Sunday, January 16, 2011

poems, revised by a faint hope

Last fall, i applied for a prized goal, to be accepted to Vanderbilt's Creative Writing MFA program. It is the most selective program of its type in the country with over 600 applicants for six positions, three in fiction, three in poetry. It is one of the top 15 such programs in the country.

I applied for the program fully aware of my long odds. Acceptance would move me toward a long time goal of completing a degree from Vanderbilt, an opportunity i squandered almost half a century ago. More importantly, i have recently come to the conclusion poetry is my best avenue for my story telling and writing, a focus which should remain my passion for the rest of my life. i thought the pursuit of this degree would give me skills, knowledge, and discipline to write better poetry.

As i went through the application process, i found i was enjoying writing and editing my poetry even more than i anticipated. The application process itself help me transition to a different way of thinking about my creative writing, and, i think, has positively impacted my writing.

i still hope Vanderbilt's review board for the program will pick me. i think i am good enough of a poet to compete. But i also accept i am a bit older and the board member's personal preferences in poetry will impact the outcome. With stiff competition, i recognize it is highly more likely i will be rejected rather than accepted. If that is the case, then it's okay. This six month pursuit has improved me.

One significant contributor to this improvement has been Dave Young. Dave received his Master's in English from San Diego State and has retired from his teaching career at San Diego's Mission Bay High School. Dave critiqued the poems i intended to submit with my application. He gave me some wonderful guidance and i have taken all of his comments into account.

The original poems have been posted here previously. i thought you might like to read the improved versions. This is the first.


When most folks meet him,
they notice steel blue eyes and agility;
his gaze, gait and movements
belie the ninety-five years;
those folks should look at his hands:
Durer, if he saw them,
would want to paint them.

His hands are marked from
tire irons, jacks, wrenches, sledges, micrometers on
carburetors, axles, brake drums, distributors,
starting in ’34 at twelve dollars a week.
He has used those hands to
repair the cars and
our hearts;

His hands pitched tents,
made the bulldozers run
in war
in the steaming, screaming sweat of
Bougainville, New Guinea, the Philippines.

His hands have nicks and scratches
turned into scars with
the passage of time:
a map of history, the human kind.

Veins and arteries stand out
on the back of his hands,
pumping life;
tales are etched from
grease and oil and grime,
cleansed with gasoline and goop and lava soap;

They are hands of labor,
hands of hard times,
hands of hope,
hands of kindness, caring.

His hands own wisdom,
passing it to those who know him
with a pat, a caress, a handshake.
His hands tell the story
so well.

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