This Poet's Corner


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This Poet's Corner

The Poet at Age 63!

Some Self Reflections of the Poet at Age Sixty Three



I never really knew where  to hide, only that for a bit of peace, a very small piece, I had to keep hiding, At first the isolation was local but as I was pushed along that isolation kept spreading and needing more and more bastions. At no time have I ever been deceived and at no time have I ever understood or suspected the levels of the deception that would keep peeling away to reveal more. Some of these skins are mine but most are the oddities of others.

When I finally realized I was plagued with enough insight to realize I knew very little but far, far, far more than most of them, this did not prevent me from sacrificing myself at their altars as the victim seemed appropriate in everyway to me just so long as they never really broke any bones, incarcerated me, or succeeded in my pursuit of art, a pursuit that I am a Master in knowing it to be the false front of all the peelings lying about me. Nevertheless, I had found company in myself, and a kind of sublime separation of my existence from their insistence.

Knowing that they would eventually go away and that I would simply stop in the shape and form of the strange mobile that is me, I began to accept myself as an eater of the onion only, and that I was merely a revolutionary herald, revealing what was in front of me for whatever it might mean and that I owed something to the struggle that it seemed to me everyone was in. I, in fact, was inclined to scream at them simply to observe the effect. Like Alexander the Great I want victory after victory for no particular purpose but to not waist myself in insipidly and to hear my voice bouncing off the canyon walls.

I had come to the most mundane of everything. I had developed principles that in my snobbery, a direct reflection of my insecurity, I owed it to myself and to them to declare some mysteries as primary: one imbecile can make a difference; freedom can be experienced so long as you are ruthless in its defense, love is as blissful as the grief it must eventually bring, sex is a religion, and I humbly know nothing of God. Enough! I feel my mask slipping. Let others figure me out. I’m to busy hiding from myself and the dreaded them.

Whenever, I “pick” [Shop] Adamstown PA. in South Central PA. during the three weekends a year they hold the Kutztown Festival about fifty miles to the North in the quant and charming, college, city of Kutztown Pennsylvania, I purchase at least one item that takes my breath away.
The Festival starts on Thursday early in the morning in Kutztown. It is mostly out of doors and it attracts hundreds if not thousands of lower end to upper end antique dealers from hundreds of miles away who come together in dealer sway and customer frenzy. Rain or shine, 100 degrees plus or not. They are there, in tents and not.
Now I live close enough to Adamstown, about fifty miles to the South to wait for these exhausted, sometimes euphoric, sometimes irritable antique dealers to pack up on Friday and motor the fifty miles down to Adamstown and begin to set up and do the whole thing over again for two days. I motor about one hour very early on a Sunday morning to do my picking, hopefully arriving at dawn. I usually start at the Black Angus, and Renningers, two large and renowned antique centers, although there are thousands of dealers inside and out all up and down the highway that runs through the area. It is just off the Denver Exit of the PA. Turnpike.
It is impossible for any living being to see and pick the whole thing. It is a collector’s and dealer’s paradise or a place where you can make serious mistakes. You have to be alert, knowledgeable, ambitious, relatively in good shape, a risk taker and in most cases a little out of your mind.
This year, I purchased what I am convinced is an original finish, American Chippendale period, serpentine front, three drawer, shaving mirror. When I picked the mirror up I almost swallowed my heart because it was heavy. That meant that it was all mahogany with no secondary lighter wood for the inside drawers. And sure enough the drawers were each solid, Mahogany, dovetailed front and back, and showing hand hewn bevel marks from an antique tool under each drawer. It has three drawers and in the center, what should I find, but the key! The lock is old. The key is old. The lock works. I pulled the drawer out and on the back ledge was a deposit of about a quarter inch of mahogany dust created over decades of opening and closing the drawer.
I then examined the body or case. It was constructed in mahogany and the very bottom looks to be burled. The back of the case I believe to be mahogany or a wood I do not recognize. The nails used are tiny, tiny, almost invisible, sunken, square nails, to the period- the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The drawers are a serpentine front with an s like wave that is the hardest to come by.
The mirror, too, is old, but how old? I took a piece of white card paper and held it to the mirror and it was the same reflected color. This means that although the mirror is old, it is not the original because mirror before 1850 would cast a slightly yellow hue. I’d date this mirror more to the Victorian era.
The original mirror holders on the side of the harp have been replaced by old screws but these work, splendidly. There is one tiny circular motif decoration missing that is hardly noticeable and two small bits of veneer which a easily restorable but which you should leave”as is” if you are a purist like me.
I don’t know what I’ll ask price wise, yet, as I still have to do the research, and I will offer it to my daughter, who “will not have enough room”. Will it be an outrageously, expensive item? It isn’t probable. The shaving mirrors are plentiful, but mine is serpentine and in gorgeous woods, untouched.
After research I will offer the mirror on Ruby Lane at the most affordable price I can, and in the meantime you’ve gained some insight into just how much is involved and how exciting I find my chosen path. As Joseph Campbell, the renowned writer, teacher, and philosopher on Mythology said, and I second; “Follow your bliss. Follow your bliss.” The money will usually follow this.
Edward Ridgell,  revised 2014

When the Muse Sleeps

She's fickle and tends to be temperamental. I believe at sometime or another we've all learned not to take her for granted. What can I say? She's Greek.

Artists of all kinds come in all kinds and work in different ways. It's not really feasible to suggest what you should do, should the muse temporarily abandon you. It's more helpful I think to tell you what I do when the muse won't work for me. What I endeavor to do is nothing. I do not presume on the attentions of a Goddess.

Seriously, I've learned that I can not force that creative idea that mushrooms into a work of art, in this case, specifically, a poem. There are some writers who can sit down every day at precisely 3:15 and write until 6:15 and stop until the morrow. I am not one of these. 
What I mean to say is that the spark, the first line, the initial idea, I must trust to the muse. Once, I'm embedded within the work, I have the discipline to come and go at will. As a matter of fact, I've found this is very wise. If I let the poem I'm writing sit for a day or so, I find that when I come back to it, the muse is there with little sparks to make my working poem shine brighter. In fact I'm amazed at what I did not see was more or less under my nose at the last writing.

This is not to detract from the spontaneous poem but merely separate the two in categories. I've written some of my best poems spontaneously, but in practice I take awhile to hone a poem before I put it up for "show and tell". I take care though to not overwork it. This is something that is instinctive and just builds on experience. It is just as important to stop when the muse dictates as it is to begin.

Like many other poets, I am a danger on the road, as I look for something to jot that precious muse-whisper onto before the idea is gone with the wind and like the grocery list, and the coupons, I left the tape recorder at home. When I'm watching or listening to media I am always open to inspiration. Many of my poems are inspired by PBS specials or the History Channel, even the news. It is my habit, lazy creature that I am to lie in bed, watch TV and work at the laptop computer. If I'm engaged in something other than poetry, I can still quickly bring up Word and jot the initial spark of an idea down so that I do not lose it. Google and other search engines are invaluable sources of research to me and I personally believe that a new poetry of sorts is developing side by side with technology that to some degree will change the way we create, share, and actually read poetry. I'm no Jules Verne but I am an artist and all art is influenced by the inventions of time. The Bard did not have Google at hand but he did have a library thanks to Gutenburg.

Like me and so many others, Shakespeare used history to his advantage not to mention what was contemporary if not dangerous to the times he lived in. I've a strong suspicion that the Muse and the Bard was an item if you catch my drift. William was no novice when it came to romance and I further would not be surprised if the Bard does not have a very comfortable couch somewhere in eternity.

Regarding work shopping, it did not work for me. There are enough unfortunate misunderstandings on-line as it is, for this codependent case [I speak of me] to ever take the emotional strain of this sort of group therapy. It may fit your temperament very well, however. It depends entirely on just how thick your skin is, how firm your boundaries are, and how well you can juggle misunderstandings. I still grieve the number of poems I chopped up, all for the sake of trying to satisfy too many different points of view, and I've no heart for psychological warfare. By all means try it though. Much can be learned of value, just tread softly and carry an anthology of urban street language for rebuttals.

Finally, I would tell you to trust in the muse. She may go wandering but she'll return. Life may have you under too much strain or you may be ill. There are many reasons why the Muse may be telling you to rest awhile. Do not try and dictate to her. Just follow her lead and be grateful to her. She's a gift to not be taken for granted.

E.D. Ridgell
Copyright © 2009

© 2009 by E.D. Ridgell
Creative Commons License

The Transcontinental Railroad! 

There's a reason why, Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican President, insisted that despite the carnage and oppressive costs in money and lives of the American Civil War, that we push on,  and even if it be on the backs of Chinese and far fewer other immigrant workers, martyrs to that undertaking, we complete the Transcontinental Railroad. He had the foresight to know that linking East to West would help heal North and South while opening up that vast expanse that we explored, purchased, warred over and, yes. stole- contriving  in divers and sundry ways to complete that Manifest Destiny that is our country today. Those blood soaked, rails, lined as they are today with unmarked graves sit, for all intents and purposes, wasted of their true potential of carrying your goods, services, and mail, brought to you by an independent  United States Postal Service,  as established by Congress, and not compromised by private interests, venture capitalists, and corrupt politicians at far less costs than by truck and air that pollute the very smog you breath and your children now choke on, denying you the jobs you so seek! Planes will still fly. Trucks will still roll. Pipes will still flow but at last we'll hear the whistles of our American trains!
                                                                                                                   ©  E. D. Ridgell, 2014

Reflections of The Poet As An Old Man

In revising a poem remember to eliminate equivocation and don’t hesitate to murder an adjective. Don’t confuse the ‘voice’ of the poem with your own. Don’t presume the voice of another’s is their’s.
Revisions are almost always take aways. Carve. Get out of your own way. Don’t take a poem too seriously.
Make use of Emily Dickinson’s dash. Read out loud.
Above all, write for the single ear, yours. A critic is rarely right but be open even as you are wary.
Don’t be coarse or vulgar. It grinds your work down but don’t 
be afraid of words. There is no such animal as the N word.
Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn is banned from the classroom. I doubt he would either care or make a change. Twain did not come in and go out with Haley’s comment for any want of an appropriate word. 
Read other poets and suck up their influence without pandering to their perceived greatness.
Another artist who does not boost you up is either jealous or not taking you seriously. Leave him or her in your dust.
Don’t beat yourself up. There’s always someone at hand to do it for you.
At times you have been personal, political, if not malicious in your work. That is a great gift.
As a confessional poet you write as therapy to assuage or validate what others and the Almighty have done to you. It is not so much about truth as hope and self determination. 
Make use of mixed media but be cognizant of the fact that technology is not as proven as the printing press. The eBook is dependent on technology and technology is fickle.
Confessional poetry is therapy and you enter therapy not because you are crazy but because they have too often been. More than likely you will not be liked. That is irrelevant. Whether the work is respected is not. You are under no obligation to always tell the truth. The voice is a vehicle in no way married to truth. There is nothing so wrinkled as an iron man. There is nothing so bent as an unkind man.
This Dude volunteered to take seven or eight of my students out of art class and do projects with them to alleviate my overcrowded classes. From the start, I was uncomfortable with him and fortunately he soon just vanished. I said so at the time, because nobody volunteers to help that easily with middle school kids. He worked at a local video rental shop. Anyway, I checked to make sure none of our kids had been involved with him outside of school, and I was sure to check on him as he in fact taught a few of my kids at the time. They made some really fantastic things, especially in folded paper. He was a nice guy, very talented and everything. He just felt "awkward" to me. You can see just how awkward he was! None of the boys had ever met with him outside of the school. You never would have known anything was wrong about Pete. He was clean cut, articulate, friendly, and eager to volunteer. I think that may have been what bothered me. To this day, one of the things I am most proud of is that I shadowed this guy the way I did. He didn't get an opportunity to personally befriend anybody. He must have been arrested around this time as well. It was an enlightening experience.