Poems in a Pandemic: Pandemic

PANDEMIC
by Gordy Whiteman

it’s as though the judge has banged his gavel
and given you a sentence of home confinement
but he’s locked up the whole bunch….you….him
her….them….it’s like you’re looking at your cellmates
on the first day in the pen and seeing that the
space is not as big as you would like and the others –
that is how you see them at this moment – the others
have taken over the prime spots – the tv – the radio –
the beds – and they are a surly bunch they have
established a routine and who the hell are you suggesting
that they consider your ideas so now it’s a case of how
do you get through this mess – you can say screw the
edict you’re going out on the street and they won’t even
know that it’s you……..you’ll have a mask on and sun glasses
so good luck with that and you’re not sure that you want to
go back to that mad scene where the arguments are
unending and why did you get hooked up with that bunch
in the first place and you can bet that when this is over
you will be so out of here because in truth it really does take
two to tango and you have decided that you have picked
the wrong dance partner and the band is not playing your tune

“Oh, give me land, lots of land
Under starry skies above.
Don’t fence me in.
Let me ride to the wide
open country that I love.
Don’t fence me in… ”

Ekphrastic May: November Walk with Andrea

Members of the Guilford Poets Guild are writing ekphrastic poems this month, poetry inspired by artwork hanging in their home.

November Walk with Andrea
Painting by Andrea Whiteman
Poem by Gordy Whiteman

The leaves on the trail
to the summit of Bluff Head
are cascading from the trees
and you
struck with the urge
to catch one
are swerving and grabbing
with arms darting out
like a teen
discovering a new dance

A leaf floats onto my wool shirt
a red and yellow
last hello and goodbye
No fair you shout
plucking the leaf…..laughing
and playing the flirt

By the time we return home
the autumn sky has clouded up
promising rain tonight
or will we wake to
early snow

Poet Gordy Whiteman

In celebration of National Poetry Month, members of the Guilford Poets Guild were invited to share their thoughts about poetry and the life of a poet. Here’s what Guilford Poet Laureate Gordy Whiteman had to say:

How did you come to being a poet?
I was aware of poetry from when I was a little child. My mother wrote poetry and published some of her poems in local papers. She was also a really good piano player and wrote songs — some, of which, my siblings and I still sing. I have only one of her finished poems, but many first and second drafts of many of her poems.

I took a creative writing course at Southern Connecticut State University when I was about 30 years old and wrote my first poem — it was a nature poem and I think I received a mark of B. The poem is in one of my many binders. After that, I wrote a number of poems until, at age 55, I joined The Shoreline Poets which was the forerunner to The Guilford Poets Guild.

Do you remember the first poem you ever wrote?
I looked up the first poem, which I made reference to above and here it is:

A HARVEST

Squirrels and I were gathering today,
storing up for the barren cold;
the abundance that rain, heat and farmer folk
have given Autumn to hold.

And we took, each in our way

(cautious and creeping)
the nut of the hickory and oak

(waiting and watching)
the gleam of the maple, the dogwood so bold,
strong tulip tree covered with gold.

What else do you write besides poetry? Do you have other creative pursuits?
In my “bring home the bacon” work-a-day-world, I had jobs that required writing. I wrote much advertising copy ( I sold over 800 homes in twenty-odd years as a real estate broker) and as a manager in the dairy business (15 years) one of my responsibilities was the presentation of on-going training programs to around 45 managers and supervisors. Critiquing other managers required my acquiring some diplomatic skills while still getting my point across.

For years, my love of painting ( pastels, oils, charcoal and colored pencil) was my main pursuit. I really enjoy drawing the human face. So much is there in the expression, the eyes, the wrinkles, although when I have drawn Andrea, she has warned me, “no wrinkles !”

Singing — Guilford, for many years, had a choral group The Guilford Community Chorus I sang in that group for, I would say, about fifteen years. When I was in high school, I was honored to be chosen to represent Guilford in Connecticut’s All State Chorus. A great experience.

What has been the defining moment in your life as a poet/writer?
I would have to say when I published my first book, Whitfield Crossing. It came out less than two months after the terrorist attack on New York’s Twin Towers. I think the Guilford public needed something that would bring them back to normal. I gave several readings over the ensuing weeks. I sold over 600 copies; most within the next six months. Other defining moments — being named Guilford’s Poet Laureate. Having been born in Guilford and, aside from US Air Force time and college, I have lived here my whole 90 years. Also, having been asked to serve as president or co-president three times by The Guilford Poets Guild. I do not want to leave out of your question the honor of being a founding member of The Connecticut Coalition of Poets Laureate. When the Coalition was founded, there were five known town or city poets laureate in the whole state. Now, there are well over 35 laureates plus another 15 or so that are emeritus.

How long have you been a member of the Guilford Poets Guild and what’s that like?
I joined the fore-runner of The Guild, The Shoreline Poets, in 1985 and became a member of the Guild almost immediately after it was formed, by Katrina Van Tassel, into an on-going community-minded organization. One way to measure the value of any group is to look at how often its membership changes. The Guild has had an unchanging, rock-solid membership for years. We would like to have new members but, at this time, simply do not have the room to accommodate any additions. Therefore, we encourage would-be members to participate in our meetings that are open to the public. There are various ways that non-members can become involved.

What is it like? Since 1985, when I became a member, it was expected that I and the other members would show up at the twice-a-month meetings with a poem that would be critiqued by the other members. We meet twenty-four times a year for these sessions so, you can do the math..- lots of poems — lots of poetry books, many of which are in the stacks at the Guilford Free Library. And (this is a big and) The Guilford Free Library has been generous in making room for us to hold our Second Thursday Poetry Readings where we usually have a well-known poet from Connecticut or some other northeastern state as a featured guest poet — and an open mic for poets who might not otherwise have an audience.

What inspires your writing today?
I am inspired to write about my fellow men and women of all ages — the goodness – the quirkiness — the history — the heroism — the quotidian — the love

Describe your poem-writing process. Where do you like to write?
I have found that certain rooms in our house are good for doing certain things. Just as when watching TV, if one is used to snacking, then snacking becomes habit. Likewise, when I sense that a poem is coming forth, I go to my den (Andrea also has a den). That is my habit. I will write one-liners on subject matter, anywhere from a half dozen to a dozen. Then I will concentrate on the opening line and the opening stanza. If I don’t have words that are going to inspire the reader to continue down the page, then why go any further? So, a lot of thought goes into the opening. Then I go to my list of one-liners and I write. More often than not pure creativity takes over and the first draft comes to life. The next part, the rewrite, I just thoroughly enjoy. Here, to use an analogy, its like the sculptor who has gotten beyond the lump of clay, beyond the rough form and, if lucky, can see something of worth beginning to take shape. At some point the poem goes before the Guild for a friendly, but serious, critique.

Who are you favorite poets and authors?
My favorite poet is Nancy Fitz-Hugh Meneely. She is a poet who has a unique way with words, and that, coupled with true insight into the human condition, has made my heart sing on many a reading of her poetry. To be a great poet, one has to have, among many other things, courage to say it like it is. She has that quality also. Other poets high on my list are Gray Jacobik (genius qualities there) and W.S. Merwin for form and always a good story.

What book are you currently reading? (poetry or not)
I usually have five or six books going at the same time. Andrea and I have a pretty good library to choose from. Downstairs I am reading Gray Jacobik’s Banquet and upstairs, in my den, I am reading Kenilworth by Sir Walter Scott. If I run out of a good tale, I will happily read the encyclopedia or the dictionary.

What’s your favorite poem to carry around and share with others?
Shakespeare’s soliloquies are pretty good. Portia’s “The quality of mercy …” has stood up well for a few hundred years. But for a modern-day poet, I don’t think any poet can top Robert Frost — snowy woods — two roads diverged — some say the world will end in fire – birches — stone fences make good neighbors — and on and on.

Any last words?
And finally  –  “I had a lover’s quarrel with the world”


Gordy Whiteman was born in Guilford in 1929. He is a member of the Guilford Poets Guild. Whiteman is the author of two volumes of poetry: Whitfield Crossing and Home Town Guilford. He is a founding member of The Connecticut Coalition of Poets Laureate and currently serves as Guilford’s Poet Laureate. If he can keep his short-term memory intact, he hopes to complete a third book of poems in the sometime soon.

GPG Poet Gordy Whiteman at The Poetry Institute, January 18

THE POETRY INSTITUTE
Featuring
Gordy Whiteman
and
Laurel Peterson

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Gordy Whiteman was born in Guilford in 1929. He is President of The Guilford Poets Guild and a founding Member of The Connecticut Coalition of Poets Laureate. Currently, he serves as the Poet Laureate of Guilford. Gordy is the author of two books of poetry: Whitfield Crossing and Home – Town -Guilford. His poetry presents a view of America during the mid-1900s -The Great Depression – war – racism – songs and the spirit of the people.

Laurel S. Peterson is a Professor of English at Norwalk Community College. Her poetry has been published in many small literary journals. She has two poetry chapbooks: That’s the Way the Music Sounds,) and Talking to the Mirror. She also co-edited a collection of essays on women’s justice titled (Re)Interpretations: The Shapes of Justice in Women’s Experience. Her mystery novel, Shadow Notes, was released in, and the second in the series will be out sometime this year. A full length collection of poetry, Do You Expect Your Art to Answer You? was released in 2017. She is the current poet laureate of Norwalk, CT.

On the third Thursday of each month, The Poetry Institute Poetry Series celebrates an eclectic mix of poetic voices. Free. Refreshments. (And participants are invited to bring something to share.) Open mic. Outstanding featured readers. In a casual setting. Open to all members of the public (and even others).

The Institute Library
847 Chapel Street
New Haven, CT
right next door to the Tattoo Parlor

Doors Open at 6:30. Reading starts at 7:00.
Please arrive a few minutes early to sign up for the reading.