, Gloucester, MA

July 30, 2013

My View: Poetry alive and well in Gloucester

My View
John Ronan

---- — Poetry is a hot topic in Gloucester.

It is not up there with the new Newell, I-4, C-2, or the Red Sox these days. But it is talked about – not to mention read, practiced and published widely.

Some reasons are obvious. We have a dedicated poet laureate in Rufus Collinson, writing and sharing. “The Elicitor,” the Gloucester High School literary publication under the guidance of James Cook, continues a rich, decades-long tradition.

Henry Ferrini and others help The Gloucester Writers’ Center thrive. And I’ll boldly plug “The Writer’s Block,” my own poetry-promoting cable program, beginning its 24th year this fall.

You are holding in your hand another reason for poetry optimism in Gloucester. The Gloucester Daily Times publishes poetry regularly in “Poets Corner.”

This is remarkable for two reasons. First, newspapers don’t usually publish poetry. According to one website ( there are fewer than a dozen papers in the country that do so. That total is less than 1 percent of the country’s dailies and weeklies. We are very lucky.

There is a second, more important reason for this being remarkable. The space devoted to poetry is filled! And could be filled many times over. Scores of Gloucester citizens, not just self-proclaimed poets, write and publish their work. And, as I mentioned, it is a hot topic of conversation.

Recently, I was talking with a friend, Billy Dixon, about Steinbeck’s novel, “Of Mice and Men.” The title is powerful and well chosen. Our conversation led quickly to title’s source, a poem titled “To a Mouse.”

That the wisdom of Robert Burns can reach across continents and centuries speaks well for poetry, speaks well for Gloucester. The poem reads, in part:

But Mousie, thou art not alone,

In proving foresight may be vain:

The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men

Gang aft agley, [go often awry]

An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,

For promis’d joy!

Another friend, Patrick Sheehy, recently quoted some lines of poetry his mother liked to recite:

But presently bethinks him

And hastens to me then,

For it’s half-past kissing time

And time to kiss again!

The lines are from “Kissing Time” by Eugene Field. I didn’t know Field, so Patrick loaned me a collection that had belonged to his grandfather.

Eugene Field was on his way to fame at the end of the 19th century and would be famous now, perhaps, if he hadn’t died of a heart attack at 45.

One proof of future stardom is a poem that reached national fame, whose opening lines you might remember, especially in a seafaring city like Gloucester:

Wynken, Blynken, and Nod one night

Sailed off in a wooden shoe —

Sailed on a river of crystal light,

into a sea of dew.

John Ronan is a former poet laureate for the city of Gloucester and is host of the Cape Ann Community TV show, “The Writer’s Block.”

The 2013 Poetry Laureate Scholarship winners are Katie Russo and Pauline Cruz. Both seniors had distinguished careers at Gloucester High School, academically and in extracurricular activities -- not to mention writing excellent poetry. They have also been busy in the community; Katie and Pauline have been mentors in Pathways for Children and members of many other organizations. Pauline is bound for nursing program at the University of Massachusetts at Boston, and has already been accepted in the university's honors program. Katie is heading west, to the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Katie will also major in science: anthropology. Congratulations Katie and Pauline.