"Backward I see in my own days where I sweated through fog with linguists and contenders,I have no mockings or arguments, I witness and wait."


By JENNIFER CRANDALL, AS TOLD TO LIZ HILDRETHFort Payne, June 2015

At the time we filmed Caden, I had no idea that he already had and has a deep relationship with poetry. He reads it and writes it. I thought we were filming someone from Fort Payne who loves baseball.

During the shoot I remember thinking, What a cool person, to sit here and read poetry for us with his baseball team practicing all around him. It was summer, and we showed up in the middle of practice.

At the time we filmed Caden, I had no idea that he already had and has a deep relationship with poetry. He reads it and writes it. I thought we were filming someone from Fort Payne who loves baseball.

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Okay, let's film Caden reciting Whitman in the batting cage. Okay, now on the pitching mound ... I wondered if he was nervous or concerned about what his teammates were thinking. Caden says he was slightly nervous. "It's a little different, baseball and poetry," he says. "Doesn't really go hand in hand." Caden says he got the sense that his teammates were confused more than anything. They didn't know that he was, as he says, "into literature." What he means specifically: They didn't know that he's an award-winning published poet and essayist. He's been recognized three times by the prestigious Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. To give you a sense of how prestigious ... past winners include Andy Warhol, Sylvia Plath, Truman Capote, Robert Redford, Lena Dunham, and Ken Burns. Caden says he considers poetry "an expression of exactly what you're thinking. Writing makes up for what spoken words can’t." Obviously Caden did a wonderful job reading Whitman. But, he says, his favorite poet is Robert Frost. "It may sound cliché. But I like his shorter poems about nature. They stick out to me. The message is always clear, and they always flow eloquently." He's also a music fan, and especially a big fan of hip hop. "If you look at those songs, they have a lot of rhyme schemes. It's just poetry spoken in a different way." As for Caden's own poems, he has his own process. He never sits down and tries to write a poem. He waits for some external source to inspire him. "From there, it's easy," he says. "I just put it on paper." 

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The last poem he wrote was inspired by change. He was moving schools - from Fort Payne, a medium-sized school in rural Northeast Alabama, to Jefferson County International Baccalaureate in Birmingham. "The Washington Post said it was the number nine most challenging high school in America," Caden says. "It really swept me off my feet at first." The poem he wrote is called "No Remorse, No Regrets." Will I succumb, or will I emerge stronger than ever? And will stronger than ever be strong enough? "I had to adjust, but I adjusted well," Caden says. "Well, with playing baseball it's a little iffy sometimes ..." And, as for reading poetry at one of his baseball practices while being filmed by a film crew. "Oh I'd definitely do it again." Also, I just have to add, I disagree with Caden about baseball and poetry. I think he showed us that they do go hand in hand.

VERSE 4

Trippers and askers surround me,People I meet, the effect upon me of my early life or the ward and city I live in, or the nation,The latest dates, discoveries, inventions, societies, authors old and new,My dinner, dress, associates, looks, compliments, dues,The real or fancied indifference of some man or woman I love,The sickness of one of my folks or of myself, or ill-doing or loss or lack of money, or depressions or exaltations,Battles, the horrors of fratricidal war, the fever of doubtful news, the fitful events;These come to me days and nights and go from me again,But they are not the Me myself. Apart from the pulling and hauling stands what I am,Stands amused, complacent, compassionating, idle, unitary,Looks down, is erect, or bends an arm on an impalpable certain rest,Looking with side-curved head curious what will come next,Both in and out of the game and watching and wondering at it. Backward I see in my own days where I sweated through fog with linguists and contenders,I have no mockings or arguments, I witness and wait.

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Additional Reading


"I celebrate myself, and sing myself,And what I assume you shall assume,For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you."

WALT WHITMAN, "SONG OF MYSELF"