This article by Ray Spitzenberger first appeared in IMAGES for May 28, 2020, East Bernard Express, East Bernard, Texas.
Both when my first daughter was born and when my second daughter was born, I gave out pink, bubblegum cigars (I am philosophically opposed to tobacco products) to everyone I met, and each time the excitement was almost more than I could bear! Since I was teaching in those days, congratulations rang out through the long halls of WCJC, both from students and faculty! Naturally my parents and Peg’s parents were filled with joy, as the gift of children is the greatest gift of all, — for the whole family!
I hope it’s not an exaggeration to say that the birth of my second book, Open Prairies, yesterday (when it was sent to the printer) was as wonderfully exciting as the birth of my first book, It Must Be the Noodles, and perhaps more than half as exciting as the nativity of my daughters! To add to the excitement, the creating of my second book was a family affair. My daughter, the book designer in New York, designed the book of poems, and my granddaughter, Lauren, my college student GD, took the photographs for it. And my wife, my other daughter, and my other granddaughter were the subject matter for many of my poems, not to mention that my wife Peggy’s encouragement and support made both books possible.
When I first began thinking about publishing a book of my poems, I put the idea aside, because the attitude of many people convinced me nobody would want to buy or read a volume of poetry, and I was well aware of the difficulty most poetry magazines have staying afloat financially. Why try to force poetry on people who don’t like poems! Perhaps my mind changed when Billy Collins, often referred to as “The People’s Poet,” published a book of his poems which became a Best Seller on the New York Times Best Seller List. Also, Glenn Lyvers, Editor of Prolific Press, whose magazines like Poetry Quarterly, 50 Haikus, Tanka Journal, etc., have published a number of my poems, operates on the belief that poetry should be for everyone. Why not? Why shouldn’t everybody like to read poetry, especially if poetry is written for everyone, rather than just for the literati?
Armed with that belief, I was ready to rock and roll! After all, my poems celebrate the country life, the rural life, — life on the prairies of Texas. My poems have some of the same old-fashioned, good old days, quality to them that lots of people like in “Images,” my newspaper column written in prose. Like my newspaper column, some of my poems are lighthearted and even humorous, but many have more depth to them than my column, as, according to John Ciardi, poetry must suggest more than it explicitly states. At the same time, my poems are mostly contemporary in their form and style, some even written using Japanese poetry forms (which are so popular today). All of them are honest and sincere.
Whenever you have a child, it is going to contain your DNA, as well as your wife’s. Hoping not to stretch the analogy too far, I like to think that the qualities in my poems elucidated above, are part of my mental and emotional DNA. Also, most parents are excited about the physical attractiveness of their newborn child. Well, having my daughter Rae Ann design the book and my granddaughter Lauren take the photos for it has insured that it is physically attractive. The book’s design is splendid looking, not just because Rae Ann is a successful New York book designer, but because she lovingly understands the content of the poems and the old man who wrote them. And Lauren’s photographs were taken mostly in and around East Bernard, and of the prairie life she knows and loves, and she, too, understands and loves this old grandpa-poet.
Very soon, Open Prairies will be on sale at Amazon.com for $9.99, and eventually we hope to sell it at one of our favorite East Bernard stores. Like all fathers, I’ve bragged far too much about this newborn, and, like most new fathers, I am so excited that my radiator is overheating. I may even have to get some bubblegum cigars to give away, but I think they should be maroon rather than pink
Ray Spitzenberger is a retired teacher and pastor, and the author of two books, It Must Be the Noodles and Open Prairies.