Poetry is for sissies

Poetry is for sissies.

Or so I thought.

If you had told me two years ago that I’d not only read a bit of poetry, but I’d write some, as well, I would have scoffed condescendingly. But take one English poet, add the allure of a French countryside and open an often closed American mind a little, and it’s possible to turn even a jaded and cynical hard news journalist into a believer.

photo by Guillermo Fdez via flickr (common license)
The setting was the French House Party located in the Languedoc region of Southwest France. Carcassonne, a 400-year-old medieval World Heritage site, sits nearby, adding to the appeal of the area. The French House Party “Experience” is an all-inclusive creative arts vacation retreat that offers a variety of courses in such topics as painting, movie-making, singing, cooking and creative writing.

As a longtime newspaperman, I knew how to write. Stringing sentences together in a coherent and concise manner is easy for me. What’s difficult as a crime reporter – my job in my previous life – is dealing with the horrors of society without letting them affect your psyche. Writing about rapes, robberies and racketeering were staples of my day. That was my life as a crime reporter. Dealing with death and destruction daily for nearly 20 years definitely hardened my view of the world. And I guess I took some of that cynicism with me when I turned my back on that era to write about less grim and solemn subjects.

So, just 18 months removed from my life as a newsman, I decided to venture out of my comfort zone, take a trip to Europe and check myself in to a creative writing retreat. I had no idea what to expect. Not only was it my first trip overseas, but it also was my first foray into creative writing. I figured character development, setting, dialogue and other novel-writing topics would be covered. And they were.

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Final Move Home

by Janet Eigner

Mother’s left the building again to search
for her husband, a year ago passed on,
says, "Do you know where Len’s gone?"
"Our charter...we can’t
guard her safely on this side,"
worries the director,
"Call in our movers."

We creep along the palm-shaded sidewalk
the pristine lawns, behind the scrawny,
muscled couple toting
the plaid sofa-bed, her queen mattress
sturdy chair with arms to push herself upright
cherry china cabinet to hold the proud evidence
they’d shed the immigrants’ threadbare cloth:
Lalique crystal sculpture, a sixty year collection:
Sister takes the small dove.
I warm the smaller owl in my palm

across the parking lot that divides each
past day lived in her vivid suite,
front door open to clan and friends,

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