The summer months offer several opportunities to practice occasional poems. First Mother’s Day, now Father’s Day … and coming soon is Independence Day.
Occasional poems–meant to be read, not perused–usually are light on structural elements and heavy on powerful details and emotional points. Clever ideas–like a time progression–can resonate with our audience. The strongest time progression is Past > Present > Future.
Fathers, like our mothers, connect past to present to future. On the 5th, we had a close examination of a traditional poem by Robert Haydn—the famous “Winter Sundays”—and a free verse from Li Young Lee—“The Gift”.
Here are two more, without the involved examination. All four poems–just as the Mother’s Day poems–offer practice opportunities for new poets. Without concentrating on a complicated structure, we see powerful details. Those details create lingering memories for us.
Fathers Must Let Go of the Past to Give us our Present
Father’s Day poems usually provides the child’s perspective. Cecil Day Lewis’ “Walking Away” provides us the father’s perspective.
This link comes from Genius.com and offers two annotated explanations.
Fathers Give Us the Future Because of What They Lost
Jan Beatty presents “My Father Teaches Me to Dream”, a soft-sounding poem until we meet the strong voice of the first lines. The link connects to an archive of The Seattle Times, with a bit of information before and after to explain the father’s viewpoint.
We can hear Jan Beatty asking her father what work is like. How many children and teenagers have wondered the same thing? We see work as the money we earn and what independence that we think that money will give us. Instead, in the father’s hard voice, we get the harsh reality.
The short lines, staccato hard, give us a painful truth–“same thing again. / Nothing more. Nothing less. … All this other stuff you’re looking for — / It ain’t there. / Work is work.”
Once we’re past those sharp words, those of us who have worked years will laugh—and then nod, realizing the truth the father gives his daughter..
Look again at Beatty’s title. Through those words “My Father Teaches Me to Dream”, unspoken is the father’s wish and the child’s realization of how to escape such toil and pursue the career that will create happiness in the slavery of work for $$$.
That gift of the future dream, the gift of MORE than the humdrum work world, is the greatest gift our fathers can give to us.
Practice Occasional Poems
Both poems offer memories, just as did Haydn’s and Lee’s poems. In searching for a subject to practice your occasional poems, look into your memory. The details that create your strong memory strongly will transfer to the page and to your audience.
On the 25th, we are past Father’s Day and looking toward the next big occasion of the summer months >> Independence Day.