Another season’s sap flows from a maple tree on Harpswell Neck. (KARA DOUGLAS PHOTO)
Welcome to the first edition of “Poems from Home,” a quarterly feature of the Harpswell Anchor.
Each season, “Poems from Home” will include the work of a local poet or two in conversation with writer Kara Douglas. Kara lives in Harpswell with her husband and two daughters. She teaches yoga and meditation classes in what was once the hayloft of their century-old barn.
We’ll begin this session with a few thoughts from Kara, followed by the work of poet Richard Craig Sipe. Kara’s poem “Scripture” recalls a grandfather’s legacy. When all was well, he went fishing. When all was not well, he did the same. It was first published in Frost Meadow Review.
You went alone, before first light
to where still water broke into motion.
I imagined you at dawn, casting
and recasting your line, moving like breath
taken and exhaled, taken again,
a fisherman’s scripture held lightly with fluid wrists.
I wear a trail upon the dusty Earth
remembering, forgetting, remembering.
When my knuckles whiten in a tight grip,
I recall, you went alone, before first light.
Kara: It’s midwinter as I write, the dregs of the pandemic dragging on. On a bright, snow-lit Monday, Craig Sipe and I had the kind of conversation I’ve been missing in recent weeks. It was like old times for a minute: two people who hardly knew each other connecting over a common interest.
As a writer, I find that words have the power to reach the inner recesses of our human experience. They can create connection, shift our perspective, gather our resolve and catalyze us to act.
At its best, poetry is visceral. It’s both familiar and revealing, underscoring what we have in common and illuminating the emergent. Craig Sipe’s work is accessible, honest and delightfully funny. What’s here is just a glimpse. You can find more at rcsipe.com and in his recent book, “Lovely Dregs.”
Richard Craig Sipe writes about “weird things … non-poetic things, like dung beetles,” he says, when asked what inspires his poetry. The first poem he wrote — “The Last Stand of the Two Gun Kid,” was published in a local newspaper in western Pennsylvania. He was in seventh grade.
“It was pretty awful,” Sipe laughs now, “but I had to read it in front of my class and got some applause, so I kept going.”
It’s partly the humor and directness in his writing that makes Sipe’s work so accessible. The opening lines of his poem “The Cough” — “A good cough knows / when night is falling / And a bad cough / knows it better” — are not a literary foray into something esoteric and hard to grasp. The words are spare and clear and resoundingly true.
“Poetry gets a bad rap because so much of it is inaccessible,” he says. “Long ago, poetry and song were ways of keeping history. Meter and rhythm were used to keep stories alive.”
Today, Sipe tends his boneyard — a scrap paper pile on his desk on Orr’s Island. Like most writers, some of his best thoughts are scrawled on the back of receipts or whatever snips of paper are on hand when inspiration strikes. Whether they’re legible when he tries to refine them is the prime determinant of what they’ll become.
After a 35-year career, Sipe retired from the shipbuilding industry in Connecticut and Rhode Island in 2016. He and his wife moved permanently to Orr’s. Their house “is the first place my wife came after she was born,” he explains. It was a family cottage then, but has since been renovated as a year-round home.
Sipe volunteers weekly at the soup kitchen in Brunswick and serves as a poetry and audio editor for The Café Review, a Portland-based quarterly publication featuring art and poetry from Maine and afar. He has been published in several poetry journals, the anthology “Wait: Poems from the Pandemic,” and his 2020 book, “Lovely Dregs.”
In the Beginning…..
Have you noticed that
seems like primordial times
when we noodled so noodling
in cozy pre-chicken stock;
But after the asteroid
it’s all split pea soup which is
a mucking suck to crawl from,
so viscous, it takes a trawl
to ooze from its snotty chowder;
so thick and clabbered that
it might be easier not to evolve.
A nascent nurse’s assistant
came into the pre-op room
before my hernia procedure
to take the vitals
“Eroica,” she said her name
and I replied “Beethoven’s Third”
“I love it when someone knows that”
she cooed gently to this blown tire
on the gurney who learned
his music from the back
of his mother’s Kroger’s bonus
A Record Addiction
It’s Record Store Day
this coming April 23rd
When I’ll pop and click
To the Bull Moose
in no small devotion
To vinyl, but with
a quarter taped
To my tone arm
all shellac in a frac
Amidst the stacks
jonesing for a groove
To reach “Poems from Home” curator Kara Douglas, email firstname.lastname@example.org.