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Late-blooming poet finds reason in rhyme Fellow writers applaud her work ELLICOTT CITY/ELKRIDGE


As a wife and mother of four, Helen Voris has cooked thousands of meals, attended school functions and presided over Girl Scout meetings. But after all those years, the 75-year-old Elkridge resident had nothing to show for it. She worried there was little to remind her now-grown children of her efforts.

"There wasn't any tangible evidence I could give the kids," Mrs. Voris said.

So she decided to do something.

In December, Mrs. Voris published a book of 40 whimsical rhymes she had written during the past five years.

Although the book was designed as a gift for her children, the Elkridge Heritage Society is selling copies to finance exterior repairs on the Brumbaugh House, the group's headquarters.

The blue, paperbound book, "Time for Rhyme," ranges from tongue-in-cheek verse about the origin of mosquitoes to memories of local institutions such as the B&O; Railroad and Uncle Emory, a friendly store clerk who worked at Laynor's for more than 30 years.

Mrs. Voris said she loves rhyme, rather than free verse, because she can understand it.

Free verse "doesn't make any sense to me," said Mrs. Voris, a former music teacher, who can't fathom why rhyme and meter fell out of fashion. "What's the difference between prose and rhyme? It's a great big question mark."

"Lament" is one of three poems in the book that explain her love for rhyme:

"Modern poetry writers seem

So gloomy or abstruse.

I would welcome a new Ogden Nash or Dr. Seuss.

Someone whose simple writings

Are set in verses plain --

That tickle at my funny-bone

But do not tax my brain."

The grandmother of six said her poetry is inspired by the world around her.

"I just do them," she said. "Somebody might suggest something to me or I get in my car and drive and I see something."

For example, she wrote "The Generation Cap," in which she describes the difficulties of opening child-safe bottle tops after struggling to open an eye-drop bottle:

"There is no greater evidence

Of the generation gap

Than one which is encountered

With the child-safe bottle cap.

The theory is that we protect

Our little ones from harm.

The fact is these precautions

Cause us oldsters great alarm."

Using a computer, Mrs. Voris writes and rewrites her poetry until the meter and rhyme suit her. The length of time she spends on a poem varies because she constantly revises. "I like to have my meter absolutely exact," she said.

When she isn't writing poetry, Mrs. Voris writes about her experiences in a class sponsored by the Evergreen Society. In March, she plans to attend the University of Charleston Writers Conference in South Carolina.

It was during the writers conference last year that her poetry received widespread acknowledgment.

"They liked it so much they applauded," she recalled. "And it wasn't polite applause; it was genuine."

That wasn't the first time Mrs. Voris' poetry had received recognition. Since 1960, she has been corresponding with her former psychology professor, Eileen Kramer Dodd at Mary Washington College in Fredericksburg, Va.

Ms. Dodd, who shares her former student's poetry with her own friends, repeatedly encouraged Mrs. Voris to publish her many poems.

"She said, 'Helen, these are valuable.' She sort of nagged me to get [the book] together."

Although Mrs. Voris now has a book to her credit, she refuses to call herself a writer.

"I don't purport myself to be a writer. I'm a housewife and retired schoolteacher," she said.

Copies of the $5 book are on sale Thursdays from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at the Brumbaugh House, 5825 Main Street.

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