The Worst Poem I Ever Heard

Poetry Books

Credit: brewbooks. I’m sure their poetry reading was fabulous, unlike the one I’m describing.

I wish I’d said something, after the reading. I wish I’d approached the esteemed professor, though I was a young nobody, not even one of his students. I wish I’d had the nerve to tell him You’re not so enlightened. I wish I’d said to the those heaping praise on him That was some messed up crap. Sometimes I wish I’d shouted out in the middle, while he was still at the mic. I wish I’d booed while others were politely clapping.

The poetry reading was memorable, I’ll give him that. It was the late 80s or early 90s. My blood still boils decades later.

He read a serial killer poem, but not really a serial killer poem. It was about Ted Bundy, in particular, but not really about Ted Bundy. It was about a woman who had a conversation with Ted Bundy without being abducted, but it wasn’t about that, either.

The poet spun a verse about a fat girl who later discovers her girth made her an unattractive target. But think about it. How would she find that out? The poet thought he could get in the head of this young woman he called a girl, whom he referred to as a fat girl. He related her thoughts to us as he divined them — how being a fat girl (and by extrapolation unattractive, joyless, unfulfilled in life because nobody would date her) had only been a curse until that fateful day. But upon realizing her hideous visage (not his words as I remember, but the meaning behind his words as I remember) of fat had saved her, she becomes happy with her looks, for the very first time in her miserable existence. Again, I’m pretty sure miserable existence was not his exact phrase, but was his exact meaning.

At the end, some of us sat stony-faced, unclapping. At least there was that. I hope someone said something to him, showed him the many layers of wrong upon wrong in his poem. A colleague, a nephew, a daughter — someone who could make him listen. I hope he came to know. I hope he never published that poem. I hope he never again read it aloud. I hope he burned that poem. I hope he now carries around ashes of regret for having ever written it.

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Listening to Bill McKibben

Last evening, I had the privilege of attending a free talk by Bill McKibben, a leading experts on climate change. He authored one of the first books on the topic to be written for a lay audience. The End of Nature was published in 1989. McKibben is also one of the founders of 350.org. Click the link to see what they’re about.

I want to share my take-aways from what I heard last night.

  • Time is short. Our window of opportunity to act is closing. We have to make big changes as quickly as possible.
  • The silver lining to the above point is that scientists have figured out what we need to do. (Mostly, stop using fossil fuels.) It’s a matter of actually doing it.
  • Oil companies knew about climate change and how bad it would be back in the 1970s and 80s, but they kept it quiet while redesigning all of their offshore rigs to withstand changes in sea level and sea chemistry. (Steam is still coming out my ears.)
  • McKibben believes we need to focus more on policy change than on personal lifestyle changes. If you can’t influence the federal government, then work on your state or city government. Urge universities and retirement funds to divest from oil companies. I get his point that the changes we need to make are so large and the time so short that we can’t reach our goal with only personal lifestyle changes done one person at a time. But I believe he downplayed the importance of it a little too much. One person can influence others and show them it’s possible to live differently, to help overcome resistance to change. One example — many folks in my neighborhood have planted milkweed in the past few years and I saw many more monarchs this summer than I have in recent years.
  • Organize! McKibben gave many examples of average citizens from many countries, races and economic strata joining together to stop environmental destruction. He showed us a photo of a group of kayakers preventing an oil tanker from leaving dock, as one example.
  • Older people should take risks to save the future for the next generations. If you’ve already got a successful career behind you, be the one willing to go to jail instead of a younger person who has more to lose by it. He practices what he preaches, by the way, having been arrested for nonviolent civil disobedience.
  • Don’t spend too much time and energy arguing with climate change skeptics. “Don’t ruin Thanksgiving dinner” because some folks are resistant to information and will never change their minds. McKibben said he has two standard responses to climate change skeptics. “I hope you’re right” or “You may not believe in climate change, but it believes in you.”
  • 70% of people do believe in climate change and the need to reverse it. Focus your energies on spurring the believers to action.

I’ve spent the last 24 hours or so thinking about what else I can do. I decided my next step will be adding my name to those calling for our local university to divest from fossil fuel companies. Let’s hurry and save the world, y’all!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poem: Gals and Ladies

Gals and Ladies

He claimed he never cussed
but the way he said gal
made me not want to be called one.
The word sputtered through his lips
slathered with contempt.
That gal with the red hair
who waited tables at Chub’s Diner
and didn’t have time for his jokes,
he never left her a tip.
The gal at the license bureau
who wouldn’t renew his tags
with the paperwork he presented
was full of an incompetence
that could never be borne by a Y chromosome.

When he said lady, though
you could almost see the word
float from his mouth
each letter gilded in gold.
The ladies at church who served coffee,
cooked ham dinners
and cleaned up after,
were worthy of respect.
The lady next door
who kept her yard so tidy
and agreed with his politics
was everything a neighbor should be.
I didn’t care to be a lady either.

What I wanted to be was
something he didn’t have a word for.

**

This poem originally appeared in TMP Irregular (which I’m pretty sure ceased publication a few years ago.)
If shared please attribute: Ida Bettis Fogle

Readings for World Elephant Day

August 12 is World Elephant Day. These amazing creatures are in crisis and it’s largely down to human behavior. In the past ten years, their numbers have decreased 62%.

See the World Elephant Day website for more information, including ways we can help.

Since education is always an important component of any venture, here’s a recommended reading list:

Last Chain on Billie elephants

 

Last Chain on Billie by Carol Bradley. An examination of one elephant’s life in the context of a shameful history of abuse of circus animals in the U.S.

 

Eye of the Elephant

The Eye of the Elephant by Delia Owens and Mark Owens. The story of how one couple took on elephant poachers in Zambia and did their best to assist local communities at the same time.

 

 

Ivory

Ivory: Power and Poaching in Africa
by Keith Somerville. The ivory trade is the biggest threat elephants face. Poachers have decimated populations in order to get tusks to trade. Worse, much of the profit ends up funding terrorism. Don’t buy ivory!

 

One easy thing we all can do is limit our consumption of foods containing palm oil. Palm oil plantations have wiped out swaths of habitat for elephants and other wildlife.

Happy World Elephant Day! Let’s celebrate by working to save them.

 

 

My Laura Ingalls Wilder Pilgrimage

Home is the sweetest word there is. – Laura Ingalls Wilder

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The home on Rocky Ridge Farm where Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote the “Little House” books. Mansfield, Missouri.

Reading the Little House series as a child, I was enthralled by the many adventures, big and small, of the Ingalls family: fording the river with a horse and wagon, fights with Nellie Oleson, twisting switch grass into kindling. I identified with tom-boy Laura, climbing trees and failing to keep her dress clean. Her detailed descriptions of home life also mesmerized me, as I read about Pa making his own bullets for hunting and Ma churning butter. Re-reading the books as an adult left me with an impression of a family always searching for home and never really finding it. (Of course, we now know Charles Ingalls, Laura’s father, brought on some of his own trouble by attempting to stake claim to land that belonged to Native Americans, and a couple of similar questionable actions.)

After such a nomadic upbringing, Laura finally found her forever home when she and husband Almanzo moved to Rocky Ridge Farm near Mansfield, Missouri. She settled in as a young wife and mother in her twenties and lived there for more than sixty years, until her death in 1957, at age ninety. In the late 1920s, the Wilders’ daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, had a more modern house built for her parents half a mile down the road, and they stayed in it for a few years before homesickness brought them back to finish out their years in the house they’d built themselves.

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The Rock House that Rose Wilder Lane had built for her parents, Laura and Almanzo.

 

I live only a three-hour drive from the Wilder homes. After decades of talking about it, I finally made the pilgrimage last week. My husband was a good sport and went along with me. There may have been mentions of a fishing pond near our rental cabin to lure him into the adventure.

Both Rocky Ridge houses have tours on a regular schedule, and there’s also a separate museum building on the grounds. In case you’re planning a trip, the museum is where you buy the tickets for the tours. I wish they allowed photography inside any of the facilities, but since they don’t, you’ll have to take my word for what we saw.

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Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum, Mansfield, MO

Pa’s fiddle! The museum has Pa’s fiddle in a display case. It’s in remarkable shape, and looking at it brought to mind many scenes from the books, from Pa playing the children to sleep with lullabies to big dances at the grandparents’. They also have Laura’s blue china cow creamer. I don’t remember which book has the description of it; but I do remember it being mentioned.

The homes themselves have been restored and preserved with as many original furnishings as possible, much of it hand-crafted by Almanzo. There’s some incredibly durable linoleum in the frame house that is not reproduction, or so we were informed. The Christmas Clock Almanzo gifted to Laura still hangs on the wall, ticking away. Laura’s writing desk is there. The original house is well-designed, but the ceilings are low. Our tour guide reminded us the Wilders were not big people. Laura topped out at 4’11” and Almanzo stood 5’4″. Keep that in mind when you think of him hauling bushels of wheat through a blizzard to save the town in The Long Winter.

I have a hard time on tours like this. It means so much to me to get to be in Laura’s home and see the actual objects described in her books, lending immediacy to the stories. But you can’t touch anything and you have to move on through when they tell you to. No standing and studying the details of any one thing until you’re satiated. I understand why and agree with it on principle. Gee willikers, though (sorry for the wooden swearing, Ma Ingalls), I wanted to soooo much. I experienced an intense desire to stay for hours, to sit it in her chairs and run my hand over her desk. Don’t worry, I kept control. Barely.

The final step of our literary mission took us to the Wilder resting place.

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Gone, yet still here in so many important ways.

Poem: Terrific and Welcome News

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I decided I was tired of depressing news, so I made up some of my own. In verse form.

Terrific and Welcome News

Terrific and welcome news:
The glass is more than half full
All our hours are turning to gold
Older is becoming better
Our credit line is expansive
And the bill will never come due
The people before us left the place
Better than they found it
Trolls have all been blocked
And will never bother us again
We can say anything we believe
And receive understanding
Others will listen without critique
The tax refund will be large enough
To donate to charity and take a vacation
All social services are fully funded
And no missiles were fired today
We are not only survivors
We are thrivers
And nothing will ever be bad again

**

Ida Bettis Fogle, 2017

What’s With My Brain in the Middle of the Night?

That feeling when you wake up at 2 a.m. with the urgent need to remember the name of the Greek god of the forge, and you’re panicked because you can’t conjure it up. You remember the Romans called him Vulcan but to save your life you can’t latch your mind onto the Greek designation. Then, as you wake up enough to realize there can’t possibly be an emergency in your life involving Greek mythology and wonder why you would wake up wanting to know, you segue from panic to irritation. Irritation at having interrupted your own sleep somehow and also because you still can’t remember the name and you really should know, with all the time you spent reading those myths in your teen years. But you need to go back to sleep so you can function at work tomorrow, so you don’t want to try looking it up. But you can’t go back to sleep until you remember it. Does it start with an H maybe? So you get up and open your laptop and discovered you were right about that much – Hephaestus. Then you feel satisfied and lie back down, close your eyes and…wait, wasn’t there something weird about his feet? What was that about?

I can’t be the only one this happens to. Right?

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