Since then I’ve worked exclusively in publishing, first for game companies, now in education. I also continue to write, study, and promote poetry. It’s my opinion that poetry used to belong to the people, until academics stole it. It’s high time to steal it back from them.
Jenny Kiss’d Me
Jenny kiss’d me when we met,
Jumping from the chair she sat in;
Time, you thief, who love to get
Sweets into your list, put that in!
Say I’m weary, say I’m sad,
Say that health and wealth have miss’d me,
Say I’m growing old, but add,
Jenny kissed me!
—Leigh Hunt (1784–1859)
Hunt wasn’t greatly known as a British Romantic poet. He wasn’t as proliferate as the others, and didn’t perhaps have as much of a spark in general. Then again, he introduced Keats to Shelley, helping both their careers, and his essays were fairly respected.
Part of my love for this particular poem is due, no doubt, to the fact that my spouse’s name is Jenny.
It will not hurt me when I am old.
A running tide where moonlight burned
will not sting me like silver snakes.
The years will leave me sad and cold;
it is the happy heart that breaks.
The heart asks more than life can give.
I was speaking with Ellen Kort, Wisconsin’s first Poet Laureate, when Mr. Kooser returned from the Men’s room. Ellen asked me, “Have you met Ted Kooser?”
I replied “No,” smiling, and offered my hand.
He took it, blank-faced, and asked, “And you are?”
I responded, still smiling, “Lester Smith.” A pause. “Current president of the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets.”
He replied, “Oh,” then, “Ellen, shall we get this thing underway?”
Fortunately, 25+ years in publishing, with a penchant for backwater projects like hobby games and poetry, have left me with an ego that is neither too large nor too small. I returned to my table, chuckling, and thoroughly enjoyed his reading. (He read an unpublished “journal” of a Blackhawk War foot soldier, followed by “Dishwater” and “The beaded purse” by audience request.)
For my birthday, God gave me a cake.
He frosted it with filigrees of color from
countless vermilion sunsets
shining on sapphire
seas and ochroid sands.
Inside, a feast of worms.
He set it on a plate decorated
with images of doves and
“Make a wish,” He said,
with a smile
I could not meet his eye.
“Really,” I said, “You shouldn’t have.”
(Originally appeared in Woud You Dance?)