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Adele Elliott: Fear of poetry


Adele Elliott



I made a list of subjects that I would not write about this week because I am sick of them. I suspect that most others are as well. A few of those things are: Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty, the polar vortex, New Year's resolutions (especially those about losing weight), football, and the Kardashians. I am not yet bored with Toronto mayor Rob Ford. He will probably amuse me for many months to come. 


This week, I am going to step away out of my comfort zone and write about poetry. Does this subject frighten you? It terrifies me. I want to learn how to write poems, but the thought sends me into more of a panic attack than seeing a mouse. OK, perhaps mice do not strike fear into the hearts of normal people. To me, they are worse than having a cobra slither through my living room. 


Everyone knows that Mississippi, and the rest of the South, has produced the best novelists in the world. (Remember this is an opinion column: my opinion only.) We know the names of many of them: William Faulkner, Richard Ford, Ellen Gilchrist are a few. The record is quite long and growing. I found over 200 listed on the Mississippi Writers and Musicians website. 


This state has produced, either from birth, or location and inspiration, some wonderful poets as well. Tennessee Williams claimed to be a poet before a playwright. The Mississippi Writers Page has a catalogue of about 120 poets. They do not mention Catherine Pierce (Starkville), or Beth Ann Fennelly (Oxford), so it is apparent that the list is incomplete. 


I love Natasha Trethewey, Pulitzer Prize winner, United States Poet Laureate (2012-2013), and ... drum roll ... born in Gulfport. 


What, you may ask, has gotten me so excited about poetry? Well, the answer is Dennis Rodman. A poet? You may think of him as an athlete who sometimes dresses as a drag queen, or the model of rainbow-hued hair. But he is so much more. Rodman has penned an homage to Kim Jong-un, dictator, despot, all-around tyrant, and the supreme leader of the Democratic People's Republic of North Korea. 


"My Best Friend" was written as a birthday gift to the 31-year-old "Lil' Kim." Some lines are: "When I feel past my prime, I can still be a hunk, as he squeals with delight, yelling 'black man make dunk!" or "So when they say that he's evil, it makes me feel sad, sure, his people are starving, but that's not his bad." I refuse to quote the entire poem, but you may get a grin out of, "Yes, he murdered his uncle and fed him to dogs, But I'm sure he deserved it ... sometimes we play Pogs!" 


I decided to call my friend and Columbus poet, John Dorroh. His goal is to write a poem a day in 2014. On Jan. 1 he wrote "Fortune Cookie Blessing." I quote an excerpt below: 




" ... The goal of life is to make 


Comfort. The sweet and sour 




Chicken is all she know how 


To order afraid of the unknown. 




Life is like a fortune cookie. 


The fortune is hidden inside." 




John says, "Writing poetry is like trying to connect the dots to make a picture. It's like trying to catch something you can't see, perhaps your breath or the wind. We do it because it's inside us and must come out, even if the attempts are not as successful as we'd like." 


Well, John, my attempts are far from "successful." My pets could do a better job that I can. In fact, I give them credit for poems I have penned, because they do not embarrass as easily as I do. 


I am proud to live in a state that has such a distinguished literary history and encourage everyone to try their hand at crafting a poem. Have no fear of the medium of poetry. Or, in the case of Kim Jong-un, choose subjects that you do not fear. I will be writing no verses about mice.


Adele Elliott, a New Orleans native, moved to Columbus after Hurricane Katrina.


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