Preview of Coming Attractions

 PREVIEW OF COMING ATTRACTIONS

I’ve stolen Grace Kelly’s “Rear Window” line, I know. And I hope to tempt you to listen to Poets Read Poetry live online at http://www.coldspringradio.com. on Saturdays from 11:00 AM-12:00 Noon.

May 28th our theme will be ” Male Poets Writing Outside Their Time.”
June 18th our theme will be “Female Poets Writing Outside Their Time.”
August 18th our theme will be “Poems From Exotic Places.”

Here are some samples:
For “Male Poets  Writing Outside Their Time,” Frank chose Rilke-a brave visionary way ahead of his time and a constant inspiration to us all.

The First Elegy
(excerpt)
Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the Angelic
Orders? And even if one were to suddenly
take me to its heart, I would vanish into its
stronger existence. For beauty is nothing but
the beginning of terror, that we are still able to bear,
and we revere it so, because it calmly disdains
to destroy us. Every Angel is terror.
And so I hold myself back and swallow the cry
of a darkened sobbing. Ah, who then can
we make use of? Not Angels: not men,
and the resourceful creatures see clearly
that we are not really at home
in the interpreted world. Perhaps there remains
some tree on a slope, that we can see
again each day: there remains to us yesterday’s street,
and the thinned-out loyalty of a habit
that liked us, and so stayed, and never departed.
Oh, and the night, the night, when the wind full of space
wears out our faces — whom would she not stay for,
the longed-for, gentle, disappointing one, whom the solitary heart
with difficulty stands before. Is she less heavy for lovers?
Ah, they only hide their fate between themselves
Do you not know yet? Throw the emptiness out of your arms
to add to the spaces we breathe; maybe the birds
will feel the expansion of air, in more intimate flight.

Rainer Maria Rilke
DUINO ELEGIES
translated by A.S. Kline

**********************************************

And, Jo selected work of Adrienne Rich for “Women Writing Outside Their Time.” Rich, an early feminist, won the Yale Younger Poets Prize in 1951. Here she writes about a  woman giving birth to a poem in THE AFTERWAKE.

THE AFTERWAKE

Nursing your nerves
to rest, I’ve roused my own; well,
now for a few bad hours!
Sleep sees you behind closed doors.
Alone, I slump in his front parlor.
You’re safe inside. Good. But I’m
like a midwife who at dawn
has all in order: bloodstains
washed up, teapot on the stove,
and starts her five miles home
walking, the birthyell still
exploding in her head.

Yes, I’m with her now: here’s
the streaked, livid road
edged with shut houses
breathing night out and in.
Legs tight with fatigue,
We move under morning’s coal blue star,
colossal as this load
of unexpired purpose which drains
slowly, till scissors of cockcrow snip the air.

                                                               Adrienne Rich

                                                                  SNAPSHOTS OF A DAUGHTER-IN-LAW

Around the Radiant Fireplace

The whip of branches  and snow against the house woke me.  I paid dearly, with bare feet numb against the floor and shoulders encircled by an icy smelling draft, to stand at the window and watch the world disappear in the blur of white and wind. I knew I would be snowbound the next day. Snowbound– the word reminded me there was a  poem of the same name. As I returned to bed and quickly buried my shivering self in the layers of fabric and feather-filled covers, I made a mental note to read John Greenleaf Whittier’s famous poem the next day. But I couldn’t get through the dense 700+ liner. However, a little side note stated that “Snowbound,” had been inspired by  Ralph Waldo Emerson’s poem, “The Snow Storm.” And that led me to a glorious read about Emerson. What a guy! The leader of the Transcendental movement in America he believed that American writers should free themselves of European influence and create their own unique style. And the poem “The Snowstorm,” perfectly illustrates Emerson’s philosophical explorations of the relationship between man’s soul and the world around him. It’s a beauty.

SNOW STORM

Announced by all the trumpets of the sky,
Arrives the snow, and driving o’er the fields,
Seems nowhere to alight: the whited air
Hides hill and woods, the river, and the heaven,
And veils the farmhouse at the garden’s end,
The sled and traveller stopped, the courier’s feet
Delayed, all friends shut out, the housemates sit
Around the radiant fireplace,  enclosed
In a tumultuous privacy of storm.
Come see the north wind’s masonry.
Out of an unseen quarry evermore
Furnished with tile, the fierce artificer
Curves his white bastions with projected roof
Round every windward stake, or tree, or door.
Speeding, the myriad-handed, his wild work
So fanciful, so savage, nought cares he
For number or proportion. Mockingly,
On coop or kennel he hangs Parian wreaths;
A swan-like form invests the hidden thorn;
Fills up the farmer’s lane from wall to wall,
Maugre the farmer’s sighs; and at the gate
A tapering turret overtops the work.
And when his hours are numbered, and the world
Is all his own, retiring, as he were not,
Leaves, when the sun appears, astonished Art
To mimic in slow structures, stone by stone,
Built in an age, the mad wind’s night-work,
The frolic architecture of the snow.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

I read the poem over and over. The lines: “…the housemates sit/Around the radiant fireplace, enclosed/In a tumultuous privacy of storm,” made me envious until I realized that the group of poets who meet in my house are “the housemates,” and the “radiant fireplace,” around which we gather is the sharing of poems and ideas and our successes and failures…that warms our little circle and sustains us from month to month. And the “tumultuous privacy of storm,” is our need to isolate ourselves, if only for a few hours, from the turmoil of our daily lives. Thank you Jo, Frank and Andrew!

##################################################### Listen to Poets Read Poetry on “The Writing Life,” LIVE. 1 PM, Saturday, January 22nd, coldspringradio.com.

An Elegy for the Passing Year

“My dearest dream is for an internationality of poems and poets, ” wrote Walt Whitman in 1881.  In 1921 his dream came true when PEN, the international writers’ association, was founded.

During myl15 years on staff at PEN I often felt Whitman’s spirit guide our work. But I never felt it as keenly as I did last summer when PRP’s “Exotic Place” theme took me to Goa.

My Hudson Valley New York driving instructor had been from Goa. As we made our way over icy roads and crowded intersections he told me about his lush homeland in southwest India. He talked about the gorgeous beaches along  the Arabian Sea, and the abundance of flora and fauna.

I never forgot about Goa and chose it for PRP  exotic place theme. As I began to look for poetry, Goans from around the world answered my call. Among them were: Peter Nazareth, Professor at the University of Iowa, who put me in touch with the Goan Writers’ Group,  writer Ben Anato from Toronto who sent a list of Goan poetry books   and Victor Rangel-Ribeiro, from New Jersey, who mailed  me an autographed copy of his prize winning novel TIVOLEM . Tanya Mendonsa’s poem,  I Say Goodbye to the Rain captivated me and I read it at our meeting. We all loved the rain as a character in this  poem with the reverential tone of much  Indian  writing. Tanya lives in the village of Moira, Goa and wishes she had a poetry group there!

It was one of life’s lovely accidents when, writing this on New Year’s Day, I came across the line, “…an elegy for a passing year/sung in stronger voices than mine.”

Happy New Year!

I SAY GOODBYE TO THE RAIN

I walked out this early morning,
to say goodbye to the rain
before it left:

The river water the blue-slate-colour
of a storm-bird’s wing;
the long grasses whipped the wet wind;
the hidden pool under the thorn trees
shivering with uncertainty.

This rush and this roaring are
an elegy for the passing year,
sung in stronger voices than mine.

I can but add to the chorus,
in thanks giving for all
that the rain has given me:

watered my spirit,

fertilised my earth,

taught me the names of her wild children
as they flowered:
first in the hedgerows,

then in my mind.

Brought me such bolting-bright
early hours,
as I walked with her
over the hills,
cleansed from night’s shadows,

so that I returned home,
my black eyes glazed with green,
her being beading me all over
to sparkle my skin.

I said goodbye to the rain,
this early morning,
but my heart goes with her now.

Later,

as she retreats across the fields,

she leaves behind clear skies
that others welcome,

but not I.

The rain has made me her rain-child,
but cannot take me with her,
whose being is earth-
and not sky-
bound.

I shall have to wait until she returns,
striding across the sea,
to slap away the sun,
and take me in her arms again.

Tanya Mendonsa
from The Dreaming House

Putting Away My Bras

Jo read this at the BeanRunner. It made all of us very nervous. It was another poem about loss, but not about physical death like the others.

Putting Away My Bras

They are clean and papery gray and the lace, if
there is any lace, is torn, and the atrophied straps
are hitched tight in their plastic pincers.
The underwire on one
pokes up, no wonder the fire-
red itch on my rib. They are scentless
and warm from the dryer. Once they were pretty.
I bought them because I wished I were pretty.
Now the hooks grab and ravel
my socks. My bras are nothing at all

like my father’s exact-fitting hand during beauty
pageants on TV. We sat on the couch
in his musty study and watched them;
he asked me why I couldn’t
look like that, he dangled his arm over
my shoulder’s ledge, he touched me and I
made believe he did not, I tried
his drink and chit-chatted with him
and my mother, and each of us picked the girl
we liked best, my tit staring into his palm.

Frannie Lindsay

Frannie Lindsay  cleverly uses the images of everyday objects and situations to tell this story.  For “Poems That Make Us Nervous,” I brought in a poem of Anne Sexton which will be on my next blog entry. “Putting Away My Bras,” reminded me of the women poets of Sexton’s generation: those early feminists who used lots of domestic elements  in their work. That was what women knew.  That was their turf.  Frannie  Lindsay shows their influence but but finds a highly original  way to  create a compelling poem about the kind of loss that lasts a lifetime. The line”…the lace, if there is any lace, is torn…” which I feel is the heart of this heartbreaking poem, filled me with profound sadness.      

Here, Bullet

 

Frank chose to read Here, Bullet at the Beanrunner. Here was death, again, but not in the slow wasting of illness but in the adrenaline rush of the battlefield. The powerful, graphic poem drove us beyond the feeling of nervous into fear.

When I first heard the title I immediately thought of Bullet, The Wonder Dog who starred with Roy Rogers and Dale Evans on the 1950’s TV show.  The words “Here, Bullet,” could have been used then to offer the dog a treat for doing a hand-shake trick or uttered with hoarse urgency to lead him to his badly injured master pinned beneath a fallen tree. So, for me ” Here, Bullet,” was a trip back to my childhood sitting in front of the TV watching a thrilling plot unfold. I was too young then to realize that words mean different things as different times. Like for my childhood friend, Gregory. He lived next door and we often watched “The Roy Rogers Show” as well as “Lassie,”   and “Fury,” together.  All shows that included peril and rescue. A teenager,  Gregory enlisted and went to Vietnam. It was a matter of family honor: his grandfather had manned a trench in WWI France and his father saw action during WWII as a sailor in the  South Pacific. Gregory came home and told me he couldn’t get over what he had seen.  The look in his eyes was a look I had never seen before. He  committed suicide soon after. For Gregory the words “bullet,” and “Help me,” had taken on new meaning, new horror  beyond anything we could have imagined as we watched TV shows that  had  happy endings. Gregory will always live in my memory. When Frank read this poem, my friend’s horror became, for a moment, my own.

This poem shocked us and took us on a scary trip of terror. And its writer, Brian Turner experienced what he writes about: after earning an MFA he served in the US Army for seven years, including a year (1999-2000) in Bosnia-Herzegovina defending Muslims from Serb atrocities. Turner is the real thing when it comes to war.

Here, Bullet

If a body is what you want,
then here is bone and gristle and flesh,
Here is he clavicle-snapped wish,
the aorta’s opened valves, the leap
Here is the adrenaline rush you crave,
that inexorable flight, that insane puncture
into heat and blood. And I dare you to finish
what you’ve started. Because here, Bullet,
here is where I complete the word you bring
hissing through the air, here is where I moan
the barrel’s cold esophagus, triggering
my tongue’s explosives for the rifling I have
inside of me, each twist of the round
spun deeper, because here, Bullet,
here is where the world ends, every time.

Brian Turner

 

High Speed Bullet

 

 

 

 

All Souls’ Night

At the BeanRunner, Andrew began his turn with his own definition of not understanding, an idea carried-over from a previous meeting with the theme Poems We Don’t Understand. Andrew did some fancy-footwork to segue from “Not Understand” to “Nervous.” And, he did it well!

From Andrew: Types of “Not Understanding:” All not understandings are perforce subjective. Understanding itself being a complex poetic term since much poetry attempts to bypass the overtly cerebral to capture nuance and subtle body of the spirit the ephemeral the peripheral the prehensile and prognostic. Poetry like a band of motley coyotes yips and howls in the wee…st of hours making itself seem large and more multifarious than it is.

Keep close watch over your pets for Poetry might abscond with a few and leave you in the unease and awe of the uncanny.

…Which leads us to poems that make us nervous.
Andrew then read:

This Living Hand

This living hand, now warm and capable
Of earnest grasping, would, if it were cold
And in the icy silence of the tomb,
So haunt thy days and chill thy dreaming
Nights
That thou wouldst wish thine own heart dry
Of blood
So in my veins red life might stream again,
And thou be conscience-calmed – see here
it is –
I hold it towards you.

John Keats

Keats, again. Quite accidentally the poet known for keeping death a constant companion became the spokesman for the All Souls’ Night event. Perfect.

A lively discussion of “This Living Hand,” included thoughts on the horror movie quality of the poem and summed-up with the idea that the poet was holding out his poem, his living hand, and even after his death the poem will live. Yes, Keats.

The visual impact of the words, “…thine own heart dry of blood/so in my veins red life might stream again” came-up, too,…the power of those  images plunked right in the middle of pale cold of that poem. Life right inside of death.

Poets Read Poetry Goes Public

Poems That Make Us Nervous was the theme of PRP’s first public event. A smashing success! A capacity crowd gathered at the BeanRunner Cafe in Peekskill, New York. The microphones worked…the set that imitated my living room was delightful…the cappuccinos hot and foamy. But, most important was the energy of the audience: They wanted in on the poetry discussion!

We used the same format as we do at our monthly meetings–We choose a theme, this time it was Poems That Make Us Nervous. Each of us selects a poem on the theme and reads it aloud. Then we discuss  it for 15 minutes. At the BeanRunner we invited the audience to participate. And they did..with vigor. Hands were raised. Points were made. Memories of childhood experiences with poetry were shared. A elderly woman seated way in the back popped-up twice to say: “I’ll stick with Keats,’ Beauty is truth, truth beauty,’ that is all/ye on earth need to know.

As a tribute to her passion, here is the last stanza of  Ode on a Grecian Urn:

O Attic shape! Fair Attitude! with brede
Of Marble men and maidens overwrought,
With forest branches and the trodden weed;
Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought
As doth eternity: Cold Pastoral!
When old age shall this generation waste,
Thou shalt remain, in the midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say’st,
“Beauty is truth, truth beauty,” – that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

John Keats

Next time: Andrew on “understanding ”  and his choice of This Living Hand by Keats for Poems That Make Us Nervous.