Children’s poetry is a surprisingly savage genre, one whose idiosyncrasies and cagey nature, in conjunction with its seemingly simple construction, becomes something resembling a pitcher plant – sweet and simple, like saccharine sips from the well.
That is, until the poems are laid out before you, meandering this way and that, and the walls of the pitfall trap are as slippery as what makes a successful I Spy poem, and the lid begins to close.
To paraphrase Wallace Sayre, the vicious nature of the genre is precisely because what is at stake within its lines are so small. There are perhaps moral or practical elucidations in such poems, but few and far between are the poems titled “Peanut Butter Sam” which seek to assay the periphery of society, or fathom cultural mores or even take upon themselves poetry’s simplest, perhaps purest mission: to render something beautiful.
No, poems like “Peanut Butter Sam” are predominantly meant to be funny, and dying is considerably easier.
“Poems By Mort,” Ron Wing’s dive into the pitcher plant, finds itself falling prey to the imperceptible deficiencies which separate good I Spy poetry from bad. The poems are accessible enough, the subjects certainly appropriate and the verses themselves come off in that drunken, meandering, lilting way, like an entropic top, which one expects.
But something is just not quite right, and ascertaining what, exactly, keeps “Poems By Mort” from transcending mediocrity is something akin to stratifying abstract art. There is so very little to go upon and so everything must sort of float about in the ether, with the most powerful works, in ways unknown, at least to this reviewer, somehow swimming their way to the top.
Perhaps most damning to “Mort” is its rather vain-glorious opening, which stands in stark juxtaposition with the frivolity of its content. In it, Wing relays the book’s birth, which was in response to a dare from his wife, an educator, to put up or shut up when contending he could write poetry in the same vein as Shel Silverstein.
Needless to say, any such expectations of Wing meeting this benchmark are quickly and unmercifully dispatched with a go over of the poems he originally offered to answer his wife’s challenge, and the spiraling subsequent reading is made more precipitous by the Icarian perch “Poems By Mort” places itself foolishly upon.
Author of the rather excellent “Skip and Scooter Adventure” series, pulpy jaunts into adolescent fun, Wing is not meant for the amorphous climes of I Spy poetry, but he should not abandon verse; Wing’s writing is simply in need of galvanization, and when he chooses to adopt a plot, his poetry is markedly stronger.
“The Fort” is a diminutive epic chronicling Scooter McCray, one half of Wing’s duo, in his efforts to defeat nemesis Jim Pinter in a snowball war. This easy premise is more than enough for Wing to prop up his verse with; while it certainly will never be confused for the “Illiad,” or Silverstein, “The Fort” is an enjoyable enough story poem, and capped with a twist ending so as to avoid being prosaic.
It would not be fair to call Wing’s forays into verse ill-suited, or even regrettable; the ambiguous and exceedingly subjective nature of what constitutes good poetry, at least in this reviewer’s eyes, as well as “The Fort”s solid nature is enough to avoid deeming the venture a failure. Still, Wing is undoubtedly at his best in prose, and Skip and Scooter much more enjoyable when not laden with meter, rhythm and rhyme.
B. David Zarley, For The Sun News
Professor publishes fourth book
Tom Mack, chair of the Department of English at the University of South Carolina at Aiken, has had his fourth book published by the University of South Carolina Press in cooperation with the South Carolina Humanities Council.
“The South Carolina Encyclopedia Guide To South Carolina Writers,” available Feb. 11, contains 128 essays written by 70 scholars. Each essay focuses on the life and work of an author who made or is making a significant contribution to South Carolina’s literary heritage; the writers span two and a half centuries from Washington Allston to Dorothea Benton Frank. Mack edited the book and wrote five of the essays.
Poet and novelist Ron Rash calls it an “indispensable guide to the Palmetto State’s most revered writers as well as a valuable resource documenting these writers’ contributions to national and international literature.”
Library events span Strand
• The local Grand Strand SCORE Chapter is offering an EasySTEPS Workshop Program to any entrepreneur considering starting a new business, reinventing their existing business, or could just use some help at the North Myrtle Beach Library on Feb. 14 from 3:30-5:30 p.m. Sign up in advance by calling 915-5281.The library is located at 910 First Ave. S. A separate workshop is being held the same day at noon at the Conway Library. Call 915-7323.
• The Little River Library is hosting Myrtle Beach area personality Cecil Chandler on Feb. 15 at 2:30 p.m. as part of the membership drive and annual meeting of the Friends of the Little River Library. Refreshments will be served. The library is located at 107 Highway 57 N., Little River. Call 399-5541.
• The Chapin Library is hosting a free legal clinic on Feb. 11 on end of life issues, including health care power of attorney, living wills, DNR orders, power of attorney, funeral planning and cremation. The clinic includes a 30- or 45-minute lecture on the topics with a question and answer session following, starting at 6:30 p.m. The event is sponsored by the South Carolina Bar Pro Bono Program. The library is located at 400 14th Ave. N., Myrtle Beach.
• The Conway Library is offering Volunteer Income Tax Assistance on Tuesdays and Wednesdays in February from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. The library is located at 801 Main St., Conway. Call 915-7442. Tax assistance is also available at the Socastee Library on Wednesdays and Fridays from 1-6 p.m.
• Friends of the Socastee Library are hosting a Book Lovers Book Sale on Feb. 14 from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. The library is located at 141 707-Connector Road, Myrtle Beach. Call 214-4700.
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