Poem for my dad

If you have been reading this blog for the past year, you may recall my posts concerning the 50th year celebration of the March on Montgomery and the Voting Rights Act. (Click on the links below if you want to read them). I mentioned in the first post that I was trying to write a poem about my father’s memories of the event.

January 14: Trying to write (Selma)

January 18: Guest blogger–My dad’s memoir

After much struggle and revision (and many thanks to my writing critique group), I did manage to write that poem.

And: the poem has been published! Here it is, in One – volume 7. Richard Krawiec of Jacar Press has placed the poems, one by each poet (hence the journal name) so that the readers can scroll one by one, taking their time through the pieces. There’s a feel of development in this form of editing. It reminds me a little of how a good record album–if you recall those days–worked song by song to create an album experience that differed from just hearing the tunes randomly. The result was not always thematic, but a sense of mood or tone arose. I guess it’s similar to what poetry reviewers call the “arc” of a book of poetry. An arc is not necessary, but sometimes a feeling of synthesis does enhance the poems.

“Arc” is particularly apt here, given the title of my poem–taken from Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous speech on that day.

Arc of the Moral Universe, Bending toward Justice

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Thanks for reading.

 

Protest (Selma)

The past 10 months have been especially notable for public protest here and abroad. As it happens, I’ve been trying to write a poem about my father’s participation in the voting-rights march (1965, Selma to Montgomery AL), a kind of occasional poem to commemorate the 50-year anniversary. Then the movie “Selma” was released, which I just saw at the cinema.

The film, like all “based on a true story” dramatizations, may have focused on perspectives of the protest that worked best for the scriptwriter, may have some historical inaccuracies, may raise some controversy. But as a child whose parents were, though marginally, connected with civil rights through the churches’ participation, the movie felt true in the big way: “capital T” True. Funny, the aspects of the film that engaged me: how I could immediately identify who the actors were portraying (Abernathy, Young, Lewis); the way so many important discussions took place in church basements and classrooms (as the child of a minister, I am intimately familiar with church basements and classrooms); the televising of Bloody Sunday.

And another True thing:  the familiar, biblical-style, preacher-cadence and allusions in King’s speech. People do not talk that way anymore. But they once did, and I recall it well. Rhythm and intonation and the use of allusions and analogies impress the sort of listeners who eventually become poets, I am sure of it.

Right now, I am struggling with my poem. I am not sure I will ever complete a draft that I feel pleased with–maybe it will end  up in my “dead poems” file. What I will do instead is to devote my next post to my father’s depiction of the Selma-to-Montgomery march, from his point of view, looking back 50 years.