The open mic portion of the Hoot attracted a “Beat Night” regular in June, reading this poem:
The Lilac Thief
She is aghast
as I explain that once each year,
just about now,
I drive slowly through the neighborhoods casing likely targets,
and when I find one,
I park just across the street and walk over
with a great inner calm.
I use the very sharpest snips possible,
and cut one, two, but never more than three
clumps of perfectly bloomed purple lilacs,
then move on until the lead-heavy, fecund scent
inside the car makes me almost dopey.
I bring them home and arrange them in vases,
place them where they will find afternoon light.
But, she cries, that is just wrong!
Lilacs belong to all the people.
Yes, I say. Yes.
And I am one of the people.
- Young Dawkins
Salvatore Quasimodo said, “Poetry is the revelation of a feeling that the poet believes to be interior and personal which the reader recognizes as his own.” This free verse poem, read by Portsmouth performance poet, Young Dawkins, was proof positive. Not only did the Hoot audience respond during the reading, in conversations following the open mic, people either confessed to being lilac thieves themselves or to being “aghast” at discovering such thieves in their midst. Strangers, acquaintances and friends stood discussing flowers and morality. I am reminded by the experience of this poem, how poetry at its best, reveals to us something about ourselves. We recognize ourselves in the words and feelings of the poet and come to feel connected to others through shared human experience.
The connective power of poetry, regardless of it’s subject, is not to be underestimated. Young, himself, calls The Lilac Thief a “whimsy,” and yet people attending the Hoot clearly found in it pieces of themselves and our common desire to hold beauty, in whatever form, sacred in our lives. For some of us, that means taking the lilacs home, while for others, it requires leaving them on the bush. The poet has declared himself, the rest is up to you.
- Lesley Kimball
"The Lilac Thief" copyright 2005 by Young Dawkins. Young Dawkins lived in Portsmouth for several years and has recently moved to Scotland to become the Vice Principal for Development at the University of Edinburgh. Formerly the President of the UNH Foundation, Young was honored in June with the creation of a Graduate Creative Writing Prize at UNH in his name. He has been a regularly featured performer at Portsmouth Beat Nights and also at “Super Beat Night” during the first annual Jazzmouth poetry and jazz festival in Portsmouth in 2005. Young received his MFA in creative writing from Dartmouth College.