Going for it: Heart of the Pamlico Poet Laureate finalist

In April 2017, I began writing poetry. As in writing a poem a day for all thirty days of National Poetry Month. I don’t even know why. I had never thought of myself as a poet. I’m not a classically trained one, anyway. My degrees are in journalism and library science. The only things I know about rhyme and rhythm and meter are the little bit I remember from high school—and what I feel in my heart.

Since April 2017, which I now realize was almost three years ago, I have written poetry often, usually to vent something, political or personal. I’ve taught a few elementary poetry classes to kids because I still remember the first time I read e.e. cummings’s “in just—” and I wanted to share that with them. I’ve read and written poetry for more than one voice, which is not something I learned in school. I’ve played with rhyming and not rhyming, sometimes in the same poem. I’ve written prose poetry and limericks and haiku. (Haiku, done properly, is much harder than you might think.)

Last year, I published a little booklet of my poetry because a friend had passed away and I wanted to dedicate something beautiful to her memory. I chose fourteen of my favorite poems, formatted them with some of my photography and sent them off to a printer. I have given away more of those booklets than I’ve sold (it’s only available at my bookstore).

And that’s what poetry is to me, really. It’s meant to share. I’m more than happy to charge you $9 for one of my romances, but poetry, to me, is something different. Most of what I write goes on my blog, if I think it’s any good. I’ve only ever tried to submit it to poetry magazines or contests once or twice, more because I wanted to share with a wider audience than anything.

So, you might imagine my surprised delight when I was notified yesterday that I am a finalist for the title of 2020 Heart of the Pamlico Poet Laureate. This means I have the opportunity to present my poetry and my view of poetry to an audience at the historic Turnage Theatre in less than a month. I’m thrilled, rattled, uncertain, ecstatic and pretty sure the selection committee sent the email to the wrong person, but at the same time, I’m gonna go for it. This is a huge honor for me, as well as the opportunity to express my love for this art form.

Wish me luck.

My poetry booklet.

A Poem Thing: Four Columns

Our columns are crumbling and we will all perish. Our nation implodes around us, but no one seems willing to stop it. And so the great Democracy experiment ends at last.

Four Columns

By Michelle Garren Flye

 

We stand in a great hall supported by four huge columns.

 

Truth

Justice

Equality

Honor

 

Colossal in height, enormous in strength, radiant in beauty.

Columns meant to support our roof for eternity.

But those columns have not been cared for.

 

Paint peels with each passing year.

We ding them and pepper them with bullet holes.

Long cracks run from ceiling to floor.

 

I wish I could put my arms around them.

Hold them together by sheer force of will.

Someone ties a flag around one, but it’s a poor bandage.

 

And then there is him. He’s bigger than us. He grasps a hammer in one hand.

He takes aim at Justice, strikes a heavy blow.

Yellow-white hair flies back as he howls.

 

What has Justice done to you, I cry, but my voice is lost.

He turns to Truth and strikes again and again.

One blow can’t bring down the mighty column—but he doesn’t strike just once.

 

Stop, I cry, rushing forward, but held back by the heavy mass of others between us.

I scream at them, pummel them with my tiny fists, spit arrows at them…

No one cares. No one listens, and he turns the hammer on Equality.

 

WE WILL ALL PERISH IF YOU LET HIM CONTINUE!

But they don’t stop him, and I wait for the damage to climax, the roof to collapse.

And when it comes, it is Honor that falls first.

 

It makes sense. Truth, Justice, Equality—all can take a beating from him.

But each blow on one of them also damaged Honor, and it crumbles at last.

It topples the others, too.