“Poetry has an important place in education — and it’s falling by the wayside,” according to Orin Melvin of Wenatchee.

To combat this, Melvin, who teaches third grade in Quincy, starts his school day by reading a poem to his class, then selects one of his students to read it again aloud. Purpose: to develop the kids’ eye, ear and sense for poetry.

Melvin also uses poetry as an antidote to the pressures and constraints of teaching. “I feel that, as a teacher, my creativity is being sucked out of me,” he laments. So he writes — every day after school for an hour in the back room of his remodeled garage.

Melvin has wanted to be a writer ever since he was a kid. During middle school, his heroes were Jack London, C.S. Lewis and Mark Twain. At 16, he told his Scout masters he wanted to be a writer; they discouraged him on the basis that writers are not valued much in our society. Regardless, he wrote stories and “lots of” poetry – but burned it all at age 19 in order to “be pure from now on” — a decision he now regrets.

Poetic influences include Edgar Allan Poe, William Carlos Williams, Thomas Hardy and Emily Dickinson. Melvin also derives inspiration from the seasons, his international travel and the creative writing classes he has taken at Wenatchee Valley College. His topics center mostly around gardening and nature. He favors short lines, as illustrated by this excerpt from his poem, “The Moon of Belize,” to be published in the upcoming Shrub-Steppe Poetry Journal:

“The moon of Belize

full

reflects in the drips

on the Sabah branch

where the jaguar

hunts howlers

on silent paws of terror

in the silver green black…”

Another of his poems, “The Garden Bells,” won the silver ribbon at the “Ecstatic Ekphrastics” event at Two Rivers Gallery in Wenatchee last fall.

Melvin favors pens made from recycled bottles — the little ridges feel so good in his hand, he says — and his words go down on paper in black ink before editing on the keyboard. Something special happens in the mind when fingers and pen do the writing, he says, as opposed to when using the keyboard — a good lesson for us all.

Reach Orin Melvin at orinmelvin.com and orin7@msn.com.

Susan Blair is a poet, writer and arts organizer living in Wenatchee. She founded the Shrub-Steppe Poetry Podium and appears as Perri the Poetry Fairy to promote poetry to children. Contact her at sfblair61@gmail.com.


The Moon of Belize

The moon of Belize

full

reflects in the drips

on the Sabah branch

where the jaguar

hunts howlers

on silent paws of terror

in the silver green black

The moon of Belize

speaks to farmers of palms with

dry homes of thatched roofs

and shines on a rock

in a ruin

that ancient poor hands built

for the ancient feet of priests

as they walked into obscurity

and fame

for solar maps and dates

and the masks of the gods

The moon of Belize

shines in the sea

where a pulse beckons

echoes

speaks to colored coral and

in a wave of ecstasy

life joins life

under the moon of Belize

The eons bloom