Saturday, April 30, 2005

“You may have noticed that I'm not all there myself.”

The Movie: Alice in Wonderland, 1951 (13 screenwriters, from the novel by Lewis Carroll; Clyde Geronomi, Wilfred Jackson, and Hamilton Luske, dirs.)
Who says it: Sterling Holloway as the voice of the Cheshire Cat
The context: The Cheshire Cat disappears, grin last, as he talks to Alice.
How to use it: When detaching yourself from a situation, or to acknowledge your virtual absence.

Baron Wormser, Maine's Poet Laureate, read his new collection of poems last night at the A1-to-Go. It might seem a little silly to you that Maine has a Poet Laureate; it seems a little silly to me, and I live here. But willingness to be perceived as silly -- hell, willingness to be silly -- is a job requirement for any modern American poet.

Baron Wormser is the real deal. His new collection, Carthage, is a slim volume of 14 poems told from the point of view of a fictional U.S. President who bears a strong resemblance to the man now in office. Wormser's personal politics don't have much in common with Carthage's, but the poems take no cheap shots. They are sometimes funny, sometimes tragic, always compassionate.

The book's heart is "Carthage among School Children," whose title honors Yeats and whose subject matter reminds us of September 11. These verses, read aloud, almost made me cry:

Now, Carthage reads a book to a classroom of children
About a mole and a rabbit.
They are friends despite their different personalities--
Mole is plodding and secretive,
Rabbit is always blurting out his feelings.

Carthage wonders whether he is the mole or the rabbit.
Maybe he's both.
He looks from the book to the children.
Like saints in frescoes, calm light glows in
Their rapt faces.

Perhaps he should keep a couple of children
Around his office.
"Here," he would say to other leaders,
"Are some of my friends.
"We all like the book about the mole and the rabbit."

Carthage (ISBN 0-971311-1-0) is published by The Illuminated Sea Press, and is available directly from the author; e-mail me if you want his contact information.

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