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To Some Other Poets

Let hoary heads divine and then divide,
Dot i’s and dance on pins and sneer with pride,
And ogle with an obverse obfuscation
To fuel the furious fires of their frustration. 
 
An academic audience allows
That poets sometimes give us purple cows,
Or castles of  the mind, or balmy breezes,
Then trumpet of such titillating teases.
 
About those modern poets I’ll not write
Who trade their praise, or with a blistering bite
Mutilate meter, line, or presentation;
Bashing and showering all with condemnation.
 
The truth is, even bovines can inspire
A poet to raise up a slender spire
Of speech; and lack of larches in the light
Can trip a train of thought that lasts all night,
 
In years to come, some other ones will judge—
Pick out the sparkling diamonds from the sludge.        

.

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In Our Town

Named for a bureaucrat when it was young
Its ways were old. When all was said and done,
It was a town where morals had been built
Into the planks, and people had no guilt.
 
Still, some had said there’s something in the water.
Consider the large, local dentist’s daughter,
Who envied those who had a better home,
Punched out our parson’s son, and broke a bone
Within her hand. Her father placed a cast
On it. Her gown was strapless; as she passed
Within the crowd no silent dancer smiled,
For they all knew she was her father’s child.
 
I later necked upon a snowy stone;
The local witch saw, rushed to call my home
And I got hell. But no one cared to ask
Why she was there. What strange unholy task
Consumed her as the blinding blizzards blew—
Morality was served—that’s all we knew.

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A former Wilbur Fellow and six-time Pushcart nominee, Sally Cook is a regular contributor to National Review, and has appeared in venues as varied as Chronicles, Lighten Up On Line, and TRINACRIA. Also a painter, her present works in the style known as Magic Realism are represented in national collections such as the N.S.D.A.R. Museum in Washington, D.C. and The Burchfield-Penney, Buffalo, NY.


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26 Responses

    • Sally Cook

      Good morning, Leo —
      I am very happy to know that you have responded favorably. It inspires me to do better.

      Reply
  1. Julian D. Woodruff

    Both of these are in the “sparkling diamond” collection. Thanks and congratulations

    Reply
    • Sally Cook

      Hi, Julian —
      Since this will probably be a very small category, I am immensely flattered by your words.

      Reply
  2. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    Dear Sally, “To Some Other Poets” sings to me. As an accomplished artist and poet, you capture the essence of creativity with an array of sumptuous imagery. I especially like the second stanza trumpeting with such “titillating teases” as “purple cows”, “castles of the mind”, and “balmy breezes” – just the sort of world I like to live in. It reminds me of Whistler and how he strove to paint the air – the air was obviously colorless to those who weren’t blessed with creative flair and they mocked until they saw the results of his vision. I say, bring on the purple cows. I happen to know they smell of lavender and sundried hay.

    I also like the wry wink in “In Our Town” and admire the way your magical words conjure characters that rise from the constraints of mere language and come to life on the page. Bravo and thank you!!

    Reply
    • Sally Cook

      Dear Susan –

      Imagination ! After all, that’s what it’s about, isn’t it? While we all strive to have all our accoutrements in the right places and buttoned up with appropriate commas, semi-colons and semi-demi-colons (if there even are such things), as poets our job is to show something others have not shown. When you mentioned Whistler painting air I chuckled over the many times I’ve tried to do just that, sometimes succeeding, although the harder part seems to be explaining it to others; notably poets. It seems to me that some of us don’t want to know about such frivolous things. So long as the question can be settled as to wheher it is a sonnet or a 14 line poem, and where the commas go, who cares about the ephemera?
      Just one of my favorite topics; I see you on top of a hill, surveying poetry. I’m over there on my hill, doing the same thing. Some others are on their hills; Joe Salemi is up there on a mountain. Bwhere are all the rest? Come on people, start looking for purple cows. They’re out there, munching on that lovely lavender hay kindly provided by Susan J. B. !

      Reply
      • Julian D. Woodruff

        Dear Sally,
        I’ve penned words glad and words that cry,
        Of pale full moons on sparkling morns,
        Of sweetest flowers with sharpest thorns,
        And strange clouds that go drifting by.
        With such I’ve failed. Perhaps I’ll try
        Deep purple cows–with crooked horns.

  3. David Paul Behrens

    I hardly ever sit down with pen in hand with a plan to write a poem. A poem seems to enter my head as rhyming verses and then I grab a pen to write it all down. The poem evolves on its own and I am seemingly just taking dictation, refined by an editing process. If purple cows are involved, so be it!

    I enjoyed both of these poems.

    Reply
    • Sally Cook

      Dear David and Julian —
      The purple cow’s irrelevance
      Is moot, though what remains immense
      Perhaps is more ephemeral —
      Lavender hay may say it all.
      Thanks to you both.

      Reply
  4. Joseph S. Salemi

    Both poems are excellent work, but let me comment a bit on “In Our Town.” Sally Cook has a special way of bringing the past back to life — particularly the past as it relates to her childhood, and the world of upstate New York. I have seen her do this again and again in poems about her family, friends, associates, neighbors, and the various incidents (pleasant and unpleasant) that she always vividly recalls.

    “In Our Town” re-creates the entire moral and social atmosphere of a small upstate community, and it does so not by prosaic commentary and explanation, but by the clear presentation of person, place, and event. We see the dentist’s tough daughter, a punch-out, a broken hand, a strapless gown on a large woman, teenage necking, an angry mother, the “local witch” (a common enough character in small towns), and just enough sardonic commentary to tie it all together like a Dutch genre painting.

    Can any reader not see this small, self-sequestered town, ” where morals had been built/Into the planks”? And also where “people had no guilt”? And where some women are tough enough to punch out men, and where mothers zealously guard their daughters’ virtue? The poem is “imagistic” in the best sense of that misused word: it paints a living picture of its subject and its setting. Sally Cook is both a painter and a poet, and her work shows it. Recall the Latin phrase “ut pictura, poesis” — as is painting, so is poetry. Her work illustrates this idea perfectly.

    Let me also say that Sally Cook reminds me of Rod Serling (of “Twilight Zone” fame) — not in their different styles or choice of medium, but in their unbreakable connection to the world of upstate New York.

    Reply
    • Sally Cook

      More depressing than imposed standardization is self-imposed standardization. Humans are curious beings and yet we require structure. That’s what society is all about.
      Poets on this site respect both variety and structure. We gather here to show what we can do.
      Having grown up in the type of small town you have observed in many of my poems, you must see that I was confused by its narrowness, yet when I later lived in New York I was equally confused.
      I must be a poet ! Yet I’ve learned from questioning my confusion.What I hope for all of us is a wonderful Renaissance of our poetic heritage.

      Reply
    • Sally Cook

      Dear Joe –
      Thanks for taking me seriously, and for comparing me to Rod Serling ! Another person with whom
      I feel a kinship is Ray Bradbury – not his science fiction but his short stories. Have you ever read “Any Friend of Nicholas Nicklby is a Friend Of Mine?” It is among my favorites.
      Somewhere in this morass of messages I sent an answer to your panty hose complaint; don’t see it here, computer must have gobbled it up. I think it might well be worth repeating. I recall being frog marched into a spare bedroom in the first prom dress I ever had that fit to have my underwear sewn to my gown just “in case.” File that away with your panty hose complaint !

      Reply
      • Joseph S. Salemi

        Both you and Kip Anderson’s prom date had to wear genital armor for that special evening?

        Man, those proms must have been really wild.

  5. C.B. Anderson

    I must say, Sally, as a hoary-headed person myself, that I appreciated your rail against the dons of Poetry’s contemporary arbiters. It’s not so much that the post-modernists mutilate meter as it is that they have no conception of it whatsoever.

    The town you resurrect in the second poem looks a lot like the town in eastern Pennsylvania where I grew up. My girlfriend I took to the Junior Prom, whose parents had emigrated from the Ukraine, as it happened, was wearing a chastity belt. I don’t blame her mom for that, because she must have thought there was something important to preserve, but damn! — I had previously not known that such things existed. May God preserve all small towns and their institutions (up to a point).

    Reply
      • C.B. Anderson

        I’ll tear them apart with my teeth, Joseph, if I have to.

    • Sally Cook

      Dear Kip –
      Yes, you are irredeemably hoary, and your aversion to purple cows may oftentimes rear its head.
      But so long as you can still defend trees and purple cows and their bailiwick of lavender hay against the savages, there is still hope, and I discern that we probably were reared in that same town, where factual hypocrisy runs rampant, driving people who would otherwise be perfectly normal to the arts.

      Reply
      • C.B. Anderson

        Your observations, Sally, are likely correct, but that was back when we both grew up in what could still be called a unified country. Nowadays I am in a position where it grows evermore likely that I will have to discard what I once regarded as eternal friendships, not with you, but with persons I have known for quite a few years longer than I have known you. I’m sure that Joseph Salemi has a similar tale to tell.

      • Julian D. Woodruff

        I think along the same lines, more so by the day. But I also remember G. Keilor’s (sp?) joke about the 2 guys on a plane who spend 15 minutes discovering that they belong to the same Lutheran subsection, then discover they are on opposite sides of the latest split (as of a week or so earlier), then refuse to speak to each other for the rest of their flight.

  6. David Watt

    Sally, if I was asked to choose one word to best describe “To Some Other Poets”, it would be ‘clarity.’ There is great clarity of image and a clarity of expression.

    “In Our Town”, the characters of the dentist’s daughter and the local witch may be recalled, in some form or other, by many readers. I believe that this is what we call universal appeal.

    Reply
    • sally cook

      Thank you, David. I was devoted to making my ppoint in a poetic way and you understood and appreciated my effort. Kind of you to let me know.

      Reply
    • Sally Cook

      And to Julian:
      Long before I ever thought of living in this town,(not my original honetown) there was a Lutheran church and a vacant lot about three blocks from here. The opposing side in a red-hot argument was given the lot on which they built a second Lutheran Church. It has been many decades and yet one side still doesn’t speak to the other, .or worship together. Garrison Keillor wasnt’ making a joke; he was only reporting.
      There was a congregational disagreement, and as a result one side was given the vacant lot to build a second church.

      Reply
      • Julian D. Woodruff

        Thanks, Sally, for the correction on GK’s story, and on the spelling of his name!

  7. James A. Tweedie

    A ship came across a man who had been stranded on a remote island for many years. Before he left with them he showed them around the island. “This is the house I built for myself,” he said. “And this is the church I built where I worship each Sunday.”

    “And what is that building over there?” his rescuers asked.

    “Oh,” he replied, “that’s the church I used to go to.”

    Reply

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