Growing up crashing through the foothills of the Catoctin Mountains and splashing in the Monocacy River, Robert Miss said he cultivated a deep appreciation for nature.
Even now, at 83, certain memories from his childhood in Frederick are indelibly stamped in his mind. He can see the layers of clay lining the stream banks near his home, and he can recall the feeling of dirt road under stamping feet.
Those are some of the experiences he suspects make him a poet.
“When you’re outdoors, you take your time,” he said. “Time kind of stands still … I think that sets you up to be very thoughtful.”
Miss had his second book of poetry, “Prospero’s Glove,” published by Kelsay Books in May, and his recollections of growing up in Frederick County are scattered throughout its pages.
The writer grew up on North Market Street and went to St. John’s Parochial and High schools. He wrote his first poem in second grade. His mother saved it — unbeknownst to him — and he got it back a few years before she died. It’s about his dog Spot.
Now a resident of upstate New York, Miss fondly recalls years spent exploring the woods around his family’s cabin near the Monocacy. Plus, an aunt and uncle lived on Shookstown Road near Gambrill State Park, so there was no shortage of adventure to be had.
Miss had a happy childhood, he said, filled with hunting, fishing, camping and swimming. Though he’s not typically a nostalgic person, he finds joy in revisiting his early days through poetry.
“I like going back to experiences that were full experiences, where there’s a lot of joy involved,” he said.
In “Amulets of Memory,” Miss recounts pushing a boat down Linganore Creek with his father “in the day’s afterglow, sloshing into the night” and looking for bass. “Our Island Goddess Hitanacha” is an ode to a small island near the mouth of the Monocacy, not far from Furnace Ford Bridge on Route 28. He personifies the “silt mound” and ruminates on its role in his childhood.
“I visit her now in my Autumn age,” he writes. “She’s smaller than remembered, / But the old rage against the sky / Remains in her outstretched branches.”
After leaving Frederick to attend Fordham University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Miss returned in 1980 and took a job as the Weinberg Center’s executive director. He only stayed for a year. His goal was to get the center out of debt, he said, and he succeeded by restructuring its ticket pricing and bringing in shows from a dinner theater in Washington, D.C.
The job was a natural outgrowth of his lifelong affinity for art, he said. Later, he became a marketing and consulting professional, though his love was always for poetry.
But despite years of experience—Miss said confidently that “he’s always been a writer”—he still works largely in fits and spurts. The poems that comprise “Prospero’s Glove” were written over the course of many years, and they “run the gamut” of style, length and subject, he said.
“I am not prolific,” he wrote in an email. “I don’t sit down everyday (sic) to write a poem. What happens is that an insight, thought or feeling comes over me. And like a temporary addiction I have to write it down, version after version until I feel and see that the poem is done. I blot out everything until it’s complete. A bomb could drop next to me and I would keep writing.”
Now, Miss has grandchildren scattered about the country, and only one cousin remains in Frederick. He doesn’t get to visit often, he said. And as he gets older, the former marathon runner and avid woodsman finds it more difficult to stay active and outside.
But he plans to keep writing poems inspired by the connection with the outdoors he forged as a young boy in the woods of Frederick County.
“Most of my poems are organic,” he wrote. “I grow them. I can’t claim I totally understand everything about them. I merely write them.”
“Prospero’s Glove” is available on Amazon.com.