Sunday, April 17, 2011

Poems Enough

Today is my mother's birthday (Happy birthday, Mom!). This year is something of a milestone birthday, so I wanted to do something special for her. My mother is a woman of many talents: an artful painter and sculptor, a dedicated gardener, and (one day) a virtuosic banjo player. But above all, she is a life long writer--both of poetry and fiction. For her birthday this year, I wanted to publish her collected works of poetry into a single volume. At first, I wanted this to be a surprise and enlisted my dad to help gather her oeuvre. What I realized from the smattering of word documents he sent me was that my mother had written more than I realized, and many things were in varying stages of completion. I had no idea where to even begin to sort through what she would even want to have published. So the secret thing was out the window, and she contributed not only the book and chapter titles and where the poems should be organized, but also a thoughtful introduction tying the volume together.

Through the ease of self-publishing offered by and with the enormous help of a very talented designer (whose unflagging devotion to this project, despite my many edits, prompts me to plug his Website again:, we now have a finished book:The cover, although I forgot to credit it in the book (whoops! so much for the editorial check list!), is a section of one of my mom's recent paintings. It's something she did based on a photo of the Japanese gardens in Fort Worth.

I wanted to share my favorite poem from the collection, but it was harder to pick than I thought it would be. Instead, I'll just share one that I really like. It's about the constant spread of suburban sprawl (something anyone who has ever lived in the suburbs of Houston is quite familiar with). One day you're neighbors are cows in wide open fields, where you and your sister can pick berries of somewhat questionable health, and the next it's the inevitable grocery store/nail salon/laundromat mini mall.

Suburban Sprawl

We remember cows
Where grocery carts now graze.
In dove season shots rang out
Reminding us that hunters
Nestle in the cozy grass.

Then, we dared not walk
To Val-U-Drugs
Nor could we imagine how
Vast the space, once paved.

Mere grass,
Festooned with barbed wire
It seemed a part
Of our own backyard.

Now it is open, uninviting.

A beat-up taco van
Parked beside the winding road
Nourished the crews
Who straightened the road
Paving the way
For Taco Palace
And the storage place
(Painted orange and purple
To avoid confusion with the red white and blue
And the other two)
The day they broke ground
We vowed to boycott
Twenty-Four-Seven-Shop & Drop
And stick to homemade tamales
In honor of the fallen trees.

But sometimes you need something late at night

And it’s great to nibble a praline
Walking home
Pondering where the cows graze now.

I know the vast majority of my readers already have their copies soon to arrive in the mail, but if anyone would like to procure their very own copy of Poems Enough, you can do so from Amazon here. I realize I'm a little biased here, but if you can only buy one book of poetry this year, it should probably be this one.


  1. This is so lovely, Susan! I must say that I consider the poem your mom wrote for our graduation one of the best gifts I've ever received. It was so nice and thoughtful! And I remember reading it right after you gave it to me, as I finished packing up my room in Brown and feeling so happy to have met such great friends and also so sad that we were separating. Anyway, thanks again for that poem Mrs. Meyer and Happy Birthday!

  2. The Japanese Gardens depicted on the book's cover are in Fort Worth, not Dallas. Being from Houston, you can be forgiven for getting confused about what is where in the Metroplex. However, as a Fort Worth native, I cannot sit by and let Dallas take credit for a Fort Worth jewel. Amazon assures me that my copy of the book is already on its way. Thanks for creating such a lovely birthday present that we can all enjoy.

  3. Balguire--I changed it in the post in response to your correction. How could I confuse the two!

  4. Ah shucks! Thanks for spreading the word and most of all for making the book happen. I have enjoyed reading my own poems lately -- they seem better now that they are in a book!

    Interesting that you should pick that poem. Lately I've been hear Garrison Keiller's voice reading it (in my head). I'm planning to send it to him, although I think the chances of it being read on "Reader's Almanac" are slim.

  5. Susan this is an AWESOME tribute to your mom. I'll make sure to go on facebook and wish her a happy birthday. And I'm glad you picked this poem. Since I grew up only a few streets away from you, I totally remember the days when that area was just a cow pasture. I miss that! But she makes a good point--we try to act like we hate the mini malls and the cement, but we give in when we want to eat something late at night and don't want to travel far or something.

    I think the painting on the front it gorgeous. :)

  6. This is so cool! I am totally getting my mother a copy. She's a ninja poet too. :)