I’m late today, but here I am. Okay, so I said I wouldn’t be discussing poetry with the usual suspects, and I’m only bending the rule today, not breaking it. Today’s Poetry Conversation is with Katy Duffield, critique partner and precious friend of mine, but believe it or not, someone I don’t usually discuss poetry with.
Katy, though, is getting a college degree and has been reading more poetry than she ever has. AND she is the gal who turned me on to Elizabeth Bishop’s poetry. Had I ever read it? I don’t remember. But when Katy raved about it last year, I checked it out. (And when I was planning these Poetry Conversations, I did have to go back and confirm that it was Bishop that Katy had raved about!)
So here’s the deal. The first Bishop poem I ever read reminded me of my Papa, my mama’s daddy. Oh, Papa. He was rough around the edges, and he cussed, and he was quite a character. And then he had a stroke, and he softened, and was sentimental and sweet and I like to think he’d even have liked for me to read this Bishop poem to him.
You see, before Papa retired he ran a gas station. I remember going by his gas station, though I’m not sure if it was while he was still working there or if it was afterward when he stopped by to shoot the breeze with his friends. If I’m not mixing my memories, I remember getting a coke and some peanuts (and the peanuts always went *into* the bottle of coke) and hanging out while Papa and his cronies chewed the fat. So, when I read Bishop’s "Filling Station", it was all Papa, all the way through.
Here’s a taste:
by Elizabeth Bishop
Oh, but it is dirty!
–this little filling station,
to a disturbing, over-all
Be careful with that match!
Read the rest here. (Oh, please do. It’s worth it.)
So when I sent this one to Katy, she immediately bit:
Oh! Isn’t that just what you love to hear? The kind of writing that gets one excited about poetry?
Katy goes on:
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"On top of all that, the last two stanzas add an extra special-ness to this piece for me. Everyone who knows me knows that I’m an extra-sappy mom. I love that, who the reader assumes is the mother in the piece, the “Somebody”, cares enough about her family to inject some beauty and happiness into this otherwise somewhat dreary existence. The fancily-stitched, frilly doily, the begonia, the comic books, and the perfectly arranged ESSO cans depict that someone (in my eyes, the wife and mom) cares enough to put forth the extra effort to brighten her family’s day—even if it’s simply adding small touches where she can. Awwww….
“Somebody loves us all.”