Banishing the Grizzlies


Anne Michael

I woke up with a bad case of the “gritchies” a few weeks ago, and they hung on every day for a week. The gritchies are a hybrid, a kind of cross between just plain bitchy—which to my way of thinking is waking up ornery, in a bad mood and with a willingness to take it out on anything in my path—and just plain grumpy which is just being out of sorts for no particular reason and wanting to be left alone. Identifying these conditions and learning how to manage them was bred of more than a few thumpings as a child when I woke up in either of those conditions and I didn’t “get over myself” in what my mother determined to be a reasonable time. Gritchy means that unless I’m left alone to “get over myself,” I’m going to come out growling and snarling like a grizzly bear defending her cubs and enjoying it. Charming picture isn’t it? 

My friend, Susan, has a wonderful knack of sending articles, stories and poems she finds interesting or apropos of where one of us in life. I never know when I’ll find something like that be it in an e-mail or letter so it feels like a gift when one arrives, and I find myself most pleased. It was during this week of my grizzly bear imitation that an e-mail containing a poem by Tony Hoagland showed up. Being a literary person, (not to mention retired and as such with a bit more leisure time) Susan reads periodicals and websites like Ploughshares, the literary journal of Emerson College where she found the poem on their site. It was compelling with a unique perspective and mindset. I enjoyed it, and it relieved my gloom as it did its part toward banishing the rather unpleasant persona I’d been wearing that week. I went to the Ploughshares site to see if I could track down the poem for you, dear reader. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find it, but I did find some of Mr. Hoagland’s other poems, one of which caught my eye and my fancy. It is titled “Self-Improvement.” Despite the fact that it was not the sought-after piece, I loved it. It provided an innovative glimpse of people that never occurred to me.  The poem centered around the personal talents we all have that we either never use or talents we are asked to develop that by nature we are not good at. I enjoyed it because it was rather like looking into the windows in someone else’s house at twilight, when the lights go on and the curtains are still open. I adore that glimpse of the person writing. When one poet writes many poems, it’s like finding a jewel and observing the many facets in the cut. It is one of the astonishing things to me about poetry, that sense of being very personal, not the same at all as a work of fiction.

I don’t often read poetry anymore, certainly not as much as I did when I was in my teens and twenties. Back then I read poetry to revel in the angst and the drama of the human condition. That was the way the world was, too, back in the 70s, my generation writing and reading as though we thought we were the ones who discovered how to do it. Nowadays I read poetry when I need soothing or a sense of peace when the time or season prevents me from going to my favorite haunts to ease my spirit or restore my soul.

Poetry is an amazing kind of reading. It is not something to read all the time, but there is something about poetry that soothes in a way nothing else can. Perhaps it is the rhythm or the tempo that reaches out for the soul and gives one the feeling of sitting on a beach watching the seabirds swoop, the breezes toss the water into tiny white caps and the sound and gentle music of the water breaking and then riding up the sand. Perhaps it is the majesty that soars in a poem, taking the reader to new heights the way being on a mountain top offers breathtaking views and the freshest, cleanest breaths of air possible. I don’t know. But I do know there is a sense of timelessness in poetry as there is in watching water break and ride the sands till it all runs back again. Poetry is good for being soothed. Poetry always feels to me as though the poet has left a piece of himself, some emotional blood on the page. It must be horrible to be a poet and wonder if your best work is somehow behind you. I wonder if poets realize how much their poetry gives to humankind long years past their prime, when one friend sends to another a poem that means so much, that eases a pain or restores a spirit or just shares something of their own unique thoughts perspective or heart.  

The next time I have an attack of the “gritchies,” instead of scrubbing floors, pantry shelves or bathroom tile, I think I’m going spend more time reading poetry. Emotional peace without dishpan hands. I like it.

At age 10, Anne realized she was never going to get to be Miss America since reading a book was not an acceptable talent. So she went on to get a job and raise a family. Along the way, she fixed meals, picked up toys, helped with homework, and collected a drawer full of rejection slips for her “great American novel.” It was not all bad, however, since she ended up wallpapering a closet with them. She currently designs and creates greeting cards for her tiny company, The Frog Prints, LLC, and also works full-time as a Training Specialist. Anne is currently tethered to reality by a loving spouse, two dogs, one cat and the occasional hurricane that blows through Florida, although falling headlong and happily into a book is still her favorite “talent.” She can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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