Editor's note: Welcome to CT Poet's Corner, a monthly feature highlighting poetry by Connecticut authors.
As Connecticut's newest poet laureate, I welcome the opportunity to help further the cause of poetry in the state. My mission will be to help undo Public PT (Poetic Trepidation) and find ways of suggesting that "Poetry like bread is for everyone," that it is a delight to the ear, a joy to the heart, a feast for the mind, and a solace for the spirit. I look forward to helping spread the word that although "It is difficult to get the news from poetry, people die miserably every day for lack of what is found there." I want people to avoid that miserable death!
The way in which poetry can become a vital force in our lives was never clearer than during the days following 9/11, when so many of us turned to it for guidance. A similar role for poetry was evident not long ago in Windsor when several poets got together to read poems in support of the International Day of Peace. Here is one of the poems I read at that event. It is based on a photograph most of you have seen —- of a young child drowned in a futile attempt to find a land free from the ravages of war in the Near East.
Rennie McQuilkin, Poet Laureate Of Connecticut
CHILD OF WAR
They are fleeing
they are fleeing
they are fleeing
the stench of war,
the empty space
where their homes
They are fleeing
with empty hearts
in boats too small
for the sea
of grief. They are
they are drowning.
Here is one
at the edge
of the surf.
He is three,
he is tucked in,
afloat in the womb.
He will not wake.
He is at peace,
the only peace
the world seems to
know how to make.
As the world descends into chaos, poets have a greater responsibility than ever to speak out against conditions that are becoming so intolerable the world must eventually be shocked into waging peace. Let us hope this shock of recognition doesn't require unimaginable devastation! The poets and youth of the world are in agreement. They must speak out loudly enough for world leaders to hear while there is still time.
In the meantime, how can we get on with our daily lives? I would like to offer a poem which demonstrates a sort of courage in the face of disaster.
AT THE UPRIGHT
You rode, devil-may-caring downhill
at 11, one knee balancing on the saddle
of your Schwinn, one leg straight back,
raucous as a jay, hands light
on the bars, considering release.
Back home you were stopped by a shot
in Life, July 28, 1941 – a girl your age,
mouth and eyes taut, home smoldering
behind her from a Blitzkrieg bomb.
Your eyes stung from the smoke, still do
seventy years later, so much more
of the same having hit home,
in spite of – no, because of which
you sit at your piano, the old upright,
hands still light and joyful,
playing the bars
of a song you hear from the spruce
outside your window, the notes
major and minor, of a warbler in its bower.
The bird answers you, you answer the bird.
As more and more of us turn to poetry as a way of survival, I'd like this monthly column to feature poems by writers who can help us live joyful lives despite the chaos surrounding us, poems that praise life, help us appreciate the ordinary miracles of every day, urge us to be more honest with ourselves, make us cry good tears and laugh our way to sanity. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.