November 5, 2013

Max’s Musings

By Max Molleston

This is, traditionally, the month and the date we give thanks. We call it Thanksgiving, but there are other reasons and other times to bring our appreciation for life and living to the front burner. You have read in this column many times about Dick Mackin, of Bettendorf. I felt it was time for a snapshot of his gifts to me over a couple of decades. Dick is the man who has furnished my poetry library with dozens of
volumes at no cost to me.

Dick tells me he moves around garage and yard sales, dodges the baby clothes section and goes for the available books. For reasons we never discuss or conjure, people dispatch books of poetry in a regularity that is astounding. They don’t want them or don’t need them, so out on the tables they go. On a mission to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics with a friend, Dick, (on the right in the snapshot shown of “his” library, officially The Dick Mackin Library), called, and drove to my home in Coralville with another eight or nine volumes. One of them, titled The Great Modern Poets, was edited by Michael Schmidt of the United Kingdom, in other words, a “Brit.” One of his selected poets was British national Charlotte Mew, largely unknown. I did not know her work or her circumstance, born in 1869 and died in 1928. In his sketch of 59 year old Charlotte he concluded, she never mastered the rules of punctuation. I ask you who has, especially in the
composition of poetry.

Here’s one Mew titled “Rooms.”

I remember rooms that have had their part
In the steady slowing down of the heart;
The room in Paris, the room in Geneva,
The little damp room with the seaweed smell,
And that ceaseless maddening sound of the tide—
Rooms where for good or ill, things died;
But there is the room where we two lie dead
Though every morning we seem to wake,
and might just as well seem to sleep again
As we shall some day in the other dustier, quieter bed
Out there — in the sun— in the rain.

Charlotte Mew, her sister and mother were pushed into a state akin to poverty after the death of the father and husband, and the rooms in this poem may be actual in one case and fiction in another. The verses move in a cadence/rhythm, aiming at a conclusion that was, or seems to be, inescapable. Charlotte Mew killed herself in 1928, but not before she had been linked in her prime as a favorite of well-regarded writer-poet in England, Thomas Hardy. Under his tutelage, and some said a romantic wing, Charlotte wrote fiction which gained little attention. Her life seemed not unlike the painful and dulling experiences that bring the brooding in poems like “Rooms.” Maybe some of you have lived in rooms where work placed you, or perhaps at home. Could be a lonely setting at a college, where the best was a matter of seeking out and not finding satisfaction. Without my friend Dick Mackin, I would not have known the poetry and person of many I read and enjoy.

I am thankful in this month of Thanksgiving. Please join me here as our holidays extend through December and into a new year.

Filed Under: Personal Growth