On the back cover of my new poetry book, "Poems About Family and Favorites: Exploring Who and What We Love," it says, “Richard’s first book was published more than 45 years ago, and he has since published more than 50 titles. While writing prose has basically become his profession, writing poetry has always been his love.”
It is true! I have always loved poetry, and I came by it naturally — my Swedish grandfather was a poet, and his daughter, my aunt May Swenson, is one of the most famous American poets of the last century. But my take on poetry is a bit different and unique — I use it to capture family moments, to remember those little golden memories with kids and the fleeting joys in the home that can slip away so quickly unless we write them down and preserve them.
Let me share just a couple of simple examples, the first about a new baby and the second about our wedding anniversary, coming up later this month.
They say if you slow-mo the jerky hand jabs
They look graceful,
They feel new air, reach unconsciously for where they used to be.
They are two weeks out of the womb.
They say it's the newborn’s helplessness that attracts.
They look new, almost alien, yet
They are the most perfect of our species and
They make us new again, these new ones.
They depend on us for diapers, dinner and direction but
They teach us too, and
They give us more than they take.
Our own Day of 47
We have a summer holiday period here in Utah,
Honoring the pioneers
Who came into the Salt Lake Valley in 1847 — July 24.
We call it,
“Days of ’47.”
This year on that day
We’re having our own day of 47.
Two graph lines starting together at 4
(4 years married, 4 in family, us and two baby daughters),
Next year first son kept it level at 5 and 5, but
Then the years started surpassing the people,
Babies couldn’t keep up,
A widening gap with one line steady and diagonal,
The other jumping, sagging, wiggling — peaks and dips — lagging behind.
Then grandkids kicked in, turning the tide,
Sweeping the soul-count up, steepening the line
Until it intersected,
So that we are, on this pioneer day, totally even
On our forty-seventh anniversary.
And let me close today with a short poem about poetry:
There are two ways of writing:
Prose to explain, and poetry to feel.
There are two ways of thinking:
Left-brain logic, and right-brain intuition.
There are two ways of knowing:
Senses and the empirical, and spirit and the inspirational.
There are two ways of doing:
Physical force, and mental fashioning.
There are two ways of building:
Mechanical technology, and organic chords.
There are two ways of creating:
Work and plan, and watch and pray.
Perhaps we come here, into mortality, to learn the firsts
So that we can appreciate and gradually gravitate toward the seconds.