The Poetry Roller Coaster

On the Boardwalk in Santa Cruz

I know it sounds almost sacrilegious for a poet to say this, but sometimes I get tired of poetry. Its compression exhausts me, and I long for the expansive qualities of fiction – long, languid prose that I hear in my head with a Southern accent so that each syllable is drawn out, drawled out, in less of a rush.  Even in fiction, Hemingway was never my thing; give me Flannery O’Connor every time. I go through phases where all I want is for the words and the world they bring me to unfold slowly.

Then, suddenly, I’ll come on a poem that says to me, “Yoo-hoo, Julie, this is why you love poetry.” Often, it’s a little ditty and not the great, famous poems that call to me that way. For one thing, famous poems rarely say “Yoo-hoo.” They are too solemn for that – at least when I’m in this kind of “Leave me alone” mood – they feel grand and architectural, pillars on the Parthenon. Elegant, accomplished, heady – they are poems to ponder, and when I’m in this mood, they feel ponder-ous.  No, the strong, upstanding, built-t0-last poems are not the ones that lure me back to my love of poetry.

It’s the playful little poems, often for children, that find me when I’m hiding and draw me back out into plain sight, out into the fresh air. Here’s one I found last night which did exactly that.  When I read it, I heard the roller coaster of poetry going back up, up, up – clackety-clacking.  You see, it’s a wooden roller coaster on a boardwalk at the beach, and it’s rickety and makes a  lot of noise, and I draw in my breath and get ready to whiz around and be thrilled.  Hands up in the air – poetry is not for cowards! And I hear someone shouting up to me from down on the beach, “Julie, is there ANYTHING BETTER THAN POETRY????”  And I shout back, “Noooooooooo!”   This little ditty did it:


I have a white cat whose name is Moon,
He eats catfish from a wooden spoon,
And sleeps till five each afternoon.

Moon goes out when the moon is bright
And sycamore trees are spotted white
To sit and stare in the dead of night.

Beyond still water cries a loon,
Through mulberry leaves peers a wild baboon
And in Moon’s eyes I see the moon.

That’s by a poet named Willam Jay Smith, not one of the pillars of the Parthenon, perhaps, but he knows a thing or two about poetry – was Poet Laureate from 1968-1970 –  and he is a sturdy wooden strut in my poetry roller coaster.

The Cyclone in Coney Island

By the way, it’s Poetry Friday, and if you want to see what people are posting, you can head over to Paper Tigers where Marjorie is in charge of the round-up today.

14 responses to “The Poetry Roller Coaster

  1. What a great post! And refreshing to read. Thanks for sharing this delightful poem and even moreso your own thoughts. This stanza is my favorite:

    Moon goes out when the moon is bright
    And sycamore trees are spotted white
    To sit and stare in the dead of night


  2. What a charming poem! I love it, and can see why it called to you. Eating catfish from a wooden spoon = my kind of kitty :).

    • Full disclosure, Jama: I am a dog person. I love the way dogs loves people- total, without any question, as if that’s they’re goal in life. But I understand about cats – it’s their moodiness and mooniness, their mysteriousness, even when they’re not furry white, right?

  3. Hi, Julie. Thanks for this poem. In a few lines, it is filled with details. I loved the wooden spoon, the sycamore trees, the mulberry leaves. A reminder that we live in a rich world.

    I rode the Cyclone for the first time two summers ago. What a coaster! There’s nothing like it.

    • I am headed to New York in September and hope to ride the Cyclone then, Laura. The roller coaster I grew up with (and rode on the few days I was brave enough and foolish enough to cut school) was in Santa Cruz. The good old Beach Boys years!

  4. I am so deprived – I have never been on a roller coaster! But I can empathise with the feeling and can see how it might equate to soaring away with poetry. For me, I tend to need familiar words when I get that satiated feeling.

    And I’m a cat and a dog person!

    • Marjorie, try a roller coaster when you can – not the kind that go upside down, just the rickety kind. So much fun!

  5. Pingback: Welcome to the Poetry Friday!

  6. As someone who has dabbled in writing both fiction and poetry, I can understand your sometimes poetic ambivalence. If I’m working seriously on fiction I have a hard time writing poetry. I’m not sure why, but it seems that something in my subconscious respects the different processes.

  7. I almost posted William Jay Smith poems this week, too! Hadn’t seen that one — thanks for sharing it. Wow, Marjorie, you’ve never been on a roller coaster? I would go with you so you could try one out, but I am happier on the ground…

    • Tabatha, I also love Smith’s poem titled (I think) “The Owl.” All those wonderful “…and flies…and flies” at the end!

  8. Love these lines:
    Moon goes out when the moon is bright
    And sycamore trees are spotted white
    To sit and stare in the dead of night.
    Thanks for the introduction to this poet, Julie!

  9. Karen Edmisten

    Oooh, I love that — both the poem and your ideas about it, your description of that mood that I know very well. Perfect post, full of just the right amount and kind of thrill. 🙂

  10. I should comment on the poem, but your thoughts on getting tired of poetry struck me. I’ve been on a sabbatical from writing poetry for almost a year now. I grew weary. My words ran dry and even inviting the muses has become too much of a burden. But once in a while a beautiful poem would kick me and i find the poet long sleeping in me.

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