April 12, 2016

Monday, April 6, 2015

NPM 2015: What Are You Wearing, Margaret Simon?

We've been having a National Poetry Month costume party here at Author Amok. 

Find the official NPM 2015 poster
at the Academy of American Poets
Throughout April, guest bloggers are putting on their costumes and best outfits as we feature poetry about clothes. Why clothes? Read this post.

In addition to the guest bloggers, every Friday in April I'll post a round-up of original clothing poems. (Send those via email to laurashovan at gmail dot com or leave them in the comments). You'll find this week's writing prompt at the bottom of this post.

Meet today's guest blogger, poet Margaret Simon. 

The One the Shoe Fit

There is so much to love about poetry.  How it rolls off your tongue smooth and sweet and you want it to stay there, never to swallow again.  How it shows you a part of yourself you never knew existed, or you kind of knew, but you were denying it until someone wrote about it like they had just taken a knife and opened up your heart.  How when you find one poem to love there are always more. 

My husband gets The New Yorker.  I say this even though I write the check every year that keeps it coming.  He’s smarter than I am.  He’s definitely got a better sense of humor.  And he loves to read.  That is, he reads everything but poetry.  I read the quick stuff, cartoons, movie reviews, and, of course, the poetry.

The last issue of March introduced me to my new favorite poet, Ellen Bass.  Her website is here: I read all of the poems available there, so now I have to buy her books. 

The poem in The New Yorker is titled The Orange-And-White High-Heeled Shoes.  Laura had put out the call for poems about clothing, so I sent her a quick email, “I’ve got the perfect poem!” 

The Orange-and-White High-Heeled Shoes
by Ellen Bass

Today I'm thinking about those shoes--white
with a tangerine stripe across the toe and forceful orange heels--

that fit both my mother and me. We used to shop like that--
trying them on side by side. That was when there still

was a man who would cradle your heel in his palm
and guide your foot. Sometimes he would think he made a sale,

only to have one of us turn to the other--
and he would have to knee again, hoping to ease another naked sole

into the bed of suede or leather. I thought those shoes
were just the peak of chic. And--my God--

you bought me a pair of orange cotton gloves to complete the ensemble.
Why is there such keen pleasure in remembering?

Read the rest -- and listen to Ellen Bass read the poem -- at The New Yorker.

Find it at Polyvore.
Who can resist those shoes…with a tangerine stripe across the toe?  The poet shops with her mother for shoes back in the day when there still/ was a man who would cradle your heel in his palm/ and guide your foot.

My mother and I went shopping for “practical” shoes last summer, far from the high-heels of this poem.  We were looking for shoes that fit well and offered support to aging feet.  My mother took me to a specialty shop where the clerk was still there ready to cradle our heels. 

Why is there such keen pleasure in remembering?

I am transported to my own memory.  My mother is still able to go with me to shop for shoes.  Ellen’s mother has been dead ten years. This is the turning point, that shift that hits you right in the gut.

The poem turns sensual with The first boy had not yet misted my breasts with his breath/ and you were strong as a muscled goddess, gliding nylons/ over your calves.

Then Ellen Bass offers the question we all ask, Who will remember these pumpkin-colored pumps/ when I die, too?  I look to my own memories with my three daughters as they were growing into young women.  We shopped and I usually lamented the hours it would take to find the perfect prom dress.  And then I would cry internally about how lovely they looked in that just-right dress.   And now as we prepare for her best friend’s wedding, my daughter models the bridesmaid’s dress and I carefully stitch in a tuck for a better fit.   These moments are small and easily forgotten, but poems help us remember and relive. 

All of us girls want to be Cinderella.  We all know the feeling of having the shoe put on our foot.  We all know the feeling of running away when the clock strikes twelve.  We are all searching for the one true love, the shoe that will always fit and will glitter in the moonlight.  In her poem about the pumpkin-colored pumps, Ellen Bass has captured my heart with memory and hope. 

Margaret is wearing a specially designed
ensemble for the Jackson, Mississippi
Sweet Potato Queens weekend.
The event's theme was "Braveheart."
Margaret Simon lives on the Bayou Teche in New Iberia, Louisiana.  She is passionate about teaching, poetry, Charlie her schnoodle, her three daughters, and Zydeco dancing with her husband of 32 years.  She believes that a teacher of writing should be a writer.  She writes to know what she knows, to play with words, and to connect with others.  Margaret published a book of poetry with her father’s art, Illuminate, in 2013.  Her poems have appeared in the journal The Aurorean.   She blogs about teaching and writing at Reflections on the Teche

Thanks for visiting, Margaret. I love that hat! "I thought those shoes/ were just the peak of chic." Haven't we all owned an article of clothing we loved that much?

ICYMI: In this series...
Jane Elkin looks in her childhood closet. Poems by Mark Irwin and Ron Koertge.

*Your suggested clothing poem prompt for Friday, April 10: Shoes.
On the practical level, they protect our feet from lumps and bumps. But shoes can be engineered for running, biking, or dance. They can be impractical works of art, colorful and sky-high. What does a pair of shoes say about the wearer?

Send your poems any time. I'll post original work on Friday.


Linda B said...

That line about remembering the little things feels true in my life as I remember taking my mother as an older woman to find some 'beauty' in the shoes that needed to make her safe for walking, and recently to find just the right 'beach' shoes for my granddaughter, both small moments that please, but all about shoes, too. Thanks Margaret for this poem. I'm glad your husband takes The New Yorker!

Heidi Mordhorst said...

What a, what a, WHAT a fantastic poem, Margaret! You note that the poem turns sensual at a certain point, but for me what is so literally TOUCHING about these clothing poems is that every word and phrase becomes sensory, sensual because it's about these objects, these articles that touch our bodies.

And I do think shoes are a special category, on which topic I will noodle some more as I prepare my post for next Monday.

Thank you both, and Ellen Bass (what a catch ha)!

Anonymous said...

I don't always read the New Yorker, but I did read the issue with Bass' shoe poem. What is it about shoes that so connects us to the past?
Patricia VanAmburg

Robyn Hood Black said...

What a rich post, Margaret. Thank you for sharing (& thanks to Laura for this month-long poetry trunk show.) My daughter, probably near the same age as yours, juggling bridesmaid engagements this year - and I drove 30 minutes to see the new Disney Cinderella movie this weekend when she was here for break!

Buffy Silverman said...

Beautiful poem, beautiful post. Thanks for sharing the poem and your words, Margaret.

Julieanne said...

I used to read The New Yorker cover to cover, before I started teaching! Thank you for this beauty. It touches so many nerves. Something about shoes. You wove these pieces together beautifully. Thank you Margaret!

Catherine Johnson said...

That's a fabulous choice, Margaret. As is your outfit in that photo. It really brings out the joy of clothes.

Catherine said...

Love this poem, Margaret, and I love the way you weave your reflections in with specific lines. I can think of several special outfits and dresses I've had that could inspire a poem or two. Thanks so much for sharing!