22 July 2011

Poetry Day Poem: 'Poem without the L word' by Helen Lehndorf

Poem without the L word

My little black cheese.
My heart-shaped river stone.
My enamel bento box.

My odd sock.
My yard bird.
My dearest speck.

Oh curly one.
Oh restless leg.
Oh sweet and sour.
Oh sifted flour.

My warm brown egg.
My coffee pot.
My mulch, my humus,
my thick layer of good rot.

You lush and lilting.
You wreckless eric.
You converse classic.

Every hour, on the hour
on 45, 33
and on imported, limited-release EP.

Happy National Poetry Day!

Last week, on Friday, I did one of the most terrifying things of my life. At least, it would have been terrifying if I had really allowed myself to think about it - but I feared the terror would be disabling, so I mostly didn't think about it. I went back to high school.

Harvey Molloy had asked me to judge the poetry competition he runs at his school, and then asked if I'd be willing to talk to the junior students about being a poet and publisher, and then run a writing workshop - both things I'd never done before. I think it all went well - the children didn't riot in the hall, and the kids in the workshop were great and seemed really engaged. As part of the workshop we looked at list poems, and I got them to come up with different ideas for list poems (they had some really good ones! I wrote them down so I could steal them), and then start writing them (though we ran out of time).

I took along some examples of list poems, and one of them was 'Poem without the L word'. They liked it, but at the end a few of them chimed that they didn't understand the last bit - they didn't know what an EP was! 'Ah! You won't even know what a record is, will you?' These kids probably don't even own CDs!

They got the point though - the way of saying something without saying it, which is kind of what I think poetry is - or perhaps saying something, while also saying something else.

I love that the things Helen lists, things she loves - or rather, things the narrator of the poem loves (let's not confuse these two things) - are so particular - and some of them are kind of odd. No one else's list would be quite like this. I also really love the rhythm and rhyme she sets up in this poem - it's playful, and not overdone.

Helen Lehndorf is a poet and writing teacher from Palmerston North, and is someone to watch. I would say that of course, as later this year I'm (as Seraph Press) going to publish her debut poetry collection, The Comforter. But then, I wouldn't be publishing it if I didn't think that. You can find out more about her here on her official Helen Lehndorf, Writer page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Helen-Lehndorf/220615784632554.


Mark Pirie said...

Hi Helen, I like the ending, rhyming "33" with "EP". I've always liked the thought of poets chapbooks being like limited release EPs inbetween the full length collections (albums).

Mary McCallum said...

very nice Helens! love it - and love your workshop idea Helen R - might nick it...

Helen Rickerby said...

Thanks Mark. Mary, I'd be happy to share my 'lesson plan' (it's too fancy a word for my outline really) with you.