October 5, 2010

Max’s Musings

maxBy Max Molleston

I am cash register honest, and I am also a human and a poet. Lots of us are the first two in these qualities. Fewer are poets. what I mean by this first thought is we have a compulsion to be as honest as possible. “As possible” is the key. Think back on times “honest as possible” fit the occasions or situation. You were generous in your description of something or someone. Nothing wrong here. Generosity is a trend of thought and action many of us find. Poetry is both generous and withholding. Love poems fit that bill, and they seem to me to hold a championship in the vast volumes of published poems. Disagree?

Love sneaks through at all levels of poetry and prose and in all levels of life. Kids love their puppies and kittens, and it goes on. We can desperately love another and extend that to families. Young people are alert for this discovery and unafraid to gather words into poems to express themselves. Lots of those poems are written, then destroyed. Some get into contests, like The Mississippi Valley Contest over the long history in Junior High and High School categories. I read hundreds of them before they were judged by me to be out of the competition.

Those of us who are “grown up” poets, with years writing and crafting, can hide emotions, even ours better than the junior set, and do it with some beauty of word and phrase. The case in point for your October pleasure is from the winner of the local/regional competition in the 2010 Mississippi Valley Poetry Contest. The poem, submitted by Brett Foster of Wheaton, Illinois.

Theater of Cruelty

We need in love to practice only this:
letting each other go. for holding on
comes easily; we do not need to learn it.
— Rilke

So late, silent desolate
lovers recite by gesture the last
stanzas of his Requiem, and you, waiting

for a train that comes only in the morning.
It is like that, but it’s more
like your toy boat, capsizing

in tunnels. Could it be we
are meant for this? I imagine you
calling from a corner of a broken street

landlocked by darkness: It’s true — you say it
so slowly— We always squander
our most private moments
Pure dolor I say It’s hard
work! Upstairs I hear the tattered
pack of school children, peacefully sleeping

off their wordless vigils, their 24 hours of prayer.
Tomorrow, solidarity, they’ll play
among the fading arbors.

pure and sleep-happy. You
and I, we will try to rise to that.
And in another world, a world after the labors,

Heracles will leave Tiryns and return to the
Hesperides, having considered the golden apples
and called them loss.

Pursuing cash register honesty, I will tell that Foster’s poem is the winner of the Max J. Molleston Award, which is for the local/regional division. There is a national division in the contest, as well. I will also disclose that my Greek Mythology knowledge is absent, for the most part. There was a time, and may be now in some learning circles where the beginnings of poetic arrangements, brought forward thought, and some learning, and information.

When the Iowa Writers Workshop began, it featured verse, and students were charged to learn and apply the Greek examples. They are applicable to situations now. Human activity smoothed out some over the thousands of years of our past, but thoughts and consequent actions, forged in the Grecian age carried forward some of civilization’s best movements from earliest Egyptian scholars and scribes and from their like in Arabia, and the Middle East. come back in November and see if we can find rhyme and reason for our discoveries to continue.