Friday, April 19, 2019

30 Great Poems for April, Day 19: “Mermaids” by Angela Howe Decker

Disclaimer: Angela Decker and I have known each other a really long time*. Her work has an inherent goodness about it, even if the subject matter is dark or angry; her empathy for her fellow humans is always in there. In this poem, she tells the tale of a woman working a very odd job, but one that sparked Angela’s imagination and does the same for the reader.

This poem keeps up a juggling act of tones. It’s laugh-out-loud funny (“like she was a cousin or something”), but also melancholy and—yes, this is in there too—a little ridiculous, a hint of standing back and whispering to the reader, “Can you belive this?” It’s never disrespectful, but it’s always rooted in the real world, so we trust this narrator. Angela’s writing is like that; she will entertain you, but she’ll also tell you the truth. She will give you the goods.

* When I decided to do this poem-a-day feature, I knew I wanted to include some poets I know personally. But as I started to think about whom to feature, it became like the story my parents used to tell of planning their wedding—“If we invited these people, we had to invite these other people. And if we invited person A, person B would be mad to be left out.” (They couldn't figure it out and ended up eloping.) This thing with friends' poems became a similar diplomatic tangle, the kind we run into a lot in the poetry world. Whom to invite to do a reading? Whom to solicit work from for the journal? Who gets to be in this workshop group? I don’t have an answer to all that, but it occasionally snags our vitally important network of friends and tears at it a little. I’ve been that person with their nose out of joint because I didn’t get picked. I’ve also been the one doing the picking that somebody got angry with. My mantra about all this is an annoyingly simple one that works most of the time: “Let it go. Keep writing.”

[All through April, I’m featuring a favorite poem every day, along with a link where you can read it. Some are classics, some are newer, but each one is the kind of poem that I read, love, and immediately want to tell all my friends about. What better to time to share them than National Poetry Month?]

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