Back in May, Jared Felkins, director of content (nee editor) of this newspaper, politely replied in the negative when I asked if he would be okay with my putting poetry in my columns.
“I don’t believe our readers would respond positively to poems,” Felkins said. Poetry just doesn’t go well with newspapers.”
I did not rejoin with an objection that Fred Russell’s “Sidelines” column that ran for more than half a century in The Nashville Banner included poems, which had been some of my favorite columns.
I did not point out Grantland Rice’s poems in The New York Herald Tribune contributed to him being known as the sportswriter of sport’s “Golden Age.”
I didn’t even mention my poem about Castle Heights beating Baylor School in 1961, a game that led to Heights winning the mythical Mid-South Conference championship. It was the best received column I wrote as sports editor of The Cavalier, the award winning newspaper due in large part to the guidance of J.B. Leftwich.
If polled, I expect Democrat readers would agree with Jared’s assessment. Poems aren’t as popular as they used to be. I don’t recall reading any poems, other than one I wrote in this column four years ago, in any newspaper lately. And that one met stiff resistance from the newspaper’s editor at the time.
So in keeping my long term penchant to go against the grain, I have written a book of poetry. It is published by a “print on demand” publishing company, Author House, and will be available to the public within a month.
The title of my book is A Pocket of Resistance: Selected Poems. “A pocket of resistance dates back to at least the Civil War when it was used to describe small groups of the battlefield who continued to fight after the majority of had been defeated. The current definition (from the online “Free Dictionary) is “a small group of people who resist change or domination.”
In this case, the small groups numbers one: me. I have spent a good part of my life silently resisting the general trends of thoughts.
Blythe, my older daughter, calls me a “contrarian.”
Years ago, Waylon Jennings wrote and recorded a song titled “I’ve Always Been Crazy.” A couple of lines were “I’ve always been different with one foot over the line / Winding up somewhere one step ahead or behind / It ain’t been so easy but I guess I shouldn’t complain / I’ve always been crazy but it’s kept me from going insane.” That pretty much nails me. I’ve adopted Waylon’s song as my anthem.
My poems are also a little bit different from most, I think. They vary in style and structure and often go against poetic convention and advice from more learned poetry experts: my pocket of resistance keeps kicking in gear.
The first poem I remember writing was in Lindsey Donnell’s freshman English class at Castle Heights. The poem was not very good. I had trouble with rhyming the last line, which I wanted to end with “after life.” But the term did not rhyme with the previous line, which ended in “worth.” So I got creative and used the term “after birth.”
I suspect Lindsey Donnell chuckled for the rest of the year. I know my mother and father had to suppress laughter when they explained to me the correct definition of “after birth.”
This book began back then. This is an unabashed, outright request for readers to purchase it. As noted, it is self-published through Author House, a print-on-demand business. One priority is to at least break even.
But more so, I want folks to read and hopefully learn from my experiences. I have Paul Wooten’s book of poems on my bookshelf. Another Castle Heights professor, Paul inspired me with his poetry by making me think. My primary objective is to give readers a view from a different perspective.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the Romantic poet, wrote one of my favorite poems, “The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner.” I also tried to follow his direction, when he wrote, “I could inform the dullest author how he might write an interesting book — let him relate the events of his own Life with honesty, not disguising the feelings that accompanied them.”
I hope you find I did that in A Pocket of Resistance: Selected Poems.
Jim Jewell, a retired Navy commander lives in San Diego but was raised in Lebanon. His book, A Pocket of Resistance: Selected Poems, will be available in about three weeks. It will be available through Author House, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble on-line. Jim’s email is firstname.lastname@example.org.