McDaniel’s Poetry Peephole

The first time I read poetry
I thought, wow, this is strict
puritanical shit,
like a stole only worn in ritual
or like a ruler-up-the-back-kinda torture
where every syllable must be set in stone
and the lines have to connect perfectly like
cursive writing requiring endless erasures
before it has any value.

Then I read poetry that was history,
verse told in ancient times,
maybe without the rhymes
but with the weight of centuries
lying across its chest.
Laid in a textbook to eternal rest,
written originally on papyrus
supposed to spark our pride
that humanity
needs a side-by-side
to be remembered.

When I dared peek at poetry again
it was poised over my head
and I was told to balance it and be more beautiful.
Imagery needing an interpreter,
and I was stumped and slumped
wondering if poetry was one of those wooden puzzles
that look simple,
but take you hours
and then you throw it in the
drawer by the couch
after it both frustrates and embarrasses you.

Then, a friend said read this poem,
and I thought oh no, you can’t catch me
I’m the ginger-haired girl,
but I looked on her page
and saw lines that swayed,
words that held their breath
like a soft romance,
a pitter-pattering of rain, and
I wanted to run out into that verse
and catch pneumonia.
I was so giddy with excitement
soaked by drippy lines.

Later, I picked up a thin book of poems
with a dandelion on the cover
and it said, The Forgiveness Parade,
and I read it cupping my hand to my mouth
because no one had ever showed me poetry like that,
naughty like something you’d read on a bathroom stall
and then add your own line at the bottom,
which is exactly what I’m doing now in effigy
for being set free and realizing the flexibility
and flushability of what is really poetry.


This poem is prepared for d’Verse’s Poetics Night hosted by Laura, her topic being Poems to a Poet. I chose to write mine about Jeffrey McDaniel. A poet who turned me back on to verse when I discovered him in high school. I have shared his poetry many times since then, and this video below is one of his poems told with imagery. I hope you will find my poem in his style and honoring his work. Join us.

Artwork: “Peephole” Luis Ramos

58 Comments

  1. Photography314

    You did a wonderful job capturing your thoughts about poetry compared to JM. I would love to hear you read this too. I am sure it would be epic. I love how you close your thoughts at the end. “which is exactly what I’m doing now in effigy
    for being set free and realizing the flexibility
    and flushability of what is really poetry.” Great job and damn, you sure did raise the bar with this one!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Mister Bump UK

        My theory is that it is the age that you discovered him was probably the sweet spot. We are uber-impressionable at that age, things we pick up can stick our whole lives.
        Sorry, I was too tired when I read this to write more than a short comment.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Beverly Crawford

    And so it is … the poetry of some does not speak to us while the poetry of others transport us to special places. Poetry is a word buffet — there’s something for everyone!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. K.Hartless

      Very true, and I really appreciate so many poets now. This poet was definitely a gateway for me, and I see him bring people who have aversions to poetry to the table time and time again, so there’s magic there.

      Like

  3. Beverly Crawford

    And so it is … the poetry of some does not speak to us while the poetry of others transport us to special places. Poetry is a word buffet — there’s something for everyone!

    Like

  4. sanaarizvi

    Love this especially; and I thought oh no, you can’t catch me I’m the ginger haired girl, but I looked on her page and saw lines that swayed, words that held their breath like a soft romance, a pitter-pattering of rain.” A most beautiful poem 💝💝

    Like

    1. K.Hartless

      Thank you. Yes, I fell in love with modern poetry, but now have an appetite for many different genres, styles and forms. It was really great to try and emulate the poet that hooked me into the genre. I appreciate your kind comments.

      Like

    1. K.Hartless

      Thank you so much for these kind words, Sunra. Writing this was a good reminder of what I need to do sometimes, which is just let the words fall and the emotions come through without concern for any conventions.

      Like

    1. K.Hartless

      Thank you, Maria. Poetry can be drenching sometimes, right? Or splashing at times, too. I am glad that I was shown just how much poetry can do so that now I can also appreciate all of the traditional forms.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. robtkistner

    This was so engaging and entertaining I read it twice — and loved it again. Like a little journey joining you on your coming of age regarding poetry, and a peek into your soul. Really good stuff K! 🙂

    Like

    1. K.Hartless

      Thank you for coming by and taking in my very free verse. Poetry is now such a part of me, and I enjoy so many different flavors of it. But, it was modern poetry that enticed me first.

      Like

  6. Tricia Sankey

    I read this twice as well, so raw and eloquent in your journey to find the poets that spoke to you. I just google McDaniel’s “The Forgiveness Parade” and am enjoying every line! 💕

    Like

    1. K.Hartless

      Thank you, Lisa. Poetry, as its presented in school, is often so dry, elusive, even stressful for many, but poetry is really always been for all people to enjoy, and McDaniel taught me that poetry could be about anything and be structured in so many different ways. I hope your kids enjoy the poem.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. K.Hartless

      Thanks, Dwight. I let it flow, as I so infrequently do these days, and it really felt good to return to this kind of writing, and remember where I came from before I started falling in love with forms and genres.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. K.Hartless

      Thanks, David. I must have been spent after writing this as I quickly fell asleep. It felt great to just let my words fall and enjoy them without trying to make them fit any molds. I must remember to do this more often.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. kim881

    This is the first time I have come across Jeffrey McDaniel, who reminds me a little bit of Henry Rollins and his spoken word delivery. I enjoyed the video and your poem, in which his style shines through. I love the way you describe verse told in ancient times as having ‘the weight of centuries lying across its chest’ and the image of poetry poised over your head and having to ‘balance it and be more beautiful’. My favourite lines of all:
    ‘words that held their breath
    like a soft romance,
    a pitter-pattering of rain, and
    I wanted to run out into that verse
    and catch pneumonia.’
    It’s such a revelation when you discover that not ‘every syllable must be set in stone’ and the lines don’t ‘have to connect perfectly’.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. K.Hartless

      I quite like it. Means a lot that you enjoyed It. I forget sometimes to just let go and pour words instead of measure them. This was a good reminder, that splattering creates masterpieces as much as careful strokes.

      Liked by 1 person

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