Thursday, August 29, 2013

Genealogy Poetry Challenge -- "Quite Frankly" by Mark Halliday

As Bill West announced in his August 20th post on West in New England, his 5th annual Great Genealogy Poetry Challenge is now underway with plenty of lead time before the November 20th submission deadline.  Since I was not blogging during the previous four Challenges, this will be my first opportunity to participate.  I am doing so early so I do not overlook the deadline.

I hope the submission to follow meets the Challenge guidelines.  

My ancestors are almost all from New England (Rhode Island and Massachusetts) by way of England, Ireland and a bit of Germany.  The poet I am submitting (Mark Halliday) is a contemporary poet who, while born in Michigan, was educated in New England -- at Brown in Rhode Island and Brandeis in Massachusetts.  His poem, titled Quite Frankly, was the poetry selection in the August 27, 2013 edition of Garrison's Keillor's The Writer's Almanac.  The poem itself follows my explanation below about how the poem relates to me. 

The poem is not specifically about an historical event, legend, person or place as the Challenge guidelines propose, but it relates to me and this blog because it goes to something that has always fascinated me -- old photographs and the moments in everyday lives they depict.  I find it impossible to look at old family photographs (many of which have been posted here) without pondering the reality that while the ancestors shown have passed on, during the moments in time when the photos were taken they lived and experienced all the elation, sadness, challenges, victories and defeats that come with life.  For me this poem evokes the same poignance that is captured, enveloped and preserved beyond death in photographs of long ago moments in a life.  I agree with Mr. Halliday.  There is an undeniable, exquisite beauty in looking at frozen moments in an ancestor's life. 

Quite Frankly

by Mark Halliday

They got old, they got old and died. But first—
okay but first they composed plangent depictions
of how much they lost and how much they cared about losing.
Meantime their hair got thin and more thin
as their shoulders went slumpy. Okay but

not before the photo albums got arranged by them,
arranged with a niftiness, not just two or three
but eighteen photo albums, yes eighteen eventually,
eighteen albums proving the beauty of them (and not someone else),
them and their relations and friends, incontrovertible

playing croquet in that Bloomington yard,
floating on those comic inflatables at Dow Lake,
giggling at the Dairy Queen, waltzing at the wedding,
building a Lego palace on the porch,
holding the baby beside the rental truck,
leaning on the Hemingway statue at Pamplona,
discussing the eternity of art in that Sardinian restaurant.

Yes! And so, quite frankly—at the end of the day—
they got old and died okay sure but quite frankly
how much does that matter in view of
the eighteen photo albums, big ones
thirteen inches by twelve inches each
full of such undeniable beauty?

"Quite Frankly" by Mark Halliday, from Thresherphobe. © The University of Chicago Press, 2013.

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Poetry "Wordle" created by the author using

For more information about the Poet, Mark Halliday, see the Wikipedia entry for him here.
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Copyright 2013, John D. Tew
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