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A Paean to poetry
Drift from a Driftless Place
JOHN GIBBS is a resident of Gays Mills, Wisconsin. He is an award-winning weekly columnist for the Crawford County Independent newspaper in Gays Mills, Wisconsin.

GAYS MILLS - Do you like poetry? A lot of people roll their eyes when the topic of poetry is brought up. Remember back in high school, when the English teacher would announce that for a few days some old poems would be the subject? Yeah, that kind of association sticks with many people. While some classmates really got into it, others just hung on for the duration.

Yet, poetry is a part of everyone’s life. Starting out as tots, for example, we are exposed to nursery rhymes that are fun to hear and recite. Early childhood reading material is heavy on the poetic form of storytelling and gets youngsters interested in language. 

Dr Seuss, anyone? By the time of his death in 1991, Theodor ‘Ted’ Seuss Geisel had sold over 600 million of his books, all around the world. And, sales have continued from there. We have all been influenced by poetry geared toward children.

As teenagers, and now as adults, we are constantly exposed to poetry, and I submit that we love the form it comes in: music. Songs are poems and we’ve all got our favorites. 

Name a genre and it will show its poetic roots, not just the rhyming lyrics, but the poetic thoughts and pictures that the words paint in our mind’s eye. ‘Somewhere, Across the Sea,’ ‘Autumn Leaves,’ ‘San Antonio Rose,’ ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand,’ ‘White Christmas,’ ‘Moon River,’ ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow,’ ‘Stormy Weather,’ etc. Great poems all, set to music.

One of the most frightening experiences of my life involves a poem. The North Crawford FFA chapter sponsored a talent show several years ago. As the chapter advisor, I decided to recite a poem for the event, the old classic, ‘Casey at the Bat.’ I memorized  the 13 verses of the poem, one at a time, as I walked my dog in the winter wetlands behind my house. I had it down pat.  

K O’Brien, an accomplished actor and director, agreed to help me with the recitation. As I began, she told me I had to perform it, not just recite it. So, I got a bat, a baseball hat, made up a scoreboard as a prop, and really hammed it up for the show. Stage fright set in beforehand and I was scared. I pulled it off, but not without plenty of trepidation and angst.

Another brush I had with poetry, not so frightening this time, involved several members of the North Crawford faculty. North Crawford was hosting a teachers’ conference for our district, involving all teachers from several area schools. I talked Rob Ghormley into re-writing the lyrics of ;Mama, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys’ to substitute teachers for cowboys. 

We performed our parody song in front of the entire group. We were a big hit and very well received by the assembled educators. Whatever stage fright I had that time was divided by the 12 or so other ‘singers.’


I have more to say about poetry, poems, and poets.  Next week.