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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

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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

Dame Edith Sitwell

Glad to be back after a long absence. I’m thinking of myself as the DJ on WPAM:  Poets Read Poetry is the show’s theme and the individual poems, the tunes.

At last night’s meeting our topic was “Poems We Don’t Understand.” That left the field wide-open for interpretation. Andrew wrote something brilliant on the subject of understanding. If I can get a copy I’ll place on a future blog.

Andrew brought in this poem:

Bells of Gray Crystal

Bells of gray crystal
Break on each bough—
The swans’ breath will mist all
The cold airs now.
Like tall pagodas
Two people go.
Trail their long codas
Of talk through the snow.
Lonely are these
And lonely and I ….
The clouds, gray Chinese geese
Sleek though the sky.

Dame Edith Sitwell

We felt no need to understand this in the traditional sense. Frank commented on the emotional richness of the descriptions; Jo enjoyed its great sounds and we all agreed that it was a beautiful poem in an enigmatic way.

As Andrew read it aloud I thought about Dame Edith Sitwell: I remembered seeing a Beaton portrait of her in profile: the severe, angular face and sharp nose accentuated by the high, baldly Gothic forehead above shaved and thinly penciled brows. Now what mattered to me were the long, thin fingers that bore her signature: a collection of massive aquamarine rings.

My mind went then to an experience one summer in Rio. During a long Champagne and Samba party I  went outside to a terrace where I stood, transfixed, as the misty atmosphere surrounding primordial looking mountains and sea  turned  otherworldly shades of blue in a turn of color that signaled dawn’s approach.

Then, riding back to my hotel I was struck by the look of the surf lapping the sand at Copacabana in the early morning light. Crushed aquamarines.  The word aquamarine made me think of Edith Sitwell. Funny, to have the eccentric, aristocratic poet on my mind as surfers walked toward the first wave of the day and coconut vendors, who had slept beside their carts all night, stirred and stretched, at the insistence of intensifying sunshine.

Before collapsing into bed for I wrote in my Rio notebook: crushed aquamarines.