There’s not much call for poetry these days. The local tan-stuccoed Barnes & Noble has a poetry section, but it’s mostly ‘classical’ stuff. B & N stocks the ‘classics’ because it sells. They don’t have much new stuff on the shelves, probably because it doesn’t sell, along with the fact that for most people poetry is non-essential reading. Now that I think about it, the act of reading anything for pleasure is going by the wayside at a rather alarming rate. Nowadays people have electronic lives. You know what I mean, right? They watch videos on YouTube, post on Facebook, incessantly text, etc. They’re connected on LinkedIn. It’s called social media.
Social media is immediate, hip and with it, and cool. Youth ignites it. There’s nothing old about it. ‘Old’ is a taint, almost a disease, that is not allowed to exist. Yet there’s something to be said for the mellowness of growing old. Anyway, that’s what I think and Tess Kincaid agrees with me.
Tess is what used to be called a scop. Nowadays, she is called a poetess. And her poems reflect her “love of ancestry and all things vintage.” That explains why she entitled her poetical debut Patina, which refers to a film or crust or discoloration on an object. A patina results from age or use. For example, the oxidized paint on your car, which used to be black but now reminds people of okra. Or the shiny spot on the couch where you always sit. To some people, a patina simply means the object in question is worn out and should be replaced. To others, a patina indicates charming character.
“Patina is everything that happens to an object over the course of time,” according to American antiques authority Israel Sack. “The nick in the leg of a table, a scratch on a table top, the loss of moisture in the paint, the crackling of a finish or a glaze in ceramics, the gentle wear patterns on the edge of a plate. All these things add up,” he concludes, “to create a softer look, subtle color changes, a character. Patina is built from all the effects, natural and man-made, that create a true antique.”
In other words, to people such as Israel Sack, patina signifies security and comfortable reassurance.
And in a hazy, lazy sort of way Tess Kincaid’s poems provide a sense of remembrance, a tantalizing wisp of recollection, an easy intimacy. Like a cold beer on a summer afternoon, her poems go down easy. For example, in her poem for Chester Lewis Hanna, the poetess writes:
I listened, mostly mute,
afraid to shout large
enough for him to hear.
The sound might discharge
the fragile pod, a burst
of woolly seed, his DNA
Toward the back of the book, there’s a delightful poem called “Sister,” subtitled for Betsy. The poem describes the comfort of deep-rooted relationships in wonderfully child-like terms.
now that you
are grown, and the cold years
between us have melted
down, like dilly bars
dripped from your chin.
I like that, especially the reference to dilly bars, which excites lapses in my synapses, calling forth memories of a mostly decadent past: whiling away entire days having fun, fueled by sugar. Of course, the poem speaks of much more than melting ice cream. It suggests the various tensions inflamed when personalities clash, the drama of sisterhood. Yet, says Kincaid, the drama dissolved and became much, much more – an unbreakable bond.
Poetry allows us – we human beings – to feel our emotions. Kincaid’s poetry goes one step further. Her words allow us the luxury of emotional commitments to people, and to objects. But emotional commitment implies familiarity. And familiarity connotes patina.