The Ode FamiliarBy Katherine Dalton for FRONT PORCH REPUBLIC
Louisville, Kentucky. Some time back Caleb Stegall nominated Iris DeMent’s “Our Town” for the Front Porch Theme Song, and an ensuing piece of Bill Kauffman’s elicited a nice long list of good music of place. Readers who missed that discussion of localism in song might want to visit it here.
I thought we could do the same for poetry, and so below I offer a poem of place, in the hope that it will spark suggestions for an anthology’s worth of localism in meter—or a start, at least. I could have opened with Wendell Berry’s “The Sycamore,” but demonstrating a regional broadmindedness I am usually careful to suppress, I have chosen a New England poet instead, and though she will be familiar to you this poem of hers will not, I think.
She takes all the sting out of the word “provincial.” Your own candidates are welcome.
The Robin’s my criterion of tune
Because I grow where robins do–
But were I Cuckoo born
I’d swear by him,
The ode familiar rules the morn.
The Buttercup’s my whim for bloom
Because we’re orchard-sprung–
But were I Britain-born
I’d daisies spurn–
None but the Nut October fits,
Because through dropping it
The seasons flit, I’m taught.
Without the snow’s tableau
Winter were lie to me–
Because I see New Englandly.
The Queen discerns like me–