Samson’s Revenge

a translation of Judges 15:16

With but an ass’s jawbone
Asses I have made of them,
The myriads, the masses.
I have slaughtered heaps of men:
Killed them, I alone,
And with a Jawbone, yes, an ass’s!

 

A Youthful Poet

an autobiographical sketch

A youthful poet, coy and diffident,
Who passed his time with lyrical intent,
One day observed a message where he went.

With copious delight he fixed his stare
Upon a plea for poets, everywhere,
And penned particulars presented there.

Retreating to his cave he searched his hoard
Of compositions worthy of award,
He thought, at publication’s cutting board.

He mused upon his fledgling stash of verse
And sent three runes for better or for worse.
And Alex Hamilton did he disburse.

The joy of the acceptance of one piece
Was curbed by quite an accidental fleece;
Its volume by a half they dared decrease:

It’s central stanza, made of just one word,
Was deemed the title of the half preferred,
The other in the rubbish bin interred!

But half was good enough, the poet mused,
For anyone could fairly be confused;
His joy was only partially diffused.

And when the volume was at length released
The poet’s keen alacrity increased
As eyes upon the verse commenced to feast.

But then, alas! His eyes grew dark and dim
And furor quelled his prior verve and vim.
The “poems” were but prose confronting him!

For in the tome free verse prevailed throughout,
Both stiff and ugly, prose, without a doubt,
With tedium like weeds sprouting about.

Had reason, rhyme, and rhythm passed away
And boredom seized the literary day?
He cast the book aside in his dismay.

Why was his lyric sullied by this ruse,
A vain admixture of banal tattoos
His wasted Hamilton could not excuse?

No answer was impending, great or small.
Just queries: Whence this poetry cabal?
Should he succumb? Ought he to write at all?

For fifty years the poet rhymed alone,
With rhythmic meter sought his verse to hone,
And strove for lyric grace as an unknown.

Then happenstance betook his poetry
To those who valued rhyme and rhapsody,
A noble and adept society!

Where poets nevermore need be distraught
By crackling thorns beneath the cooking pot.
They craft their art as crafty poets ought.

 

 

 

Jeff Kemper has been a biology teacher, biblical studies instructor, editor, and painting contractor. He lives with his wife, Sue, in York County, Pennsylvania.


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12 Responses

  1. Rob Crisell

    Well done, Jeff. I enjoyed both poems immensely, but especially the autobiographical one. The humor and lyricism of your verse make for a wonderful combination. I like how you’ve taken serious subjects (Samson, the state of contemporary poetry) and elucidated them in such a way as to make them accessible and funny. Poison in jest, I always say.

    Reply
  2. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    I love the wit and wisdom of Samson’s revenge with its literal and metaphorical use of the word ass. Great stuff! Your “Youthful Poet” speaks to me. I am fascinated by the writing process and dilemmas of authors concerning publication and their “voice”. I would like to echo your message in the penultimate stanza – thank goodness for “rhyme and rhapsody” and this “noble and adept society!” – Huge fun, Mr. Kemper!

    Reply
  3. Jeff Kemper

    Thanks, Susan! I consider myself lucky to be in the company of real poets! For a long while I thought that actual poetry had gone the way of Baroque music. Considering Bach the epitome of humankind’s musical achievement, I wondered why composers don’t compose Baroque-like music anymore. “Because it’s already been done,” someone once told me. I wondered what was poetic about the modernist “poetry.” I knew all along but SCP has only convinced me that I was right – Nothing. There’s no reason why older and superior traditions cannot be pursued.

    Reply
    • James A. Tweedie

      Jeff, Several months ago I submitted several entries to the 2020 Maria W. Faust Sonnet Contest. The contest closed several days ago and the winners will be announced on August 1 after the judging is completed. Here are the statistics they shared.

      541 total sonnets submitted
      39 US states represented
      13 other countries represented
      31 entries in the “Youth” category
      169 adults entered

      The quality of poetry in this competition is quite high. I have not found that there are many venues for such poetry these days but it is encouraging to think that there are 169 adults and 31 youth who love the sonnet form enough to have submitted their work to a national sonnet competition.

      So . . . you are not alone! And thanks for the whimsical, yet pointed poetry.

      Reply
      • Jeff Kemper

        That’s encouraging. I just wish I had more time to read and write poetry!

  4. C.B. Anderson

    Jeff,

    In the second piece you have nailed down the problem. More than once I have had a poem published in what was otherwise a mire of free verse. And I always had to decide whether I should be proud or ashamed of that fact. Both poems were well conceived and well executed.

    Reply
    • Jeff Kemper

      Thanks, C.B., for your words of appreciation and encouragement.

      Reply
  5. Rod

    I’d just like to echo all of the above comments Jeff – I thought both poems were excellent and your second one spoke for many of us I’m sure. Plus it concluded with a nice tribute to SCP – good work Jeff I shall look out for more of yours. Kind regards- Rod

    Reply
  6. David Watt

    Jeff,

    I laughed at the masses/ass’s rhyme in the first of your well written poems.

    The second poem made me also recall the mixed feelings resulting from having formal poems published between pages of unintelligible free verse.
    Also, praise for the beacon of the SCP is on point.

    Reply
    • Jeff Kemper

      Thanks, David. “Unintelligible free verse” – that’s a good description! But perhaps “unintelligible prose parading under the banner of ‘poetry'” would be a more accurate, albeit mundane, description.

      Reply

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