I thought everyone would like to see this comment about Oklahoma poet Howard Starks,
Howard Starks was the embodiment of genius. I write poetry and teach English primarily thanks to his influence. This book was a finalist in the 1997 Oklahoma Book Awards. It should have won hands down, no way a book of translations could even be close. Robinson Jeffers, James Dickey, Walt Whitman, Howard Starks: his name is on their level. I use this book in the classes I teach at Southeastern. It has been reprinted and can be purchased at the Campus Bookstore at Southeastern or from my website http://www.RonWallacePoetry.com Don’t miss the chance to read this work. It is the pinnacle of Oklahoma Poetry.
All the talk of poetry must have made me hungry to read some. So I went to one of my newest finds, Family Album, by Howard Starks. Starks taught at Southeastern Oklahoma State University in Durant, distinguished Alumni Award recipient in 2002.
Fortunately my library has Stark’s book of poetry, Family Album. (sorry, no longer in print)
Publisher: Durant, OK: Running Board Press
Using sepia toned photographs to introduce the poems, we meet him and his family. I know that all of us from Oklahoma or who have parents raised here, have looked at similar photographs of our family, wondered what they were thinking, how life had changed them and reflected on our own image.
from Family Rite
‘In my mother’s sewing room stored
among old dress patterns is the pattern
of our childhoods
in a box
filled with darkness–
old photos in darkness getting arcane
as they crisp and dim.
We mostly leave it closed the box
that once held Dad’s Sunday Stetson
for even images of joy can hurt.
(Innocence when recalled harms
And some of the faces solemn for the camera
speak of hopes
we’d rather not recall–
make dense in us
the shadowy children we once were.’
Looking through old pictures is a landmind of feelings for most of us. I know some people who can look and see only the good times; parties, Christmases, new babies, and always smiling faces. But Starks reminds us of dreams unfulfilled, hard times, missed opportunities and the realism of life’s lessons.
From Two Girls (The photograph in front of this poem is of two girls, almost women, arms around each other, looking determined into the camera.)
‘Imagine a Voice that day
You will work and work and work
wear out your freshness
in shabby houses and hot fields
scream in birthings
weep alone and wonder
where all this pain came from.
One will cough her life away
at thirty one.
The other will live long
be ground like corn
by a world that whispers
give give give–
there’s more yet to bear.
Having listened these gallant girls
would still have said
So be it.’
I look at the photographs and see the ones of my Grandma, Mom, our old houses and broken down buildings, cars and flowers in the yard, all surrounded by the nostalgia and melancholy of the past, yet integral to who I am.