Monday, July 23, 2012

Poetry? Bah, humbug! . . . Not Really.

By Jacqueline E. Luckett

Novel in a trunk? Nope. Don’t have one.

What I have is an unpublished collection of poems. Last time I checked, they were stuffed in the back of my file cabinet, bound in a three-ring binder. Whether my poems are good or bad—and I’ve been told this is not the proper way to describe poetry—I’m not sure. I do know that they need work, and that’s why they were rejected for publication.

As a young girl I loved writing poems. A few were published in a local newspaper. Somewhere, in a scrapbook stuffed in one of my mother's closets, there’s even a photograph of me receiving an award for my poetry. For a variety of reasons, as an adult, I put writing aside and pursued a corporate career. When I decided to get back to writing, I was filled with fear—of failure, of a lack of skill, of the proper understanding of what it took to write

A little over ten years ago, after daring myself to take a writing class. I stomped on that fear and started writing. I fell in love with poetry again. Not the “Dead Poets’” poetry that had baffled me in college English classes, but poetry that allowed me to have fun. I wrote to laugh, to cry, to share my joys, understand my pain, and to help me share my thoughts in a way that I didn't think I could do with fiction. I’d be willing to bet that this is what the “Dead Poets” intended, but to me they were, for the most part, inaccessible.

Eventually, I worked up the nerve to submit a few poems to journals and contests. My hope was, of course, to have my work published. My intention was to put my work out in the world. A judge in one contest sent me the nicest note: “I’m pleased to report that you were a semi-finalist in the … competition … Only about 200 entries out of more than 1,200 made it as far as the semi-final round, so you should be proud.” And I was.

I’m still trying to figure out what to do with my book of poems. But first, I need to figure out what poetry is all about. It seems so complex: villanelle, rhyming schemes, sonnets (know that one, thanks Mr. Shakespeare), meter, and iambic pentameter (Didn't our junior high school English teachers pound that one into our heads?). Someday, I’ll go back to my file and rework those poems. In the meantime, I’m allowing poetry’s rhythm and imagery to influence my fiction—and that’s a poetry all its own.

Here’s the poem that almost made it to publication, and is still a work in progress (One down, fifty-seven more to go.).

Hail, Mary--a poem

the virgin mary dropped by my house last night.
she did not knock on my door or ring my bell
or leave a sleek benz purring in the driveway below.
she strutted into my room
sat on my lavender scented duvet
wrinkled my sheets
smoothed her ‘fro
and winked.

the hazy, holy apparition shone with silver intensity
neither gilded turquoise lady of guadaloupe
nor sweet huddled madonna with child
but a bold black mama
dressed to the nines in a mini-skirted dolce gabbana suit and prada heels.

with a smile as intense as my hotflash hell
she extended her leather-gloved hands to me.
i slipped from the covers fell to my knees
lowered my head and let go with my prayer

hail mary full of grace
who will want me now that i am gray-haired
no longer fruitful
or nubile
or trim

holy mary mother of us all
can i find new love despite puckered thighs   
this listless bosom   
crow’s feet and back aches?

such foolishness she said, youth is highly overrated
just be yourself.

i waited there beside my bed kneeling on my good knee
no sacred waters of Lourdes or
holy mud of Fatima to purge my midlife fears.
just be myself i said and climbed back into bed
the open space on my left
cold as the moment she appeared

as my virgin girlfriend began to fade
i smelled incense in her wake
like myrrh streaming down the aisle
at high holy mass

she pressed her palms upon my cheeks
her skin was warm and smelled of spring.
you are one hot sister she said
and faded into the night.

Jacqueline E. Luckett is the author of two novels, Passing Love and Searching for Tina Turner, both of which she proudly says have their own poetic moments. Listen to an excerpt and trailer for both novels at Stay in touch through Facebook and Twitter.


  1. Good for you not having a trunk novel. Great poem!

  2. I think novelist with a background in poetry are the absolute best. Seeing how they write often makes me wish that I had more poetry inside myself.