Oct 21, 2010
As exhilarating as the Dodge Poetry Festival was, it's time for me to wind down about it and its poets.
Besides, no matter how stunning an experience is, cities and crowded events wear me out. Everything is a trial. Worming the car into a claustrophobic parking lot behind the hotel (and a second hotel operating as a homeless shelter), getting presentable and taking a busy elevator down nine floors for a breakfast with interesting, upbeat strangers, hearing good jazz while sitting scrunched among nice people in fairly comfortable seats in an elegant auditorium, and then hearing good poetry about the bad and the sad, performed in an absolutely professional way—that constant mix of the difficult and the inspiring is . . . difficult and inspiring.
So the jubilee for me was, is, and consistently has been the open road. Interstate 80 across Pennsylvania has always astonished me with its beauty, and this time I got to cross it in the most dazzling days of the calendar. Bloomsburg, DuBois, Clearfield, Clarion—who needs Paris?
Good Lord, Clarion, Pennsylvania has an Applebees as well as a dozen other primo eateries, big chains and Mom-n-Pops alike. I just might move to Clarion this weekend.
I know, I know, I’m supposed to shun Applebees, along with the Ruby Tuesdays and the Cracker Barrels, but after about 20 miles, with 700 more to go, glory or not, I look for the comfort of the predictable. Judging by the proliferation of these places, America seems to agree with me; for once my tastes as well as my demographic get to be in the majority. And if the majority palate isn’t aristocratic or arcane, or isn’t up to the adventure of Mable’s Grits or The Stroudsburg Diner, so be it. I always choose those places at home, where I know which ones are good and which ones serve braised shoe soles and deep-fried grackle.
So with my pedestrian tastes, the open road—even if shared with semi trucks and a handful of jackass car drivers—is the real festival. In memory of I-80, I offer Richard Wilbur and Maurice Manning today—two poems that are new to me, thanks again to The Poetry Foundation. They are also two poems that feel something like rural highways, more positive than not, despite some tough-minded features. Or maybe I mean that they feel more life-affirming than most of what I heard at The Dodge. I think Manning’s gets away from him toward the end, especially with "shucks," but how does one resist anything that calls God a yam, yet stops way short of hating Him?
A Barred Owl by Richard Wilbur : The Poetry Foundation [poem] : Find Poems and Poets. Discover Poetry.
A Blasphemy by Maurice Manning : Poetry Magazine [poem/magazine] : Find Poems and Poets. Discover Poetry.