Take Heart: A Conversation in Poetry

The Maine State Library has partnered with with the State's Poet Laureate, Wesley McNair, and the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance in the initiative, Take Heart: A Conversation in Poetry.

Each week McNair offers one previously published poem by a Maine poet. McNair selects each poem and writes a brief introduction about the poet's background and connection to Maine, and the history, context, or themes of the poem.

Poem for the week of December 22, 2013

A Notable Failure

Edited and introduced by Wesley McNair, Maine Poet Laureate

Who is the mysterious figure from the past in today’s sonnet, notable only for failure? The late Robert Siegel of South Berwick challenges us to see through the disparaging view of the man’s contemporaries, and to name him.

A Notable Failure by Robert Siegel

He never went abroad to broaden him and though he learned to read, he did not write anything worth saving. Once, at a whim, he scribbled something they hadn’t gotten right
in the sand and erased it. Few could know
whether to credit any of the vulgar rumors
surrounding his birth in a shed. There were low
whispers and a gap of thirty years.
Then more rumors trickled through the countryside
about the artisan’s son turned wonderworker:
probably a charlatan—blasphemer to be sure. Wide-eyed,
some claimed he raised the dead (and healed lepers!)
before the Romans nailed him—as they nailed all such—
and the neighbors sniffed, “He didn’t come to much!”

Take Heart: A Conversation in Poetry is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Poem copyright © 2006 Robert Siegel. Reprinted Pentecost of Finches: New and Selected Poems, Paraclete Press, 2006, by permission of Ann Siegel. Questions about submitting to Take Heart may be directed to Gibson Fay-LeBlanc, Special Consultant to the Maine Poet Laureate, at mainepoetlaureate@gmail.com or 207-228-8263. Take Heart: Poems from Maine, an anthology collecting the first two years of this column, is now available from Down East Books.

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