A Love Affair With Verse
Turning it over, she smiled. It actually took her by surprise, but the black and white silhouette was unmistakably his. In recent years, she had made a habit of attending library book sales on Saturday mornings searching for collections of poetry.
She hardly ever wrote poetry except for a short spell in college. However, her literature professor, old Professor Parker, had ignited a strong interest in poetry which she had nurtured through the years. She laughed aloud when she thought about her faded memories of Professor Parker--his tweed jacket, his curved pipe spewing a cherry scent, his strange habit of dictating the syllabus, but mostly his love of his subject.
At 58, she found solace in poetry and had become a devout reader of any contemporary poet to discover new voices in this lyrical world. She had also thoroughly digested the works of Collins, Matthews, and O'Hara. And then there was Yeats, his obsession with Maude permeating his work. Yes, that is how she met Gary Snyder, Philip Levine, and Ted Kooser. It was interesting that she seemed to be attracted exclusively to male poets. Maybe they spoke to her intimately in their heartfelt images, or maybe she just thought they did.
Well, she mused as she read the back cover of this chapbook--
Phillip Connoly, recipient of the Gary Soto Award for poetry, earned his MFA in poetry at Vermont College and an undergraduate degree in English from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. He is a professor of English at Boston College in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.
Phil hadn't changed much if the photo on the back cover was recent. Patricia smiled thinking it probably was an old photo. As her dirty blonde hair was now weathered with streaks of white, what were the chances that his hair wasn't thinning. Phil was two years older than her and surely at sixty, he had aged more than this photograph revealed.
Well, what difference did it make? Patty, as he used to call her, asked herself. They had dated in her sophomore year at Whitewater before his graduation. He left that May to take a position as a graduate assistant on the West Coast. She couldn't even remember the college. It was a letdown. She wanted commitment. She suggested that he find a job in the Milwaukee area. He indicated he really wasn't definite about his future. He might even enlist in the Air Force. He had a high number in the draft lottery, but his grandfather and uncle had served in the military. He felt an almost compulsion to continue this family tradition and go to Vietnam.
After graduation they exchanged a few letters, but the relationship faded like a field of summer flowers. She graduated two years later and took a job as a public relations specialist with a large insurance firm in Chicago. She loved the "Windy City," walking under the EL, and spending many evenings at the Art Institute on Michigan Avenue listening to readings by local poets. Carl Sandburg would be proud.
Because of a recent job transfer, Patty found herself examining the used book table at the Cambridge Public Library this morning. She wondered how far she was from the Boston College campus. What were the chances she would pass Phil on a street corner, sit across from him at Starbucks, ride the same subway and not even recognize him? It had been thirty-eight years. Her chances, she thought, approximated the odds of winning the lottery jackpot.
She put the book back down. "How foolish to even think of pursuing this thought," she admitted to herself. She picked up a collection of Yeats, reflected on the circumstances of his play, Countess Cathleen, wondered why Maud, for whom he wrote the dramatic stage production, haunted him until his death. Well, that certainly wasn't Phil's problem. He had drifted away like vapor trails in a summer sky.
She held the Yeats collection, and leaned across the folding table. Patty retrieved the Connolly poems, and approached the white-haired librarian with the change box. "I'll take these two," Patty offered. The librarian smiled as she checked the price tags. "Connolly's a great poet in the Irish tradition you know; he frequently reads in a coffee house in Harvard Square. You might take a listen some Saturday night."
Patty nodded. "I'll consider it! It's always wonderful to hear a poet speak his own words. It would probably help me understand his images, metaphors, and allusions."
Dr. Jim Brosnan teaches English at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island where he holds the rank of full professor. He has conducted workshops in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. He is a member of the Nomad Writers in Rehoboth, MA, the Maine Poets Society, and the Tidepool Poets in Plymouth, MA. Jim serves as the president of the Rhode Island Council of Teachers of English. He was named a finalist four years in NEATE's Poet of the Year competition, placing second in 2010. Jim's four books of poetry include Hints of Swallowtalk. His poems have appeared in the Naugatuck River Review, the Aurorean, The Teacher as Writer, Mad Poet's Review, Minnesota English Journal, The Leaflet, Poems of the Poppies (UK), and The Bridge. Jim's poems have recently been awarded First Honorable Mention by the Maine Poets Society and an Honorable Mention by the New York Poetry Forum and a Second Place by the Utah Poetry Society both of which were sponsored by the National Federation of State Poetry Societies. His fiction piece, "Sunday Sabbath" was displayed at the Providence Public Library as part of "The Wonder Show" exhibit. Some of Jim's other stories have appeared in The Teacher As Writer.