Arkansas lost one its most prolific writers this week.
Verna Lee Hinegardner, 93, was the state’s Poet Laureate Emeritus, first appointed by Gov. Bill Clinton. She won many contests for her writing, and was a great encourager of other poets.
Her first poem was published when she was 9, and she was inducted into the Arkansas Writers’ Hall of Fame in 1991.
She said her goal was to write poetry that is “easy to understand; hard to forget.”
Her poems appeared often in Sunday’s Log Cabin Democrat, and it was at her insistence that the poems from a cadre of regional poets were printed a column-and-a-half-wide, making them more readable.
When she moved into a nursing home, one of her first phone calls was to the Log Cabin to ensure delivery of the Sunday edition.
In her last book of poetry, titled Mosaic, there are sonnets, rondeaus, free verse, haikus, limericks. She invented a poetry pattern, the “Minute,” — 60 syllables — that is included in poetry textbooks.
While some of her poems are sweet and nostalgic, she had a way with a punch line that can cause a burst of unexpected laughter, even from an old reporter or two.
Here’s an example:
“Death Is So Casual at the Senior Center”
We played bingo after lunch
At the Senior Center today.
A lady interrupted the Caller
To make an announcement.
“We just received a phone message. Joe Johnson died.”
After a brief pause,
The Caller said, “B-Fourteen.”
Mrs. Hinegardner asked that there be no memorial service. Here’s what she wrote related to that wish.
“Should I become bed-ridden in some future day,
don’t bring bouquets, fruit bowls or books to read.
Just bring yourself and come prepared to stay
and share your poetry. That’s all I’ll need.”
For a video from last November of Mrs. Hinegardner reading a poem in the manner of Robert Frost, go to thecabin.net/interact/video
(Staff writer Becky Harris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and 505-1234.)