I’ll be honest, I rarely read poetry. Perhaps it’s because reading poetry is hard work. So many words, written and unwritten, are packed into those short lines. You can’t read a poem at breakneck speed as you might flip through a thriller or skim through a novel’s slow paced scene. No, you have to read poetry as if you were savoring a favorite dessert, taking one spoon at a time and holding it on your tongue to make it last, then counting to ten before taking another.
From time to time though, I stumble across works of poetry that make me pause and want to read more — most recently at a poetry reading. What was I thinking? I’m not sure I even knew there were such things. I’d certainly never been to one before and envisioned something out of Jane Austen’s parlor. Instead, the hour proved to be highly entertaining with two poets dueling with their works, each picking up on a word or image or theme from the other’s then reading from their own work.
Karen Head and Collin Kelley were the duelists at this particular reading, and though there were some similarities in their work, Karen’s appealed on a number of levels — the poet’s voice is a southern voice, smooth as molasses with a dark aftertaste and the images ring true, especially those of young girls puzzling the world ahead, and the focus on family, all with a touch of attitude.
Take for example, this excerpt from Southern Gothic in Sassing:
“The best I can offer
is that my granny and papa
lived on a dead-end dirt road
in a single-wide trailer,
that one of Daddy’s sisters
accidentally drank rat poison
stored in an old green wine jug
after a night of cards and drinking,
that Mama and Daddy married,
sixteen and eighteen,
three weeks into his Army Basic Training
and no baby came for over a year, …”
This and so much more (back porches, mill creeks, warts, spells, and black magic) make it worth a look. But read only one or two poems at a time, not too many, just like dessert, they’re special.
See more on Karen Head at:
The accompanying photograph is one I shot of family members on a stroll on a bleak southern winter’s day. A jaunty hip thrust and prancing stride also speak of “Attitude”.