February 1, 2012

Max’s Musings

By Max Molleston

One of the things that stays with me, so far, is the arithmetic I learned in primary school. Add, subtract, multiply and divide. Fractions came later, percent came later than that, as I recall. This column on poetry and some other things begins its eighth year. That amounts to 84 plus poets, and I doubled up a couple of months, because I wanted to move these poems to you again. One is about emergence of the telegraph and Morse code, and the great leap that technology made in the 1860s.

We showed very overlapping ideas from Robert Frost and Carl Sandburg, about how it happened and what those wires carried, to and from. I spun in the pony express and smoke signals in the bargain.

These trips have been discovery for me, and hopefully, for you. It is not every day or every week or month that a
magazine allows a writer to move into poetry as beauty, and maybe a fresh look at a spectrum of subjects from our lives as we see and feel. I am very grateful to the owners and editors, who suggested that I take on the task, and have kept me on board. For you loyal readers, it is poets and their styles and meanings that get worked on in these pages. It has also been the place I could exhibit some of my poems, and the way I developed each one, and how I wove a famous poet’s work into something I composed.

I hope it all makes sense, but I am sure that some subjects involved in the poems and some of the efforts to carry off the poem are offputting. Believe me, I have been put off by some poets and their style. It is not limited to gender, or when it was written and the era, which probably influenced their work.

Rhyme or free verse? Not so much over the past few decades, but a real battle ground, and for good reason. My age was left out of memorizing poems. My folks’ age, born in 1905 and 1907, was not. There was something like a classical education back then. Latin and the rest. In my era, you could select Latin or Speech in 8th grade, in 1947. I chose the latter, and it served me well as a person in a speaking profession communicating on radio and television. I have featured rhyming poets and their poems for years. I continue to maintain that the rhyme is a great teaching device in those early years. I even did a column on easy early rhyme and the early songs suitable for youngsters of Sunday school at their folks’ church of choice. It is stuff to develop young brains with early and more modern poetry for toddlers and those early learning years.

We come now to some of the most influential writing these days, books for young people. Poetry that can carry an idea to them. Some to keep, some to just enjoy how the words sound as they are read to ears that have not heard such a thing before.

You may have guessed over time, that I do not know how this column will progress or conclude. I am not unusual in that respect. Most writers just go ahead, then depend on editing to clean up the copy and point it in a direction that makes sense to the reader, and achieves a goal of communication along the way. Years ago, when I was the leader for the Mississippi Valley Poetry Contest, I wrote 77-year-old Mary Tryon, and told her to keep composing poetry. Recently she sent her latest, Rhymes for No Reason. Volume one Poems for Little Ones. She is now 83 and working on volume two for 5 to 9 year olds. Keep it up, Mary!

Join us here next month for new poems from Mary Tryon of Nassau, New York.