Sunday, November 4, 2012

Poetry for People Who Don't Like Poetry

POETRY FOR PEOPLE WHO DON’T LIKE POETRY . . . and for those who do

Joseph Mills is not your everyday poet. At least, he is not what many people think the everyday poet is. He is not overly-intellectual, obscure, depressed, elitist, or crazy. He is, however, very much an everyday guy. He has written books, after all, on the Marx Brothers, and on wine, and on reading Louis L’Amour Westerns. If he were a bit older, I might think he could be my father.

Not long ago, my wife told me I should try to write more poetry for people who don’t like poetry. The truth is, I don’t need to. Joseph Mills has already done it. His poems are witty and approachable. They remind us of the lives we all lead. And most importantly, they charm us into reflecting more deeply upon those lives and recognizing the truths we otherwise might forget or too readily gloss over.

In short, he helps the reader to feel and think about the life he is living. He achieves more successfully than perhaps any other poet I know what renowned educator, poet, and social critic Edwin Honig said was the role of the poet in the modern world: to “celebrate the difficult, joyous, imaginative process by which the individual discovers and enacts selfhood.” In all the oblique pondering over the purpose of poetry I've read lately, nowhere have I come across a more practical or productive idea regarding the objectives of poetry, and nowhere have I come across a poet that does just that more effectively than Joseph Mills.

I could use almost any poem from Mills' four collections to demonstrate what I mean, but since winter is coming on, I think “A Winter Dialogue” from his newest book, Sending Christmas Cards to Huck & Hamlet, seems the most appropriate.
Mills will visit Hickory (NC) on November 13 to read at Poetry Hickory, 5:30 at Taste Full Beans Coffeehouse, and teach a workshop on poetry at 4:00. Both events are open to the public. For information, contact me (Scott Owens) at 828-234-4266 or

A Winter Dialogue
by Joseph Mills

We decide to take a break from the eating, drinking,
and arguing--our traditional holiday pastimes--
to walk around the ice-encased neighborhood.
In the hallway, we sort through the piles of coats,
hats, and gloves, pulling out what we think we need,
and when I get to the door my father calls me back
to drape a scarf around my neck. In my forties,
I don’t like scarves anymore than when I was six,
but, now, having kids, I recognize what his fingers
are trying to say as they adjust the wool, and, I hope,
he recognizes what I’m trying to say by not moving.
It’s not much, but since neither of us needs anything
the other can buy, we try to exchange what we can,
a protective touch and a willingness to be touched.

1 comment:

  1. I love the image. I wish the last line had been omitted.