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Poetry Moment: Le Hinton and 'Epidemic'

Le Hinton Poetry Moment
Le Hinton

This is Poetry Moment on WPSU, a program featuring the work of contemporary Pennsylvania poets. I’m Shara McCallum, this year’s Penn State Laureate.

Today’s poem is “Epidemic” by Le Hinton.

Originally from Harrisburg, Le Hinton is the author of six poetry collections including, most recently, Sing Silence. His poetry has been widely published in magazines throughout the United States. One of his poems has the distinction of being found outside Clipper Magazine Stadium in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where Hinton resides.

In “Epidemic,” the poet recounts his grandmother’s experience of the 1918 Influenza Pandemic. Her struggle to hold on to “belief” in the face of great loss is a testament to survival. Written and published nearly a decade ago, “Epidemic” feels uncannily prescient. The poem’s repetitions further the feeling the past is haunting the present. “Epidemic” is a palindromic or mirrored form, where lines in the first half are echoed, in reverse order, in the second. Hinton’s choice of poetic form and his powerful treatment of the subject matter remind us we have much to learn from our ancestors and from history, if we’re willing to listen.

Here's—

Epidemic

each morning Grandmom awakened
fed oak slabs to a passive stove

heat
         breakfast
                       the surviving family

at the kitchen table she trusted King James
                     belief
in his god and this ravenous influenza

a life with two fewer sons

each belief burned away in a fever
each night full of reaching for tiny hands

*

each night full of reaching for tiny hands
each belief burned away in a fever

a life with two fewer sons

in his god and this ravenous influenza
                  belief
at the kitchen table she trusted King James

                                      the surviving family
                         breakfast
                 heat

fed oak slabs to a passive stove
each morning Grandmom awakened

That was “Epidemic” by Le Hinton.

And with Poetry Moment on WPSU, I’m Shara McCallum. Thank you for sharing this moment of poetry with me today.

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