Bob Hershon (pictured here, with Elizabeth Swados, prior to their reading at KGB Bar last Monday evening, has been selecting our Sunday poems from Hanging Loose. Photo credit: Star Black
This poem by Wilma Elizabeth McDaniel appeared first in Hanging Loose 47 in 1985 and later in her book, A Primer for Buford.
WRITING POETRY ON NEW PAPER
this sudden change seems
too free and easy
for a Dustbowl Woman
I must walk carefully
on good paper
one word at a time
feeling my way down a
not yet realizing
there are no inky crossouts
of junk mail flyers
to slow my pen
-- Wilma Elizabeth McDanielI wish I had the time and space to tell you the whole remarkable story of Wilma Elizabeth McDaniel. Luckily, there’s an excellent website that will supply her biography and let you read some of her poems. In fact, you can hear Wilma reading some of her work in her clear, no-nonsense fashion:
In brief, Wilma was born in
Her story is not very different from thousands of others except that some time in her early teens, Wilma began writing poems. She wrote about family and friends and – that rare subject in American poetry – work. All kinds of work, from picking fruit to repairing old machinery to running a tiny store, all the occupations that keep small rural towns going. At some point, her poems began appearing in church newsletters and local papers. And then, years later, somehow she connected to the poetry community and began publishing in literary magazines.
We first heard of her from a
Poetry didn’t make her rich, of course, and the frugal
habits of a lifetime remained with her always. When an envelope arrived from Wilma, I’d shake out the contents. There would be, say, ten poems, all written in
black ink, on the backs of religious flyers, on the insides of flattened cereal
boxes, on the unused spaces of junk mail, all carefully trimmed to the size of
the poem, so she could save the unused portions.
At one point, I sent her a ream of 24# white bond paper and I waited to see what she’d do with 500 sheets of virgin stock. Months went by and the poems continued to arrive on scraps of cardboard and newsprint. Then, just when I was about to ask her whether she’d ever received the package, she sent Writing Poetry on New Paper.
-- Robert Hershon