Paul Chowder, 2

So, in the second week of Tweespeak Poetry’s book club led by Lyla Lindquist, Paul Chowder did it again. He reminded me of school. This time I paused very early on while reading Chapter 7 when these words stopped me. At first, I wasn’t sure why.

While I was gone the mouse in the kitchen found half of an old cookie and tried to pull it up into the stove’s control panel, which is where he lives. But the cookie wouldn’t fit. So he just ate it where it was. Ate and shat discreetly and had quite a little party.

I decided I would write a poem about mice for my response this week. It wasn’t until I was clicking away at my keyboard that I realized the connection to school. I read If You Give A Mouse A Cookie by Laura Nemeroff  to my students every year. The little mouse in the story is Paul Chowder. He flits from idea to idea while making a mess and ends up where he started, still wanting a glass of milk.

See. Paul Chowder. No introduction to his anthology yet, but lots of adventures.

I borrowed from the two poets, Tennyson and Pope, who were lost in rhythmic chewing and swallowing and digesting at the salad bar this week with Paul Chowder. I decided that I, too, would be rhythmic leaving behind my world of free verse, just to make Paul Chowder happy and to see if I could do it.

Once again, I ask for forgiveness from the bards: Lord Alfred Tennyson for using his lovely poem, The Miller’s Daughter, and from Alexander Pope for lending me the first stanza of Eloisa and Abelard.

They All Ran After the Farmer’s Wife

Paul Chowder

Whilst I was gone a mouse my kitchen came.
The first to find a cookie half laid claim.
He pulled his prize to safety where he lives
But wouldn’t fit the stove affirmative.
He ate it there. Just ate it where it was.
A party and a shat between his paws.

The Human’s Cookie

It is the human’s cookie,
And it is baked so chewy here,
I would be the chocolate chips
That quickly disappear;
For hid in that baker’s delight
I’d nestle in each luscious bite.

And I would be the sugar
About its toothsome, candied dough
And its steam would rise to melt me,
In winter and in snow:
And I should know if it’s too hot
I’d clasp it round so close and taut.

And I would be the walnuts,
All day long to wait one nibble
Between some teeth so whetted,
With craving and a giggle:
And I would lie in quiet mime
I should be eaten in no time.

Alex to Paul

In these dark drawers and empty wooden shelves
Where heav’nly crumbs have fallen, not by elves,
And ever-nibbling merriment doth reign;
What means this bedlam near the kitchen drain?
Why rove my mitts beyond this tasty feast?
Why feels my stomach not long ago greased?
Yet, yet I crave! From Paul as it once came
And Alex yet doth find it fair game.

(Click here to read my response to last week’s chapters of Nicholson Baker’s The AnthologistPaul Chowder, 1.)

Paul Chowder, 1

I know Paul Chowder.

Well, not the fictional Paul Chowder in The Anthologist by Nicholson Baker.  But I know the many child Paul Chowders who pass through my door every year. I teach elementary school and I can recognize at a glance an impulsive personality moving down the hallway. By the time it gets to me, it has taken twice as long as it should and traveled three times the distance down that hall with twists and turns and stops and starts. But I remind myself that this wanderer has discovered more about that path than I have in all the years that I walked that same hallway. I take a special delight in those Paul or Paula Chowders.

The current book club selection by Lyla Lindquist  at Tweetspeak Poetry makes me gaffaw. I am truly enjoying this book. I am awed by Paul Chowder’s ability to make such fun of himself, other poets, free verse, and love.  Then without a blink, he smacks us with a punch.

Smacko? Who would name their dog Smacko?

Excuse my taking liberties here, but the poet doth protest too much, me thinks. I wonder if his ranting, and I write this with a chuckle, of unrhymed poetry comes from his own writer’s block? And I’m not talking about Paul Chowder struggling to finish the introduction to his anthology. I wonder why he is not writing his own poetry?  Paul Chowder wants everyone to stop writing poetry, especially those who write the dreaded free verse.  Is that so he can catch-up? But he’s not writing. Anything. He’s only complaining…

Not to write – perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub! Again, forgive me Will, but what took me by surprise from free-verse-hating Paul Chowder is his lovely  “free verse” scattered through out the chapters while he daydreams.

Here are just a few of my favorite beautiful words ala Paul Chowder :

I feel the sun warming up the clear flamingos that swim around my eyeballs

Another inchworm fell on my pant leg

Poetry is written sometimes, I think, in a whisper.

I hear that chirping. I know that the world is starting up.

…tulips rhyme. One tulip leaf goes this way, and the other tulip leaf goes that way.

…in the mist, I saw a big man walking up the street. He was wearing one shoe.

I can hardly wait to discover if Paul Chowder repents against his hatred of free verse, finds love, and finishes his introduction.  Oh, and learns to play a little badminton with abandon.

But most of all, my wish for Paul Chowder is to sit down and write poetry. Maybe I’ll write something, too.

The world will never have its fill of beautiful words.

The Artist’s Way

I was in third grade. It was an upright purple piano. Actually, the piano came into my life with a turquoise tint and an “antiquing” bronzing that some creative person thought would make it look, well, like an antique.

My parents sent me off one Saturday morning on my bike to my cousin’s house. It was May and my birthday was right around the corner.  While we were peddling around town, my parents convinced a friend to drive my father to pick up my birthday present, the piano. An uncle and another friend gladly helped knowing that a case of Coors would be waiting at the end of the ride.

My surprise was almost spoiled when my cousin, who was always getting me into trouble, convinced me to ride my bike farther away from her house than allowed. It was there a pick up truck hauling a turquoise piano and three men sped by us. But we didn’t notice them and I was happily surprised later that night. The piano was soon painted purple, still my favorite color, and three years of miserable piano lessons followed.

But this is not my story of creativity, even though my parents’ wished for a talented daughter to serenade them into their old age. The story of my creativity lies a bit in the purple paint, but mostly in the words I used to describe it to my third grade teacher.

I always loved to create. I made May altars by decorating my statue of Mary with plastic flowers and crepe paper and candles. It’s amazing that I didn’t burn down the house. I make jewelry, plant gardens, and design and build costumes. I didn’t realize that I was a writer until recently. This realization came to me at the age of 55 when I remembered my purple piano.

It was the nun in third grade who squashed my creativity in writing. I was excited about the purple piano. I remember writing a story the very week after its arrival about a little man who lived in the piano. Finally, I had something to write about.

Sister Mary Whatever called me to the front of the room and in a whispered voice made sure that I understood there was no little man living in my purple piano. She wanted to assure me that this couldn’t happen. I assured her that I knew he wasn’t real. I assured her that it was just a story.  She told me never to write about him again.  I didn’t.  And I didn’t write much at all after that. I only produced what teachers demanded of me using outlines and following formulas.

Until now.

Thank goodness that I am an elementary school teacher who became disgruntled with the ways we are “supposed” to teach children how to write. I searched for a better way to teach and found it.  I am grateful to the Colorado Writing Project and Karen Crawford who not just opened the doors, but the floodgates.

As I look back I realize that Sister Mary Whatever was probably concerned about me because of my mother’s mental illness. At the time I wasn’t aware that others knew about her. I now, of course, realize everyone knew and Sister Mary Whatever was just trying to protect me.

It is inspiration from Tweetspeak Poetry, Every Day Poems, L.L. Barkat, Lyla Lindquist, and crew that feeds my writer’s soul. It is also through books like Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and those who share their thoughts and lives in the book club that encourage me to revel in God’s inspiration and just be who I am.

And I am a writer.