Poetry in the schools, at home, and everywhere in between.
THE LAST FIFTH GRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY
April 12, 2016
Thursday, April 24, 2014
Source Poems: "Daddy"
For National Poetry Month 2014, I have invited 17 authors and poets to guest post about source poems. In this series of essays, each writer will describe a single poem's significance in his or her life.
Poet Renee LaTulippe of the blog No Water River is with us today, writing about how receiving a book of poetry as a gift can change one's life.
Renée M. LaTulippe
Sylvia Saves the Day
I did not
have a terribly literary childhood. There was definitely no poetry beyond
nursery rhymes. But my mother did always have a book going and my father sang
constantly, so perhaps something sunk in and made me write my first poem at age
seven. It’s a night I remember vividly and that I wrote about here. I guess poetry was just in me.
And it stayed
in me through high school; or rather, it kept coming out of me, free verse
tumbling down page after page. It was the only time in my life I was prolific. But
I wasn’t very good at it, this poetry thing, despite Mrs. Musser’s enthusiasm
as my creative writing teacher. And despite the reams of juvenilia, she made me
the youngest editor of the literary magazine; she encouraged me and praised me;
she held me up. And when I graduated, she gave me the complete works of Sylvia
Plath. The woman knew me; who knew? The book is a prized possession.
announced this blog series, I knew immediately the poem I would choose. I
didn’t have to riffle through my bookshelves or my memory for The Poem, because
it has been there for thirty years.
Would I have
preferred a more positive poem, something full of innocence or beauty or peace?
Yes, but that would have been dishonest.
poem is “Daddy” by Sylvia Plath and there’s nothing I can do about it.
I opened this
book and read page after page until “Daddy” stopped me in my tracks. I could
not make head or tails of the poem at the time, but no matter. I knew what it
felt like, and it felt like liberation. It had crazy sounds and German and a
bad word that were like bonbons in my mouth. How I loved the Panzer-man and the brute, brute force of a brute like you and that glorious bastard! I loved the persistent low moan
of the long U sounds, the sounds of a poet doubled over from the violence of it
You do not do, you do not
Any more, black shoe
In which I have lived like a
For thirty years, poor and
Barely daring to breathe or Achoo.
I loved it
not because I loved the suffering, but because I loved the exit from suffering.
I loved the anger of it. I loved the anthem of it. It was a poem full of viper
bites. Speaking it was powerful and cathartic. It was better than breaking
dishes. It roiled and soothed all at once. Like singing, it lifted me up, even
in its negativity. The rhythms and phrases entered my memory and have been
there ever since.
I saw, and
still see, the poem as a reinvention of self, a rebirth – a concept I’ve always
liked, perhaps because it’s what my name means: reborn. Renaissance. A poem of
possibility. Negative but hopeful.
There’s a stake in your fat black
And the villagers never liked you.
They are dancing and stamping on
Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I’m
resonated because it came to me when I most needed it, at a time of breaking
out and becoming and trying not to explode in the process. And Sylvia was there
to give me what she had: An exquisite anger. A spitting release.
Renée M. LaTulippe has
co-authored nine early readers and a collection of children’s poetry titled Lizard Lou: a collection of rhymes
old and new for All About Learning Press, where she is
also the editor, and has poems in the Middle School and Science editions of The Poetry Friday Anthology (ed. Wong
and Vardell). She developed and teaches the online course The Lyrical Language Lab: Punching Up Prose with Poetry and blogs on children’s poetry at NoWaterRiver.com. Renée earned her BFA in
acting/directing from Marymount Manhattan College and her MA in English
Education from NYU, and taught English, theater, and public speaking in NYC.
She lives in Italy with her husband and twin boys. Website: www.NoWaterRiver.com. Follow Renée on Twitter: @ReneeMLaTulippe