I'M JUST LIKE CLYDE, OUTSIDE (CLICK THIS TITLE TO READ THE BOOK)
Writing has been something I have enjoyed since I was in junior high school. I would write stories and an occasional poem. I enjoyed writing speeches while in high school and participated in the Voice of Democracy contest in our town. I recall the first few lines: "No matter where I go or what I do. No matter how many people I meet along the way, I am admired. Not because of who I am but because of what I am. I am an American." (bring out the flags and play "Yankee Doodle.") OK, a little sappy, but that won me a 3rd place ribbon in the community with the opportunity to go to the state competition if the other two got sick or died. That, of course, didn't happen.
While in college, I wrote a lot of things beyond the classroom. I do recall a play I wrote for a drama class which was a one act play about Tennessee Williams and his partner; the entire play was written in words from three of his plays - A Streetcar Named Desire, The Glass Menagerie, and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. I got an A+ on that play and still have it around here somewhere.
It wasn't until I started teaching, my first year, that I started writing poetry and stories. I began collecting writing books (I taught Creative Writing, by the way, at George Washington High School) and subscribed to both Writer's Digest and The Writer.
It was during this time that I became interested in Russsian writers/literature, especially Alexander Solzhenitsyn. I decided to write a series of sonnets (called "Mason sonnets") on the various authors. I finished about 10 and then went on to some other things. Here is the Solzhenitsyn sonnet:
Alexander Solzhenitsyn: Siberia
A future Nobel writer in exile
Finds words echo throughout a shattered glass
That’s filled with water to its ragged rim.
A funeral—a comrade’s grief awhile;
But tears soon dry and mourning cannot last—
For in this world life’s daily tasks are grim.
Some Russian scribes have found a place, not him;
For Solzhenitsyn knows hardship won’t pass.
Siberia’s cold wind will freeze the ink,
So no one reads his words but Moscow’s Tass.
Does such a writer ever force a smile?
Are his fine mind and hands warmed with white mink?
No. In the camp comes stench of lead and zinc---
And food for two-three-two is soup of nettle.
I also recall a poem called "Accipiter: The Hawk." It was an anti-war poem (with the doves/hawks imagery). Here is another favorite called "Three Spirits" :
Three men went to church one bright sunny day;
Two went to be seen and one went to pray.
The preacher greeted each with “Glad you came,”
But, each was there with a much different aim.
The first man was a linguist, a teacher,
Critical of the speech of the preacher;
He pointed out faults in the grammar heard,
Wiped out the message with misspoken words.
The second man, an accountant by trade
With a large brick house and a fortune made;
He tithes to the church—five percent—he says,
But his mind was on the preacher’s pay.
The last was retired, a life of labor,
The church spoke of him as a truly good neighbor;
He prayed for the sick; he prayed for the poor,
Each Sunday sermon, he longed for much more.
Right after church, the three went to dinner;
The first said the language would convert no sinner;
“He’s paid way too much,” the second one riled;
The third man just ate and sat there and smiled.
Here is a link to a poem I had published on The Prairie Home Companion page. It is entitled "Odor to Joy: The Outhouse." It was inspired by memories of going to my Aunt Eva's house in Mabscott, West Virginia. They had an outhouse down a long path, and it wasn't a pleasant walk down that path even during the day time.
Over the years I have published in journals of both the English and journalism teaching nature. I have many rejection letters (including one from Highlights), but the occasional acceptance keeps me going; and even if I never publish another work of writing, I enjoy the process.
My father was a poet with numerous poems published in the local newspaper. I am a writer, and both of my daughters are writers, and I teach writing. Writing has been an important part of my life and will remain so.