I, for one. My poem, “Inter-Subjective Affect,” has been published in Oxford Poetry XVI.i. As in the Oxford University, Magdalen College, poetry journal. It doesn’t get much better than that, certainly not on these shores. I’ve had lightning strike three times in the UK, Stand Magazine and Magma, as well as this latest. All three poems share – what would you call it? – a poignant snideness. Am I British in my core?
Maybe. Biologically, through my father’s line; intellectually, by virtue of being educated as an English major in the ‘60s when American literature was an elective; and comedically, by means of suppression and survival. Anyhow, how much would I like to share the news of this victory with some forbearers? For instance, my grandmother and her father, John Reese, born in 1870 in Staffordshire, England, a bit more than 100 miles from Oxford. Or one hour and forty three minutes away, if I left now, according to Google. Assuming I was in one or the other place.
At the age of fourteen, Great-Grandad arrived with his mother and siblings in New York, aboard the good ship Egypt, carrying a pair of Staffordshire dogs. Which my father admired so much as a “young lad” that he inherited them. As a young mother, I lived in terror that my kids would bump against one of them, positioned on the floor next to a bench in my parents’ foyer where we all kicked off our boots and shoes. My angst and acute regard for “the dogs” apparently impressed my daughter so much that she wanted nothing less than the dogs as a family heirloom. A shout-out, no, a standing ovation, to my brother Phil Casey of Scuppernongaree fame (Like them on Facebook) for agreeing to let the dogs bypass him and reside with my daughter and her family.
Where we now puzzle over their significance. What did they mean to Great-Grandad? Maybe he was helping out his mother and had no interest in them. I doubt that because, according to my father, Great-Grandad took pride in claiming he carried them, as a young boy, and still honored them decades later. Maybe they represented to him a bit of home, having been manufactured locally in Staffordshire. Maybe considering them the most beautiful items he had ever seen, he commited early on to beauty. Think Aeneas, carrying his father along with the Lares and Penates out of burning Troy.
I remember Great-Grandad vividly, with no specifics. If that is possible. He died at 85. I was seven years old. My cousins remember him smoking a cigar. True, but I remember more his presence. If he had a touch of the British humor, he sure didn’t share it with me. Nor did my beloved Grandma. A gentle humor, quiet laughs, desire for the facts of the matter, commitment to family. And undoubtedly, a belief that simple objects could become invested with history and meaning. That some things were worth carrying into the unknown. Maybe even poems.
Staffordshire pottery dogs come from the many pottery companies located in the County of Staffordshire, England, which produced them to sell to working class families to decorate their homes. While they produced dog figures from 1720 to1900, the peak of interest and, therefore, production came towards the end of the 19th century.