the need for poetry

This year as I prepare for the Pinesong Awards for 2021, I am struck by the need for poetry. Poetry and humanity go hand-in-hand.

At no time time in our history have we not expressed ourselves through the lyric use of language. The very act draws us together.

When I asked our NCPS treasurer, Bill Griffin, what it was that made him decide to add a poem to each of his financial reports, he replied:

“As I recall it was not a conscious act of subversion but more like getting dressed before you leave the house. Would a Board meeting be complete without a poem? At first I think I began reading a poem before each financial report because, hey, it’s a financial report, who really wants to listen to that? Pretty soon I started typing the poem into the report itself — on the last page so you have to look at the numbers before you get to the chocolate center. Plus it’s my report so I get to pick a poem I really like (well, one I really hope you will like, too). Maybe that is a little subversive.

“This year I’ve attended several outdoor conferences where, before every meal, someone reads a quotation by a favorite naturalist or conservationist, or reads a poem. Mary Oliver, Gary Snyder, and Wendell Berry obvious favorites. I posit that there is a patron poet for every type of meeting, conference, gathering, or organization you can imagine. Once I read a poem at a Medical Executive Committee meeting and afterwards one of the docs said, “I’ll bet you went to Davidson.” I didn’t but perhaps his comment says something about Tony Abbott’s influence across North Carolina. Next step — RECITE a poem at every meeting.”

I’ll be exploring this question of “why poetry” with our judges in future blog posts.

Now, let’s have a poem from the North Carolina Poetry Society’s president, Malaika King Albrecht:

Praise Song for What Is

Praise the frozen rain, the icicles daggering
the trees, the grey snow sludge. Praise
the shiver, the wet wind cutting through clothes,
the frozen water troughs. Blessed be
the hard frost, the frozen pond,
the apple tree sapling snapped in half.

Praise autumn and spring, the hot then cold
then hot again. Praise the corn mazes,
the haystacks, the reaping what we’ve sown.
Blessed be the fig tree, the honeycomb, the hive.
Praise the kudzu, the poison ivy,
the forsythia screaming yellow at a fence.

Praise the mosquito, the itch,
the scratch. Praise the heat waves
rising from asphalt, the stopped
highway traffic, and my a/c out.
Blessed be the dusty, the wilted, the dry
husks of corn in summer drought.

Praise the possum lumbering
into the chicken coop,
the fox slinking the wood’s edge.
The owl, the hawk, blessed be
their swift descent.
Praise the failures, the losses. Blessed be
the broken path that brought me here.

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