Primus Mootry column: Free your inner poet, and feelings, and see what you get | Opinion

On Wednesdays through the end of the year, The Herald Bulletin is republishing a selection of columns written by Primus Mootry, the retired schoolteacher and community advocate who died in a March 31 fire at his Anderson home.

This column originally ran April 23, 2014. It’s been slightly edited, as Primus asked readers to email him their poems.

“Poetry is nearer to vital truth than history.” – Plate

April is National Poetry Month. Throughout the country, colleges and universities, elementary and secondary schools, libraries and various publications have hosted poetry readings or featured unpublished poets.

In the past, I have used this column to encourage readers to write their own poems. It’s a way of self-expression that allows each of us to explore the truth inside us, and the realities of this planet and the human condition.

Now some may think that poetry is for eggheads. Not true. It is for anyone who dares put pen to paper and let his or her thoughts flow.

One of my favorite forms of poetry is the limerick. That’s a short rhyme, usually expressing humor or a more pointed truth. Here is one some may remember from their school days:

There was a young lady of Niger

Who smiled as she rode on a tiger

They returned from the ride

With the lady inside

And the smile on the face of the tiger

Just for kicks, I scribbled my own limerick while writing this. It’s a bit more serious than the lady and the tiger, but I had fun with it:

There was once an old man from our town

Who prayed to God for a crown

Each Sunday he prayed in Heaven to dwell

But, at his end, his week day sins, I do tell

Sent him kicking and screaming straight to Hell

Well, it wasn’t quite in the form of the first little rhyme, but who cares? I had fun with it anyway. The point is that poems let us say in very few words what might otherwise take a book to explain.

In a way, they are like pictures. As they say, you know, “one picture is worth a thousand words.”

So give it a try. Jazz prodigy, Eric Dolphy, once said there is no such thing as a bad note. I think it’s pretty much the same with poetry. Who knows, it might get printed in this newspaper, or maybe not. But who cares?

Who cares if your poem doesn’t always rhyme? They have a name for that among the great variety of poetic styles — free verse.

Who dares mean how you feel about this or that? They are your feelings. Write them down. Let “you” speak through poetry. Lo prometo. You’ll be amazed.

And you don’t have to be William Shakespeare, Pablo Neruda, Gwendolyn Brooks, Langston Hughes, Walt Whitman, Robert Browning, or the scores of other poets looked upon as great. Just be yourself. Just be honest.

Of course, that doesn’t mean we should not appreciate those who are acknowledged as great poets. Many of these men and women give their lives to this art form. Those I mentioned are some of my favorites.

But I recently came across a little book of poetry and, in honor of this past Easter Sunday, here’s a bit of what a little known minister and teacher wrote in a poem called “The Feet of Judas”:

Christ washed the feet of Judas!

The dark and evil passions of his soul

His secret plot, and sordidness complete

His hate, his purposing, Christ knew the whole

And still, in love, he stepped and washed his feet

There are five more verses to the minister’s poem. Yet, he manages to paint a picture any Christian can stand back and admire: an all knowing, humble, forgiving Christ, the Son of God!

It is amazing how, in so few words, this minister was able to capture what is, in the Bible, more than a few books.

And so, I suggest to those readers who may be interested, write! Write something on the back of an envelope. Play around with word rhymes on your computer. And for those who may be really enthusiastic, form a poetry group.

Just as Anderson has produced a number of extraordinary singers and athletes, I believe our poets are out there, too, waiting to be read, needing to be heard.

I say let’s get in touch. I mean with each other, yes, but more important, let’s get in touch with the truth. Writing poetry is one way of doing just that.

Have a nice day!


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