Greetings Poetry Lovers,
There is a poet in California named Rick Lupert who does a whole lot more for the craft of poetry than merely write it.
Lupert is an editor, publisher, webmaster, entrepreneur in the business of supplying this most precise of all literary forms to as much of the world as he can.
Beside this and many other special attentions, like "Poet of the Week," and Holocaust Remembrance Day, Lupert also holds an annual competition. For a $1.00 fee, anyone can enter a poem; in 2016 there were 865 entries. Three winners split the $1,186 prize money, but more importantly, every single person who sent in a poem received at least one prize, just for entering. Lupert achieves this Herculean task by enlisting sponsors willing to make donations
Prizes might include books, CD's/tapes, writing lessons, coaching sessions, magazine subscriptions, for example.
Surprising? Perhaps, but it works: It is Lupert's own generosity and good will that prompts the best in others.
I have had the honor of "Poet of the Week," a couple of times, as well as having been published as part of Holocaust Remembrance Day. In appreciation of Rick Lupert's special efforts on behalf of poets and poetry, I am pleased to offer as my donation, the following poem, and commentary.
The author of the work is Sarah Lilius.
He made jewelry with
callused, swollen hands.
Intricate work with gold
and gems, I handled each
piece like a promise, like it
would be mine. I felt
yesterday in the metal,
in the places that would
scratch my small hands.
A childhood entity,
tomorrow hit me like grandfather's
pocket watch, hot on one side
from his left hand. Cold
on the other side from the
Illinois country air.
Nothing he built,
he carried it like a knife.
He always knew the time,
an obsession of moving
the train that keeps
There are several distinct features in "Old Gold," that make it a fine poem. Poet begins with a compelling image:
"...swollen, callused hands."
A vision of such hands emerges; we understand a great deal about the owner of such hands; these are hands of someone who has worked long and hard. For the poet, this is a defining, early memory. These hands will contrast later in the poem with the writer's own "small hands."
The nature of a relationship emerges, as well as a strong sense of mortality, in the form of the passage of time. We encounter the tender relationship against a ticking ...
..."pocket watch,"... "yesterday"... "tomorrow",,, "movement forward, and finally, " a train that keeps us afraid." .
Mortality is the raison d'etre for much of the world's greatest poetry.
Shakespeare, in iambic pentameter, reminded us of time's immutable hold on us:
"like as the waves make toward the pebbled shore,
so do our minutes hasten to their end..." (from sonnet 60)
So we have an early memory of the poet, a loving voice, a respectful voice. There is respect for the hard work, the beautiful materials, the jewelry he made that represented a "promise" held in the "small hands."
Then midway in the poem the narrative shifts, and with it a shift from "a childhood entity" to something else. She writes:
"tomorrow hit me like grandfather's pocket watch, hot on one side...cold on the other side..."
And from there a great deal that can best be summarized as a profound sense of a world of adulthood, with all it's risks, dangers and disappointment. A realization in regard to the grandfather comes:
"Cold...in the Illinois country air. Nothing he built, he carried it (the pocket watch) like a knife."
"He always knew the time, ...moving slightly forward, the train that keeps us afraid."
That "train moving ...that keeps us afraid," is an apt metaphor for mortality.
Indeed, Ms. Lilius has given us a poetic vision of some human truths:
A sensitive child's expectations of life are not frequently met.
Good memories are what we profoundly need to sustain us on this often difficult road that must inevitably end.
Many thanks to Sarah Lilius for "Old Gold." It is a moving, memorable poem. Scroll back, and read it again--advice I often give students; much emerges on a second read.
And thanks to you all for clicking in! xo Judy