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Make much of something small
by Rheta Johnson
Apr 19, 2017 | 897 views | 0 0 comments | 72 72 recommendations | email to a friend | print

BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. -- They are dangling from a fence next to the Mockingbird Cafe, where, yes, healthy sandwiches are named for Scout and Atticus. Clothespins are holding a string of postcards, each of them fronted by different artists' whimsical renditions of animals.

On the back is a poem, carefully typed and then glued on the side where an address should be. On the left side, where normally an old-timey tourist would write about the beautiful weather, are the handwritten words: April is National Poetry Month.

Passers-by are invited to take a card and an origami star that, when unfolded, reveals a Shakespearian sonnet in the round, words curling into a tight ball in the center. My star is Sonnet 25: "Let those who are in favor with their stars of public honour and proud titles boast ..."

My postcard has a hound on the front and, on the back, the poem "Bounty," by Robyn Sarah. "Make much of something small, The pouring-out of tea, a drying flower's shadow on the wall from last week's sad bouquet ..."

The Mississippi Gulf Coast is a small, enchanting world. The woman who is celebrating National Poetry Month and cleverly reminding us all to do the same is a friend.

"I'm calling myself a guerrilla poet," she laughs, clothespinning yet another card to the line. The stars she made are in her "muscle memory" after creating 50 or so.

Carole McKellar looks like Annette Bening, the movie star who ended Warren Beatty's womanizing ways. Retired from a long career as a speech therapist, she works part time in a nearby public school system, practices yoga, takes long daily walks, makes amazing jewelry and adopts worthwhile causes, including last year's model: limiting plastic consumption by refusing drinking straws with a restaurant meal.

Where others complain, she acts.

Poetry is her passion. She likes to share it. In a book column she writes for a local online magazine, The Shoofly -- check it out, subscriptions are free -- Carole's essay reminds us of April's designation. She quotes from President John F. Kennedy's speech at the groundbreaking of the Robert Frost Museum: "When power corrupts, poetry cleanses ..."

Carole figures in these troubling times, we need a good deal of poetry cleansing.

As we age, we cheat ourselves of two things that gave sustenance and comfort when we were young: music and poetry. We put down the poetry book and turn down the volume. Why is that?

I used to sit dateless and despondent in a dormitory room on a Friday night at Auburn, reading poetry and listening to Aretha sing "Natural Woman." My poetry tastes ran the gauntlet from Emily Dickinson to the trendy Rod McKuen, but it all helped.

A little iambic pentameter is good for what ails you. Carole recommends in her column to read (or memorize) a poem a day during April. It's a habit that might stick.

Today I'll dip into an old favorite of mine, Dorothy Parker, whose caustic wit seems relevant. Somerset Maugham once asked Parker to write a poem at a dinner party. Here's what she wrote: "Higgledy Piggledy, my white hen; She lays eggs for gentlemen. You cannot persuade her with gun or lariat, To come across for the proletariat."

It's a small thing, Carole's poetry attack, postcards on fishing line in a small town. I plan to make much of it.

Rheta Grimsley Johnson's most recent book is "Hank Hung the Moon ... And Warmed Our Cold, Cold Hearts." Comments are welcomed at

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