As a 9 year old boy in the 5th grade, Gary remembers hearing an announcement via the school’s public address system that a poem by a girl named Joyce would be read over the PA for all the school to hear. He assumed it was a girl in the 6th grade and Gary was disappointed his poetry was not selected to be read to the school. He heard the words…”I think that I shall never see; A poem lovely as a tree.” He thought at the time his poems were better. Of course, the poem was not by a classmate. The “Joyce” was in fact, Joyce Kilmer and the reading was of his famous poem, “Trees.” Gary says it wasn’t until high school that he learned who Joyce Kilmer really was and the significance of his work.
Gary was born in Paris, Texas. He and his wife live with three horses, two dogs, eight cats and numerous wild things that share their property. Because of that, Gary says he’s not able to grow much of a garden.
Here’s Gary B. Fitzgerald with his essay for KUHF’s This I Believe.
“I believe in poetry. I believe in how it can, and has, changed the hearts and minds of millions, in how it can make us laugh or cry or lead us to a better place.
When I first discovered poetry as a boy, it served as a refuge, somewhere to hide from the troubles of my young life. Alexander Pope, Percy Bysshe Shelley, William Blake, John Keats and Edgar Allan Poe took me into worlds far removed from mine. As I entered my teens, I discovered the magic of Robert Frost, E.E. Cummings, Walt Whitman, Byron and Tennyson. And I don’t mind saying that I also learned that girls liked poetry too.
But as I grew older, I found that poetry could also address the political and existential concerns that all young people encounter. T.S. Eliot, Allen Ginsberg, W.H. Auden, Robinson Jeffers and Sylvia Plath showed me that at least I wasn’t the only one filled with anger or frustration.
Inspired to write my own poetry, it not only allowed a catharsis that kept me on an even keel, but a creativity that allowed me to explore my own potential, to sort out my own thoughts and feelings about our confusing world. I found in poetry the thoughts and feelings of all those others who had experienced exactly what I had, who gave me an anchor with which to hold fast to my beliefs despite my uncertainty and fear.
I believe all of us have encountered at least one poem in our lives that, like a prayer, gave us guidance or courage or comfort…maybe Dante or Shakespeare or Milton or even Longfellow.
When I first published my own poetry, I was convinced that poetry was a dying art. When I discovered the internet I learned that there are literally tens of thousands of people out there writing and reading poetry.
Yes, poetry is alive and well today. And I believe that all of us, writer or not, believe in poetry, as did our parents and grandparents.”
Following is one of Gary B. Fitzgerald’s Poems:
When once the changing world we understood
whose laws we knew were permanent and clear,
when once distinct the shades of bad and good
and fear was all we thought we had to fear,
when once a narrow path before us lay,
straight and unobstructed by illusion,
when once our destination was clear as day
and we were never troubled by confusion,
it was then that we were young and then we knew
a simple world observed with simple eyes,
but as we lived and learned and older grew,
the less we understood and so grew wise.
For wisdom is no more than finding true
that, after all, we never had a clue.