When we decided to hold a contest about your favorite poet, poem, and the reasons you chose what you did, we knew we’d get some interesting responses. What an amazing breadth of ideas, selection of poetry, and challenge!
We found your poets, and your poems, then reviewed the comments several times. Lewis Carroll to Sylvia Plath. Ogden Nash to Czeslaw Milosz. Ted Koosier’s stark sketch to Shakespeare’s sonnets. Keats to Seamus Heaney. Don Blanding inspired one responder to write her own poem, she was so moved by his “Vagabond’s House”.* Not to mention our own favorites scattered through the stack.
After much discussion, Edward Harsen’s choice and explanation of the “pig poem” by Douglas “Woody” Woodson climbed to the top. Here’s the poem and what Edward said:
(Please help me get this pig, dear Lord, into my truck)
Please help me get this pig, dear Lord, into my truck.
Like Jesus, he senses the coming end; unlike Him,
The pig’s exhausted us both with flailing. My hands bleed
From the scrap-wood ramp and sides of the truck bed.
The rope leash burns my flesh. My plan, God, was food
For family and fold, the head and feet for the poor. But Satan,
It seems, is breathing hot stink at me. The pig braces,
Digs four hooves in, and stares. I’d gotten him half way up,
Tied him, then put my shoulder to him. He kicked my tooth
Loose, Lord. My eyes watered. Blasphemy had its way
With me. Now, covered with muck, almost broken, I pray:
Help those who suffer most first. I’ll wait, catch my breath.
Then, please forgive me, and grant one small miracle
Father: Get this pig in my truck to take to slaughter.
Douglas ‘Woody’ Woodsum
This is such a meaningful prayer, such an aspiration. There is humor and desperation in the sense, there is a compelling voice, the necessary economy and brilliant execution. This poem clearly needs to be said, the speaker needs to be heard. Nothing is missing from the recitation, and the music is beautiful. The familiarity of the matter and the clarity of the form make this poem ring like a single bell. I would want everything I write to be this sufficient.
I have been writing poetry and prose since school, and worked as associate editor for Street Press and Magazine during the late ’70s and early ’80s. I have published poems in Long Island Press, Wood Coin, Shrub Oak and Street Press, and most recently in analogpress.net. Two chapbooks of my poems have also been published: RENT, 1977; Surf Club, 1982. After marrying my wife Jeanine and while raising John and Sebastian, our sons, writing took a back seat to most of everything else life provided. It has been only in the last five or so years that I have been writing poetry again, sending poems to publishers, polishing a manuscript.
My wife Jeanine is a singer and songwriter, a marvelous talent and inspiration to me. Music is central to the way I hear language, and her ability to compose and arrange is both mystifying and beautiful to me. She also writes in rhyme, which produces a lyric quality that is different to my poems. Ours is a magical partnership.
In my professional life, I work in Facilities and Property Management. Since 2001, I have been researching business relationship methods, supply chain management and commercial competitiveness. I have written white papers and employee training programs for the territories I manage. I find that a well-written email can be a piece of persuasive exposition, or a format for precision delivery of technical or difficult information. Grammar, sentence structure, timing, format, and sense of audience: the pegboard-hung tools of the creative and technical writer.
I am pleased that the older poems are immature and playful; pleased, too, that these recent poems are more clear and easier to say. Encouraged by Apollo’s Lyre and other magazines, I have put together a manuscript of sixty-some-odd pieces called, “Three Sisters,” and will be shopping that around this year.
Best wishes to you for the new year.
Thank you, Edward, and the rest of you hearty souls who shared your thoughts and favorites with us. We greatly appreciate your participation, and hop you found it a fun process, too.
* We loved Eileen Peterson’s poem, “Dream House,” and will share that with you in a couple of weeks, as we talk more about “inspiration” — until then, keep writing and reading, and happy new year to all.