Happy Friday, poets and poetry lovers!
Autumn has arrived in full force. We had our first frost in Maryland this week, but I’m still thinking of the sunny days of summer.
Last Friday, I brought you with me on a visit to the Sea Turtle Hospital on the Florida Keys. Today, let’s visit the beach.
I was thrilled when J. Patrick Lewis invited me to contribute a poem to his wonderful new anthology, The Poetry of US, which contains “More than 200 poems that celebrate the people, places, and passions of the United States.” The book is published by National Geographic, so it’s no surprise that the photographs on every page are gorgeous.
My assignment was to write a poem about New Jersey.
People laugh when they hear that Jersey’s nickname is “The Garden State.” All they’ve seen of my home state is highways — and the factories and airports that surround them.
In fact, for a small state, New Jersey is geographically diverse. Its long eastern border is the Atlantic Ocean. It contains the Pine Barrens, part of the Appalachian Trail, and many state forests.
You *may* also have some thoughts about New Jersey if you ever watched the infamous reality TV show, “The Jersey Shore.”
When I sat down to write my poem, I wanted to show people the other side of New Jersey. I thought about summertime trips to the beach when I was a child, and how some of the places we loved best had been devastated by Super Storm Sandy in 2012. There’s a video showing the damage to our favorite boardwalk in Seaside Heights here.
Most of the time, my family avoided the bustle and busy-ness of the boardwalk and amusement parks. Instead, we would leave early, early in the morning to find a spot at Island Beach State Park. This is a preserved, undeveloped barrier island with beautiful, spare beaches.
I always loved running along the path, over the dunes, and catching that first glimpse of the Atlantic.
We leave home before dawn, our car packed
with towels, sunblock, coolers of food.
There are closer beaches,
but they’re for boardwalk people.
We smile when we reach the park gate.
No hotels here. No tourist shops.
Can you smell the salt air? Mom asks.
The beach stays hidden behind miles of dunes.
At last, Dad finds a spot. We tumble out of the car,
race down a path through the scrub.
There! I am first to glimpse the wide, white beach,
first to stick my toes in the icy Atlantic.
I stretch my arms and spin. All I see are the dunes
and the ocean. All I hear is the music of the waves.
Search the subject index of The Poetry of US and you’ll be sure to find places and people that are dear to your heart.
I have good friends in Albuquerque, and loved discovering Michelle Heidenrich Barnes’ concrete poem, “Mass Ascension: At the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.”
Mary Lee Hahn’s poem “Bessie and Amelia,” about female aviators Bessie Coleman and Amelia Earhart, reminded me of reading Pat Valdata’s book, Where No Man Can Touch. You can read my post about that book — all persona poems spoken in the voices of women pioneers of flight — right here.
Have fun exploring The Poetry of US!