There once was a woman from Dunwoody,
Whose disposition was always quite moody.
But wouldn’t you know it?
She became a poet.
And now she’s feeling quite goody.
There are those who consider limericks (like the one above) to be the lowest form of poetry. Yet in this case, there is quite a bit of truth in its story, including the growing enthusiasm among numerous Sunshine residents who are celebrating National Poetry Month by honing their way with words.
"Poetry is that song we have kept deep within ourselves and can now put to paper with boldness so that others will feel what we have observed and felt,” says Jerry Schmalenberger, a resident at Quail Lodge in Antioch, California. “It sets us free from our inhibitions in order that we might contemplate, express and muse all the more. It is as Shakespeare wrote in As You Like It: ‘Truly, I would the gods had made thee poetical.’"
Jerry is the man behind the poetry contests that are currently under way this month at many Sunshine Retirement communities. He and his wife Carol will be the judges for the competition at Quail Lodge that will culminate with readings by residents on May 1.
“Jerry is quite an accomplished man,” said Sara Hallam, Life Enrichment Director at Quail Lodge. “He is the retired President of the Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley, California and he served on the faculty at seminaries in Hong Kong, Sumatra and Indonesia. So the appreciation of beautiful verses is nothing new to him.”
While Jerry has long been a poetry aficionado, other Sunshine residents are gaining an appreciation of their own through poetry readings hosted at communities like Brook Ridge in Pharr, Texas, The Clairmont in Austin, Texas and Fountain Crest in Lehigh Acres, Florida. Meanwhile, a contest at Dunwoody Pines in Dunwoody, Georgia has motivated residents like Ellen Lewis to earnestly write poetry for the first time.
Her poem titled “Living Experiences” was inspired by memories of her late husband, Terry. It opens with the intense grief of a woman still mourning for her mate:
I just keep thinking I will wake up from this dream
and be back in his arms
where I felt no harm.
Ultimately, it concludes with a strong sense of resolve and hope:
I have good days and bad days
Terry said I never will leave you
I feel him with me always
I found comfort in Jeopardy and my table mates
Solitude in my apartment and
Being to myself I do not hate
Someday I will be with him
And we will be together forever!
When asked why she chose to begin writing poetry, she said:
“It sings to me. If it was a song it would be Classical Music.”
“Reading poetry,” she adds, “makes me feel good and scary, depending on what I am reading. I love Emily Dickinson, Edgar Allan Poe and Steven Foster. And I love it when the words just come to me too.”
You may remember Joyce Kilmer’s famous poem that begins:
I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
As long as residents like Jerry and Ellen are inspired to keep poetry alive and well in their respective communities, the tree might have some serious competition.
*This blog was first published here: Sunshine Retirement Living, April, 2018.