I took the news personally and was dizzy in delight to hear that Dick Allen, a Trumbull resident, was named Connecticut’s new poet laureate in June.

Canterbury (CT) Public Library: Ever think I could be as great as Connecticut’s new poet laureate Dick Allen?

In the late 1970s, after getting partially off a rollercoaster ride via the adolescent addiction route, I took a poetry writing class at the University of Bridgeport with Dick Allen.  At the time, I was sandwiched in between a drug-induced past, conveniently whisked away under a shatterproof floorboard of denial, and a future that I did not dare glimpse. 

In his classroom twice a week, I emerged from my dark and solely occupied cocoon.  When Mr. Allen read his poetry, the classroom’s walls boomeranged with intonations and a rhythmic style that could dissect, pluck and reach so far into my soul that the process shook and awakened those parts in me that had been so comfy and so sleepy, wrapped in inertia, for so damn long. Although it took nearly six more years for me to shed fully my Rip Van Winkle-esque existence, the first building blocks in that course of action Mr. Allen’s influence mortared.

In other words, Mr. Allen taught me that in order to experience great poetry, like great life, you have to be alert.  Listen intently.  Peel away the brainy part of the head so that the heart has the room that it requires to breathe fully and, yes, love without restraint.  Love every damn thing down to the wart. 

As I ventured forth to become a travel writer in the 1990s, I approached each newfound milieu with a keen ear, sharp eyes and overzealous appetite that Mr. Allen had first mirrored to me in his classroom.  On my journey, nothing, absolutely nothing, whether a gnawed chicken bone on a supper plate or ladybug on a car’s windshield was mediocre.  My ears heard poetry everywhere. 

On your next day trip, before summer bats her last eyelash, whether you go on a rollercoaster ride or hide away in an alcove at an out-of-the-way library, see, hear, breath poetry.  Get off the jaded road before it is too late to hear poetry for poetry is everywhere…fine tune the hearing.  Afterwards, pick up a book written by the present Connecticut’s poet laureate, go home and read the poetry out loud as if it will be your final voice; then take this same principle on your future travels.

Ferns

By Dick Allen

Almost invisible, but once you look for them
nearly everywhere
like moss in crevices and drifting thoughts,

ferns are what it must mean
to love without yearning. Protectors
of everything small that needs to disappear,

deermice and tossed trash, bad brushstrokes in a painting,
theirs is the softest name, the softest touch.
They are social workers

as social workers should be—so full of calm
even those who don’t trust them
come into their care. Fiddleheads or not,

the rumor that once a year, on Midsummer’s Eve,
ferns blossom with tiny blue flowers
and if a pinch of fern seed falls upon your shoes

you will be less apparent—this rumor
is baseless: ferns have tiny spores
that travel in dew and raindrops,

no more magical
than Henri Rousseau, composing “The Peaceable Kingdom,”
or adder’s tongues, cinnamon, wall rue.

In the world’s secret corners,
men wish to vanish, but ferns are what look on,
trembling, holding all light green places.

From Ode to the Cold War: Poems New and Collected, Sarabande Books, 1997.

New Canaan, CT, Nature Center Greenhouse