Potpourri of poetry, prose

A '92

January 04, 1993|By John Goodspeed

MAKE it a New Year's resolution: Support your local poets.

By "local" I mean somewhat regional: poets who live in Maryland or the District of Columbia -- for example, Josephine Jacobsen of Baltimore, one of the best poets (and short-story writers) in Maryland history.

In her fairly long and quite distinguished career, Ms. Jacobsen has won a fellowship from the Academy of American poets, the prestigious Lenore Marshall poetry award, an award from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters and two terms as poetry consultant at the Library of Congress. Her work has appeared in seven different publications of the celebrated O. Henry Prize Stories.

One hell of a good writer: That's what Josephine Jacobsen is. Her volume of poems at hand, "Distances," is a gorgeous limited edition printed on special paper by Bucknell University and the Press of Appletree Alley, Lewisburg, Pa. It's illustrated by multi-color linocuts by Barnard Taylor and signed by both author and illustrator. And remember, you get what you pay for -- in this case $150 a copy for 16 fine, short poems and a half-dozen good-looking linocuts. "Distances" is a thing of beauty, and at that price it ought to be.

Several of the poems are set on Caribbean beaches. Ms. Jacobsen has few peers at describing the heat and glare and woozy, slightly ominous feeling of beaches and tropical environs. Here, for example, are a few lines from a poem in this new collection. It's called "Clouds":

When I lie flat on the ground I can feel

the stillness pass over my face. It softens

the gravestones and darkens flower faces.

Death is equally silent but does not move.

I think a good thing to see before the quiet that is

motionless, would be the bright soundless motion.

This silence fills the ear like another music . . .

Another poet who knows an epode from third base and a strophe from Shinola is the Rev. Vernon Schmid, pastor of Oxford United Methodist Church in Oxford. His latest collection of nine short poems, called "Canonical Hours," is printed on plain white paper by Tred Avon Publications, Oxford, and priced at $5. Some of his poems bear the canonical hours prayer titles -- Matins, Lauds, Terce, Sext, Nones, etc. Here's a bit from "Terce":

Wrestling with angels is a bore.

There are no bright tight shirts

showing off my protruding gut,

no leotards sagging against my legs,

while a television announcer prods me,

lets me growl full-face into cameras,

HTC promises me a shot at the title.

Wrestling with angels is silent work,

best done alone, or at least hidden.

How about 45 short poems in "The Dark Above Mad River," by Joseph Thackery, of Washington, published in paperback at $10 a copy by the Washington Writers Publishing House. Mr. Thackery, now in his late 70s, has been a farm worker, reporter, soldier, lawyer, painter, gardener and teacher. The experience is reflected in goofy humor:

My wrist skin resembles a plucked chicken

thigh as I fumble the dark above Mad River.

I am lost. "You have keys," smiles a man

hanging upside down from a crabapple tree.

In the kitchen his wife presses popcorn

and syrup into a pie pan for my ravening gut.

Naomi Thiers is a poet who lives in what her publisher describes as a "culturally varied neighborhood, the Mount Pleasant section of Washington, D.C." In her collection of 38 short poems, "Only the Raw Hands Are Heaven" (Washington Writers Publishing House, paperback, $10), Ms. Thiers covers crack dealers in school yards, infant mortality, rape, death in Nicaragua and peeling raw potatoes.

John Goodspeed writes from Easton.

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