Sunday, June 21, 2009

Poets and Fathers and Kids, oh my!

On days designated for nostalgia, poets (and omphaloskeptics) tend to dig a little deeper into our own navels for things to say that convey The Great Truths (tm) with Great Meaning. Of course, that's usually when we are at our pedantic worst - sentimental and craftless, caring more for what we have to say than how we have to say it.

Edward Byrne has avoided this trap with his poem "Florida Drought: A Remembrance" in which he tackles Father's Day in the forward-looking direction with a recollected moment with his son. While it's always difficult to deal with a sentimental moment in a poem, Byrne remembers to focus on the moment and let the meaning come on its own. My favorite lines are the last:

Somehow, I will always remember that night
how palm trees already were slipping to silver

under a cast of pale moonlight as a few full
sails still labored across the windswept bay.

I think the reverse direction - considering our own fathers - is even harder to treat successfully in a poem. Partially, that's because so many poets have had terrible relationships with their fathers and try every year to rewrite "Daddy" (please stop it, by the way), but more because so many of us seem to think that our regrets of incomplete relationships with the men we came to tolerate so late in their lives are unique (hint: they're not). When my father died I, like everyone else with a pen and a Norton Anthology, wrote my way through understanding his loss. Most of what came out of that was dreck, though some was passable. More interesting was discovering that I knew my father better than I thought, that the Venn diagram I carried in my mind actually had more than gender and golf in the center. So much so that I felt comfortable trying to create a portrait of sorts:

Of course, the mere fact of spending a few minutes on my father's memory is a discredit to it, as anyone who knew him will confirm. So while there is still time to go bowl a couple lines with my girls today and grab a nice sushi dinner, I will leave you, my six loyal readers, to your own remembrances and observations. But if you are fans of poetry or the late Ernie Vincenti, make sure to connect those observations to the present, and make sure you add a little value to today.

Happy Father's Day to all.

No comments: