Verse has nice pat answers to anything. A poem handles conflicts and tries to reconcile them. If it can’t do that, then it says so. What good is that? It lets you go on to something else that you perhaps can handle. It is the “perhaps” that gives us a grip on a branch as we fall from our playhouse up there in that tree after the ladder to it broke.

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 May 20, 2016  Posted by at 12:52 am Issue #167, Kirby Congdon  Add comments

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