Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A Poem called "Earl"


Not long ago a friend sent me a copy of a poem that pleased me from the first moment I laid eyes on it. The title? "Earl" Well, how could I possibly not love it no matter what came after the title!

I was even more moved when I read the body of the poem. Many of us have seen the National Geographic documentary in which killer whales prowl the northern ocean shores hunting for seals. It a chilling thing to witness, even on film, especially if the seal is a baby and is often endlessly tossed into the air, flipped over and over as if for sport before it is consumed.

In accepting the Nobel Prize in Stockholm in 1950 William Faulkner said, in part, "I decline to accept the end of man. It is easy enough to say that man is immortal simply because he will endure; that when the last ding-dong of doom has clanged and faded from the last worthless rock overhanging tideless in the last red and dying evening, that even then there will be one more sound’ that of his puny inexhaustible voice, still talking. I refuse to accept this. I believe that man will not merely endure; he will prevail.

The poet Louis Jenkins has articulated this same concept, in even fewer words, and what delights this old geezer especially is that his poem is called "Earl."

                                                A poem by Louis Jenkins
                                                       From His Book
                                                 "North of the Cities"

In Sitka, because they are fond of them,
People have named the seals. Every seal
is named Earl because they are killed one
after another by the Orcas, the killer
whale; seal bodies are tossed left and right
into the air. "At least he didn’t get
Earl," someone says. And sure enough
after a time, that same friendly
bewhiskered face bobs to the surface.
It’s Earl again. Well, how else are you
to live except by denial, by some
palatable fiction, some little song to
sing while the inevitable, the black and
white blindsiding fact, comes hurtling
toward you out of the deep?

Mr. Jenkins graciously gave me permission to reprint the poem here. I hope it will encourage you to read more of his work for he is an exceptional man. He is a prose poet from Enid, Oklahoma and has lived in Deluth, Minnesota for over thirty years with his wife, Ann. His work has been published in many literary magazines and anthologies. If you were lucky you might have even heard him reading one of his poems on A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION. The poem "Earl" is from his book "North of the Cities" and is available from

 Until next time when this bewhiskered face bobs to the surface It’s Old Earl!


  1. Thank you for sharing this poem, I enjoyed reading it:)

  2. The poet has certainly captured the truth about our human nature. As we get beaten up by life that voice within continues to sustain our will to live using whatever we can(denial, hope, tenacity) that keeps us going forward. Thank you for sharing such wonderful poetic insight.

    Elaine Darman Levitt

  3. Thank you for sharing this poem. I really enjoyed it.

  4. Speaking of seals -- my hubby and I recently re-watched an enchanting movie that makes us feel as good as watching The Waltons -- The Secret of Roan Inish. It's about a wonderful family in Ireland and a magical legend about the seals around their coastline.
    My review at Amazon, link below, explains how it is SO WORTHWHILE - like The Waltons!

  5. I'm afraid I'm one of those who doesn't like to watch animals devour each other. If I don't see it, I don't have to think about it, and if I don't think about it, my heart doesn't hurt, nor do I shed any tears. I do believe Mr. Jenkins said it like it is. Maybe I'm a little like Scarlet, I'll think about it tomorrow, but as we all know, tomorrow never comes. Sometimes you have to figure things out in order to make them better. ~~ Sharon

  6. Dear Mr. Hamner,
    Thank you for sharing that very insightful poem. As a poet/writer myself I always enjoy reading the work of others. I would love to share some of my work with you, but not sure how. If you have the time and ever care to check out my work you can google my name.

    Like yourself I grew up on a farm, on a mountain. The whole mtn. wasn't named after my family, but a portion of it is. I've often told people change the time frame and my childhood was like the Waltons. Grandparents, interesting neighbors and all.

    Susan Lee-Horton

  7. I enjoyed the poem.Thank you for sharing.

  8. I needed this as a little pick up today. Very much enjoyed it. I visited your hometown of Schuyler last month, very tranquil, so surreal. Watching reruns of The Walton's take to another place and time for an hour. Thank you and your family for sharing their lives with strangers.
    S. Schumacher

  9. Great poem ...even if it has your namesake in it :) I enjoyed this and will look up the other poems by this man, thankyou for sharing :D

  10. Mr. Hamner, Good to hear from you again. "Earl" appears to be more than a survivor, doesn't he? I enjoyed Mr. Jenkins' poem. Thanks for passing it along to your admirers.

  11. When our television cable company decided to put our favorite channels in a higher, more expensive tier, we refused to go along and stayed in the lowest bracket, with not much of a selection any more. But we were given the Inspiration channel, and the Waltons a couple of times a day. We loved it! It more than made up for the lost channels. Thank you for your gift to all of us.

  12. Everytime you "writer", vibrant sounds of narration buzz in my ear! :0! As a compliment of course Earl J !
    Hey tres important question Mr. Hamner!? How are you feeling with these world changes coming about in now yours and mine, 21st century?

    I mean your thoughts still do count ya know! As a living voice of contemporary literature and history using media in a way nevr used previously.

    You have seen as we say today in "ebonics culture" Da Shyte, Homeboy!!! Reeespect!...(Imagine Cora Beth takin ghetto)..;)
    Blessings keep laughing and have a brill day Sir Ham~!

  13. Mr. Hamner, Back in the 1970s, when I was a teenager, I didn't take a great interest in The Waltons, TV show...I was "too cool" so-to-speak. At night, at camp, we would call-out to each other, from our dorm rooms at the lodge, "Good-night, Robert." "Good-night, Ella Mae." "Good-night, Donna." mocking the popular television series. However, at age 54, watching The Waltons, on the Hallmark channel, is almost like a spiritual experience for me; I get so much out of each episode. My personal favorite [episode], to-date, after losing my father, one of my aunts, and my maternal grandmother, all within the last ten months, has been, "The Pony Cart"...oh, how that episode hit home, honoring our elders, their knowledge, customs, talents, and gifts to all of us...that show told the story of honoring generations, very well. Your gift, to us, as so many others have written before me, has been your writing, your respect, love, and memories of your family...THANK YOU for sharing your gift with all of us. I took my mother to your boyhood home, today, in Schuyler; she loved the experience. Walking into your childhood home was, for her, like walking back in time to her childhood as well, as your homes were so similar in style and fashion. She told me, "I could just sit here all day...I feel so at home." Thank you, Mr. Hamner, for ALL you have blessed us with. Sincerely, Donna Lynn Rector