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Washington State Poet Laureate Kathleen Flenniken answers questions at the Coupeville Library.

Tonight, I got to hear Kathleen Flenniken read poetry at the Coupeville Library.  Her last poem was entitled “Coyote” and played on the two pronunciations of the word.  Which triggered this poem for me:

Finding Freud

My buoyant 10-year old self

loves to hear the sound

of her own voice.

She will read anything

out loud.

The insides of slick CD inserts,

chapters in textbooks,

synopses of television programs

found beneath the nightly

schedule in the newspaper.

Her mother is inundated

with menus of summer camps

for precocious children.

Most outside of the price range

of possibility.

10-year old me

reads these brochures out loud

to get a taste

of where her hungry mind

might go.

In a description of a class

about psychology

she sounds out “Free-oode”

(instead of Freud.)

Her mother muffles laughter,

then guffaws.

10-year old me

stops in her tracks.

Her voice crumbles.

She smiles sheepishly,

goes to her room

pretending to have homework.

***

Three years later,

I win a contest

to be a guest announcer

on a quiz show

broadcast

on Public Radio International.

I practice privately.

My mother

makes me read the script

out loud to her.

I comply begrudgingly.

The flawless end is in sight

except for tripping

on Ter-kelle.

Studs Terkelle.

My mother gently corrects

my mispronunciation.

Her eyes are kind.

“Terkel.  Studs Terkel.”

***

Oral or aural history,

it doesn’t matter

there will be these inevitable slips.

Push past them

to find greater resonance.

Every girl’s voice

deserves amplification.

Youth is not a handicap.

Gender should not be used

as a plunger mute

to surpress the timbre

of trumpeting.

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