April 12, 2016

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Poetry Month National Tour -- Delaware

Welcome to Delaware, first state (12/7/1787). It's the first stop on our 50 state tour of U.S. Poets Laureate -- all in honor of National Poetry Month.

For five days, Delaware was the Uni-State of America. (Pennsylvania joined up on 12/12.) It's home to beautiful beaches. But didn't anyone think choosing the Weakfish as state fish was kind of lame? (Other fun Delaware facts and symbols here.)

Congrats, Delaware -- you've had a poet laureate (on and off) since 1947! Let's visit current poet laureate JoAnn Balingit.You know I love ekphrastic poetry -- look how Balingit takes the form and function of this wooden dish and uses it as a jumping off point to explore parenthood.

Winged Vessel
—Biggs Museum of American Art
JoAnn Balingit

Shaped like a kidney, marbled and starry, this wooden bowl reminds me
of the dish a nurse once packed into my things. Unable to divine its truth or

how to use it with my baby, I stuffed its sweet lobes full of cotton balls.
Its confidence made me doubt myself, aware I was a guesser. But I hung onto

that clown-mouthed dish, for it ferried the people of Fisher Price
across four states one bathtub at a time, passively reinventing itself,

penny holder, hamster john, spinning its principal story: the night I had
contractions while I gazed up at the stars. Each primal wave fanned out

a billion years. “We are 4.6 billion-year-old carbon!” blares my son, so
certified as ancient. He loves to hear the astrophysicist say The SETI group

will not give up its search for rocky planets orbiting stars
. Forty years they've
scanned the skies for intelligence, a fluke of circumstance star-forged

just as Julian is, tough chunk of carbon whose questions fling him
through the world. He meteors his body onto the couch, pinches blossoms

from my potted orange, my parallel Florida universe. He finger-grinds
their fragrance out. Wonders, "How do oranges come from tiny flowers?

Buckle your seat belts, Pennsylvania and my home state of NJ are up next.

Don't even talk to me about Jersey. Despite claiming William Carlos Williams and Walt Whitman, and Allen Ginsberg, the Garden State is on the poetry wall of shame with other poet-laureateless states. I'll tell you the whole story on the way there. It's a doozy. (Just promise me you won't tell any "what's your exit" or big hair jokes.)

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