Friends often ask how I became a poet.  Did I write poems as a child?  Was I a promising writer in high school?  Did I major in Literature or Creative Writing?  No, no, and no.  I was an architect of wooden blocks and Tinkertoys as a kid.  My Senior English teacher (and ACT) indicated that language was my weakest subject.  I did not begin my writing life
in earnest until I retired from nursing in autumn 2014.  Due to budget constraints, offerings at the local university were limited.  Poetry was the only writing class available and I grudgingly agreed to give it a try.

The first assignment had me in a dither: “With This Is Just To Say in mind, write a short poem based on something mundane.”  Like what?  Dust?  Chicken noodle soup?  My life?  A mere two feet away, Froggie hung from my pencil jar sending an urgent psychic message, Oh! Oh! Pick me! Pick me!  He’d cost $1.99 at a Maine gift shop called The 45th Parallel.  He’s small, olive green, and has hooked front legs that allow him to hang from things.  A couple weeks after I got Froggie, hubby kidnapped him from my desk and hid him.  I found him hanging on the edge of a bowl in the kitchen cupboard, a fun surprise.  So I hid him for hubby to find, peeking out from a roll of toilet paper in the bathroom cabinet.  Moving him around became our little “I love you” game.  On several occasions, Froggie got knocked off his perch and broke a leg, but each time, we mended him with a few drops of Super Glue and the game continued.  Froggie became the subject of my (very mundane) poem, which was returned to me marked “Purely delightful!” I will be forever grateful to my teacher for not writing, “Yikes!  Is Dr. Seuss on the loose?” which would have stopped me in my tracks.


My ceramic frog
is a great little token
of our Maine vacation
and that’s no jokin’

He fell a few times
and has two legs broken
but with a bit of Super Glue,
he keeps on croakin’

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17 thoughts on “POETRY 4220: WHERE IT ALL BEGAN

  1. Peter Klopp September 3, 2017 / 10:39 am

    A very beautiful story! I am glad that your teacher did not turn you off from writing poetry. Have a great Sunday!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan September 3, 2017 / 1:20 pm

      Thanks, Peter. An encouraging teacher makes all the difference. The Senior English teacher made me feel like a dope because I didn’t “get” the secondary arc of the stories we read, meaning I thought they were fun reading, but I didn’t understand what they were “really about.” Being told that language was my weakest subject turned me away from writing anything for a really long time. Maybe the college teacher asked us to write about something mundane so we wouldn’t feel pressured. Incidentally, our “mundane” poems pulled in a lot of meaning and a lot of ourselves, which was the whole point. When I compiled all my poems for my final project, I asked myself (in the spirit of Mr. Senior English), “What is this poem really about?” and found that I had been concealing hidden meanings in everything I wrote. Hidden even from myself. It was the coolest and freakiest thing ever! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. chevvy8 September 3, 2017 / 10:50 am

    Well Joan, as it turns out, your mundane poem was not really mundane at all. I guess I latched onto the oxymoron of “great little” for froggie to have much more significance than a “mere token” The token is much more a recognition of what the token really stands for – be it love, companionship, camaraderie etc. Isn’t it that these often suffer some crack or fall but the glue that holds it all together, be it love or any other emotion, keeps things together and might even transform what might seem mundane to something special. “Purely delightful” seems hardly adequate. But I guess what makes a great poem is also how relatable it is. Well done! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan September 3, 2017 / 2:06 pm

      Thanks, Chevvy. A very perceptive comment! Froggie was just one souvenir of many bought at that gift shop–cute, cheap, nothing special. He took on greater significance when he became a player in our “game.” You are completely right about the symbolism, although I only figured that out in retrospect: Froggie is our life together, Super Glue is love. This delightful rhyme takes on another dimension of richness when you know Froggie’s backstory, but not telling it allows the reader to apply it in whatever way fits his/her own life. Less can be more. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • chevvy8 September 3, 2017 / 2:12 pm

        Indeed it can just as sometimes it’s the simple things about love and affection that we appreciate more than the flashy and lavish!😀

        Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan September 3, 2017 / 1:21 pm

      Thanks, Marissa. When the student is ready, the teacher appears. I’m 100% sure that is what happened here. 🙂


  3. Tippy Gnu September 3, 2017 / 1:17 pm

    It appears that English teacher and ACT test were rather weak at detecting your writing talents. Perhaps they should get out of the business of evaluating writers. And I find the poem delightful, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan September 3, 2017 / 2:32 pm

      Thanks, Tippy. I wasn’t crazy about writing assignments in high school… if the instructions had been “Write how it feels to be a square peg in a round hole” instead of “Tell me what you did over summer vacation” or “Give your impression of what Thoreau’s Walden was really about,” the resulting essays might have been more poignant. ACT was a long time ago, but I recall word tests like “talk is to converse as walk is to ____” with four choices (saunter, stroll, ambulate, toddle), where all the choices are correct, but one is MORE correct than the others. None of that provides a good basis for evaluating a student’s potential, and in my opinion, shouldn’t be used that way. But things happen in their own time for their own reasons… had I begun writing poetry before blogging was a “thing,” I wouldn’t have met any of you. I might have instead become a crazy cat lady living in an attic and eating ramen noodles. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Tippy Gnu September 3, 2017 / 8:11 pm

        I agree that those word tests do not provide a good basis for evaluating a student’s potential. You can’t quantify style, creativity, or imagination, but that doesn’t stop some people from trying.

        Have you ever tried to read Strunk & White’s “Elements of Style”? Big waste of time, in my view. I don’t think style just can be learned from a book, or narrowed down into quantifiable “elements”.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Just Joan September 3, 2017 / 8:15 pm

        I have never read Elements of Style, and thanks to your critique, I probably won’t. I think style is just another word for “voice.” No book can tell you how to silence your internal censor or be yourself. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  4. L. T. Garvin, Author September 3, 2017 / 7:48 pm

    That is such an interesting story, Joan. It seems to me that you are a natural born writer. I feel terribly inadequate because I could answer yes to all those questions and failed miserably at it, although I guess the stop, start, stop, start thing never helped. I really like the frog poem, along with the backstory of you and your husband playing hiding go seek with him, ha ha! I like how he would turn up random places. I think poems about simple things are truly powerful and concepts that readers can grasp. I so love Dr. Seuss, and I have tried shamelessly to imitate him at times. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan September 3, 2017 / 8:42 pm

      Lana, you are an amazingly versatile writer with so much talent, a success in my book!!! WRITING is what makes us writers, not just publishing or making money. I have a whole collection of frog figurines these days–yard frogs, frog on a spring, frog nightlight, Russian doll frogs, etc, but the hanging froggie is still my favorite. I love that every reader can have their own interpretation of a simple poem, every answer is correct, it’s just a matter of experience and perspective. From this point forward, we shall be Sisters in Seuss. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • L. T. Garvin, Author September 4, 2017 / 1:33 pm

        Thank you, Joan, you are so kind. I also like seeing how different readers interpret a poem. There are many things that can be taken away from a poem, it is truly in the eye of the beholder. Little frogs rule! I like the idea of us being Sisters in Seuss quite a lot! 😀

        Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan September 4, 2017 / 6:13 pm

      I am an enigma, for sure. Glad to add a few pieces to your 42 puzzle. You know, “croakin” was the one word in the poem I was uneasy about… because it might mean Froggie remains alive and kickin, or it might mean Froggie keeps falling to his (near) death. Or maybe it’s a double entendre that means both. So, thanks, 227. I think. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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