Earlier this week, the Washington Post ran an article about Henry Morgenthau III, a man who has hit the century mark and has published his first book of poetry. Sure, he started writing when he was in spry nineties so it only took him a decade to put his work out there for the world.
This is his story here.
And his story is here also courtesy of National Public Radio.
As for me, I took up the poetic pen when I was seventeen because I was a moody teenager and it is simply a rite of passage for a brooding male to put down his thoughts down in free verse. About a dozen pieces of poetry were committed to lined paper and then filed away never to be seen again.
Just a shade over three decades later and I have uncovered those primordial poems. I will not torture you with the full collection of my Reagan Era literary masterpieces, but I will share this one to give you a sense of my poetic origins.
The reverse side of this paper finishes the poem with the lines:
But, as said, that was some time ago,
The tree is now brown and lifeless.
The lovers have left the tree,
And each other.
The last brown leaf hangs from a limb —
Can’t you just smell the angst?
Just to show you that I was not all dark and mopey, I offer this poetic pair as counterpoint:
The Nobel Committee knows where to find me.
However, the story of my poetry did not end in high school.
This is that continuing story.
From an earlier post, you will recall that I co-wrote a book about America’s Road Poet Laureate and his adventures across the United States and Canada to see a baseball game in every Major League Baseball stadium. Of course, it’s pointless to introduce a character as a Road Poet if there was to be no poetry, so my co-author and I penned some lovely lyrical lines to the green cathedrals of the national pastime. As an example, here is my ode to Baltimore’s Oriole Park at Camden Yards done in the style of Edgar Allan Poe’s “To Helen“.
Camden, thy beauty is to me
Like the ball parks of yore,
That gently o’er a grassy sea,
Fans could see Ruth touch all four
And rack up the score.
In cement stadia I loathe to roam,
Your iron and brick, thy classic mark,
I-395 has brought me home
To the glory that was Sportsman’s Park
And the grandeur of a non-dome.
Lo! In you B&O window niche
How traditional I see you stand,
These binoculars within my hand!
I am glad your name they did not switch
To the Park de Oriole-Land.
And my poetry did not end in the 90s either as I am still at it – albeit in fits and starts.
What I like to do now with my poetic license is to play with words. Rather than rant about the cruelness of an anguished love (which is tough to write about what you have been wonderfully married for over two decades) or the dankness of our mortal brief existence, I like to have some clever fun.
For example, there is this:
I am your only one.
None others are before Me.
My image is to be graven nowhere.
One does not swear My name.
Do no work on My day of rest.
Honor your parents in thought and deed.
You will neither murder nor kill.
On your wedding oath, never stray.
Stealing is an egregious no-no
As is not telling the truth.
Feeling envy of your neighbor’s goods
Has no place in your heart.
These are My commands for you to learn.
Please follow them as per My will.
There are a few things going on here. You will notice that the title of the poem is TEN NO’S. And indeed there are ten instances of “no” in the body of the poem itself (“none”, “nowhere”, “honor”, etc.).
However, I am proud of this poem for another twist. The number of lines in this poem follows the form of a traditional sonnet. There are fourteen lines broken up into three sets of four lines finished off with two lines. Yet, the rhyming scheme is nothing like a traditional sonnet which is ABAB CDCD EFEF GG. Just look at the last pair of lines and I’ll be the first to admit that”learn” is nowhere near close to sounding like “will”.
But “These” does rhyme with “Please”.
In fact, if you look at the first word in each line, instead of the last, you will see that those leading words do follow the ABAB CDCD EFEF GG pattern.
It’s almost as if I wrote a reverse sonnet.
And “sonnet” spelled in reverse in “ten nos”
That’s my story.
P.S. I also have a poem that is solely composed of twenty-six haiku that detail the history of the Boston Red Sox up to 1995…but that is a story for another day.