Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Whit Honea, The Poet Revealed

You may not see a hat that says "Poet" on his head. You may not see her in a long black dress or with flowers in her hair. You may not see him in a cloistered classroom, in a tie and hard shoes. You may not see her words in a beautifully crafted book of verse or in a fancy literary magazine. You may not see him garrisoned away in a tower of ivory, quill in hand, nor in a Starbucks nose-deep in a laptop.

But, you do see them. Everyday. You will recognize them by the wrinkles around their eyes, the slight smile on their lips, the easy ear with which they listen, the light touch of their hand on your hand, the dream that hangs over them, the hope that rolls over you when you meet. They are essential to you and you, you are why they are who they are.

They are the poets.

I know one. His name is Whit and I don't know that he would ever call himself a poet, like that matters, but, he speaks to my heart as only a poet can. Poetry is not the words, but the place between them. It is not the metaphor or the imagery or the message or device - it is where those elements hit you.

The Parents' Phrase Book: Hundreds of Easy, Useful Phrases, Scripts, and Techniques for Every Situation is all it says it is... and more. In it Whit Honea offers advice, with humor and tenderness, on a wide range of topics relating to the everyday dealings we all have with our children.

I just sighed and shrugged my shoulders, I don't know how to get to what I want to tell you about Whit's book. It's wonderful and clever, to be sure. It is helpful and decent and good-hearted. My copy is dog-eared and marked up and stuffed with folded pages and notes because I knew I wanted to tell you about it, but, but...

In a simple, beautifully sculpted story called "The Stars upon Thars" he tells me about a boy who collects stars for other kids in a classroom so they will have some on their own charts. He writes this to end the quiet two-page story, "Stars may be given, taken, or thrown away, and they may twinkle, shoot, or fall, but when stretched forever by small, warm hands, they shine bright on all of us. His smile did that, too."

It is not a story to tell you how to be a parent, it is a story to remind you that you were once a child. I wondered if this were really the place he was coming from with all of this. Underneath all the great advice, between the well thought lines, behind the straight talk and beside the tenderly crafted stories, was he gently reminding me that to be a great dad I should simply remember that I was once a boy? I was thinking maybe it was. I am glad for that.

I had occasion to have a brief chat with Whit on the innerwebs a couple of days ago. We crossed paths in a cyber hallway and we had a nice conversation about him and his book.

I wrote: I really have enjoyed it.  Besides being a great resource, I find great poetry in it and also, somehow, a nostalgia for my own past.  It reminds me that I was a kid once.

Whit answered: I was just typing that! I really wanted parents to remember what it was like when they were kids. The publisher wanted a book on how to talk to kids, but my theory is we already speak kid, we just forgot it along the way.

Me: Yes, an empathy for childhood which somewhere became exhausted but is rekindled in you... why?

Whit: I think this is my midlife crisis. Other guys need models and sports cars, I need innocence and wonder.

Me: Damn, that's nice. I "need innocence and wonder" as well. Nicely put.

Whit: I thought you might.

Me: Well, obviously, I am working on a writeup about your book. Remembering childhood through the door you opened for me was the angle I was planning on... for now.

Whit: Honestly, I didn't write the book for parents, or I should say "only" parents. I wrote it for anyone that has been a child and has an ounce of hope for a better tomorrow. Corny as hell, I know, but that's what I really hoped for, was that people would try to understand and respect each other more while also learning to better value themselves.

I went on a bit more about how much I enjoyed the poetry in his book and his website, The Honea Express, and I asked him a little about himself and his hippie sensibilities.

Whit:  Ha. I'm 43, and I grew up in a rural, Harper Lee-ish sort of town, but with more shag carpet. I didn't embrace my inner liberal until college. I didn't even know I had one, but the Beatles collection and late night poetry should have been a clue.

We spoke of other things, kids and editing and mowing and writing and wisdom and waffles. I was struck by his gentleness, humor and grace. We follow each other on the web and I know his life has been sad at times, and I know he has known great joy. He is a dear father to two beautiful sons and a loving husband who seems to understand love in his very soul. What more could you ask for in a poet?

A little later, as we were finishing up, I said: You are wise before your time Whit, that is a very beautiful character trait, hard-fought, I know, but it serves you well. My very best to you and your fine family. Peace.

Whit:  Ha! Thank you, Bill. And thank you for that last bit about the character trait being hard-fought, it really is a bloody, winding path isn't it?

Me:  Yes it is, less taken, slinged and arrowed, and beautiful and hopeful, long and winding.  Yes.  I wouldn't have it any other way.

Whit:  And there's the closing to your post.

I wrote this not to hawk Whit's book.  It would make a great Father's Day gift, to be sure, but, I can't say that is why I did this.  His book is a great guide for parents, but, it is so much more. He is so much more. No, more than anything I wanted him to know that he spoke to me, he touched me, he made me look inward.  He turned his life, his wisdom, his experience, his love and his hope into something I needed to hear, needed to know.  He made me better.

Yes, what more could you ask for in a poet?

Go visit Whit at his blog, The HoneaExpress. (Honea rhymes with pony.)  And, you can purchase his book on Amazon here.

Thanks for stopping by today. There are so many voices in the world - the songwriters, the bloggers, the essayists, the memoirists and diarists, the waitress, the cashier, the homeless man, the CEO, everyone really - listen to them, listen for the poetry that surrounds you in the Spirit Wind that blows through us all.


  1. I really enjoyed our conversation, and I thank you for sharing all of this kindness!

  2. There is a tenderness to the book and a humor to it. Some of these kind of books feel like someone is wagging their finger at you. This one feels like someone is patting you on the shoulder.

    1. I'm a firm believer in only wagging tails! Thanks, Larry.

  3. Whit is definitely a poet, among the most talented writers I know.