My latest new favorite poet is Faith Shearin. Ms. Shearin’s poem (from American Life in Poetry: Column 492), “Music at My Mother’s Funeral”, shows the unmistakable ability of a great poet to combine disparate, seemingly unrelated components (her mother’s imminent passing, music, the mundane sound of a car’s warning chime) into a single, cohesive, powerful image. It proves and cements the idea of poet as artist, beautifully.
“Music at My Mother’s Funeral”
During the weeks when we all believed my mother
was likely to die she began to plan
her funeral and she wanted us, her children,
to consider the music we would play there. We remembered
the soundtrack of my mother’s life: the years when she swept
the floors to the tunes of an eight track cassette called Feelings,
the Christmas when she bought a Bing Crosby album
about a Bright Hawaiian Christmas Day. She got Stravinsky’s
Rite of Spring stuck in the tape deck of her car and for months
each errand was accompanied by some kind
of dramatic movement. After my brother was born,
there was a period during which she wore a muumuu
and devoted herself to King Sunny Ade and his
African beats. She ironed and wept to Evita, painted
to Italian opera. Then, older and heavier, she refused
to fasten her seatbelt and there was the music
of an automated bell going off every few minutes,
which annoyed the rest of us but did not seem to matter
to my mother who ignored its relentless disapproval,
its insistence that someone was unsafe.
The last part, to me, is the most effective. One can hear the unfastened seat belt’s “music of an automated bell” so clearly (as most have heard it and can identify), and via this simple sound, Ms. Shearin ties it all together. We know more about her mother after reading the entire piece, but the end sharpens the edges of her portrait of her mother, bringing it all into pristine focus.
The full article can be found by clicking here.
Additionally, here is a small bio about her at the website for the National Endowment for the Arts: Faith Shearin (By the way, the poem at the end of this article is as powerful as the one above, so READ IT! 😉 )