Elsita Sterling

The Poet Laureate of Maui Meadows

By Wayne Smith

  

Frail as a wisp, she stands before the crowd of Maui Meadows revelers now gone silent in anticipation of what she has to say.  With a regal bearing and a smile that could light the darkest Maui night, she begins to recite her poetry.

 

The Circle of Life

 Life is very tricky,

                                                For how are we to guess

That, if we travel far enough East,

We end up in the West!

 But, if you keep on traveling,

Learning as you do,

Youíll find, when you reach

Where you started from,

That you are a greater You.

 

Listening to Elsita Sterling recite her poetry is a memorable experience. A vivacious lady of 95, she speaks her words of inspiration, love, wisdom, philosophy, and humor in a gentle, lilting voice.

 

She recites all of her poems from memory, even her earliest, as easily and lovingly as she says aloha to strangers or those she calls friends. As she ends each one, some in her audience call out for their favorites. Others listen intently to discover their favorites to be. But, all listen with rapt attention to the words that flow so easily from the poet who stands before them in a bright and proper dress and hallmark broad-brimmed hat.

 

Waterfall

                                                When the Current of Life

Which is You

Meets the Current of Life

Which is Me,

Together we tumble

Right over the rim

In joyful unity.

  

Elsitaís first poem was written at the age of nine, after returning to New York from a visit to France with her mother. The First World War was just beginning to gather over Europe, and the apprehensive atmosphere was filled with stories and cartoons about the demonic Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany. In the midst of the turmoil she wrote:

 

                                                The Kaiser

                                                 The Kaiser is a naughty man.

                                                Iíd like to fry him in a pan.

                                                Iíd like to bury him alive.

                                                Iíd like to stick him in a hive.

                                                And when heís very frightened,

                                                Iíd have his necktie tightened!

  

Writing poetry was a creative outlet for Elsita throughout much of her life, providing a way for her to come to terms with all that swirled about her. With nearly a century of gathering material to draw from, her poems reflect an ever-deepening understanding and appreciation of the vicissitudes of a long and eventful life. The fruits of her efforts hold a chronicle of the world events that have shaped the one in which we now live. She remembers the two great wars, and several not so great. She recalls the Roaring Twenties and the Depression years of the thirties. She remembers playing with the Roosevelt children and their dogs at their summer home, Hyde Park, on the Hudson. (Anna Roosevelt was one of her classmates at the Chapin School, as was Anne Morrow, who later married Charles Lindbergh.)  And Elsita fondly recalls the years with Duncan, her second husband and the love of her life. The result of this life lived fully is poetry of simplicity and wisdom.

 

 

 

The poems are personal. Her subjects are life and love Ė and she gaily admits that it is her life and her love at the center of her poetry.

 

Our Love Has Overcome

Our love has overcome

Each separation,

Each obstacle that lay

Across our path,

Each mountain, precipice,

Fast-flowing river,

Til we were in each otherís

Arms at last.

 

 

Mostly her poems are about her life with and then without her beloved soulmate, Duncan. After his passing in 1993, Elsita moved to Maui with her daughter, Lili Townsend, who had visited several times and fallen in love with the island. As the unofficial poet laureate of Maui Meadows, she is having her first book of poetry, From Here to THERE, published this Spring.

 

Maui is obviously supplying Elsita with new experiences and poetic ideas, perhaps for us to enjoy in a second volume of poems yet to be written.

 

Maui

I am enjoying my Self,

For my Self has much to tell me.

I am enjoying my Self,

For my Self has much to say of ó

 

Scenes from the Past

And dreams of the Future,

And the Present, itself

To savor each day

In this land of great beauty,

Godís earthly kingdom

Of warm, friendly people

And sparkling blue sea;

Isle of green rolling meadows

And calm grazing horses,

Of peach and gold sunsets

And star-spangled nights;

Where the fragrance of jasmine

Is softly blended

With the dampness of earth

And the freshness of sea;

 

Where raindrops seek sunbeams

To create a rainbow,

Where waters meet waters

To make waterfalls,

Where mourning doves glide

And butterflies flutter,

Land of towering mountains

And flowering trees.

 

I am enjoying my daughter,

My comrade and my sister.

Our lives flow like two currents

Side by side in Lifeís great stream.

 

 

One of Mauiís most prolific and valued writers, Alan Cohen, provides a heartfelt embrace for the back cover of Elsitaís book of poetry. It sums up the feelings of all who know her and appreciate the special lady who freely and lovingly gives so much of her self and her experience for all who will listen.

 "Elsita Sterling is one of the great treasures in my life and on this planet. Her heart shines with love and her mind with the deepest wisdom. I cherish my copy of From Here to THERE as a precious and rare gift. These words are imbued with extraordinary delight!"

 

Now

                                                My memoryís small,

My forget-eryís bigger.

                                                I may be vague

But, Iíve still got my figger!

 

 

 

These poems from the book of poetry From Here to THERE  are copyrighted by Elsita Sterling and published by Sterling Press. Available at many bookstores, it can also be ordered on the Internet at http://www.ministryoffun.com or through e-mail inquiry at books@ministryoffun.com. ISBN 0-9706294-0-0