July 2, 2014

Max’s Musings

By Max Molleston

Middle of the year, and the grandson Robbie turns ten. Wow, did we know these kids of our kids were going to get older so fast. We try not to get older as fast. This reverie set in motion thoughts for this column, about young people, particularly young poets. Last month, during the Iowa City Arts Fest, my friend and poet, Richard Wallarab, was one of the winners of Iowa City’s Poetry in Public contest. Wallarab was privileged to read his poem in a public session the Sunday of the Festival.


When snow blows sideways and ice

thickens and cracks like thunder

life’s stories show black and white

on a screen seldom changing

until color interrupts and melts our crust.

Most interesting to “Dick” Wallarab that Sunday was this fact. He, admittedly, is eighty, and others in the poetry presentation were around eight to ten, maybe a little older. The contrast was there to see: to look at. The learning and teaching moment: poetry is easy to think about for some people, young or older. That does not mean it’s always easy to compose, but a youngster would think less about what is going on paper. He or she just jots it down, and when asked to read it, usually does so. Back in the middle of the 1950s, an editor named Helen Ferris gathered a book titled Favorite Poems Old and New, specifically selected for boys and girls, published by Doubleday and Company, Garden City, New York. Her early memory of her mother reading to Helen and her brother was at bed time, and poems like “Little Jack Horner, sat in a corner.” His meal was not curds and whey. That was “Little Miss Muffet.” We 50+ers can make mistakes on the old poems and have our grandchildren straighten us out. One of our twin granddaughters, Jamie, informed grandma that a tortoise lives on land, and a turtle lives in the water. We both confessed not knowing the difference. They are going on five.

Youngsters get compared, in their looks, to someone in their blood line. Years ago, poet Dorothy Aldis penned:


Everybody says

I look like my mother

Everybody says

I’m the image of Aunt Bee.

Everybody says

My nose is like my father’s,

But I want to look like me.

As part of the committee running The Mississippi Valley Poetry Contest, I had ample opportunity to review poems composed by young people. The contest had eight divisions until 2008, and three of those were for school kids – Elementary, Junior High, and High School. When we received lots of cooperation from teaching staffs that made time to allow the kids to experiment with poetry, the turnout was good, and the poems were, in many cases, exceptional. So much so, that I claimed a poem from the school categories could have won the grand prize. That particular poem was composed by the late Jim Arpy’s grandson, then a high school senior. We did not know of the relationship. Jim was one of the Committee. That never happened. The burden always was reviewing 450 to 600 poems. Our winners and runners-up kids annually produced outstanding efforts by the young people. It was a “hustle” getting through those poems wisely and then judging the finalists. The piles of reading were finished in a timely fashion. Hooray for young people!!…and especially young poets.

If the weather doesn’t get hot enough for us this month, August awaits. Join me here, then.

Filed Under: Personal Growth

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