Steve Meador is the author of Throwing Percy from the Cherry Tree, a poetry book that was an entrant for a National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize in poetry. He is widely published in online and print journals. He has been a real estate broker since the early 1980s and currently lives and practices in the Tampa, FL, area.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I don't think I have been involved in a discussion about my book, Throwing Percy from the Cherry Tree, where this question was not asked, "Did you find it cathartic while you were writing the the poems?"  First of all, I hate the word cathartic. Not its definition, just the sound and look of it. It is hard on the human ears! Secondly, I always give the same answer, the honest answer, "No, not at all."  Without fail there is look of puzzlement on the face of the inquirer. The pieces were written over a period of years, from jottings or notes as I remembered events, or fell into the mood to write. I suppose if I had experienced a sudden urge to crawl into the miserable past and bring it all out at one time, then it may have impacted me differently. The other thing I discuss is that the traumatic events were not generally allowed to remain as such. I like to throw a positive kicker at the end of a piece, a "yes, this is the bad thing that happened, but here is the good that came of it" ending. It usually makes the poem more narrative, at times like a short, short piece of fiction. That is the wonderful thing about time, we get to analyze what was!

I will say, however, the one poem that had the most impact on me emotionally (no, I did not breakdown and bawl or go into a mini-depression, etc, etc) is a very short, simple, plainspeak piece. I kept returning to read it many times while putting the book together, because the spotlight settled on it. For me, it brought out some guilt, for lots of things, and illuminated the root of the problems, not only in other families, but in my own. I was simply too young to know it at the time. Here is the poem:

Whipping Butter

I knew a good whipping
with belts, switches, backhands, shoes, flyswatters
or the nearest corrective device of choice,
but Perry was catching a doozie
as we went up to the screen door.
We dared not knock,
for the flavor of the day might spill in our direction.
Neighbors in Savannah were friendly that way.
We hid under the window and giggled,
figuring he committed some heinous,
third grade crime.
Third graders could be that way.
He didn’t come out to play.
He didn’t come out the next day.
His brother did,
and he told us Perry got a whipping
for leaving breadcrumbs on the butter stick.
Drunken dads can be that way.


  1. I know, I know you don't even know me and I am critiquing your poem :) But I TRULY love this poem. It caught me start to finish. It reminds me of my own roots though the broom was the weapon of choice and sometimes the belt. Will you consider losing the last line? Why tell us it's a drunken dad. I think it's better to wonder why a kid could be so horribly beaten for such a minor thing...I think the reader would guess and fill in the blank. The mystery is larger then the "tell" of the last line. Wish this poem were mine.

  2. Lois, you have had more than a little success, so your comments are always welcome!