Public Poetry, Kevin Walzer's meditations on poetry, publishing, business, and other creative pursuits
Kevin Walzer, a poet, poetry publisher, husband, and father.
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Emma Saves Her Life by Naton Leslie is a large, engrossing collection of narratives in the voice of the author's grandmother. Leslie really does a terrific job of capturing the nuances of Emma's character, often mixing her actual words with his own plain-spoken verse. Here's a sample:
Emma Adds to Her Story
Two more things. First,
the reason they called
the place where Flossie's
people lived Lost Stocking Ridge
was because one time a peddler
came to Kittanning selling stockings
and other nice things for women.
He made his rounds, then asked
about a short-cut to Dubois
as he was behind schedule.
They sent him up the logging road,
what is now route 29, which goes
up around Hawthorn and Frogtown.
Well, he ran into a bunch of them
moonshiners up on the ridge.
They caught him and killed him,
I said they were bad news,
even worse when they were all
hopped up on hootch. They went
wild and threw his stockings
and such all over the mountainside.
They blew around up there
for weeks, and that's how
they knew the peddler was dead.
And that's why it was called that.
Second, my sister Olivia.
I didn't like her because
she was mean and lazy.
She thought she was prettier
than me and took a man
I was spending time with
just to prove it. She didn't
even like him, but she knew
he was sweet on me. The way
some people will behave.
She could be the very devil,
so I disliked her very much.
That's all I need
to say about that.
In this poem, the storyteller is as important as the story itself: Emma's character, her distinctive voice, shines through here. It's Leslie's own tribute to his inimitable grandmother, and his affection for her voice is contagious.
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