Eleven poets took up the challenge of the June Poem of the Month contest prompt, which was to write a place poem.
It’s very telling of poets in this area that, when asked to write about a beloved place, they overwhelming respond about growing up on a farm, or relaxing in the country, or taking a walk in the woods. It’s one of my favorite things about Pennsylvania poets — a need to return to what we come from, to make readers care about the tiger lilies, old barns and bullfrogs as much as we do.
Spring Garden Township’s Larry Tibbs presented a long and truly evocative poem called “The Farm,” in which any young boy who grew up around tractors and dirt will recognize himself. Spring Grove borough resident Mary Wright Longstreth wrote of a spot where anyone but “country folk” might have a hard time relaxing — a hollow where the bullfrogs sound loud and strong.
Not everyone stayed in the area, though. Joanne Wildasin of Dover Township took us to Death Valley, and York City’s Asahel Church spoke of Toledo, Spain.
The winner for this month is Manchester Township’s Sara Rilatt for her poem, “Meadowbrook Lane.”
All it takes
Is a glimmer of light,
Reflecting just the right way,
And I am catapulted into memory.
To the days when my hands were small,
My imagination limitless,
My eyes wide with wonder.
There was one summer day, painted in my mind
With careful brushstrokes:
Tree trunk towers, rough under my fingers.
The ground dappled with flashes of sun.
A warm perfume of sharp, sweet roses.
Distant shout of melancholy music, faintly drifting.
To me, that place tasted like taffy. Strawberry taffy,
The kind that would melt slowly in your mouth.
I savored it.
Meadowbrook Lane was frozen in a haze of summer.
It was a time of carefree notions,
Deliberate ignorance of the broken world.
Just a moment between the explosions,
Where a little girl sat under the cornflower sky
Now that you’ve read her poem, perhaps it will surprise and amaze you to learn that Sara is 13 years old, and just entering Central York High School this fall.
Sara’s precocious poem waxes nostalgic about a previous childhood home, but what’s really striking is how well she shows instead of telling us where she is.
Sara doesn’t say, “I think of this place and remember being a child,” but rather remembers “when my hands were small.” “To me,” she tells us, “that place tasted of taffy. Strawberry taffy, / the kind that would melt slowly in your mouth.”
Maybe you’ve never been to this place before, but I bet you can taste it now.
Sara’s subtle hand is also evident when she mentions the “carefree notions” of playing in this space as a small girl experiencing “deliberate ignorance of the broken world.” We, as adult readers, know the things that make this world a broken place; we don’t need to be told. We know them even more fully by watching this scene, where they are absent.
Lastly, isn’t “cornflower sky” a beautiful image?
Congratulations, Sara, on a lovely poem.
Sara recently answer a few questions about her writing and contest-winning poem.
Q. Tell us a bit about you and your experience writing poetry.
A. I am 13 years old, and currently going into 9th grade at Central York High School. Writing has always been my passion, and I started composing poems at the age of seven. In fact, I hope to someday be a novelist. Although I haven’t had much experience writing poetry, it is something I enjoy and love!
Q. How did you choose the subject of your poem?
A. A few years ago, my family moved to York from Elizabethtown. Our house on Meadowbrook Lane, in Elizabethtown, holds my fondest childhood memories. To choose the subject of my poem, I just pictured one of the many beautiful moments in the backyard and tried to capture it as best I could.
Q. How did you hear about YDR/Versify’s Poem of the Month contest?
A. I read about the contest in the blurbs at the bottom of the Living section, and decided it would be worth a try.
I’m so glad you did give it a try, Sara!
What’s your favorite part of Sara’s poem?