Sunday, November 1, 2009


     I hope that poetry never disappears from our culture, although I fear it is slowly slipping into oblivion. We have become so fast and furious with the pace of our lives that few people take the time anymore to enjoy the ebb and flow, the rhythm and cadence of poetic verse. I have always had a love affair with poetry, especially the manner in which poets paint pictures with words; they are the true artisans of language. Learning to appreciate poetry is an acquired taste, much like developing an appreciation of fine wines or  good cigars, and it has to be developed with time and patience.
     As children, my grandmother would often read poetry to us, and we especially loved anything by South Carolina's former poet laureate, Archibald Rutledge.  He had grown up hunting and fishing on Hampton Plantation, which was near my grandfather's family home in McClellanville,SC. Rutledge wrote of life in the lowcountry, the people and customs there, and how it had captured his heart. Rutledge's poems were magical to us, because my grandfather would tell us his personal stories about the people and places of which Rutledge wrote: Old Jim Alston, Prince, and the swamps of the Santee delta weren't just names and places-  they were people and paths my grandfather had known well, and he brought them to life for us through Rutledge's words coupled with his memories. My grandfather's heart had been captured by Rutledge's sister, Mary. They were engaged to be married, but she refused to wait for him to return from the war and married another fellow instead. He met my grandmother years later and their marriage was a love poem all it's own.They shared a love of the words of Rutledge, as most native South Carolinians do, and passed it on first to my mother, then to us.  I have taken my children on pilgrimages to Rutledge's ancestral home, I collect first editions of his works or any printed copy I can find, and I will go to my grave reciting the works of Archibald Rutledge.
     My mother made us memorize poems- Robert Burns, Robert Frost, Edgar Allen Poe, Carl Sandburg. The favorite of my father was, and still is, Percy Bysshe Shelley's "Ozymandias." He can recite it in it's entirety, and portions of it have been etched into my mind as well....
                                                                   "I met a traveller from an antique land
                                                                    Who said--Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
                                                                     Stand in the desert....."

     I have tried to carry on these family traditions with my children in a quest to develop their palettes for poetry.  They both have acquired my love of all things Rutledge, and have dabbled in writing some poetry of their own. The following is a little poem Sissey wrote long before we moved down to South Carolina to attend college. She was missing her Gans and Pop, her Carolina kin, and the simple pleasure of being in the company of the ones you love, even if there is nothing else to do.  It gives me a sense of deja vu reading it now, as the longings she wrote about then have all become our reality, even down to the double entendre of being in Carolina while attending Carolina! I hope she will continue her journey into the realms of poetry, savor the experience as fondly as I do, and carry on the poetic torch to the next generation.

By Mary Lapsley Daly

I have in my heart a longing,
a place that I long to be-
A place where I find comfort
with friends and family.

There's not a lot to do
but I really just don't care.
I lie on the sofa
while Pop sits in his chair.

Gans is in the kitchen
getting out the china;
Supper's on the table,
and I'm in Carolina.

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