Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
Good poetry has the appeal of cornbread and turnip greens
Any meal is better if the menu includes cornbread and turnip greens. Add pork chops and sweet potatoes and you have a meal fit for a king. A glass of cold buttermilk makes it just right.
I do enjoy good food. However, I also have an appetite, of the mind, for poetry that satisfies the palate of the soul. A good poem is one that conveys a strong message that is hard to miss. The length is not as important as that the poem touches the heart or the funny bone.
I do not like poetry that has a hidden meaning known only to a secret society of intellectuals. Good poetry is verse that ordinary people can understand and enjoy.
A good example that is dear to me is one about the stars:
The stars shine over the earth,
The stars shine over the sea.
The stars look up to the mighty God,
The stars look down on me.
The stars shall live for a million years,
A million years and a day;
But Christ and I will live and love
When the stars have passed away.
I wish I knew the author of that little poem. Perhaps one day someone will tell me. Until then, I will have to assign it to “Anonymous.”
Do I have a bias for the poetry of certain authors? I think so. Is some poetry better because I know the author personally? I am sure that is true. I like the poetry of my wife, for example. Here is one of her simple, yet profound, poems:
You came from your world,
I came from mine.
You said, ‘How do you do?’
I said, ‘I’m fine.’
After a pause,
each other’s heart.
With very few words, Dean reminds us of the sad result of shallow and impersonal relationships.
My longtime friend and fellow pastor, Douglas C. Newton, writes delightful verse that evokes a smile or a chuckle. Doug can cause your taste buds to come alive as he describes his love of oysters. He calls this poem “Oyster Eating Time”:
From time to time my appetite
With memories sublime
Reminds me so emphatically
That it’s oyster eating time.
Now you may not be familiar
With this fantastic dish
But for you to someday try it,
Truly is my simple wish.
There are different ways to eat them-
Steamed or fried or stewed
But the best way’s on the half shell
Some folks call it, ‘in the nude.’
You put it on a cracker
And sauce it with some stuff
For me horseradish, ketchup,
Then you slide it in your mouth
And savor it for a while,
And when you finally swallow it
You’ll do it with a smile
All you need is one good shucker
And a little elbow room,
And that happy filled up feeling
You’ll be knowing pretty soon.
Then when you’ve had a dozen
Or two or three or four,
You’ll find that you are tempted
To keep calling for some more.
And then you’ll have to join me
With those memories sublime
That will tell you very often
That it’s oyster eating time.
I bought one of the posters for my friend Jerry Hamilton, who runs Catfish Country, a popular seafood restaurant in Wetumpka. I have eaten many of Jerry’s oysters, though none on the half shell. I leave that delightful habit to my friend Doug.
Our world would be a poorer place without cornbread and turnip greens, and yes, good poetry that satisfies the soul. + + + +