Robert G. Goode, Jr., poet

Thu, 10/25/2018 - 9:30pm

While in a Jamestown sandwich shop a few weeks ago, I had the good fortune to see a former student named Robert Goode, who is a Jamestown resident. He came into the shop with his backpack filled with books and writing journals and sat across from me as I waited for my sandwich. We did the standard drill of greetings and salutations and immediately got talking about our high school connections — he was in my English and Acting classes back in the early 90s. What I always remembered about this guy was that he was always smiling and had a great attitude. He liked my classes.

Robert asked me what I was up to these days, and I told him that I was still down at the ferry docks and doing some column and other freelance writing. I asked him what was with the bag of books and journals. “I write poetry,” he said. “How and when did you start doing this,” I asked. “I began writing in college,” he said. Robert told me about a poem he had read in a poetry class at Dean College. It was a short poem called “White Apples,” which was written by the late and former U.S. Poet Laureate, Donald Hall. It’s a short piece that rocked and haunted Robert. “White Apples:” “when my father had been dead a week, I woke, with his voice in my ear, I sat up in bed, and held my breath, and stared at the pale closed door, white apples and the taste of stone, if he called again, I would put on my coat and galoshes.” Goode says of this poem, “White Apples haunted me because I didn’t know what it was, but I knew it dealt with father and son themes.” Goode looked at this simple piece analytically. It was this poem and an acknowledgement of not knowing things, that sent the young student on a track of passion for this type of the written word — poetry. It also sent him on a quest to better understand the world and a desire to write.

Robert has cerebral palsy. He is forty-five years old and has been writing poetry for 25 years. He is left handed, has a great laugh, a big smile, and he possesses a practical take on the world around him. Goode loves to write. “I learn more from writing than I learned from formal studies,” he says, “and when I write I can get bad feelings out of my body and onto the page, it’s therapeutic.” After Robert and I had a quick talk, I flipped him one of my books and told him I wanted to talk more about his writing. I wanted to read more of his work. “Sounds good. See you soon,” he said, “and don’t let your calzone get cold.”

Two days later we met at the Jamestown Public Library. Robert emailed me about 10 poems like I’d asked — compelling stuff — and told me he’d bring more to the library on Saturday. In the Museum Room, I found Robert sitting at a table with two five-inch-thick four-ring binders filled with poetry. “I have more at home,” he said, “but I just brought these.” I did not expect to see this amount of work and was flabbergasted by the volumes and his years of effort. According to Goode he has written over 1,500 poems. I dove right in and read about five of his works, and was taken by the raw directness and openness of his writing. Goode does not flinch while sharing his view of the world and his place in it.

Robert was born on Jamestown and schooled in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. He attended Meeting Street School, Jamestown schools, Narragansett High School, Dean College, URI (degreed in Political Science) and CCRI. In the summers — for 18 years — he attended Camp Jabberwocky in Vineyard Haven on Martha’s Vineyard. He also worked at Chilmark Chocolates where he became friends with a recently deceased friend named Arnold “Skipper” Brooks. “When we worked at Chilmark Chocolates, I noticed his work was meticulous,” he said. Goode spoke very highly of Skipper, and wrote an obituary poem for his friend who was loved by many people. According to The Vineyard Gazette, “Brooks attended Camp Jabberwocky for over 50 years and was known as the world’s happiest man.”

In a poem from October 2018 “Mister Arnold Brooks,” Goode tells us of a man who in another time in their lives they were pals. “I was the Padawan, he always carried himself as Jedi Master.” Skipper appeared to have a quiet power, “doing drawing and art, a man of presence, that itself was a gift, a quiet man, when voiced he was quiet.” The Skipper was a memorable man, and Goode’s poem will stand as a testament for him. In March 2009, Goode wrote in his poem “Skipper:” “There was once a sailor that never sailed the sea,” and he describes a happy, quiet man who made people feel “something they hadn’t felt in years, he has fire engine hair with a Saint Nick face and a belly to match, eyes as blue as Vineyard Sound, no one knew how he got his nickname, he hardly spoke with words, his art and heart are louder than any when he did speak.” The last line of this poem shows the affection these men shared. “No matter if it’s air, sea, land, Mr. Arnold Brooks will always be, My Skipper.”

Finally, Robert G. Goode, Jr. will continue to write, and hopes to one day publish his work.