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Ponder Human Existence with Margo Taft Stever

Guest Post by J. Guaner.

Margo Taft Stever, founder of the Hudson Valley Writers Center, has published her second poetry collection, Cracked Piano, which invites the reader to ponder human existence issues.

“Idiot’s Guide to Counting,” the opening poem, interprets the sane and insane with rhetorical questions comprising the first two stanzas and the first half of the third stanza: “How do you become one / with the horse, riding and becoming / the act of riding, / and the horse becoming the self / and the other at exactly / the same second, counting strides, / counting muscle movement, / counting fences, hurtling over / them with the horse, counting /the everything / of one?” These questions function as an apostrophe articulated to a grandfather figure in the past, an alter ego, or a contemporary everyman “counting strides, / counting muscle movement, / counting fences . . . ” Yet, there is no solution to everything counted or to the person who counts, as the hyperbole of “idiot” in the title suggests.

The poet also looks deep into the misery, monotony, and aloneness of human life. The person who counts suggests either an alter ego or a contemporary everyman. Sadness stays with everything counted, the existence, or the family tree, as questioned in the third stanza—“How to become one with / the branches of a tree, a grandfather / tree in an apple orchard / that no longer exists?” We count our time, but we are not able to find the meaning of life. In the end, counting becomes meaningless, and the speaker sighs, “counting / everything as no longer / existing, counting / trees as one with the everything / that no longer exists.” Stylistically, even the monotonous voice reveals the plain sameness of life confined to the person himself.

In a sense, this poem sets the tone of Stever’s Cracked Piano, a tone of loss and disconnection.

Cracked Piano by Margo Taft Stever. CavanKerry Press, 2019.

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