Updated: May 28
By Annie Newcomer:
I started writing poetry thirteen years ago, late in life, after the unexpected death of my beloved brother, John Doyle Klier, a scholar and professor living and teaching at University College London in Great Britain. After the funeral in London, I pretended that my considerably large family had gathered in the university’s beautiful library while an imaginary lawyer read John’s will. I sat quietly and attentively in a comfortable chair, surrounded by bookshelves layered in beautifully bound books waiting for my turn to hear which of John’s belongings he had left me.
In my imagination, it felt like the Sorting Ceremony in the Harry Potter series. Would I land in Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, or Slytherin? Oh how I hoped for Gryffindor! Finally, in this dream, my curiosity was appeased when I heard this proclamation:
“I leave Annie my passion for poetry. May she enjoy a lifetime of adventures on this extraordinary path that only poetry can bring.”
At first I thought that this meant writing a poem and getting published. This phase of my quest was very Me-oriented. Over time, I realized that John had left me more than ambition. He really did mean a path, and his gift was the people, often poets, who I’d meet on this literary path. To date, I have met in person or through cyber space poets from Uruguay, New Zealand, Great Britain, Australia, Texas, New York City, California, Wyoming, the Mid-West, and East Coast. And because my brother was a dynamic and creative teacher, I aspired toward acquiring his personal traits if I wanted to experience the true wonder of his gift. I wanted to understand the power of this magic that he had left me.
This led me to develop Po-Art, and this is also how Lizzie Gracen came to be on this life’s journey with me. Because Lizzie recognizes the value of this Muse, she allows me to share about poetry and hopefully present articles that might inspire you to give poetry a chance too, be it through better appreciation as a reader, inspiring your child or grandchild poetically, or writing your own poems and/or keeping a journal.
For National Poetry Month, I thought it might be fun to see work from both a teacher and a student who were given the same writing prompt during the pandemic. I asked Jamie Lynn Heller— a well-respected poet in Kansas City and inspirational high school teacher and my friend. I also asked my friend Clara Rabbini— a gifted university student. Their prompt was to write a poem after viewing the Po-Art Angel that Bruce McClain created to represent my poetic mission. .
When we write from art, the poem is called ekphrastic poetry. You can use a postcard, a picture from a book, or a photograph among many possibilities. This is a fun way to bring both young children and adults to poetry because visual cues can be very helpful as a writer searches for words to describe what they are seeing and how what they are seeing makes them feel.
I hope that you will enjoy these two teacher/student bookend poems that Jamie Lynn and Clara created and sent to me as their answer to this prompt. (You might try this prompt too.)
I believe there is a poetic heart in each of us. May you be inspired and recognize your own special way to understand poetry after reading these two “gifts” from Jamie Lynn and Clara.
Happy Poetry Month, everyone!
When the Words Come, They Feel Like a Blessing
I talk to Grandma when I’m cleaning around the house or cooking.
That’s when she comes back to me.
Her voice joins the running stream of internal prattle
with little tidbits of advice about not ignoring
the dust in the corner, how much salt to add.
It’s her laughter I miss the most.
When I’m out in the yard, digging in the dirt,
Poppy’s words reach me.
Pull out the root or that weed will come back.
Fix the drainage in the side yard. Topsoil is precious.
That grub I just dug up would be good bait for fishing.
His memory smells of hot sun and grass grown long.
I’ve often wondered how mediums know
they can talk to the dead.
Is it something like this?
Like listening for possibilities.
Like memories entwined with want.
Like pulling on the thread of an idea
not knowing who is doing the weaving.
Like faith. Like writing.
—Jamie Lynn Heller
Hearts are wild things
For the people
Who hurt me.
The caged beast
Where it hurts.
The burden that
The caged beast
Paces and prowls.
In time to the trembling of its
I write to
Not to forget.
The caged beast,
Pounds against the
Bars in my chest.
A wild thing that
Deserves to be free.
Held captive in a cage
I pretend it never existed.
Just as I pretend
I had the key.
Annie Newcomer teaches poetry classes at the University of Kansas Medical Center's Turning Point—a place for hope and healing for people suffering with chronic health problems. Her North Stars series shares interviews with poets and writers and Annie's own experiences through writing.