July 10, 2011

Some vibration going… #PoetrySummer, Week 6

I had a much harder time with Fiddler Jones than I did with any of the other poems I’ve memorized so far for #PoetrySummer. I think it is a combination of my preoccupation with the Hogsmeade Is for Wizards program I’m throwing at work tomorrow and the fact that Fiddler Jones includes a lot of words that are easily mixed up with other words. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

I’ve said it nearly perfectly two times now—once I pluralized brains in line 18 and the other time I began line 22 with the word to instead of the word and.

Sigh. I’m done for tonight, so it’s going to have to do. (Besides, fiddlers have multiple brains, right?)

The poem comes from Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters, a work that bewitches me every time I pick it up. I’ve never read the whole thing at once, but I reach for it from time to time and thumb through the epitaphs to find strange and new souls. Spoon River Anthology inspires me. It is one of those books from college I can never bring myself to sell or donate (even though I can’t remember which class I bought it for). I’m pretty sure I’m going to make my own version of it some day.

I’m including two poems below—Fiddler Jones, which I memorized and recited for week 6, and its mate of sorts, Cooney Potter. Fiddler Jones sits next to Cooney Potter in the book. They are two sides of a coin, and as you can probably guess, I’d rather follow Fiddler than Cooney, right on through the wind and the corn.

Cooney Potter
I INHERITED forty acres from my Father
And, by working my wife, my two sons and two daughters
From dawn to dusk, I acquired
A thousand acres. But not content,
Wishing to own two thousand acres,
I bustled through the years with axe and plow,
Toiling, denying myself, my wife, my sons, my daughters.
Squire Higbee wrongs me to say
That I died from smoking Red Eagle cigars.
Eating hot pie and gulping coffee
During the scorching hours of harvest time
Brought me here ere I had reached my sixtieth year.

Fiddler Jones
THE EARTH keeps some vibration going
There in your heart, and that is you.
And if the people find you can fiddle,
Why, fiddle you must, for all your life.
What do you see, a harvest of clover?
Or a meadow to walk through to the river?
The wind’s in the corn; you rub your hands
For beeves hereafter ready for market;
Or else you hear the rustle of skirts
Like the girls when dancing at Little Grove.
To Cooney Potter a pillar of dust
Or whirling leaves meant ruinous drouth;
They looked to me like Red-Head Sammy
Stepping it off, to “Toor-a-Loor.”
How could I till my forty acres
Not to speak of getting more,
With a medley of horns, bassoons and piccolos
Stirred in my brain by crows and robins
And the creak of a wind-mill—only these?
And I never started to plow in my life
That some one did not stop in the road
And take me away to a dance or picnic.
I ended up with forty acres;
I ended up with a broken fiddle—
And a broken laugh, and a thousand memories,
And not a single regret.

I really shouldn’t whine too much about the difficulty I had with Fiddler Jones, a 26-line poem. Some other #PoetrySummer folks, including Dan Wells (who launched the challenge back in June), took on The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock in its entirety for week 6. I’m lowering my eyes in shame as I type.