From the Booking Desk:

When Gerald So put out a call via Twitter, asking for volunteers to take part in his celebration of National Poetry Month, I immediately signed up.  Now, you may be asking yourself “But Kristopher, what does National Poetry Month have to do with BOLO Books?”  But in fact, Gerald So is the editor of The 5-2 Crime Poetry Weekly, so the connection is much more direct that you might expect.  Gerald has long been a champion of not only poetry, but crime writing in general – in both the short and long formats – and I first met him last year when we were on the “What Are You Reading” Panel together at Bouchercon (Albany).  Needless to say, with all of that in mind, I am more than happy to lend BOLO Books’ support to his National Poetry Month Blog Tour.

First, let’s take a look at the poem I want to briefly discuss – Stranger by Kathleen Shaw:

STRANGER by Kathleen Shaw

My neighbor looks like he’s disguised
with phony beard and beady eyes.
Each night he sits and rocks for miles
and never even talk or smiles.
Each morning ’till he drives away
I find it hard to start my day.
Then he returns at six each night
and holds his briefcase much too tight.
What’s in that case—a gun? A bomb?
It’s awfully hard to keep my calm.
I need to know from where he came.
I need to learn his job, his name.
Is he a crook, a cop, a spy?
I have to know the reason why
my life revolves around this guy.


For me, there are two different, but equally important messages behind the poem Stranger by Kathleen Shaw.

  1. The world is at a new level of paranoia.  Our “See Something, Say Something” climate has created an environment where suspicion is often our first inclination.  There is no doubt that there have been times when this negative gut reaction may have worked in our favor, but I have to think that far more often, it has led to us missing out on a possible connection with someone who was once a stranger, but could in fact be a friend, or at the very least, an acquaintance.  Current generations are going to need to find a way to tread this line carefully and Kathleen’s poem speaks directly to this struggle.
  2. Society in general has become a much more individualistic, isolated existence.  We should know who our neighbors are.  We should be talking with them and interacting, even if only to say hello when we are passing each other on the way to the mailbox.  If we were just a bit less concerned about ourselves, we might very well know what our neighbors are doing, why they might be feeling or acting a certain way, and ultimately, how we can help when needed.  By creating that bond, we can begin to forge a relationship – and this doesn’t have to be one of the great friendships of all time, just enough of an interaction so that we aren’t strangers any longer – and in doing so, we can work together to make our environment safer for everyone.

Like Kathleen Shaw implies with the final lines of the poem, sometimes we allow ourselves to get caught up in other people’s lives for the wrong reasons.  In the end, we are all here on this planet together, so wouldn’t it just be better to focus on the ways we are alike, rather than exploit the ways we are different?  And in doing so, wouldn’t we all be better people?

From the Booking Desk:

Thanks again to Gerald So for hosting this annual event and for allowing BOLO Books to take part.  Be sure to visit The 5-2 Crime Poetry Weekly (30 Days of the 5-2 2014) throughout the month for more great posts from fellow bloggers, authors and more.