Book Report: Patchwork in Poetry and Verse by Dona Maddux Cooper (1981)
Down Home Doggerel by Miz Parsons (1996)

Book covers

I bought these books, along with a couple aged literary magazines, at the Friends of the Springfield-Greene County Library book sale this autumn and I read them pretty quickly during football games and whatnot. After all, they’re short little chapbooks in the vernacular.

In the olden days, back when I was doing poetry at open mic nights and fresh out of college steeped in the classics and, as you would expect, the snobbishness of loving the classics and lambasting modern poetry (not just poetry in the vernacular, but tenured modern poets as well), I was a bit unforgiving in my contempt of lesser poems.

Now, I’m twenty (almost) years older than that. I’ve read more poetry, including continuing attempts to read the (as of the book’s publishing) Complete Works of Emily Dickinson. I realize that most of the poetry that is out there is not the best poetry out there, even from the classic artists. Some poems really capture something and speak to you, and some do not. And the sum of the some varies from person to person.

Is that a disclaimer, leading to the pronouncement that these poems are not good? Well, sort of, but these poems are not bad. Amidst my readings of friends’ work (sorry, Doug) and after my editorship of a fledgling literary journal in the mid-Clinton era, I’ve read some bad poetry. These are not bad poetry.

Patchwork of Poetry and Verse is the better of the two volumes. There are a lot of good moments in them. I’m not driven to own or memorize any of the poems, but I recognized and appreciated some of the sentiments within and turns of phrase spoke to me. Down Home Doggerel is more observational and does not take itself seriously–note the title itself calls it doggerel. But it’s a woman of some years expressing herself and her world around her in verse. Good for her.

I mean, twenty years from now, are you even going to be tempted to read a Twitter stream from 2013? I think not. But twenty- and thirty-year-old chapbooks? I’m all on that. They took not only the drive to put their thoughts to paper, but the drive to lay them out (in the days before Microsoft Publisher or with a crude version of Pagemaker), and the drive to spend one’s own money on publishing them. Take it from someone whose chapbooks are twenty years old these days. So I respect it, and I can enjoy it.