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Little Red Hen

January 24, 2003

Here’s one reason to think carefully about what you say.

A few weeks ago, I got an email from a teacher in Iowa seeking the source of a quote I’d used in a message to Libnet, the Colorado librarians email discussion list.

At first, I thought that the Libnet server was regurgitating old emails again. But this time, the words that came back at me were over four years old.

The teacher had found them on the Internet, presumably through a Google search that mined the Libnet archive. I had quoted Robertson Davies on “The Little Red Hen.”

If you can recall the tale, its fundamental message is “if you don’t work, you don’t eat.” This fact is understood by almost everyone, but the moral is too easily championed by people of a certain spirit. Civil society is, quite simply, more complicated than this …

… as Davies pointed out: “Not Karl Marx, not Chairman Mao at his finest, not even Mrs. Thatcher could have improved on the political doctrine of the Little Red Hen. Yet — somehow I did not like it.

“During my life I have met a great many Little Red Hens, and they are quick to point out that they are the salt of the earth: they are always working for the good of somebody else. They are morally superior; they know best.

“It never occurred to the Little Red Hen that the dog had been guarding the farmyard for her; that she had been free to enjoy the physical beauty and music of the cat; that barnyard culture owed an immeasurable debt to the philosophy and general dignity of the pig; no, in the conduct of her life she was confined within the world-view of a hen, and she asked no more.”

In the spirit of the cat, the dog, and the pig, I would like to say thank you to the people in our community who sing and dance; who stage plays; who paint pictures; who coach children’s teams; who look after their neighbors and their politicians; who pick up trash from the sidewalks.

I think you get the idea. I could say that our poets are the pigs of our community, but I might be misunderstood. However, you can treat yourself to the “philosophy and general dignity” of a large sample of poets next weekend during the 3rd annual Sparrows poetry festival.

It’s hard to miss the appealing posters around town, and the festival is full of performances and workshops by accomplished poets from around Colorado and elsewhere.

The poets are of every type: cowboy poet, city poet, rural poet, mountain poet. Black, brown, white; long hair, short hair, none.

If you have ever put pen to a page of poetry, this will be the time to nurture that excellent desire. Workshops are scheduled Friday and Saturday; all are $15 or less.

The workshops, 19 in all, cover such topics as technique, performance, spiritual and emotional expression, writing about fathers. A family poetry workshop will be held Saturday morning; a children’s workshop in the afternoon.

Art Goodtimes will host a “Gourd’s Circle” at The Salida Cafe (Bongo Billy’ s); a gourd is passed around from one teller to the next as people take turns reciting poetry or telling a stories.

“The Good Deal” — and it’s pretty darn good — is $35 for both nights of performances plus four workshops. That’s less than half price a la carte. Chow down.


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