October 18, 2009 12:07:00 AM
"Mississippi is like this,
a scorched dark country
where silence solidifies
like clay in a kiln."
These days, poems swirl around me. They are caught up in the wind, whipping around my ears and ankles. I hear them whispering in the walls and scampering, like squirrels, across the roof. Recording them, however, is as difficult as capturing clouds.
Poetry is so much more intimidating than prose. I am grateful to be in a class taught by Elizabeth Simpson at The W. My classmates, all wonderful writers, are retired English teachers and artists. They are quite literate and have a sophisticated love of language.
I have a dear friend, J.D., who is also a great poet. Words flow from his pen like a sort of automatic writing, effortlessly ... or so it seems. I''ll never be in the same league as Elizabeth, or J.D. or even my classmates. There is no ink in my veins.
Perhaps my muse will come with the much-missed sun. We are all asking, "Will this season of storms ever end?"
Each morning, a handful of wet, red leaves cling to my windshield. I hope they will soon bring their golden-tipped brothers and sisters. The too-warm October is nearly over, and I long for autumn''s chill and for autumn''s bright triumph over the cheerless sky. My husband claims he is growing webbed fingers and toes. The world is soggy, damp and drab.
Only the mosquitoes thrive. It is amazing how something so small can cause such sting. I am unaware that they have lit, until their needle-nose is embedded in my flesh, weightless body balanced on legs thinner than a thread. Then I crush them, leaving a smear of blood and dark dust across my pale arm.
Poetry is a bit like drawing blood. Writing is painful, like bleeding on the white page. It is psychic self-mutilation, exposing secrets and sorrow.
But, in some ways Columbus attracts poets. (Or does it inspire them?) This week, our city is abundant with beautiful words. The Welty Symposium at Mississippi University for Women Oct. 22-24 is honoring several poets.
You still have time to meet Kendall Dunkelberg at the Tennessee Williams Welcome Center at 2 p.m. today. He will read from his books of poetry and answer questions about his work. As always, this event is free and open to the public.
I think that Columbus needs a local poet-laureate. (Yes, I know, the state of Mississippi has Winifred Hamrick Farrar.) I nominate Elizabeth, or J.D., or Kendall. However, the final vote should be left up to those more knowledgeable. I am a poet-novice, just learning, and lucky to be surrounded by such talent.
Happily, in our city, "silence" has not yet "solidified like clay." Poetry is all around us. Resonances and rhythms dart over worn streets, and slink through creaky mansions. They slip into shadows, daring us to follow. Maybe, our home inspires so many poets because Columbus is so worth writing about.
Adele Elliott, a New Orleans native, moved to Columbus after Hurricane Katrina.
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