Its Day Being Gone, by Rose McLarney, is the latest National Poetry Series winner. A slim volume awaits those willing to give this art form a fair shot.
My experience with poetry began in elementary school with Shel Silverstein's "Where the Sidewalk Ends" and Lewis Carroll's "Jabberwocky." In later years, we began to read, reread, and pick apart poems, seeking for symbols and hidden meanings. We were encouraged to write our own poems. I was published in my high school and college literary magazines, was invited to read for presentations and also competed in statewide poetry slams.
But I don't read poetry like academics. That's too daunting and uncomfortable to me. And it takes me too far from my own experience of the poem. I could attend lectures and read scholarly articles about Van Gogh's painting, "The Starry Night," but that would color my own encounter, my unique observations. The undertaking would no longer be mine alone, the piece reduced to mere critiqued paint strokes. Likewise, I don't want to reduce a poem to mere explained words.
Rose McLarney is an assistant professor of poetry at Auburn University and a prolific poet. There is something about the simplicity of her work that reaches me. The events of the poetry are simple, common moments in time, and any complexity lies in the emotion felt by the subject of the piece, as well as the reader. Sensations linger like fog in the morning before the day turns bright hot.
The poems in "Its Day Being Gone" concern the land and the people tied to it. McLarney introduces us to rural Appalachia and rural South America, places where rivers and waterways are sources of human and ecological vitality. Themes of loss are distinct, divided loosely into grief and relief. Myths and legends, folktales and traditions, merge into mankind's common experience.
The night the bull broke loose,
there was much to learn.
Immediately I was curious. What was there to learn? I read it silently to become acquainted with McLarney's rhythm and style. Then I read it aloud, listening to the author. I looked for patterns, themes, repeating ideas. And then I let it sit for a while, let it digest. I began to understand what needed to be learned. When I go back and reread the piece, there is always more to see and connect with.
Paying attention to how I feel when reading poetry is more important than having full understanding of themes or even what occurs in the poem.
But let's not look to make allegories,
for any meaning beyond the marvel
of a bull, tangled in a broken rope ...
Even the poet suggests just "marveling" at the images and the sensations they awaken in us as readers.
In Its Day Being Gone there are many opportunities to see and feel through the simplicity of a poem.
You can hear Rose McLarney read "Story With a Real Beast and a Little Blood in It" here.
Photo credits: http://i.ytimg.com/vi/Lmo6tdgQwrg/maxresdefault.jpg and http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51sKDh%2BsY%2BL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg