AUSTIN EDITION COL This month, poets are 'on the lamb'
Betty Benner had triplets last week. It's true. Not only that, she had twins last season and the season before. Betty Benner is a Dorset-Suffolk crossbred ewe, who came into this world in 2002 in the big red barn on the farm of Anne and Dick Waldman, sheep breeders near Brownsdale.
Some who were born in that year's lambing are history. "Bob Vilt is now chops," Anne said. Betty Benner remained in the herd because of her maternal possibilities of keeping the line going with good stock. The lambs get pet names to allow for easy record-keeping and instantaneous recognition of their place in the flock.
That season, Anne gave the lambs names beginning with B, some from her Austin Library Writers group. In the next season Betty Benner's progeny were Calliope and Calypso; following that, Dickinson and Dass. For the spring 2005 generation, names begin with F.
"It would be nice if they're all writers' names," Anne said as she gave me the assignment of naming Betty Benner's three offspring -- two rams and a ewe. Faulkner and Fitzgerald had already been given to lambs born in March.
So how about Frost (Robert) and Ferlinghetti (Lawrence) for the boys, and Ferber (Edna) for the girl? Good stock, indeed.
Naming lambs for poets is particularly appropriate now. As you might know, April is National Poetry Month. The Academy of American Poets said so, and don't think for a minute I'll ignore the occasion. We'll name lambs for poets, and we'll name poets for their way with words. William Shakespeare, for example, in "Midsummer Night's Dream," says:
"The forms of things unknown, the poet's pen/
"Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing/
"A local habitation and a name."
And William Wordsworth, from his preface to "Lyrical Ballads," says: "All good poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility."
Another thing we'll do to note this special month is read poetry, ours and others', at a variety of get-togethers. April 2 was the occasion for area artists and poets to combine their works: 30 southern Minnesota poets' poems were illustrated by as many area artists and presented in a show at Crossings at Carnegie in Zumbrota. Open-mike night for both poets and storytellers will be 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. April 9 at Coffeehouse on Main in Austin. Third Wednesday open-mike night for poets at Jon Hassler Theatre in Plainview will be held from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. April 20. Crossings at Carnegie offers an open mike 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. April 22.
To end the month-long celebration, the Writers' Group of Austin Public Library will offer an opportunity for poets to read their work from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. April 30 at the library.
This year, the Academy of American Poets suggests that cities and towns start a Poetry Book Club, and during the month they're launching a section for poetry book clubs on its Web site, www.poets.org.
Not a bad idea, but we don't wait for the academy around here. We name lambs for poets. We have plenty of local writers interested in sharing at poetry readings all year long. And we quote such poets as Allen Ginsberg ("Ginsberg: A Biography," by Barry Miles, 1989): "Poetry is not an expression of the party line. It's that time of night, lying in bed, thinking what you really think, making the private world public, that's what the poet does."
The Austin library writers end most meetings by writing haiku such as this:
April Is Not the Cruelest
"This month turns lightly./
"Dead poets name newborn lambs;/
"Our poems name our world."
Betty Benner has lived in Austin since the early 1950s. She writes occasional columns for the Post-Bulletin.