You might want to go the the Poetry Foundation and read “Chores” by Maxine Kumin before you read on. I’ll wait.
After an intense month of writing and going “public” with a poem a day in February, I intended to keep that habit going through March and into Poetry Month (aka April). Instead, I have (mostly) recovered my morning exercise habit that was lost to writing, commenting, and icy weather/walkways. (Yes, I know I could have gone to the health club and exercised in spite of the weather. But I didn’t.)
So in the absence of an original poem, I decided to dig into a poem with a Poem Observation. I chose Maxine Kumin, looked her up on the Poetry Foundation site, and picked a poem with what seemed to be a promising title, “Chores.” Here’s what happened:
Like I did in my classroom, I read and reread and reread, first with just my pencil in hand, then with some color coding. The more I read, the more I found to admire about the language and storytelling in this poem. There’s the obvious story in the poem about the sawdust and the sunset, but aren’t you curious for more about the paddock gate, the airbound garden pump, the broken window? And then there’s that little aside, mid-poem, about horses making divorces.
But the language! Kumin packs this poem with end rhyme, internal rhyme, assonance, consonance, and alliteration…but none of it is terribly obvious on your first read. I love that. If you read this poem aloud, especially that fourth stanza, you can’t help but be reminded of the way Kay Ryan plays with the sounds of words.
By the end of the poem (especially after multiple reads) you kind of fall in love with these “aging fools” whose work reminds us of Marge Piercy’s “To be of use.”
Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong are hosting this week’s Poetry Friday roundup at Poetry For Children with a YUMMY unveiling of their DELICIOUS newest book (I’m proud to have a poem in it!), THINGS WE EAT.