Vermont Poetry Newsletter January 27, 2009

[Reposted here as published by Ron Lewis.]

Vermont Poetry Newsletter
Your Poetry & Spoken Word Gateway in the Green Mountain State
January 27, 2009 – In This Issue:

  1. Newsletter Editor’s Note
  2. Writing Assignments/Suggestions/Exercises/Prompts
  3. John Updike Dies of Lung Cancer
  4. Sonia Sanchez reads at Middlebury College-MLK Celebration
  5. Metaphor
  6. Edgar Allan Poe on His 200th Birthday
  7. Elizabeth Alexander – Celebration and Criticism of Inaugural Poem
  8. The Poetry Archive
  9. Ausable Press Merges With Copper Canyon Press
  10. In Memoriam: Chris White
  11. Black Sparrow Press – John Martin’s Black Sparrow Backlist
  12. A Brief Biography of Lawrence Ferlinghetti
  13. Did You Know? The Book of Voices
  14. Ponderings – World Wide Word Radio Network
  15. Poetry Quote (Billy Collins)
  16. US Poets Laureate List
  17. Linebreak Poem
  18. Copper Canyon Press Poem
  19. American Life in Poetry Poems (3)
  20. Vermont Poets Past and Present Project
  21. Vermont Poet Laureates
  22. Contact Info for Publisher of VPN: Ron Lewis
  23. Year-Round Poetry Workshops in Vermont
  24. Other Poetry Workshops in Vermont
  25. Year-Round Poetry Writing Centers in Vermont
  26. Poetry Event Calendar

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About the Vermont Poetry Newsletter Network

  • The Vermont Poetry Newsletter Network is made up of people of all  backgrounds, ages and skills who appreciate the craft of poetry and  want to promote it in the beautiful state of Vermont. The network  consists of a free e-mail list, an eventual web site, workshops, open  mics, poetry performances and other literary events.  The network  provides opportunities to meet local poets, talk about and enjoy  poetry, and motivate and inspire yourself in whatever writing  projects you are involved.

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1.)

Dear Friends of Poetry:

Well, you’ll be happy (or unhappy!) to know that I finally found a   job, even in this economy.  I’ll be the new General Manager of the   Rutland Co-op.  This will mean I will be spending much less time with   the Otter Creek Poets, of which I’ve been a member for a good number   of years.  I’ll be reorganizing my poetry life so that I still write,   read, and see to it that the Vermont Poetry Newsletter still gets   published every 10 days or so.  Wish me luck!

April is National Poetry Month and it is sooner than you think.    David Weinstock of the Otter Creek Poets is now taking suggestions   for guest speakers, guest poets, and other events in celebration of   the art and its month.  They have four Thursdays to plan for, April   2, 16, 23 and 30. (April 9 is the first night of Passover.) If you   have any interesting program ideas for us to mull over, please let me   know and I will pass them on to David.

There has already been serious discussion about an Otter Creek Poets   Anthology, which will be it’s 4th such collection.  For OCP’ers, it’s   time to begin pulling out your best 3 or 4 poems that you wrote this   past year for possible publication.  From what I’ve seen during the   past year, this should be an amazing compilation.

Ron Lewis VPN Publisher 247-5913

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2.)


THIS WEEK’S WRITING ASSIGNMENT/SUGGESTION/EXERCISE:

THE LINES OF TRIBE

“For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a   weakness.  We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus   – and nonbelievers.  We are shaped by every language and culture,   drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the   bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark   chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the   old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon   dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall   reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a   new era of peace.” — Barack Obama’s Inaugural Address

My favorite line in Obama’s speech is “. . . the lines of tribe shall   soon dissolve.”

Not only is it vivid, prophetic, and unlikely, it is perfect iambic   tetrameter.  It made me think about the tribe I was born into, the   several tribes I have joined, and the tribe I’d like to be a part of.

Assignment:  Write a poem about tribe, or tribes, or tribal feelings   or conflicts, however you see it.

David Weinstock

LAST WEEK’S WRITING ASSIGNMENT/SUGGESTION/EXERCISE:

WRITE ABOUT MONEY

The best way to find an original poem is to take up a new subject, one that formerly has been considered unsuitable for poetry. In the 1950s, the personal lives of American men became possible to write about. In the 1960s and 70s, the lives of women joined the list of topics. Which topics are still out of bounds? I suggest that for next week, you write a poem about money, in any of its roles and disguises.

David Weinstock

Good luck!

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3.)

In Memoriam:

Writer John Updike dies of lung cancer

Novelist won Pulitzer Prizes, National Book Awards

By Hillel Italie | The Associated Press

1:28 PM EST, January 27, 2009

NEW YORK – John Updike, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, prolific   man of letters and erudite chronicler of sex, divorce and other   adventures in the postwar prime of the American empire, died Tuesday   at age 76.

Updike, a resident of Beverly Farms, Mass., died of lung cancer,   according to a statement from his publisher, Alfred A. Knopf.

A literary writer who frequently appeared on best-seller lists, the   tall, hawk-nosed Updike wrote novels, short stories, poems,   criticism, the memoir “Self-Consciousness” and even a famous essay   about baseball great Ted Williams. He was prolific, even compulsive,   releasing more than 50 books in a career that started in the 1950s.   Updike won virtually every literary prize, including two Pulitzers,   for “Rabbit Is Rich” and “Rabbit at Rest,” and two National Book Awards.

Although himself deprived of a Nobel, he did bestow it upon one of   his fictional characters, Henry Bech, the womanizing, egotistical   Jewish novelist who collected the literature prize in 1999.

His settings ranged from the court of “Hamlet” to postcolonial   Africa, but his literary home was the American suburb. Born in 1932,   Updike spoke for millions of Depression-era readers raised by “penny-  pinching parents,” united by “the patriotic cohesion of World War II”   and blessed by a “disproportionate share of the world’s resources,”   the postwar, suburban boom of “idealistic careers and early marriages.”

He captured, and sometimes embodied, a generation’s confusion over   the civil rights and women’s movements, and opposition to the Vietnam   War. Updike was called a misogynist, a racist and an apologist for   the establishment. On purely literary grounds, he was attacked by   Norman Mailer as the kind of author appreciated by readers who knew   nothing about writing.

But more often he was praised for his flowing, poetic writing style.   Describing a man’s interrupted quest to make love, Updike likened it   “to a small angel to which all afternoon tiny lead weights are   attached.” Nothing was too great or too small for Updike to   poeticize. He might rhapsodize over the film projector’s “chuckling   whir” or look to the stars and observe that “the universe is   perfectly transparent: we exist as flaws in ancient glass.”

In the richest detail, his books recorded the extremes of earthly   desire and spiritual zealotry, whether the comic philandering of the   preacher in “A Month of Sundays” or the steady rage of the young   Muslim in “Terrorist.” Raised in the Protestant community of   Shillington, Pa., where the Lord’s Prayer was recited daily at   school, Updike was a lifelong churchgoer influenced by his faith, but   not immune to doubts.

“I remember the times when I was wrestling with these issues that I   would feel crushed. I was crushed by the purely materialistic,   atheistic account of the universe,” Updike told The Associated Press   during a 2006 interview.

“I am very prone to accept all that the scientists tell us, the truth   of it, the authority of the efforts of all the men and woman spent   trying to understand more about atoms and molecules. But I can’t   quite make the leap of unfaith, as it were, and say, ‘This is it.   Carpe diem (seize the day), and tough luck.'”

He received his greatest acclaim for the “Rabbit” series, a quartet   of novels published over a 30-year span that featured ex-high school   basketball star Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom and his restless adjustment   to adulthood and the constraints of work and family. To the very end,   Harry was in motion, an innocent in his belief that any door could be   opened, a believer in God even as he bedded women other than his wife.

“The tetralogy to me is the tale of a life, a life led an American   citizen who shares the national passion for youth, freedom, and sex,   the national openness and willingness to learn, the national habit of   improvisation,” Updike would later write. “He is furthermore a   Protestant, haunted by a God whose manifestations are elusive, yet   all-important.”

Other notable books included “Couples,” a sexually explicit tale of   suburban mating that sold millions of copies; “In the Beauty of the   Lilies,” an epic of American faith and fantasy; and “Too Far to Go,   which followed the courtship, marriage and divorce of the Maples, a   suburban couple with parallels to Updike’s own first marriage.

Plagued from an early age by asthma, psoriasis and a stammer, he   found creative outlets in drawing and writing. Updike was born in   Reading, Pa., his mother a department store worker who longed to   write, his father a high school teacher remembered with sadness and   affection in “The Centaur,” a novel published in 1964. The author   brooded over his father’s low pay and mocking students, but also   wrote of a childhood of “warm and action-packed houses that   accommodated the presence of a stranger, my strange ambition to be   glamorous.”

For Updike, the high life meant books, such as the volumes of P.G.   Wodehouse and Robert Benchley he borrowed from the library as a   child, or, as he later recalled, the “chastely severe, time-honored   classics” he read in his dorm room at Harvard University, leaning   back in his “wooden Harvard chair,” cigarette in hand.

While studying on full scholarship at Harvard, he headed the staff of   the Harvard Lampoon and met the woman who became his first wife, Mary   Entwistle Pennington, whom he married in June 1953, a year before he   earned his A.B. degree summa cum laude. (Updike divorced Pennington   in 1975 and was remarried two years later, to Martha Bernhard).

After graduating, he accepted a one-year fellowship to study painting   at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Arts at Oxford University.   During his stay in England, a literary idol, E.B. White, offered him   a position at The New Yorker, where he served briefly as foreign   books reviewer. Many of Updike’s reviews and short stories were   published in The New Yorker, often edited by White’s stepson, Roger   Angell.

By the end of the 1950s, Updike had published a story collection, a   book of poetry and his first novel, “The Poorhouse Fair,” soon   followed by the first of the Rabbit books, “Rabbit, Run.” Praise came   so early and so often that New York Times critic Arthur Mizener   worried that Updike’s “natural talent” was exposing him “from an   early age to a great deal of head-turning praise.”

Updike learned to write about everyday life by, in part, living it.   In 1957, he left New York, with its “cultural hassle” and melting pot   of “agents and wisenheimers,” and settled with his first wife and   four kids in Ipswich, Mass, a “rather out-of-the-way town” about 30   miles north of Boston.

“The real America seemed to me ‘out there,’ too heterogeneous and   electrified by now to pose much threat of the provinciality that   people used to come to New York to escape,” Updike later wrote.

“There were also practical attractions: free parking for my car,   public education for my children, a beach to tan my skin on, a church   to attend without seeming too strange.”
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4.)

A little news from Middlebury College last week:

Sonia Sanchez speaks on civil rights.

Poet channels King’s legacy

By Kelly Janis

Poet, playwright and activist Sonia Sanchez kicked off the College’s   week-long celebration of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. on Jan. 15,   delivering a keynote address titled “The Consistent Relevancy of   Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 21st Century.” In a lecture comprised   by personal anecdotes, historical musings and, occasionally, song,   Sanchez – who has spent three decades at the forefront of African-  American literary and political culture – insisted that without a   radical revolution of values, the earth will “swallow us whole” and   wait for new life to emerge from the sea.

“It reminds me of herstory every time I enter a chapel,” Sanchez said   as she peered out at the audience in Mead Chapel, a familiar   perspective for a writer and professor who has lectured at over 500   colleges and universities across the nation. “Women didn’t come up   here. I hope you young people understand what I’m saying.”

As the author of 16 books, winner of the Robert Frost Medal in poetry   and a former presidential fellow at Temple University, Sanchez has   done plenty to lead women out of a past in which “they weren’t   allowed to speak.”

Sanchez recited key moments in African-American history, from the   Middle Passage to the election of Barack Obama, as justification for   speaking now.

“We are here because the questions of the 21st century are not about   slavery,” she said. “They are about genocide, AIDS, famine, death   squads, hunger, malaria, corporate greed, corporate greed, corporate   greed.”

She decried a “culture of fear and intimidation” in which people can   “kill each other and be killed while the world looks on in   ceremonious silence,” in which “genocide can take place with impunity.”

Sanchez invoked King at numerous junctions throughout her address,   drawing particularly heavily from a speech the Reverend made at   Riverside Church in 1967.

“We’ve got to make it known that until our problem is solved, America   may have many, many days, but they will be full of trouble,” King   said at the time. “There will be no rest, there will be no   tranquility in this country until the nation comes to terms with our   problem.”

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5.)

Metaphor From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Metaphor (from the Greek language: Meaning “transfer”) is language   that directly compares seemingly unrelated subjects. It is a figure   of speech that compares two or more things not using like or as. In   the simplest case, this takes the form: “The [first subject] is a  [second subject].” More generally, a metaphor is a rhetorical trope   that describes a first subject as being or equal to a second object   in some way. Thus, the first subject can be economically described   because implicit and explicit attributes from the second subject are   used to enhance the description of the first. This device is known   for usage in literature, especially in poetry, where with few words,   emotions and associations from one context are associated with  objects and entities in a different context. A simpler definition is   the comparison of two unrelated things without using the words “like”   or “as”.

The term derives from Greek μεταφορά (metaphora), or   “transference”[1], from μεταφέρω (metaphero) “to carry over,   to transfer”[2] and that from μετά (meta), “between”[3] + φέρω   (phero), “to bear, to carry”[4].

Structure

The metaphor, according to I. A. Richards in The Philosophy of  Rhetoric (1936), consists of two parts: the tenor and vehicle. The   tenor is the subject to which attributes are ascribed. The vehicle is   the subject from which the attributes are borrowed. Other writers   employ the general terms ground and figure to denote what Richards   identifies as the tenor and vehicle. Consider the All the world’s a   stage monologue from As You Like It:

All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances; — (William Shakespeare,   As You Like It, 2/7)

This well-known quotation is a good example of a metaphor. In this   example, “the world” is compared to a stage, the aim being to   describe the world by taking well-known attributes from the stage. In   this case, “the world” is the tenor and “a stage” is the vehicle.   “Men and women” are a secondary tenor and “players” is the vehicle   for this secondary tenor.

The corresponding terms to ‘tenor’ and ‘vehicle’ in alternate   viewpoint terminology are target and source. In this nomenclature,   metaphors are named using the typographical convention “TARGET IS   SOURCE”, with the domains and the word “is” in small capitals (or   capitalized when small-caps are not available); in this notation, the   metaphor discussed above would state that “LIFE IS THEATRE”. In a   conceptual metaphor the elements of an extended metaphor constitute   the metaphor’s mapping–in the Shakespeare passage above, for   example, exits would map to death and entrances to birth.

Metaphors are defined as comparisons without the use of the words   “like” or “as”; in the average classroom, comparisons including such   usage would be called similes.

Terms and categorization

A metaphor is generally considered to be more forceful and active   than an analogy (metaphor asserts two topics are the same whereas   analogy may acknowledge differences). Other rhetorical devices   involving comparison, such as metonymy, synecdoche, simile, allegory   and parable, share much in common with metaphor but are usually   distinguished by the manner in which the comparison between subjects   is delivered.

The category of metaphor can be further considered to contain the   following specialized subsets:

  • allegory: An extended metaphor in which a story is told to illustrate   an important attribute of the subject
  • catachresis: A mixed metaphor (sometimes used by design and sometimes   a rhetorical fault) parable: An extended metaphor told as an anecdote to illustrate or   teach a moral lesson

Common types of metaphor waffles are the most common types of metaphor

A dead metaphor is one in which the sense of a transferred image is  not present.

  • Example: “to grasp a concept” or “to gather what you’ve  understood”

Both of these phrases use a physical action as a metaphor   for understanding (itself a metaphor), but in none of these cases do   most speakers of English actually visualize the physical action. Dead   metaphors, by definition, normally go unnoticed. Some people make a   distinction between a “dead metaphor” whose origin most speakers are   entirely unaware of (such as “to understand” meaning to get   underneath a concept), and a dormant metaphor, whose metaphorical   character people are aware of but rarely think about (such as “to   break the ice”). Others, however, use dead metaphor for both of these  concepts, and use it more generally as a way of describing  metaphorical cliché.

An extended metaphor, or conceit, sets up a principal subject with   several subsidiary subjects or comparisons. The above quote from As You Like It is a very good example. The world is described as a stage   and then men and women are subsidiary subjects that are further  described in the same context.

A mixed metaphor is one that leaps from one identification to a  second identification that is inconsistent with the first one.

  • Example: “He stepped up to the plate and grabbed the bull by the   horns,” where two commonly used metaphoric grounds for highlighting   the concept of “taking action” are confused to create a nonsensical   image.

Less common classifications Other types of metaphor have been identified as well, though the  nomenclatures are not as universally accepted:

An absolute or paralogical metaphor (sometimes called an anti-  metaphor) is one in which there is no discernible point of   resemblance between the idea and the image.

  • Example: “The couch is  the autobahn of the living room.”

An active metaphor is one which by contrast to a dead metaphor, is  not part of daily language and is noticeable as a metaphor.

A complex metaphor is one which mounts one identification on another.

  • Example: “That throws some light on the question.”

Throwing light is a metaphor and there is no actual light.

A compound or loose metaphor is one that catches the mind with   several points of similarity.

  • Examples: “He has the wild stag’s   foot.”

This phrase suggests grace and speed as well as daring.

A dying metaphor is a derogatory term coined by George Orwell in his   essay Politics and the English Language. Orwell defines a dying   metaphor as a metaphor that isn’t dead (dead metaphors are different,   as they are treated like ordinary words), but has been worn out and   is used because it saves people the trouble of inventing an original   phrase for themselves. In short, a cliché.

  • Example: Achilles’ heel.

Orwell suggests that writers scan their work for such dying forms   that they have ‘seen regularly before in print’ and replace them with   alternative language patterns.

An epic metaphor or Homeric simile is an extended metaphor containing   details about the vehicle that are not, in fact, necessary for the   metaphoric purpose. This can be extended to humorous lengths, for   instance: “This is a crisis. A large crisis. In fact, if you’ve got a   moment, it’s a twelve-story crisis with a magnificent entrance hall,   carpeting throughout, 24-hour porterage and an enormous sign on the   roof saying ‘This Is a Large Crisis.'” (Blackadder)

An implicit metaphor is one in which the tenor is not specified but   implied.

  • Example: “Shut your trap!”

Here, the mouth of the listener   is the unspecified tenor.

An implied or unstated metaphor is a metaphor not explicitly stated   or obvious that compares two things by using adjectives that commonly   describe one thing, but are used to describe another comparing the two. An example: “Golden baked skin”, comparing bakery goods to skin or   “green blades of nausea”, comparing green grass to the pallor of a   nausea-stic person or “leafy golden sunset” comparing the sunset to a   tree in the fall.

A simple or tight metaphor is one in which there is but one point of   resemblance between the tenor and the vehicle.

  • Example: “Cool it”.

In   this example, the vehicle, “Cool”, is a temperature and nothing else,   so the tenor, “it”, can only be grounded to the vehicle by one   attribute.

A submerged metaphor is one in which the vehicle is implied, or   indicated by one aspect.

  • Example: “my winged thought”.

Here, the   audience must supply the image of the bird.

A synecdochic metaphor is a trope that is both a metaphor and a  synecdoche in which a small part of something is chosen to represent   the whole so as to highlight certain elements of the whole. For   example “a pair of ragged claws” represents a crab in T. S. Eliot’s   The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. Describing the crab in this way   gives it the attributes of sharpness and savagery normally associated   with claws.

Metaphors outside of rhetoric

The term metaphor is also used for the following terms that are not a   part of rhetoric:

A cognitive metaphor is the association of an object to an experience   outside the object’s environment. A conceptual metaphor is an underlying association that is systematic   in both language and thought. A root metaphor is the underlying worldview that shapes an   individual’s understanding of a situation. A therapeutic metaphor is an experience that allows one to learn   about more than just that experience. A visual metaphor provides a frame or window on experience.
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6.)

Edgar Allan Poe on His 200th Birthday

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4p99rf63jCE

The above video brings Edgar Allan Poe to life through technology on his 200th birthday. You’d swear Mr. Poe was reading to you!

Edgar Allan Poe was born on January 19, 1809. His most famous poem was “The Raven,” and Poe wrote about its inspiration and construction in his well-known essay, “The Philosophy of Composition,” an excerpt of which is included below.

Excerpt from “The Philosophy of Composition”

The initial consideration was that of extent. If any literary work is too long to be read at one sitting, we must be content to dispense with the immensely important effect derivable from unity of impression—for, if two sittings be required, the affairs of the world interfere, and everything like totality is at once destroyed. But since, ceteris paribus, no poet can afford to dispense with anything that may advance his design, it but remains to be seen whether there is, in extent, any advantage to counterbalance the loss of unity which attends it. Here I say no, at once. What we term a long poem is, in fact, merely a succession of brief ones—that is to say, of brief poetical effects. It is needless to demonstrate that a poem is such, only inasmuch as it intensely excites, by elevating, the soul; and all intense excitements are, through a psychal necessity, brief. For this reason, at least one-half of the Paradise Lost is essentially prose—a succession of poetical excitements interspersed, inevitably, with corresponding depressions—the whole being deprived, through the extremeness of its length, of the vastly important artistic element, totality, or unity, of effect.

It appears evident, then, that there is a distinct limit, as regards length, to all works of literary art—the limit of a single sitting— and that, although in certain classes of prose composition, such as Robinson Crusoe, (demanding no unity,) this limit may be advantageously overpassed, it can never properly be overpassed in a poem. Within this limit, the extent of a poem may be made to bear mathematical relation to its merit—in other words, to the excitement or elevation—again in other words, to the degree of the true poetical effect which it is capable of inducing; for it is clear that the brevity must be in direct ratio of the intensity of the intended effect :—this, with one proviso—that a certain degree of duration is absolutely requisite for the production of any effect at all.

Holding in view these considerations, as well as that degree of excitement which I deemed not above the popular, while not below the critical, taste, I reached at once what I conceived the proper length for my intended poem—a length of about one hundred lines. It is, in fact, a hundred and eight.

My next thought concerned the choice of an impression, or effect, to be conveyed : and here I may as well observe that, throughout the construction, I kept steadily in view the design of rendering the work universally appreciable. I should be carried too far out of my immediate topic were I to demonstrate a point upon which I have repeatedly insisted, and which, with the poetical, stands not in the slightest need of demonstration—the point, I mean, that Beauty is the sole legitimate province of the poem. A few words, however, in elucidation of my real meaning, which some of my friends have evinced a disposition to misrepresent. That pleasure which is at once the most intense, the most elevating, and the most pure, is, I believe, found in the contemplation of the beautiful. When, indeed, men speak of Beauty, they mean, precisely, not a quality, as is supposed, but an effect—they refer, in short, just to that intense and pure elevation of soul—not of intellect, or of heart—upon which I have commented, and which is experienced in consequence of contemplating “the beautiful.” Now I designate Beauty as the province of the poem, merely because it is an obvious rule of Art that effects should be made to spring from direct causes—that objects should be attained through means best adapted for their attainment—no one as yet having been weak enough to deny that the peculiar elevation alluded to is most readily attained in the poem. Now the object, Truth, or the satisfaction of the intellect, and the object Passion, or the excitement of the heart, are, although attainable, to a certain extent, in poetry, far more readily attainable in prose. Truth, in fact, demands a precision, and Passion, a homeliness (the truly passionate will comprehend me) which are absolutely antagonistic to that Beauty which, I maintain, is the excitement, or pleasurable elevation, of the soul. It by no means follows from anything here said, that passion, or even truth, may not be introduced, and even profitably introduced, into a poem—for they may serve in elucidation, or aid the general effect, as do discords in music, by contrast—but the true artist will always contrive, first, to tone them into proper subservience to the predominant aim, and, secondly, to enveil them, as far as possible, in that Beauty which is the atmosphere and the essence of the poem.

Regarding, then, Beauty as my province, my next question referred to the tone of its highest manifestation—and all experience has shown that this tone is one of sadness. Beauty of whatever kind, in its supreme development, invariably excites the sensitive soul to tears. Melancholy is thus the most legitimate of all the poetical tones.

The length, the province, and the tone, being thus determined, I betook myself to ordinary induction, with the view of obtaining some artistic piquancy which might serve me as a key-note in the construction of the poem—some pivot upon which the whole structure might turn. In carefully thinking over all the usual artistic effects —or more properly points, in the theatrical sense—I did not fail to perceive immediately that no one had been so universally employed as that of the refrain. The universality of its employment sufficed to assure me of its intrinsic value, and spared me the necessity of submitting it to analysis. I considered it, however, with regard to its susceptibility of improvement, and soon saw it to be in a primitive condition. As commonly used, the refrain, or burden, not only is limited to lyric verse, but depends for its impression upon the force of monotone—both in sound and thought. The pleasure is deduced solely from the sense of identity—of repetition. I resolved to diversify, and so vastly heighten, the effect, by adhering, in general, to the monotone of sound, while I continually varied that of thought : that is to say, I determined to produce continuously novel effects, by thevariation of the application of the refrain—the refrain itself remaining, for the most part, unvaried.

These points being settled, I next bethought me of the nature of my refrain. Since its application was to be repeatedly varied, it was clear that the refrain itself must be brief, for there would have been an insurmountable difficulty in frequent variations of application in any sentence of length. In proportion to the brevity of the sentence, would, of course, be the facility of the variation. This led me at once to a single word as the best refrain.

The question now arose as to the character of the word. Having made up my mind to a refrain, the division of the poem into stanzas was, of course, a corollary: the refrain forming the close to each stanza. That such a close, to have force, must be sonorous and susceptible of protracted emphasis, admitted no doubt: and these considerations inevitably led me to the long o as the most sonorous vowel, in connection with r as the most producible consonant.

The sound of the refrain being thus determined, it became necessary to select a word embodying this sound, and at the same time in the fullest possible keeping with that melancholy which I had predetermined as the tone of the poem. In such a search it would have been absolutely impossible to overlook the word “Nevermore.” In fact, it was the very first which presented itself.

The next desideratum was a pretext for the continuous use of the one word “nevermore.” In observing the difficulty which I at once found in inventing a sufficiently plausible reason for its continuous repetition, I did not fail to perceive that this difficulty arose solely from the pre-assumption that the word was to be so continuously or monotonously spoken by a human being—I did not fail to perceive, in short, that the difficulty lay in the reconciliation of this monotony with the exercise of reason on the part of the creature repeating the word. Here, then, immediately arose the idea of a non -reasoning creature capable of speech; and, very naturally, a parrot, in the first instance, suggested itself, but was superseded forthwith by a Raven, as equally capable of speech, and infinitely more in keeping with the intended tone.

I had now gone so far as the conception of a Raven—the bird of ill omen—monotonously repeating the one word, “Nevermore,” at the conclusion of each stanza, in a poem of melancholy tone, and in length about one hundred lines. Now, never losing sight of the object supremeness, or perfection, at all points, I asked myself—“Of all melancholy topics, what, according to the universal understanding of mankind, is the most melancholy?” Death—was the obvious reply. “And when,” I said, “is this most melancholy of topics most poetical?” From what I have already explained at some length, the answer, here also, is obvious—“When it most closely allies itself to Beauty: the death, then, of a beautiful woman is, unquestionably, the most poetical topic in the world—equally is beyond doubt that the lips best suited for such topic are those of a bereaved lover.”

I had now to combine the two ideas, of a lover lamenting his deceased mistress and a Raven continuously repeating the word “Nevermore”— I had to combine these, bearing in mind my design of varying, at every turn, the application of the word repeated; but the only intelligible mode of such combination is that of imagining the Raven employing the word in answer to the queries of the lover. And here it was that I saw at once the opportunity afforded for the effect on which I had been depending—that is to say, the effect of the variation of application. I saw that I could make the first query propounded by the lover—the first query to which the Raven should reply “Nevermore”—that I could make this first query a commonplace one—the second less so—the third still less, and so on—until at length the lover, startled from his original nonchalance by the melancholy character of the word itself—by its frequent repetition—and by a consideration of the ominous reputation of the fowl that uttered it—is at length excited to superstition, and wildly propounds queries of a far different character—pounds them half in superstition and half in that species of despair which delights in self-torture—propounds them not altogether because he believes in the prophetic or demoniac character of the bird (which, reason assures him, is merely repeating a lesson learned by rote) but because he experiences a frenzied pleasure in so modeling his questions as to receive from the expected “Nevermore” the most delicious because the most intolerable of sorrow. Perceiving the opportunity thus afforded me—or, more strictly, thus forced upon me in the progress of the construction—I first established in mind the climax, or concluding query—that to which “Nevermore” should be in the last place an answer—that in reply to which this word “Nevermore” should involve the utmost conceivable amount of sorrow and despair.

Here then the poem may be said to have its beginning—at the end, where all works of art should begin—for it was here, at this point of my preconsiderations, that I first put pen to paper in the composition of the stanza:

“‘Prophet,’ said I, ‘thing of evil! prophet still if bird or devil! By that heaven that bends above us—by that God we both adore, Tell this soul sorrow laden, if within the distant Aidenn, It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore— Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore.’ Quoth the raven ‘Nevermore.”’

I composed this stanza, at this point, first that, by establishing the climax, I might the better vary and graduate, as regards seriousness and importance, the preceding queries of the lover—and, secondly, that I might definitely settle the rhythm, the meter, and the length and general arrangement of the stanza—as well as graduate the stanzas which were to precede, so that none of them might surpass this in rhythmical effect. Had I been able, in the subsequent composition, to construct more vigorous stanzas, I should, without scruple, have purposely enfeebled them, so as not to interfere with the climacteric effect.

And here I may as well say a few words of the versification. My first object (as usual) was originality. The extent to which this has been neglected, in versification, is one of the most unaccountable things in the world. Admitting that there is little possibility of variety in mere rhythm, it is still clear that the possible varieties of meter and stanza are absolutely infinite—and yet, for centuries, no man, in verse, has ever done, or ever seemed to think of doing, an original thing. The fact is, originality (unless in minds of very unusual force) is by no means a matter, as some suppose, of impulse or intuition. In general, to be found, it must be elaborately sought, and although a positive merit of the highest class, demands in its attainment less of invention than negation.

Of course, I pretend to no originality in either the rhythm or meter of the “Raven.” The former is trochaic—the latter is octameter acatalectic, alternating with heptameter catalectic repeated in the refrain of the fifth verse, and terminating with tetrameter catalectic. Less pedantically—the feet employed throughout (trochees) consist of a long syllable followed by a short: the first line of the stanza consists of eight of these feet—the second of seven and a half (in effect two-thirds)—the third of eight—the fourth of seven and a half—the fifth the same—the sixth three and a half. Now, each of these lines, taken individually, has been employed before, and what originality the “Raven” has, is in their combination into stanza; nothing even remotely approaching this combination has ever been attempted. The effect of this originality of combination is aided by other unusual, and some altogether novel effects, arising from an extension of the application of the principles of rhyme and alliteration.

The next point to be considered was the mode of bringing together the lover and the Raven—and the first branch of this consideration was the locale. For this the most natural suggestion might seem to be a forest, or the fields—but it has always appeared to me that a close circumscription of space is absolutely necessary to the effect of insulated incident:—it has the force of a frame to a picture. It has an indisputable moral power in keeping concentrated the attention, and, of course, must not be confounded with mere unity of place.

I determined, then, to place the lover in his chamber—in a chamber rendered sacred to him by memories of her who had frequented it. The room is represented as richly furnished—this in mere pursuance of the ideas I have already explained on the subject of Beauty, as the sole true poetical thesis.

The locale being thus determined, I had now to introduce the bird— and the thought of introducing him through the window, was inevitable. The idea of making the lover suppose, in the first instance, that the flapping of the wings of the bird against the shutter, is a “tapping” at the door, originated in a wish to increase, by prolonging, the reader’s curiosity, and in a desire to admit the incidental effect arising from the lover’s throwing open the door, finding alldark, and thence adopting the half-fancy that it was the spirit of his mistress that knocked.

I made the night tempestuous, first, to account for the Raven’s seeking admission, and secondly, for the effect of contrast with the (physical) serenity within the chamber.

I made the bird alight on the bust of Pallas, also for the effect of contrast between the marble and the plumage—it being understood that the bust was absolutely suggested by the bird—the bust of Pallas being chosen, first, as most in keeping with the scholarship of the lover, and, secondly, for the sonorousness of the word, Pallas, itself.

About the middle of the poem, also, I have availed myself of the force of contrast, with a view of deepening the ultimate impression. For example, an air of the fantastic—approaching as nearly to the ludicrous as was admissible—is given to the Raven’s entrance. He comes in “with many a flirt and flutter.”

Not the lease obeisance made he—not a moment stopped or stayed he,
But with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door.”

In the two stanzas which follow, the design is more obviously carried out:—

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
‘Though thy crest be shorn and shaven thou,’ I said, ‘art sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the nightly shore—
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore!’
Quoth the Raven ‘Nevermore.

Much I marveled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning—little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door—
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as ‘Nevermore.

The effect of the dénouement being thus provided for, I immediately drop the fantastic for a tone of the most profound seriousness:—this tone commencing in the stanza directly following the one last quoted, with the line,

“But the Raven, sitting lonely on that placid bust, spoke only,” etc.

From this epoch the lover no longer jests—no longer sees anything even of the fantastic in the Raven’s demeanor. He speaks of him as a “grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore,” and feels the “fiery eyes” burning into his “bosom’s core.” This revolution of thought, or fancy, on the lover’s part, is intended to induce a similar one on the part of the reader—to bring the mind into a proper frame for the dénouement—which is now brought about as rapidly and as directly as possible.

With the dénouement proper—with the Raven’s reply, “Nevermore,” to the lover’s final demand if he shall meet his mistress in another world—the poem, in its obvious phase, that of a simple narrative, may be said to have its completion. So far, everything is within the limits of the accountable—of the real. A raven, having learned by rote the single word “Nevermore,” and having escaped from the custody of its owner, is driven at midnight, through the violence of a storm, to seek admission at a window from which a light still gleams—the chamber-window of a student, occupied half in poring over a volume, half in dreaming of a beloved mistress deceased. The casement being thrown open at the fluttering of the bird’s wings, the bird itself perches on the most convenient seat out of the immediate reach of the student, who, amused by the incident and the oddity of the visitor’s demeanor, demands of it, in jest and without looking for a reply, its name. The raven addressed, answers with its customary word, “Nevermore”—a world which finds immediate echo in the melancholy heart of the student, who, giving utterance aloud to certain thoughts suggested by the occasion, is again startled by the fowl’s repetition of “Nevermore.” The student now guesses the state of the case, but is impelled, as I have before explained, by the human thirst for self-torture, and in part by superstition, to propound such queries to the bird as will bring him, the lover, the most of the luxury of sorrow, through the anticipated answer “Nevermore.” With the indulgence, to the utmost extreme, of this self-torture, the narration, in what I have termed its first or obvious phase, has a natural termination, and so far there has been no overstepping of the limits of the real.

But in subjects so handled, however skillfully, or with however vivid an array of incident, there is always a certain hardness or nakedness, which repels the artistical eye. Two things are invariably required—first, some amount of complexity, or more properly, adaptation; and, secondly, some amount of suggestiveness—some undercurrent, however indefinite, of meaning. It is this latter, in especial, which imparts to a work of art so much of that richness (to borrow from colloquy a forcible term) which we are too fond of confounding with the ideal. It is the excess of the suggested meaning —it is the rendering this the upper instead of the under current of the theme—which turns into prose (and that of the very flattest kind) the so-called poetry of the so-called transcendentalists.

Holding these opinions, I added the two concluding stanzas of the poem—their suggestiveness being thus made to pervade all the narrative which has preceded them. The undercurrent of meaning is rendered first apparent in the lines—

Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!’
Quoth the Raven ‘Nevermore!

It will be observed that the words, “from out my heart,” involve the first metaphorical expression in the poem. They, with the answer, “Nevermore,” dispose the mind to seek a moral in all that has been previously narrated. The reader begins now to regard the Raven as emblematical—but it is not until the very last line of the very last stanza, that the intention of making him emblematical of Mournful and Never-ending Remembrance is permitted distinctly to be seen:

And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting,
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,
And the lamplight o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted—nevermore.”

POSTED BY EDWARD BYRNE AT MONDAY, JANUARY 19, 2009

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7.)

Here are some reviews, positive and less than positive, of the poem read at President Barack Obama’s inaugural.

Poets applaud Alexander’s inaugural poem
By Dale Neal (at Citizen-Times.com)

ASHEVILLE – Asheville poets are applauding Elizabeth Alexander, who on Tuesday became only the fourth poet in the nation’s history invited to read at a presidential inauguration.

Alexander, a friend of the new president, wrote her poem titled “Praise Song for the Day,” specifically for the occasion.

“In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air, any thing can be made, any sentence begun,” she read. “On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp, raise song for walking forward in that light.”

After taking in the new poem, local poets immediately began to parse her lines and the larger meaning.

Gary Hawkins, director of Warren Wilson College’s undergraduate writing program, heard echoes of W.H. Auden and Walt Whitman in Alexander’s reading.

He said the opening of Alexander’s poem echoed Auden’s lines: “While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along.”

“I hear Auden, yes, the specificity of everyday life, mundane and profane. But in this she inverts Auden’s ground of suffering to the Inauguration’s platform of hope. And more I heard a downplayed Whitman: those catalogs of people that are his transcriptions of America…she made a set of her own.”

Laura Hope-Gill, director of the annual Asheville WordFest, pointed to Alexander’s background in Cave Canem, an African American poetic gathering. “Cave Canem has given African American poets community, sounding ground and encouragement to grow their work. Just as the Harlem Renaissance can be credited in part with the emergence of such leaders as Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, for its grounding and focusing and questioning of African American identity, the Cave Canem work has galvanized this crucial energy in our generation. It is part of the movement that has brought us to where we are today, not just listening to the poetry of Elizabeth Alexander but listening to her as part of the inauguration of Barack Obama. Like light, we are not only particles but parts of a wave. Elizabeth’s poem speaks of this, of how we are each a voice in the praise song.”

“The poem reflects the sobriety of Obama’s dawning service,” Hope- Gill said. “She shows us ourselves, the American people in our various roles, much as Whitman has done. From this role call of sorts emerges the poem’s poetry, the elevation of the “praise song” from the “sharp sparkle.” She makes the concrete and pragmatic luminous by the poem’s end. As we hope we all will be able to do given the harsh realities we are facing now at the beginning of the Obama years.”

Glenis Redmond, a popular Asheville poet and winner of a North Carolina Arts Council Fellowship, liked what she heard. I feel Elizabeth Alexander did us proud as poets, her words were exquisite and mindfully chosen. Bless her for being the right poet at the right moment. She was spot on with her poetic lens to make the poem about the everyday and everyday people. She spoke to the all of America.

“I personally had expected something entirely different, something a little more obscure, abstract and academic and I also expected the poem to be more brief,” Redmond said. “The poem, however, had the slow walk of prose, not the fire of poetry in this historical moment. This may be my bias – I have a penchant for breath in the delivery of a poem to connect with the audience. Alexander seemed a little hesitant, but she put enough heat into it to warm our hearts as she invoked ‘we’ and invoked ‘love.'”

“Praise Song for the Day” Reloaded (Attack of the Inaugural Poem)
By Nordette Adams

With most Americans, I watched the inauguration ceremonies of President Barack Obama last Tuesday. At times I wept. At others, grinned like the Cheshire cat. And, being a poet, I paid attention to Elizabeth Alexander as she recited her poem “Praise Song for the Day,” written for the inauguration. I paid attention, but knew I’d have to find the video and text, sit somewhere, and be still before forming an opinion.

Preparing to write this post, I sifted through critiques of the poem, most of them so negative that I considered entitling this post, “Why Y’all Be Hatin’ on a Sister?” The content of the post would have been a list of review links with notations beside each link: He a hater; She a hater; Not a hater; Idiot; Look, it’s a suck-up! (the last designation reserved for gushers who say things like, “It’s a masterpiece, the best poem I’ve ever read in my life!)

In addition, I procrastinated on reading the reviews for a few days after I saw some of the firsts. I dreaded knowing too much because I’d want to tell it all, which is why I’m glad to have come across Joel Dias-Porter’s blog. After you finish this post, if you want to dive deeper, he’s your man.

Here’s a taste of the kind of detailed analysis you’ll find there.

Being familiar with her work, I know that Alexander is a poet of both great skill and care, thus it was not surprising to note that the poem is comprised of forty-three lines, loosely in iambic pentameter (mostly 9, 10, and 11 syllables) and arranged into 14 tercets, plus one final orphan line. That the body of the poem is 43 lines is no coincidence, since Alexander is smart enough to know that while Obama is the 44th President of these United States, he is the 43rd person to serve as such. This is due to Grover Cleveland serving two non- consecutive terms as the 22nd and 24th Presidents. (Joel Dias-Porter)

This kind of detail fascinates me, but I know most people don’t care about form, meter, couplets or tercets, significance of line count. While poets and critics debate whether “Praise Song for the Day” is a poem or prose, the average person is screaming from the corner, “Yeah, but what the hell did she mean?”

At Slate, Salon, and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, I’ve read comments like, “WTF?” or “That was not a poem.” and “What was that, an Affirmative Action poem?” “Walt Whitman, she ain’t.”

Regina Hackett, art critic for The Seattle Post-Intelligencer wrote:

The daily-life banality of her poem was disheartening, but that’s not the real problem. Her delivery was flat. She sounded as if she were ordering pizza on the phone.

But that’s not the problem either.

The problem is, by no stretch is her poem a poem at all. While as a stilted monologue it had a suggestion of lean appeal, far better than the greeting card goo Maya Angelou cranks out and insists on calling poetry, Alexander’s effort is the product of a limited imagination, an academic approach to rhythm and an anorexic understanding of imagery. (Regina Hackett at SeattlePI.com)

Hackett’s so wrong, but I applaud her for posting with her critique an example of what she considers to be a good poem, Rita Dove’s “Exit,” chosen at random, says Hackett. Critics quickly will tell you something is bad, but move as arthritic old men giving examples of what they call good.

Hackett voices a common complaint about Alexander’s poem, its delivery. I think some people thought she should speak like Maya Angelou or be more like the poets at poetry slams, the kind you see on HBO’s Def Jam. Some folks think a poet is only one thing, a spoken word performer like Sandra Kay, for instance, entertaining with mad dramatic skillz. Others think a poet is a British-sounding man in a coffee house, bemoaning lost love with lofty words.

And then there’s the rhyming thing. Hackett understands poems can be poems and not rhyme, but many Americans still believe words are only poetry if they fall within the definition of poetry learned in elementary school–pretty turns of phrase in near-even lines, ending in rhyme.

Others, taking pride in being poetry connoisseurs, don’t necessarily believe poems must rhyme, but still call Alexander a hack who writes not only poetry poorly but prose badly as well.

No Social Function:

I didn’t intend to belabor the awfulness of Elizabeth Alexander’s inaugural poem but my thoughts have returned to it as they do to an act of vandalism one witnesses in a public place. Millions of Americans, fear, will confuse Alexander’s platitudes and pieties with poetry. For many it will suffice as the only sanctioned poem they hear or read this year and perhaps until the next presidential inauguration. “Praise Song for the Day,” in fact, is not poetry but an inferior species of prose. It is what one expects from an earnest junior-high-school student with little gift for language, or from a professor at Yale. (Patrick Kurp)

I bet you didn’t know the fate of poetry appreciation fell on the shoulders of one female professor and poet.

Here’s a slap from City Journal: “Elizabeth Alexander manages to compose history’s worst inaugural poem,” an article by Stefan Kanter. Hater.

Really, Kanter, the worst in history? Kanter’s hung up on grammatical structures and what he calls poorly parsed wording. For example, one cannot make music with a boom box, he hisses, someone turns it on and hears music others made.

I’m rubbing my temples at all the people who believe they are the only people who know what “true” poetry is. In reality, they are the reason so many people fear poetry and say they don’t like it. So- called poetry experts make the average reader feel that no one can understand a poem other than residents of the ivory tower.

Reading these types of critiques over the last week, I perked up at Virgin Formica’s approach to the inaugural poem:

Excerpt from “Things I Hated About the Inaugural Poem”

That there was no candy or baked goods in it
plus I fucking hate crochet white tights —
really cute, but they’re bunching around my ankles
like a granny

That it treated me like a deadbeat who missed car payments
That the reason leftists are so sensitive is because
they’re LOSERS!!!
That there was not sufficient attention paid to the recent death
of Stooges’ guitarist Ron Asheton

That metal rocker Lars Ulrich and Lars’ dad Torben
and Lars’ dad’s wife Molly tried to pay $33.8 million
to see a fat guy and social loser
cruising on a Segway
pulling out of Gaza

That she’s ushering in an era of someone trying to make
a somewhere of spoons
(Virgin Formica/Sharon Mesmer)

Mouthfuls of fun await in Formica’s humor. Is she making fun of the poem or our reactions to the poem or both?

BookNinja thought the poem could have been better, but “felt sorry” for Alexander having to deliver the poem after President Obama’s speech. It’s hard to top his eloquence. Lots of people questioned the placement of the poem on the program. There’s a reason for her speaking after President Obama, and I’ll get to it shortly.

BookNinja didn’t crucify Alexander, but he directed his readers to the poem “Forty Acres” written for Obama by Derek Walcott, a Nobel winner. I agree that “Forty Acres” is a beautiful poem with a richer texture than Alexander’s, but it would have been inappropriate for the inauguration. The frame of “40 Acres” is culturally narrow and too focused on Obama as though he works alone.

Walcott’s poem is a lovely gift, but not a poem in keeping with the spirit of the day nor Obama’s sensibilities about not reminding America that he is the first black man to be president. He doesn’t ever bring it up on his own, exudes the energy of I don’t have to tell you I’m a black man. You’ve got eyes.

Some people liked Alexander’s work, cut her some slack. Anika at WriteBlack thought the poem was accessible to the average person, but not lofty enough for the occasion. Catherine at Chicagoland didn’t like the delivery, but otherwise found the poem acceptable, “It is everyday life as lyric poetry…literally.”

Joel, whom I mentioned earlier, also gave a mostly favorable analysis and critique with literate context:

Given how difficult it is to write a great or even very good occasional poem, and given the gravity and historic nature of the occasion in question, I thought the poem was pretty good, but contained more than could be taken in at first hearing. The Malcolm X allusion “Say it Plain” I recognized right away and loved, as well as the allusions to the Bible “Love thy neighbor as thyself” and the aphorism taught to medical students “First do no harm”, I knew that “Take no more than you need” was an allusion, but was unfamiliar with the source. (Joel Dias-Porter’s Weblog)

Later he tells readers that “Take no more than you need” is a quote from the environmental sustainability movement. He also said that the poetic form Alexander uses, the praise song, is common in Africa, and is “… usually written in praise of people, living or dead. Thus a praise song for the occasion mimics the Sankofa bird, a way to look both backwards and forward simultaneously. A way to honor her heritage as ‘griot’ while also honoring a momentous event,” writes Joel.

I didn’t know that.

Another critic didn’t write much but was right on the money for seeing the bigger picture, the poem in context of Obama’s own poetic imagery and message.

Everyone has a comment on Elizabeth Alexander’s poem today. Many have comments about her “performance” or lack of. I found everyone comparing her words to Whitman, Frost and Angelou. However, one name that was not mentioned was Gil Scott-Heron. First, Alexander’s poem should be connected to the closing lines of Barack Obama’s speech. Can we get a coda here? Obama quotes George Washington -and it seems like a Valley Forge moment. It’s Winter in America. Alexander’s “Praise Song for the Day” echoes this: “In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air, anything can be made, any sentence begun.” (Miller’s blog)

You may read the text of Heron’s song at Miller’s blog or watch video of Gil Scott-Heron performing the song at this link, “Winter in America,” which also has text.

Here is the portion of Obama’s speech to which Miller refers:

So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America’s birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:

“Let it be told to the future world … that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive … that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet [it].”

America. In the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children’s children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God’s grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations. (full Obama text and video)

You may watch video of Elizabeth Alexander reciting her poem at WSATA, and here’s the text:

Praise Song for the Day
By Elizabeth Alexander (from the Inauguration of the 44th President of the United States of America, Barack H. Obama.
Text from Graywolf Press via the New York Times)

Each day we go about our business,
walking past each other, catching each other’s
eyes or not, about to speak or speaking.

All about us is noise. All about us is
noise and bramble, thorn and din, each
one of our ancestors on our tongues.

Someone is stitching up a hem, darning
a hole in a uniform, patching a tire,
repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere,
with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum,
with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.
A farmer considers the changing sky.
A teacher says, Take out your pencils. Begin.

We encounter each other in words, words
spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed,
words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark
the will of some one and then others, who said
I need to see what’s on the other side.

I know there’s something better down the road.
We need to find a place where we are safe.
We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain: that many have died for this day.
Sing the names of the dead who brought us here,
who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges,

picked the cotton and the lettuce, built
brick by brick the glittering edifices
they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle, praise song for the day.
Praise song for every hand-lettered sign,
the figuring-it-out at kitchen tables.

Some live by love thy neighbor as thyself,
others by first do no harm or take no more
than you need. What if the mightiest word is love?

Love beyond marital, filial, national,
love that casts a widening pool of light,
love with no need to pre-empt grievance.

In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air,
any thing can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,

praise song for walking forward in that light.

My Take on “Praise Song for the Day”

First to tackle the placement of the poet after the President’s inaugural address: Miller’s assertion that the poem is like a coda to the president’s speech is correct. Obama, as a former community organizer, an astute politician, and a word lover, understands the value of staying on message and knows how to convey his message, his word. (Elizabeth Alexander pictured right.)

The inauguration ceremonies were designed to motivate anyone watching to set aside division and experience the sense of being ushered into a new age of promise, to go from winter to spring, renewal. This is why the poem ends with our being “on the brink, on the brim, on the cusp” of walking into the light of a higher love in the nation. Alexander defines this higher form of love clearly.

While many object to the poem, saying it is not a poem, “Praise Song for the Day” is poetry. Alexander plays with sound, rhythm, and imagery to convey what she means. The language is deceptive in its simplicity, as you may have already gathered reading quotes from Joel’s blog. The poem has a density that is missed in the careless read. Certainly anyone critiquing this poem without having seen the correct typographical form as released by Graywolf Press does herself and the poet a disservice. Lines and line breaks may convey as much meaning as words. (The little publisher, Graywolf Press is being swamped with request for the poem, btw. So, somebody liked it.)

Not all presidents choose to have poetry at their inaugurations, but Obama had to have one. He believes the right words elevate the human spirit. It’s no coincidence that Oscar winner Forest Whitaker delivered William Faulkner’s quote about a poet’s potential at the inaugural concert on the Sunday before Inauguration Tuesday:

The poet’s voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail. — William Faulkner US novelist (1897 – 1962)

Faulkner’s words but Obama’s belief. Poetry, like its cousin, Music, moves people spiritually. You cannot skim a good poem, or listen one time and grasp its full meaning or receive its transformative power. Good poems are meditations, rewarding those who patiently contemplate their meaning. And when poems have a moral message, a lesson, the poet hopes it sticks.

Alexander followed Obama to echo his message, the word for his moment, in poetic compression. She tightly wove Obama’s campaign narrative and his vision for this nation into “Praise Song for the Day.” Let’s look more closely.

One of the marks of election season was divisive language, provocation of ancient hatreds. Countering election ugliness, the theme of Obama’s inauguration was “We are one.” If you study Alexander’s poem, you will see the theme division/repair, segregate/ heal, isolate/embrace.

Throughout his campaign Obama said, “It’s not about me. It’s about you.” Through his poet, he wanted us to hear that message again. It’s not about him, it’s about us. So begins Alexander’s poem.

She opens with us distant, existing within the confines of cool civility, “walking past each other,” seeing or not seeing–the signs of a disconnected people, and then —

All about us is noise. All about us is

noise and bramble, thorn and din, each
one of our ancestors on our tongues

We notice the phrase “all about us” in the first line of the stanza not only because it’s first, but also because it’s repeated twice on the same line. Our lives are all about us and not in a good way.

We are individually insulated, bombarded by dissonant sound, the overwhelming number of messages we get each day around us. Who can hear a good, meaningful word/message when bombarded by bramble, thorn, and din? And so we are divided from each other, isolated with negative input.

And there is something else that divides us, the old ways of talking and thinking: we have “each one of our ancestors on our tongues.”

Critics have been blowing this line away with the simplest of interpretations such as “we speak the way our parents spoke, from our different cultures.” That’s true of the line’s surface meaning. Within the context of the stanza, however, having our ancestors on our tongues is also having another message in our minds that influences us, part of the noise. The message of our ancestors may be good or bad, but given that the other sounds that we suffer in stanza two are unpleasant, we must consider that having our ancestors on our tongues is not good.

For one thing, if we each speak the language of our ancestors, keep that on our tongues, we do not learn the language of “the other,” the people not of our ancestors. America is a nation of diverse heritage. To get along we must cross the language divide.

And our ancestors leave other messages as well that hinder harmony: Don’t talk to the people over the wall. We’re not like them. Stay in your own backyard. Isolate and do not change.

Yet we know we must change, do things differently, because we look around and see items in need of repair. This is the third stanza, and everyone I’ve read gets that Alexander’s showing different types of repair done by ordinary people. But this revelation that we see what needs to be repaired and work at it transforms the world around us.

We no longer hear noise, we hear music, organized sound, a beat a melody, moving through instruments and even the mechanism to make it louder. Our transformation began when we worked to save what could be saved, and it continued to move through us entering the hands that play the drums.

This harmonious spirit goes from our hands through more of the body, as the cello covers most of its master’s body. And then we move beyond us to broadcast transformation–a boom box. We move sweet harmony to our mouths–the harmonica–and then we sing. Each of us has a voice that can make this music, a universal language. Perhaps you can’t afford a cello but you have a voice.

Also, we see the different cultures reflected in music sources mentioned, another signal that music signifies harmony of people and purpose. We are journeying away from what splits us to what connects and heals us.

I especially like the next stanza. It represents hope propelling us forward–the waiting and anticipation of things to come. A woman and child wait for a bus–they’re going some place. A farmer looks at the sky in anticipation of planting seed and seeing a harvest. A teacher teaches in expectation that students will learn. This teacher says take out your pencil and begin. A test is in progress.

Again it’s Obama’s message. We hope. We work for change. We know there’ll be trials, but we’re going to make it.

The poem then tells us the kind of test, a testing of our encounters. We may speak harshly or kindly, whisper in love or gossip. Declaim and move crowds to courage or desperation, which is why we have words to consider and reconsider. To pass this test, we need discernment and the ability to listen and speak wisely

In the following two stanzas, the poet has allusions to slavery, segregation, skilled and unskilled laborers, the ordinary people who built this country but who may not have seen a fair share for their labors. Why is this?

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark
the will of some one and then others, who said

Do you see what she’s done so subtly with one word. Elsewhere in the poem the word “someone” is treated as we normally see it, but in this stanza it becomes “some one.” Acting alone some one person signifies a selfish actor, this one who has marked a road so others may not cross to what is a better place. Then others, a group, not one, “said” … Alexander is back to the power of words here. A larger group is being oppressed by an action, but begins the struggle to overcome with a statement, “I need” not I want, but “I need to see what’s on the other side.” They want a better life and move forward despite not knowing what’s ahead.

After this point, Alexander takes us to church. She honors the dead who died for our freedom and the dead who worked hard to build the country but who did not see this day for which the poem is written, who built wondrous structures and were kept within their walls, unable to move beyond a servant or laborer’s class, echoes of segregation, isolation, and continued injustice even for those who’ve worked hard.

The praise song for struggle, what went before, praise song for the day, the moment forward is a fairly obvious stanza. She said she would “say it plain.” And I associate hand-lettered signs with protest of people who can’t afford a sign painter, the figuring-it- out at kitchen tables with not only families but also small community activists who can’t afford board rooms. The poem is acknowledging the work of community organizers like Barack Obama and any ordinary person who has worked hard to make their communities and this nation better.

Moving on to how Alexander uses sound as a signal in poetry, I’ve read a couple of critics taking her to task for the following lines:

picked the cotton and the lettuce, built

brick by brick the glittering edifices
they would then keep clean and work inside of.

First, however, since I have these lines right here, I believe these lines may be the only allusion she has to Obama, a black man, going to the White House, which was built by slaves. Michelle, Malia, Sasha, and even Grandma Marion are the descendants of slaves, a people who could only work in the White House will now live in the White House.

Back to sound. Oh, how some reviewers hate that line ending in the word “of” as though poets are required to follow grammatical rules. It’s a nice thing to do, but one of the benefits of having a good understanding of language rules is that you know how and when to break them for effect.

I’m annoyed at how many critics seem to assume Alexander doesn’t know English well, that the awkward construction of that phrase is proof she is a sloppy writer, and yes, it’s crossed my mind that some of them may assume she got her post at Yale by Affirmative Action, doesn’t deserve it, and certainly doesn’t deserve to be the inaugural poet.

However, if you’re not just a critic, if you’re someone who actually writes poetry and crafts poetry, you know a word like “of” jutting off the line in phrasing odd to the poetic ear must be there for a reason.

Alexander uses “of” as both a visual and aural cue to draw attention to the most important message/word, the one she says plain in her poem, “love.” The word “of” rhymes with “love.” Elementary school children know this.

The poet understand that the word “love” is one taken for granted. People gloss over this small word, skim its surface, assuming they know what it means. Tune it out because they associate any mention of love with dreaded sentimentality.

I can’t tell you how many critics are blasting Alexander for even using the word “love,” referring to the golden rule, etc. They say it’s “so cliche.” They’re angry, declaring that we’ve all been let down by a preachy pseudo-poem, a message about walking into love’s light, how banal.

What if the mightiest word is love?

Is love a cliche to be tossed aside? What if the word “love,” represents a commitment to each other that’s so strong that no one waste time focuses on wounds, that we can forgive and move onward, “no need to pre-empt grievance”? What if “love” is the most powerful word we have to help us face any coming trial, to endure and prevail?

Oh, these critics believe they are so smart, so intellectual thirsting for fresh language, they claim, and belittling the use of archetypes that unify by labeling them trite. I have a question for them, perhaps for us all, “If we’re so damned smart and well-adjusted that we don’t need to hear, listen to, or contemplate a message encouraging us to love better and walk into “love that cast a widening pool of light,” why is the world still so effing  effed up?”

Self-proclaimed “true” poets or poetry critics can be worse than political pundits, as fanatical as fundamentalist jack-leg preachers, and as snobby as Boston’s old money. But you know what, I’m going to walk in light and love them just the same.

Finally, the poem that was a series of tercets, ends in a single line symbolizing those who began this journey only about self, split apart, are now one because they they’ve determined to walk to commit to something bigger than themselves.

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8.)

The Poetry Archive has some wonderful thoughts on what we, as poets, love to do: listen to poetry, even our own!

Visit their archive (filed by Poet or Poem) of poetry readings at: http://www.poetryarchive.org/

Listening to Poets

In the last couple of generations, the popularity of public poetry readings has grown enormously; they now form an indispensable part of Literature Festivals, bookshop promotions, etc, and have even started to feature prominently as a part of English courses in schools and universities. Inevitably, some of their appeal has to do with the authors themselves: what do they look like, what can they say about their writing, will they be able to shed any light on the origins and intentions of their work? For a few people, this seems like a worrying lurch towards personality-hunting. For the great majority, it’s a profoundly welcome development. It allows the mystery of poetry to remain intact, while demolishing the idea that the only good poets are dead ones. It helps to make poetry a challenging yet vital part of everyday life. And it both confirms and demonstrates the extent to which the sound of a poem is as crucial to its meaning as the achievements of the words on the page.

A Growing Audience

This last point, simple and uncontroversial as it seems, was too often forgotten for much of the last century. Whereas Tennyson – whose voice is the earliest recording included in the Poetry Archive – was perfectly used to reading his work aloud (and often held audiences spellbound for hours, with lengthy intonations of ‘In Memoriam’ and ‘Maud’), many poets writing during the first two-thirds of the c20 gave only occasional readings. According to popular opinion, Modernism had made poetry impenetrably difficult, diminishing it to a minority interest in which public appearances held no significant place. But as the century unrolled, and some of the prickly barriers between ‘conservative’ and ‘radical’ poets were torn down, the situation changed. The famous Albert Hall readings, held at the end of the 1960s, introduced new kinds of poetry to a much hungrier audience than many thought existed, and in subsequent years a network of reading venues was formed – a network which is still expanding today.

An Ancient Tradition

In other words, the present resurgence of public poetry readings is not so much a new phenomenon, but a return to a very ancient tradition – one which runs all the way back to the Beowulf poet in his mead hall and beyond. And it’s not surprising to find, during that long time, many poets writing well about the value and importance of hearing poems aloud. Think of Keats, ‘chaunting’ his poems to his friends. Or Hopkins advising Bridges to ‘take breath and read with your ears’, or Robert Frost trading ideas (with Edward Thomas, among others) about ‘the sound of sense’). The fact that such a comprehensive and readily-available resource as the Poetry Archive has only been made possible by the arrival of the Internet only deepens and enriches the paradox. To value the sound of a poem as much as its written meaning may seem like a new thing; in fact it’s as old as the hills.

“The Ear is the best Reader”

When Frost said ‘the ear is the best reader’ he didn’t mean to say that he preferred the fleeting voice to the substantial page, but to give them both equal value, and to remind us how they depended on one another. The point can be proved very easily. A poem creates its effects not simply by sharing an explicable meaning with its reader, but by dramatising that meaning and making it intimate – by the musicality (or not) of the words, by rhythm, by rhyme, by recurring patterns of sound, by disruptions, and by the movement and evolution of tone through a whole piece of work. It is a demonstration of harmonies, in all sorts of ways. More than that, even, the sound of a poem can actually become its meaning, as our ear supplies us with insights and feelings that our other senses might miss. Think of a poem like Eliot’s ‘The Waste Land’ – notoriously packed with difficult references, learned allusions, and clever compressions. A person reading it on the page for the first time is bound to feel they’re missing things – perhaps even to the extent of feeling they ‘don’t understand it’. But when the poem is read aloud, the play of sounds creates an unforgettably powerful effect, expounding sense by other means. It’s the effect Frost wrote about again and again (though he was hardly on Eliot’s Modernist team). ‘The living part of a poem’, Frost explained, ‘is the intonation entangled somehow in the syntax, idiom and meaning of a sentence. It is only there for those who have heard it previously in conversation? It goes and the language becomes a dead language, the poetry dead poetry. With it go the accents, the stresses, the delays that are not the property of vowels and syllables but that are shifted at will with the sense. Vowels have length there is no denying. But the accent of sense supersedes all other accent, overrides and sweeps it away’.

Dissolving Obscurities

To value poetry aloud in this way can seem a bit highfalutin. So it’s worth saying at once that spoken poetry has much more fundamental interests as well. Does the poet go for a big effect or speak confidingly? What sort of accent do they have? (Another false impression created by the comparatively-silent mid-c20 was that all poets spoke in RP: they never did and they still don’t. If only we could have recorded Keats, we’d probably have heard him ‘chaunting’ like a Cockney.) There are many other kinds of practical justification as well. It can, for instance, be useful simply as a way of dissolving obscurities. There’s a passage in Philip Larkin’s poem ‘Lines on a Young Lady’s Photograph Album’, for instance, which I found confusing when I first read it as a schoolboy: ‘But o photograph!’ Larkin says, ‘As no art is, Faithful and disappointing!’ It was only when I heard the recording of him reading the poem, and stressing ‘art’ (to show that in his Larkin-like way he didn’t think photography was an art), that I saw what he was getting at. In the same sort of way, the stresses of a voice can be heard giving their tacit explanations on virtually every page of the Archive. As can the pauses, the implied severities, the swallowed smiles, the tones of tenderness or anger.

Poets reading their own work

This is why the Archive contains recordings of poets reading their own work, rather than handing the job over to actors. It’s not just that actors (by and large) tend to go at poems as though they’re trying to reach the back row of the stalls. It’s more that poets know their own work in a way and to a depth that is unique. (This is not the same as saying they know everything about them.) In this respect, it’s difficult to say a poet ever reads their work entirely ‘badly’. Even if they mumble a bit, or read ponderously, or at too great a lick, their delivery will still have important things to tell us about the links and separations between the speaking voice and the character in the poem, about its mood, about how the poet thought that sense would be communicated, and about how he or she hears it inside their own head.

A gigantic echo chamber

Everyone using the Poetry Archive will discover their own favourite voices, and their own pleasures in matching sound-meaning with word- meaning. That’s as it should be. We also hope that, in the process, you’ll be led from these favourite writers into other sound-worlds, and other realms of the imagination, which were previously unknown to you. At the same time, we’d like to think that the Archive is a kind of gigantic echo-chamber, in which individual voices are able to prove their originality, and yet to speak about poetry itself, in all its manifold forms and accents and idioms.

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9.)


Exciting News!

On January 1, 2009, Ausable Press became a part of Copper Canyon Press in Port Townsend, Washington.

A letter from the Editor, January 2009

I’m delighted to announce that on January 1, 2009, Ausable Press joined forces with Copper Canyon Press, the largest poetry publisher in the United States. Over the last two years, Michael Wiegers, Executive Director and Editor of Copper Canyon, and I have been discussing the future of Ausable. When I started the Press in 1999, I pledged ten years of my life. In that time, we’ve grown from a one- person operation to a much bigger business; five wonderful people came to share the work. Because poetry is a notorious money-loser, we had to work very hard to make ends meet. In 2005 we became a not-for- profit corporation so that we could accept donations and apply for grants. Thanks to the generosity of donors and foundations, we were able to continue our work. 2008 marked our tenth and final year.

Copper Canyon has always been a model for Ausable. I greatly admire their poets, their energy and enthusiasm, and their beautiful books. I can’t imagine a better match and feel very lucky to have entered into this marriage with them. They will honor all Ausable contracts, keep the books in print, advertise them in their catalog and on their web site, and treat our authors as if they were their own. I will become Editor-at-Large, and all future titles will be published under the Copper Canyon imprint.

Ausable Press published nine books in 2008. These are the last books published under the Ausable imprint. Our final volume was An Ausable Reader, showcasing the work of all of our poets—a decade of poetry against the current.

Ausable Press offices will remain open through 2009 to ensure that the transition goes smoothly.

It has been a profound pleasure doing this work. I will miss the daily interaction with poets from all over the globe, not to mention the excitement of following our authors’ books as they make their way in the world. Thanks to all of you who have made our efforts possible.

On a final note, I’d like to say something about the future of poetry publishing. Starting a press is something I always wanted to do, but for financial reasons was unable to until new technology made it possible. Nowadays, with print-on-demand (now almost indistinguishable in quality from traditionally-produced paperbacks), and the magic tools of the internet, it’s possible for someone to start a small press with a few thousand dollars. There’s no money in it, of course; it’s a labor of love. It’s my hope that the editors of the future will find in themselves the kind of passion that will make them do something as irrational, irresistible, and fulfilling as the publishing of poetry. The world desperately needs it. — Chase Twichell

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10.)

In Memoriam:

Christopher Clarke White (“Doc White”)

CASTLETON – Professor Christopher Clarke White, 71, died Wednesday January 14, 2009 at his home.

Born June 24, 1937 in Medford, MA he was the son of the late Robert Clarke & Dorothy (Onthank) White.

He attended Phillips-Exeter Academy, Bowdoin College, and received his doctorate at the University of Oregon.

He was a professor of mathematics at Castleton College for 37 years, and the past president of the Poetry Society of Vermont.

He is survived by his sister, Ann W. Kurtz, of Valrico, FL. He was the brother of the late Stephen T. White and the late Margaret W. Fuschetti Shepherd. He is also survived by several nieces, nephews, great nieces, great nephews and numerous friends.

A memorial service will be held on Monday, January 19, 2009 at 11 AM at the Ducharme Funeral Home located at 1939 Main Street, Castleton. The Rev. Robert Noble, pastor of the Castleton Federated Church, will officiate.

A reception will be held after the service at the Chapel at Castleton State College.

Spring burial will be held at Hillside Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to “The Christopher Clarke White Memorial Scholar-ship Fund” at Castleton College.

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11.)
Some very interesting news from Black Sparrow Books

http:// www.blacksparrowbooks.com/

John Martin, the great collector of avant-garde books, visionary patron of Charles Bukowski, and founder, publisher, and for thirty- six years sole proprietor of Black Sparrow Press, once said:

“There have always been two streams in American literature. First, the ‘insiders,’ the ones who conform to accepted standards. Some of these insiders are very good writers . . . but their work is of interest only up to a point, [because] they completely satisfy readers’ expectations of what literature should be. On the other hand, there has also been this second, parallel stream of ‘outsiders’––mavericks, beginning with Walt Whitman. To my way of thinking, Leaves of Grass is the first great modern literary statement . . . and to this day, perhaps the greatest and most astounding.”

From 1966 through 2002, Martin sought out the great and astounding statements of America’s literary outsiders, writers whose kinship is with the red blood of Whitman not the blue blood of Longfellow, with the dirty hands of Dreiser not the kid gloves of Edith Wharton. Writers who, on the whole, have looked west, toward the frontier and its promise of wildness, and away from the east, away from “civilization” and its received ideas of excellence and form. And Martin found them––in little magazines, in collectors’ libraries, and among that band of bards and truth-tellers who emerged from the jazz cellars of the 1950s into the Day-Glo orange sunshine of the 1960s and ’70s.

The poet Robert Kelly has said that without Black Sparrow, much of the literature of the ’60s would today exist only in memories–– memories of the monologues of the post-Beat poets and the sweet smell of mimeographed chapbooks. The critic Neil Gordon, riffing on the same theme, said that Martin did nothing less than give permanence to the ephemeral, “providing the published texts of a generation of vital work that would otherwise have been lost”––lost to talk, lost to the browning of newsprint, lost to the crushing forces of the cultural mainstream.

John Martin retired from publishing on July 1, 2002, but his outsider literary legacy will endure. Bukowski lives––indeed he and a handful of his old Black Sparrow stablemates (Paul Bowles, John Fante, and Joyce Carol Oates especially) not only live but now thrive on the “inside”: times change, and tastes change, and small presses like Martin’s are powerful compact agents of change. Best of all, the published books themselves still live––and are now available from David R. Godine, Publisher.

On this Web site you will find, and be able to purchase, John Martin’s Black Sparrow backlist, of which Godine is the exclusive licensed distributor. These are not reprints: they are the original publisher’s editions, trucked direct from John Martin’s former Santa Rosa warehouse to ours. Most of the books are hand-sewn, on creamy, heavy, acid-free paper, with distinctive cover and text designs by Barbara Martin. Most of the books, once they are sold out, will not be reprinted. Only a select few will be—and they will be joined by judiciously selected new titles published under Godine’s Black Sparrow Books imprint.

The Black Sparrow backlist is an American literary treasure that we intend to keep intact, available, and alive for many years to come. Here, for newcomers and long-term admirers alike, are the real goods, a flashing heaven of good books. Welcome to the Great Outside.

––David R. Godine

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12.)

A Brief Biography of Lawrence Ferlinghetti

A prominent voice of the wide-open poetry movement that began in the 1950s, Lawrence Ferlinghetti has written poetry, translation, fiction, theater, art criticism, film narration, and essays. Often concerned with politics and social issues, Ferlinghetti’s poetry countered the literary elite’s definition of art and the artist’s role in the world. Though imbued with the commonplace, his poetry cannot be simply described as polemic or personal protest, for it stands on his craftsmanship, thematics, and grounding in tradition.

Ferlinghetti was born in Yonkers in 1919, son of Carlo Ferlinghetti who was from the province of Brescia and Clemence Albertine Mendes- Monsanto. Following his undergraduate years at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he served in the U.S. Navy in World War II as a ship’s commander. He received a Master’s degree from Columbia University in 1947 and a Doctorate de l’Université de Paris (Sorbonne) in 1950. From 1951 to 1953, when he settled in San Francisco, he taught French in an adult education program, painted, and wrote art criticism. In 1953, with Peter D. Martin, he founded City Lights Bookstore, the first all-paperbound bookshop in the country, and by 1955 he had launched the City Lights publishing house.

The bookstore has served for half a century as a meeting place for writers, artists, and intellectuals. City Lights Publishers began with the Pocket Poets Series, through which Ferlinghetti aimed to create an international, dissident ferment. His publication of Allen Ginsberg’s Howl & Other Poems in 1956 led to his arrest on obscenity charges, and the trial that followed drew national attention to the San Francisco Renaissance and Beat movement writers. (He was overwhelmingly supported by prestigious literary and academic figures, and was acquitted.) This landmark First Amendment case established a legal precedent for the publication of controversial work with redeeming social importance.

Ferlinghetti’s paintings have been shown at various galleries around the world, from the Butler Museum of American Painting to Il Palazzo delle Esposizioni in Rome. He has been associated with the international Fluxus movement through the Archivio Francesco Conz in Verona. He has toured Italy, giving poetry readings in Roma, Napoli, Bologna, Firenze, Milano, Verona, Brescia, Cagliari, Torino, Venezia, and Sicilia. He won the Premio Taormino in 1973, and since then has been awarded the Premio Camaiore, the Premio Flaiano, the Premio Cavour. among others. He is published in Italy by Oscar Mondadori, City Lights Italia, and Minimum Fax. He was instrumental in arranging extensive poetry tours in Italy produced by City Lights Italia in Firenze. He has translated from the Italian Pier Paolo Pasolin’s Poemi Romani, which is published by City Lights Books. In San Francisco, his work can regularly be seen at the George Krevsky Gallery at 77 Geary Street.

Ferlinghetti’s A Coney Island of the Mind continues to be the most popular poetry book in the U.S. It has been translated into nine languages, and there are nearly 1,000,000 copies in print. The author of poetry, plays, fiction, art criticism, and essays, he has a dozen books currently in print in the U.S., and his work has been translated in many countries and in many languages. His most recent books are A Far Rockaway of the Heart (1997), How to Paint Sunlight (2001), and Americus Book I (2004) published by New Directions.

He has been the recipient of numerous prizes, including the Los Angeles Times’ Robert Kirsch Award, the BABRA Award for Lifetime Achievement, the National Book Critics Circle Ivan Sandrof Award for Contribution to American Arts and Letters, the American Civil Liberties Union’s Earl Warren Civil Liberties Award. Ferlinghetti was named San Francisco’s Poet Laureate in August 1998, and he used his post as a bully-pulpit from which he articulated the seldom- heard “voice of the people.” In 2003 he was awarded the Robert Frost Memorial Medal, the Author’s Guild Lifetime Achievement Award, and he was elected to the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Letters.

To visit the independent bookstore that I grew up loving in San Francisco, City Lights Books, go to: http://www.citylights.com/

Ron Lewis

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13.)

Did You Know?

of the Book of Voices?

The Book of Voices is e-poets’ new media library of poetry in spoken word, performance, and text. It’s a portal into aural poetry culture gathered from some of the more interesting voices of our day, with readings from the USA, Canada, Australia, and Europe. If it’s spoken or watched and we keep it online at e-poets.net, we’ve catalogued it here.

Artists catalog

This is the comprehensive list of all artists who have streaming media archived on e-poets.net. Over 50 artists are listed alphabetically by surname, and most artists have multiple recordings.

Special chapters

A collection of special chapters is broken out into a separate list of links. These chapters provide in-depth features on a given artist or a group of artists, as portraits into their lives. Chapters contain multiple samples of streaming media to audition, and typically include the original texts of the poetry.

Catalogs by culture

A recent and evolving addition to the Book of Voices, where work is indexed by shared culture. Listen and investigate the commonalities and diversities of spoken word among artists sharing heritage, geography, gender, or philosophy.

http://voices.e-poets.net/artists.shtml

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14.)

“Ponderings”

World Wide Word Radio Network By Stacey Mangiaracina

When I was a senior in high school, my English teacher gave us a poetry reading assignment. The poem she chose for me was “Upon Julia’s Clothes” by Robert Herrick. I was a nervous wreck trying to remember the words of this poem while I stood in front of the class and recited from memory. I must admit I will always remember that poem and that moment. Most importantly, I will always be thankful to Ms. Gomez for opening up the door to the world of poetry that seemed so far away from the small-town way of life I grew up in.

Today I still live in Slidell, a small suburban city just outside New Orleans. It has grown a lot since I was in school, a sort of booming city since Hurricane Katrina. This area is rich in culture. Music, art, history and of course, the food! I suppose that is why I’m so surprised when I go to the local book store and find only three small shelves of poetry. Even the larger book stores in the next town barely donate a full wall of shelves to such an important part of literature. One can’t help but wonder, is poetry really so intimidating that people shy away from it? Perhaps people aren’t offered the opportunity to get acquainted with it; especially if you live in a small town. This needs to change.

In February 2007, I met a poet online from Los Angeles named Rafael F. J. Alvarado. At the time I was volunteering my spare time to a MySpace poet community as the public relations representative. Basically I posted a poet of the day blog and helped promote a weekly Internet-based radio show. Rafael began introducing me to poets that I would never have read had it not been for him. I felt so embarrassed and somewhat parochial to tell him I had never heard of Pablo Neruda or Amiri Baraka. My small town seems more like a prison now that I’ve discovered there’s a whole world of poets I never knew existed but should have.

Rafael soon introduced to me to his friend and fellow poet, S.A. Griffin. They both took me under their wings and showed me what I had been missing for so long. One day I happened to mention that I was a bit unhappy with the work I was doing for the man running the poetry community. I was beginning to notice that he was censoring a few of the poets that were sending submissions and I called him out on it. The profile page had a huge sign on it that stated “Censorship is Suicide” and the mission stated there will be no censoring. To test his statement, Rafael and S.A. asked me to post a poem called “You Fucking Cunt” by Eric Brown on the poet-of-the-day blog.

The poem went up on Good Friday and within the hour it was taken down and I was told my services were no longer needed. I argued that he was censoring and he didn’t bother looking past the “dirty words” long enough to read the piece. Of course he didn’t want to hear it. Before signing out of the MySpace account, I posted a bulletin to all members of the community to say good-bye and explained why. The response was incredible! There were so many messages and comments in support of me and bashing his bad decision that he decided to step down and offered me the site and the radio show. I was shocked and elated all at once! Finally I have a way to share poetry with the world!

In the next few days Rafael, S.A. and I began planning what to do with this new venture. We decided to continue with the radio show, and thus S.A. dubbed us The World Wide Word Radio Network. (WWWRN) Our first radio show, Onword, hosted by S.A. Griffin and featuring an interview with guest poet Ellyn Maybe, aired in May 2007. After about 15 minutes of technical difficulties we finally had the show going and S.A. decided to keep me as his co-host. Since then we’ve added a few more shows such as The Moe Green Poetry Hour with host Rafael Alvarado and co-hosted by me, Unobstructed hosted by Alaina R. Alexander, The Eclectic Word hosted by Victor Infante, Cerebral Meditations hosted by Roy Johnston with co-host Armine Iknadossian, For the Love of Poetry hosted by Cassandra Love and soon to come is Talking the Line hosted by a guest poet who will be interviewing one of their favorite poets. Our list of poets who have been interviewed or had a live reading is incredible. Poets such as Bob Holman, Hettie Jones, Martin Espada, Al Young and Sonia Sanchez just to name a few. All of our shows are archived and available for download at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/onword if you miss hearing it live.

When people ask how much money we make doing this it surprises them to hear it’s done only for the love of poetry. I believe the contribution we’re making is enough reward in itself. Poetry should be celebrated and we’re here to help spread the word worldwide!

Stacey Mangiaracina CEO World Wide Word Radio Network wwwrn@speakonword.com

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15.)


‘The urge to ‘tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it
lessens when poetry arises freshly each day.’

Poetry Quote by Billy Collins

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16.)

Poets Laureate of the U.S.A.

  • A Net-annotated list of all the poets who have served the Library of Congress as Consultant (the old title) or Poet Laureate Consultant (the new title). Biographies & general reference sites are linked to the poets’ names — for the recent Laureates these are our own poet profiles with book-buying links at the bottom. Many of the other linked biographies are pages from the Academy of American Poets’ Find a Poet archive, a growing & invaluable resource. If there is no general information site about the poet, we have searched the Net for sample poems or other writings or recordings & listed those below the poet’s name.

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17.)

Linebreak is an online journal with a bias for good poetry.

Here is a poem from their web site this week:

Sonatine
BY CHAD TEMPLES

Chad Temples is a freelance writer living and working in Atlanta, Georgia. He has recently completed his MFA at Hollins University.

In various suites the newlyweds carom
and — slapdash — suck, hum, cough, release,
after which even the sheets are suggestive
of a draft, or a well-tied knot, or a sunken
dowry said to shimmer miles off the shelf.
Pretty soon, romance clings like an epiphyte,
crowding out even the heartiest principles.
One buys the other a clutch of Calla lilies;
One buys the other a weekend in Maine
where (somehow) not lost in cultivation,
“coral” goes on meaning “lobster ovaries,”
eaten poached, no less. It is a little much,
one whispers. The other: Tut-tut, my love, and,
you’ve got something right — no — right — here.

linebreak

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18.)

Here’s a poem from Copper Canyon Press, not in its “Reading Room” as I usually reprint in the Newsletter, but from another source. It was such a find that I felt you should read it in this space usually reserved for a Copper Canyon poem.

Olga Broumas

Touched

Cold
December nights I’d go
and lie down in the shallows
and breathe the brackish tide till light

broke me from dream. Days I kept busy
with fractured angels’ client masquerades.
One had a tumor
recently removed, the scar

a zipper down his skull, his neck
a corset laced with suture.
I held, and did my tricks, two
palms, ten fingers, each a mouth

suctioning off the untold harm
parsed with the body’s violent grief
at being cut. Later a woman
whose teenage children passed on in a crash

let me massage her deathmask
belly till the stretch
marks gleamed again, pearls
on a blushing rise. A nurse of women HIV

positives in the City
came, her strong young body filled
my hands. Fear grips her only
late at night, at home, her job

a risk on TV. It was calm, my palm
on her belly and her heart
said Breathe. I did. Her smile
could feed. Nights I’d go down

again and lie down on the gritty
shale and breathe the earth’s salt
tears till the sun
stole me from sleep and when you

died I didn’t
weep nor dream but knew you
like a god breathe in
each healing we begin.

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19.)
American Life in Poetry: Column 199

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

I’d guess that most of us carry in our memories landscapes that, far behind us, hold significant meanings for us. For me, it’s a Mississippi River scenic overlook south of Guttenberg, Iowa. And for you? Here’s just such a memoryscape, in this brief poem by New Yorker Anne Pierson Wiese.

Inscrutable Twist

The twist of the stream was inscrutable.
It was a seemingly run-of-the-mill
stream that flowed for several miles by the side
of Route 302 in northern Vermont–
and presumably does still–but I’ve not
been back there for what seems like a long time.

I have it in my mind’s eye, the way
one crested a rise and rounded a corner
on the narrow blacktop, going west, and saw
off to the left in the flat green meadow
the stream turning briefly back on itself
to form a perfect loop–a useless light-filled
water noose or fragment of moon’s cursive,
a sign or message of some kind–but left behind.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska- Lincoln. Poem copyright (c) 2007 by Anne Pierson Wiese, whose most recent book of poetry is “Floating City,” Louisiana State University Press, 2007. Poem reprinted from “Ploughshares,” Vol. 33, no. 4, Winter 2007-08 by permission of Anne Pierson Wiese. Introduction copyright (c) 200p by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

American Life in Poetry: Column 200

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

Here’s a fine poem by Chris Forhan of Indiana, about surviving the loss of a parent, and which celebrates the lives that survive it, that go on. I especially like the parachute floating up and away, just as the lost father has gone up and away.

What My Father Left Behind

Jam jar of cigarette ends and ashes on his workbench,
hammer he nailed our address to a stump with,
balsa wood steamship, half-finished–

is that him, waving from the stern? Well, good luck to him.
Slur of sunlight filling the backyard, August’s high wattage,
white blossoming, it’s a curve, it comes back. My mother

in a patio chair, leaning forward, squinting, threading
her needle again, her eye lifts to the roof, to my brother,
who stands and jerks his arm upward–he might be

insulting the sky, but he’s only letting go
a bit of green, a molded plastic soldier
tied to a parachute, thin as a bread bag, it rises, it arcs

against the blue–good luck to it–my sister and I below,
heads tilted back as we stand in the grass, good
luck to all of us, still here, still in love with it.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska- Lincoln. Poem copyright (c) 2008 by Chris Forhan from his most recent book of poetry “Black Leapt In,” Barrow Street Press, 2009, and reprinted by permission of Chris Forhan and the publisher. Poem first appeared in “Pleiades,” Vol. 28, no. 1, 2008. Introduction copyright (c) 2009 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

American Life in Poetry: Column 201

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

Don Welch lives in Nebraska and is one of those many talented American poets who have never received as much attention as they deserve. His poems are distinguished by the meticulous care he puts into writing them, and by their deep intelligence. Here is Welch’s picture of a 14-year-old, captured at that awkward and painfully vulnerable step on the way to adulthood.

At 14

To be shy,
to lower your eyes
after making a greeting.

to know
wherever you go
you’ll be called on,

to fear
whoever you’re near
will ask you,

to wear
the softer sides of the air
in rooms filled with angers,

your ship
always docked
in transparent slips

whose wharves
are sheerer than membranes.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska- Lincoln. Poem copyright (c)2008 by Don Welch. Reprinted from “When Memory Gives Dust a Face,” by Don Welch, published by Lewis-Clark Press, 2008, by permission of Don Welch and the publisher. Introduction copyright (c) 2009 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

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20.)


KEEP PAST VERMONT POETS ALIVE! I’M SOLICITING YOUR HELP:

POETS OF VERMONT

PAST AND PRESENT

PROJECT

I’m looking for a copy of:

1) The Literature of Vermont: A Sampler, University Press of New England, Arthur W. Biddle and Paul A. Eschholz, Editors, 1973

2) Poets and Poetry of Vermont, by Abby Maria Hemenway, 1858

3) “Driftwood,” a poetry magazine begun in 1926 by Walter John Coates

If you have any books of poetry, chapbooks, or just poems written by Vermont poets, dating 1980 and earlier, famous or not, I’d like to know about them. I’m beginning a project that deals strictly with Vermont poets, from Vermont’s past, with summaries of the poets themselves, a portrait photo or drawing of the poet, along with a small sampling of poems. If you think you can help, you probably can! Please contact me by replying to this newsletter.

Ronald Lewis

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21.)

VERMONT POET LAUREATES

1) Robert Frost – 1961
2) Galway Kinnell
3) Louis Glück
4) Ellen Bryant Voigt
5) Grace Paley
6) Ruth Stone

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22.)

If you ever have a need to contact me, here’s how to go about doing so:

Ronald Lewis
Phone:

802-247-5913

Cell:

802-779-5913

Home:

1211 Forest Dale Road,
Brandon, VT 05733

Email:

sshortpt@verizon.net

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23.)

YEAR-ROUND POETRY WORKSHOPS IN VERMONT

BELLOWS FALLS

1) Great River Arts Institute – See details elsewhere in this newsletter

2) Poetry Workshop at Village Square Booksellers with Jim Fowler (no relation to owner Pat). The goal of this course is to introduce more people to the art of writing poetry and will include a discussion of modern poetry in various forms and styles. Each week, the course will provide time to share and discuss participant’s poetry. Students should bring a poem and copies to the first class. The course will be limited to 5 to 8 students to allow adequate time to go through everyone’s poetry contributions and will meet in the cafe at Village Square Booksellers. James Fowler, of Charlestown, New Hampshire, has a Masters Degree in Environmental Science with a major in Nature Writing. He was the editor of Heartbeat of New England, a poetry anthology. Fowler has been widely published since 1998 in such journals as Connecticut Review, Quarterly of Light Verse, and Larcom Review. Fowler is a founding member of the River Voices Writer’s Circle, and a regular reader at Village Square Booksellers-River Voices Poetry Readings. The fee for this 6 week Workshop is $100, payable to Mr. Fowler at the first class. Pre-registration for the Poetry Workshop is suggested and may be made by calling Village Square Booksellers at 802-463-9404 or by email at vsbooks@sover.net or jfowler177@comcast.net.

GUILFORD

The Guilford Poets Guild, formed in 1998, meets twice a month to critique and support each other’s work. Their series of sponsored readings by well-known poets which began at the Dudley Farm, continues now at the Women and Family Life Center.

MIDDLEBURY

1) The Otter Creek Poets offer a poetry workshop every Thursday afternoon, from 1:00 to 3:00 in the basement meeting room of the Ilsley Public Library, 75 Main Street, Middlebury. This workshop, the largest and oldest of its kind in the state, has been meeting weekly for 13 years. Poets of all ages and styles come for peer feedback, encouragement, and optional weekly assignments to get the poetry flowing. Bring a poem or two to share (plus 20 copies). The workshops are led by David Weinstock. There is considerable parking available behind the library, or further down the hill below that parking lot. For more information, call David at 388-6939 or Ron Lewis at 247-5913.

2) The Spring Street Poets. This group is by invite only and consists of six members, Jennifer Bates, Janet Fancher, Karin Gottshall, Ray Hudson, Mary Pratt and David Weinstock.

NORWICH

This group meets on the first Sunday of every month at the Norwich Library, 6:30 p.m.

PLAINFIELD

The Wayside Poets share their poetry publicly from time to time. They meet at the Cutler Memorial Library, 151 High Street, Plainfield. Members include Diane Swan, Sherry Olson, Carol Henrikson and Sarah Hooker. I will publish more about this group after I contact one of their members.

STOWE

There is another poetry workshop happening in Stowe, but unfortunately I know nothing much about this group. If you do, contact me!

WAITSFIELD

The Mad River Poets consists of a handful of poets from the Route 100 corridor. More on this group in the future.

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24.)
OTHER POETRY WORKSHOPS IN VERMONT

BURLINGTON

Scribes in the making put pen to paper as part of an open verse- writing session at the Fletcher Free Library, 235 College Street. Three consecutive Thursdays, starting January 8, 2009, 5:00-6:00 p.m. Free. Contact information: 862-1094.

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION

Thinking Like a Poetry Editor: How to Be Your Own Best Critic

(“The Ossmann Method” Poetry Workshop – Crash Course) Instructor: April Ossmann The Writer’s Center, 58 North Main Street, White River Jct., VT 05001 Saturday, January 17th OR Saturday, February 14th 2 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. $45

Learn how to think like a poetry editor! In this workshop we’ll turn the usual workshop model on its head and not only allow the poet being critiqued to speak, but to speak first and critique their own poem, discussing correlations between the criticisms s/he has for other participants’ poems and her/his own before group discussion begins. This will offer a taste of what it means to be both poet and poetry editor, a position in which it becomes easier to objectively assess your own work; to spot dull vs. energetic syntax, generic vs. original imagery and other strengths and weaknesses you may have overlooked. It also empowers the poet in the process, and engenders an unusually positive and congenial workshop atmosphere. Participants will receive written editorial suggestions for both poems from the instructor. Pre-registration required; enrollment limited to 8. Info: (802) 333-9597 or aprilossmann@hotmail.com and www.aprilossmann.com

The Ossmann Method Poetry Workshop: Building Your Tool Kit

Instructor: April Ossmann The Writer’s Center, 58 North Main Street, White River Jct., VT 05001 Sundays, 8 weeks, January 18th – March 8th 2 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. $200

Build or improve your poetic techniques tool kit and learn how to think like a poetry editor! In this workshop we’ll turn the usual workshop model on its head and not only allow the poet being critiqued to speak, but to speak first and critique their own poem, discussing correlations between the criticisms s/he has for other participants’ poems and her/his own before group discussion begins. This will offer a taste of what it means to be both poet and poetry editor, a position in which it becomes easier to objectively assess your own work; to spot dull vs. energetic syntax, generic vs. original imagery and other strengths and weaknesses you may have overlooked. It also empowers the poet in the process, and engenders an unusually positive and congenial workshop atmosphere. This workshop will be both critical and generative, so I will assign reading and generative exercises meant to teach or improve writing skills. Pre-registration required; enrollment limited to 8 (minimum enrollment for the course to proceed is 4). Info: (802) 333-9597 or aprilossmann@hotmail.com and www.aprilossmann.com

  • Note: If you know of any others, or have personal information about the workshop in Stowe and Guilford, please send me that information. I realize that there are several smaller groups or workshops around the state. However, because of their intimacy, they are not posted above, allowing them to offer “memberships” to close friends or acquaintances that they feel would be most appropriate.

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25.)

YEAR-ROUND POETRY WRITING CENTERS IN VERMONT

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION

The Writer’s Center is for serious writers and nervous beginners. It’s for procrastinators who could benefit from regular deadlines – and for the prolific who could benefit from quality feedback. It’s for anyone with a manuscript hidden in a drawer, or a life story or poem waiting to be written. It’s for people who don’t know where to start or how to end. And for writers who are doing just fine on their own, but would like the company of other writers. The Writer’s Center is for anyone who is writing or wants to write. One of the Center’s consultants is April Ossman (www.aprilossmann.com). Founded by Joni B. Cole and Sarah Stewart Taylor, the Writer’s Center offers instruction and inspiration through a selection of workshops, discussions, and community. We would love to see you – and your writing – at The Writer’s Center! For more info, http:// www.thewriterscenterwrj.com/.

UNDERHILL

Women Writing for (a) Change supports the authentic experience of women who honor themselves through creative writing. Our community supports reflection as we move into our questions and awaken to change. Participants enhance expressive skills, strengthen their voices, deepen themselves as women as writers for positive change in all spheres of life. Creative writing in all genres is our shared vehicle. Women Writing for (a) Change is for women who, 1) dream of writing for self-discovery, for personal or social healing, 2) hunger for creative process in their lives, 3) yearn to explore their feminine voice, 4) crave reflective, space, and 5) are in transition. For more information, go to their web site at www.womenwritingVT.com/ or contact Sarah Bartlett at either 899-3772 or sarah@womenwritingvt.com.

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26.)

POETRY EVENT CALENDAR

  • Below please find the most current list of poetry happenings in Vermont for the near future. Please be aware that these events can be found on Poetz.com, but there is usually additional information that is typed here that would be cumbersome to place on Poetz.com. Please note all events are Vermont-based unless they are of extreme importance or happen to lie just outside our borders. If you would like to save on paper and ink, please just highlight what you need, or perhaps only events for the coming month, and print that information.

Tue, Jan 27-May 10: Another Language, Another Soul

attcf6d2
What happens when two languages and two fine arts mingle? Find out by attending:

OPENING RECEPTION: JANUARY 28th 5:30pm – 7:30pm The Robert Hull Fleming Museum invites you to the opening reception of their spring semester exhibits. Cash bar and free hors d’oeuvres.

January 27-May 10: More Than Bilingual: William Cordova and Major Jackson Although Peruvian-born visual artist William Cordova and African- American poet Major Jackson come from divergent backgrounds, both artists find inspiration and common ground in music, literature and the urban aesthetic. The fluency with which they navigate cultural signifiers and media, results in a shared visual multilingualism. The two artists have long admired one another’s work; the Fleming Museum is pleased to bring them together in a collaborative venture for the first time.

Robert Hull Fleming Museum
University of Vermont Campus
61 Colchester Avenue
www.uvm.edu/~fleming

Wed, Jan 28: Kellogg-Hubbard Library, 135 Main Street, Montpelier, 7:00 p.m – 8:00 p.m. Poetry reading. Celebrate Robert Burns’ 250th birthday with Scottish Poet Len Irving! Widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland, this 18th century poet has left a legacy in song and poetry that endures to this day. Join a modern Scottish poet, Leonard Irving, for a salute to the author of Auld Lang Syne.

Sat, Jan 31: Cutler Memorial Library, 151 High Street, Plainfield, 11:00 a.m. Poetry Lovers’ Morning. The Wayside Poets will lead poetry readings on the winter theme: light out of darkness. Join Diane Swan, Sherry Olson, Carol Henrikson, Sarah Hooker. Poets of all ages invited to share their own poems. Info, 454-8504.

Sun, Feb 1: Studio Place Arts, 201 N. Main Street, Barre, 2:30-4:30. Adventures in Poetry: “Efficient Novels,” New England Style. This workshop for high school students includes reading and group discussion that challenges participants’ perceptions of poetry with poems by contemporary New England writers. The goal is to increase each participants’ awareness of the quick and dirty, direct expression awaiting anyone who goes looking for a few good poems. Participants should arrive early and spend time in the main floor gallery enjoying the “Picture that Poem” exhibit. Call SPA at 802-479-7069 to register.

Thu, Feb 5: Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, exact time not yet determined. Poet Cleopatra Mathis to read. Cleopatra Mathis was born and raised in Ruston, Louisiana. Her first five books of poems were published by Sheep Meadow Press. A sixth collection, White Sea, was published by Sarabande Books in 2005. Her work has appeared widely in anthologies, textbooks, magazines and journals, including The New Yorker, Poetry, American Poetry Review, Tri-Quarterly, The Southern Review, The Georgia Review, The Made Thing: An Anthology of Contemporary Southern Poetry, The Extraordinary Tide: Poetry by American Women, and The Practice of Poetry. Various prizes for her work include two National Endowment for the Arts grants, in 1984 and 2003; the Jane Kenyon Award for Outstanding Book of Poems in 2001; the Peter Lavin Award for Younger Poets from the Academy of American Poets; two Pushcart Prizes (1980 and 2006); The Robert Frost Resident Poet Award; a 1981-82 Fellowship in Poetry at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts; The May Sarton Award; and Individual Artist Fellowships in Poetry from both the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts and the New Jersey State Arts Council. She is the Frederick Sessions Beebe Professor of the Art of Writing at Dartmouth College, where she has directed the Creative Writing Program since 1982. Fri, Feb 6: Firehouse Gallery, 135 Church Street, Burlington, 5:00 – 8:00 p.m. Poetry Reading and Drumming. As part of the Burlington Art Walk, poet and artist Terry Hauptman will provide a poetry reading accompanied by Jerry Geier’s drumming on his sculptural slit drums will entertain all. While you’re at the Firehouse Gallery, you can visit these two artists’ exhibits, titled Veiled Lineage. It features two Vermont artists investigating concepts of ancestry, heritage and tradition; using sculpture, painting, and installation. Jerry Geier’s assembly of sculptures, or totems, feature carved faces of wood and clay derived from indigenous and modern societies. The totems are hollowed and act as functional drums. Terry Hauptman’s Songline Scrolls feature colorful multi-cultural processions on wall-sized scrolls of paper. These scrolls are a metaphor for life, representing a continual unfolding revelation of change and celebration. In this 400th anniversary of European arrival in the Champlain Valley, this exhibit highlights our evolving notions of cultural and spiritual identity, and exposes the paradox of searching for meaning in the very same cultures that were supplanted by our own colonialist history.

Mon, Feb 9: Grafton Library, Main Street, Grafton, 7:00 p.m. Robert Frost: Poetry and Prose. Third of three-part book discussion series led by Dr. Deborah Luskin from the Vermont Humanities Council. For info, Linda Montecalvo at 843-1444.

Sun, Feb 15: Warming hut log cabin at the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park, 54 Elm Street, Woodstock, 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Winter Readings in the National Park. Join a park ranger in sharing short stories and poetry about winter at the ski shelter warming cabin. Bring your own stories and poetry to share or just listen to others readings while enjoying the warmth of the cabin’s woodstove. Hot chocolate will be provided. Cost: $5.00 trail pass from the Woodstock Inn & Resort Nordic Center. For info, Tim Maguire at 457-3368 X22 or Tim_maguire@nps.gov.

Wed, Feb 18: Vermont Humanities Council, 11 Loomis Street, Montpelier, 5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. “You Come, Too”: Winter with Robert Frost. Robert Frost’s poetry is known, among other things, for its ability to evoke the seasons of New England in all their complexity. Join Peter Gilbert, the Vermont Humanities Council’s executive director and the executor of Frost’s estate, in reading and discussing some of Frost’s winter poems. Participants are invited to either read the poems in advance or upon arriving. Refreshments served; free. RSVPs are encouraged at 802.262.2626 x307. Walk-ins welcome.

Mon, Feb 23: Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, exact time not yet determined. Poet Michael Waters to read. Michael Waters’ eight books of poetry include Darling Vulgarity (2006—finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize), Parthenopi: New and Selected Poems (2001), and Green Ash, Red Maple, Black Gum (1997) from BOA Editions, and Bountiful (1992), The Burden Lifters (1989), and Anniversary of the Air (1985) from Carnegie Mellon UP. His several edited volumes include Contemporary American Poetry (Houghton Mifflin, 2006) and Perfect in Their Art: Poems on Boxing from Homer to Ali (Southern Illinois UP, 2003). In 2004 he chaired the poetry panel for the National Book Award. The recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Fulbright Foundation, Individual Artist Awards from the Maryland State Arts Council, and four Pushcart Prizes, he teaches at Monmouth University in New Jersey and in the Drew University MFA Program.

Wed, Feb 25: Peabody Library, Route 113, Post Mills. Reception and book signing by the authors of the literary magazine, Bloodroot. Bloodroot Literary Magazine is a nonprofit publication released each December. Their mission is to provide a journal of high production values and quality material by established and emerging authors. The 2009 issue of Bloodroot features cover art by Christy Hale and poems, short stories and creative nonfiction by 28 outstanding authors, many of them familiar names here in Vermont – Regina Brault, Carol Milkuhn and Nancy Means Wright. The book is scheduled to be out and about in mid-December 2008.

Thu, Mar 5:
Middlebury College, Abernathy Room, Axinn Center, 4:30-6:30. Richard Chess was born in Los Angeles. He spent most of his childhood and youth in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. He is the author of three books of poetry, Third Temple (2007), Chair in the Desert (2000), and Tekiah (1994). His poems have appeared in many journals as well as several anthologies, including Best American Spiritual Writing 2005 and Telling and Remembering: A Century of American- Jewish Poetry. An award-winning and much-sought after teacher, he is professor of literature and language at the University of North Carolina at Asheville. He directs UNCA’s Center for Jewish Studies as well as UNCA’s Creative Writing Program. He has been a member of the low-residency MFA faculties at Warren Wilson College and Queens College. He served for a number of years as writer-in-residence at the Brandeis Bardin Institute in Simi Valley, California. He is now assistant director of The Jewish Arts Institue at Elat Chayyim, located at the Isabella Freedman Retreat Center, where he will be teaching creative writing in a two-year training institute that begins in August of 2007. He is poetry editor of Zeek: A Jewish Journal of Thought and Culture. He lives in Asheville with his wife, Laurie, and son, Gabe. His two step-daughters, Alice and Margaret, are currently pursuing their careers elsewhere. For more info, 443-5276.

Sun, Mar 8: Warming hut log cabin at the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park, 54 Elm Street, Woodstock, 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Winter Readings in the National Park. Join a park ranger in sharing short stories and poetry about winter at the ski shelter warming cabin. Bring your own stories and poetry to share or just listen to others readings while enjoying the warmth of the cabin’s woodstove. Hot chocolate will be provided. Cost: $5.00 trail pass from the Woodstock Inn & Resort Nordic Center. For info, Tim Maguire at 457-3368 X22 or Tim_maguire@nps.gov.

Sun, Mar 9: Plymouth State University, Smith Recital Hall, Johnson, NH, 7:00 p.m. Poet C.D. Wright. 2008 – 2009 Eagle Pond Author’s Series. A compelling and idiosyncratic poet, C.D. Wright has twelve collections including Rising, Falling, Hovering (2008), a weaving of deeply personal and politically ferocious poems; Deepstep Come Shining and Cooling Time. Her collaboration with photographer Deborah Luster, One Big Self: Prisoners of Louisiana was awarded the Dorothea Lange-Paul Tayor Prize. Her new and selected poems Steal Away was on the shortlist for the Griffin Trust Award. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and is the Israel J. Kapstein Professor at Brown University. Free. (603) 535-5000 to reserve spaces.

Thu, Apr 2:
Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, exact time not yet determined. Poet Rosanna Warren to read. Rosanna Warren was born in Connecticut in 1953. She was educated at Yale (BA 1976) and Johns Hopkins (MA 1980). She is the author of one chapbook of poems (Snow Day, Palaemon Press, 1981), and three collections of poems: Each Leaf Shines Separate (Norton, 1984), Stained Glass (Norton, 1993, Lamont Poetry Award from the Academy of American Poets), and Departure (Norton, 2003). She edited and contributed to The Art of Translation: Voices from the Field (Northeastern, 1989), and has edited three chapbooks of poetry by prisoners. She has won fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, ACLS, The Ingram Merrill Foundation, and the Lila Wallace Readers’ Digest Fund, among others. She has won the Witter Bynner Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Lavan Younger Poets’ Prize from the Academy of American Poets, and the Award of Merit in Poetry from The American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2004. She is Emma MacLachlan Metcalf Professor of the Humanities at Boston University.

Sun, Apr 5: Plymouth State University, Smith Recital Hall, Johnson, NH, 7:00 p.m. Poet Wesley McNair. 2008 – 2009 Eagle Pond Author’s Series. Wesley McNair is the recipient of fellowships from the Rockefeller, Fulbright, and Guggenheim Foundations and a United States Artists Fellowship to “America’s finest living artists.” Other honors include the Robert Frost Prize; the Jane Kenyon Award for Outstanding Book of Poetry (for Fire); the Theodore Roethke prize from Poetry Northwest; the Pushcart Prize and the Sarah Josepha Hale Medal. McNair is currently Professor Emeritus and Writer in Residence at the University of Maine at Farmington. Free. (603) 535-5000 to reserve spaces.

Mon, Apr 20:
Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, exact time not yet determined. Poet Eric Pankey to read. Eric Pankey is the author of six books of poetry: Reliquaries, Cenotaph, The Late Romances, Apocrypha, Heartwood and For the New Year. Among his awards are a Guggenheim Fellowship, a NEA Fellowship, the Academy of American Poets’ Walt Whitman Award, and an Ingram Merrill Grant. His work has appeared in many journals, including Partisan Review, The New Yorker, Triquarterly, DoubleTake and The New England Review. He teaches at George Mason University and lives in Fairfax, Virginia.

Thu, Apr 23: Middlebury College, Robert A. Jones ’59 Conference Room, 4:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. A talk by Adina Hoffman, on her new book, My Happiness Bears no Relation to Happiness: Poet Taha Muhammad Ali and the Palestinian Century, (Yale University Press), the first biography of a Palestinian poet, and the first portrayal of Palestinian literature and culture in the 20th Century. Sponsored by the Program in Jewish Studies, Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference, and the Middle East Studies Program. For info, 443-5151, E-mail: schine@middlebury.edu.

Thu, May 14: Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, exact time not yet determined. Poet Michael Harper to read. Michael S. Harper was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1938. He earned a B.A. and M.A. from what is now known as California State University, and an M.F.A. from the University of Iowa. He has taught at Brown since 1970. Harper has published more than 10 books of poetry, most recently Selected Poems (ARC Publications, 2002); Songlines in Michaeltree: New and Collected Poems (2000); Honorable Amendments (1995); and Healing Song for the Inner Ear (1985). A new poetry collection, Use Trouble, is forthcoming in fall 2008 from The University of Illinois Press. His other collections include Images of Kin (1977), which won the Melville-Cane Award from the Poetry Society of America and was nominated for the National Book Award; Nightmare Begins Responsibility (1975); History Is Your Heartbeat (1971), which won the Black Academy of Arts and Letters Award for poetry; and Dear John, Dear Coltrane (1970), which was nominated for the National Book Award. Harper edited the Collected Poems of Sterling A. Brown (1980); he is co-editor with Anthony Walton of The Vintage Book of African American Poetry (2000) and Every Shut Eye Ain’t Asleep: An Anthology of Poetry by African Americans Since 1945 (1994), and with Robert B. Stepto of Chant of Saints: A Gathering of Afro-American Literature, Art, and Scholarship (1979). Harper was the first poet laureate of Rhode Island (1988-1993) and has received many other honors, including a fellowship from the Guggenheim Foundation and a National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Award. Harper is also a Phi Beta Kappa scholar, an American Academy of Arts and Sciences fellow, and the recipient of numerous distinctions, including the Robert Hayden Poetry Award from the United Negro College Fund, the Melville-Cane Award, the Claiborne Pell Award for Excellence in the Arts, and the Black Academy of Arts and Letters Award.

Mon, Jun 1: Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, exact time not yet determined. Poet Eamon Grennan to read. Eamon Grennan was born in Dublin in 1941 and educated at UCD, where he studied English and Italian, and Harvard, where he received his PhD in English. His volumes of poetry include What Light There Is & Other Poems, (North Point Press, 1989), Wildly for Days (1983), What Light There Is (1987), As If It Matters (1991), So It Goes (1995), Selected and New Poems (2000) and Still Life with Waterfall (2001). His latest collection, The Quick of It, appeared in 2004 in Ireland, and in Spring 2005 in America. His books of poetry are published in the United States by Graywolf Press, and in Ireland by Gallery Press. Other publications include Leopardi: Selected Poems (Princeton 1997), and Facing the Music: Irish Poetry in the 20th Century, a collection of essays on modern Irish poetry. His poems, reviews, and essays have appeared in many magazines both in Ireland and the US. Grennan has given lectures and workshops in colleges and universities in the US, including courses for the graduate programs in Columbia and NYU. During 2002 he was the Heimbold Professor of Irish Studies at Villanova University. His grants and prizes in the United States include awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Guggenheim Foundation. Leopardi: Selected Poems received the 1997 PEN Award for Poetry in Translation, and Still Life with Waterfall was the recipient of the 2003 Lenore Marshall Award for Poetry from the American Academy of Poets. His poems have been awarded a number of Pushcart prizes. Grennan has taught since 1974 at Vassar College where he is the Dexter M. Ferry Jr. Professor of English.

Thu, Jul 9: Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, exact time not yet determined. Poet Michael Ryan to read. Michael Ryan has published three collections of poetry, including In Winter, Threats Instead of Trees, has been a finalist for the National Book Award, and God Hunger, as well as A Difficult Grace: On Poets, Poetry, and Writing, and the memoir Secret Life. His work has appeared in Antaeus, The Atlantic Monthly, The New Yorker, New Republic, and elsewhere. Ryan has been honored by the Lenore Marshall Prize, a Whiting Writers Award, the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award, and a Guggenheim. Ryan is Professor of English and Creative Writing at UC, Irvine.

Mon, Jul 27: Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, exact time not yet determined. Poet Doreen Gilroy to read. Doreen Gilroy’s first book, The Little Field of Self (The University of Chicago Press, 2002), won the John C. Zacharis First Book Award from Ploughshares. Her second book, Human Love, was published by the University of Chicago Press in October 2005. Her poems have appeared in The American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, Slate, TriQuarterly and many other magazines.

Mon, Aug 17:
Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, exact time not yet determined. Poet Cole Swensen to read. Cole Swensen is the Director of the Creative Writing Program at the University of Denver. She is the author of five collections of poems, including Try (University of Iowa Press, 1999), winner of the 1998 Poetry Prize; Noon (Sun and Moon Press, 1997), which won a New American Writing Award; and Numen (Burning Deck Press, 1995) which was nominated for the PEN West Award in Poetry. Her translations include Art Poetic’ by Olivier Cadiot (Sun & Moon Press, Green Integer Series, 1999) and Natural Gaits by Pierre Alferi (Sun & Moon, 1995). She splits her time among Denver, San Francisco and Paris.

Thu, Sep 3:
Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, exact time not yet determined. Poet Marge Piercy to read. Marge Piercy has published 17 books of poetry, including What Are Big Girls Made Of, Colors Passing Through Us, and most recently her 17th volume, The Crooked Inheiritance, all from Knopf. She has written 17 novels, most recently SEX WARS in Perennial paperback now. Her memoir Sleeping With Cats is also in Harper Collins Perennial. Last spring, Schocken published Pesach for the Rest of Us. Her work has been translated into 16 languages. Her CD Louder We Can’t Hear You Yet contains her political and feminist poems. She has been an editor of Leapfrog Press for the last ten years and also poetry editor of Lilith.

Thu, Oct 1: Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, exact time not yet determined. Poet Pattiann Rogers to read. Pattiann Rogers has published ten books of poetry, a book-length essay, The Dream of the Marsh Wren, and A Covenant of Seasons, poems and monotypes, in collaboration with the artist Joellyn Duesberry. Her 11th book of poetry, Wayfare, will appear from Penguin in April, 2008. Rogers is the recipient of two NEA Grants, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a 2005 Literary Award in Poetry from the Lannan Foundation, and five Pushcart Prizes. In the spring of 2000 she was in residence at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Study and Conference Center in Bellagio, Italy. Her papers are archived in the Sowell Family Collection of Literature, Community and the Natural World at Texas Tech University. She has taught as a visiting professor at various universities, including the Universities of Texas, Arkansas, and Montana, Houston University, and Washingon University. She is currently on the faculty of Pacific University’s MFA in Writing Program. Rogers has two sons and three grandsons and lives with her husband in Colorado.

Tue, Oct 20: Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, exact time not yet determined. Poet Major Jackson to read. “Jackson knows the truth of black magic. It is a magic as simple as the belief in humanity that subverts racism, or the esoteric and mystical magic of making jazz, the music of hope and love.” —Aafa Weaver. Major Jackson is the author of two collections of poetry, Hoops (Norton: 2006), a finalist for an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literature-Poetry. and Leaving Saturn (University of Georgia: 2002), winner of the 2000 Cave Canem Poetry Prize and finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award. Poems by Major Jackson have appeared in the American Poetry Review, Boulevard, Callaloo, Post Road, Triquarterly, The New Yorker, among other literary journals and anthologies. He is a recipient of a Whiting Writers’ Award and has been honored by the Pew Fellowship in the Arts and the Witter Bynner Foundation in conjunction with the Library of Congress. He has received critical attention in The Boston Globe, Christian Science Monitor, Parnassus, Philadelphia Inquirer, and on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered. Jackson is an Associate Professor of English at University of Vermont and a faculty member of the Bennington Writing Seminars. In 2006-2007, he was a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University.

Tue, Nov 17: Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, exact time not yet determined. Poet Sebastian Matthews to read. Sebastian Matthews is the author of the poetry collection We Generous (Red Hen Press) and a memoir, In My Father’s Footsteps (W. W. Norton). He co-edited, with Stanley Plumly, Search Party: Collected Poem s of William Matthews. Matthews teaches at Warren Wilson College and serves on the faculty at Queens College Low-Residency MFA in Creative Writing. His poetry and prose has appeared in Atlantic Monthly, Georgia Review, New England, Review, Poetry Daily, Poets & Writers, Seneca Review, The Sun, Tin House, Virginia Quarterly Review and The Writer’s Almanac, among others. Matthews co-edits Rivendell, a place-based literary journal, and serves as poetry consultant for Ecotone: Re-Imagining Place.

2010:

Mon, Feb 22: Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, exact time not yet determined. Poet David Shapiro to read. David Shapiro (born January 2, 1947) is an American poet, literary critic, and art historian and . Shapiro has written some twenty volumes of poetry, literary, and art criticism. He was first published at the age of thirteen, and his first book was published at the age of eighteen. Shapiro has taught at Columbia, Bard College, Cooper Union, Princeton University, and William Paterson University. He wrote the first monograph on John Ashbery, the first book on Jim Dine’s paintings, the first book on Piet Mondrian’s flower studies, and the first book on Jasper Johns’ drawings. He has translated Rafael Alberti’s poems on Pablo Picasso, and the writings of the Sonia and Robert Delaunay. Shapiro has won National Endowment for the HumanitiesNational Endowment for the Arts fellowships, been nominated for a National Book Award, and been the recipient of numerous grants for his work. Shapiro lives in Riverdale, The Bronx, New York City, with his wife and son.

Again, if you become aware of an event that isn’t posted above, please let me know. My apologies if I have left off anything of importance to any of you, but it can always be corrected in the next Vermont Poetry Newsletter.

That’s about it for now. Again, keep your eyes peeled for poetry events. I hope this email finds you all with good health and sharp pencils.

Your fellow Poet,

Ron Lewis

February 2009 Issue of Lynx

I just received an E-mail that the February on-line issue of Lynx is available.

The intro to the E-Zine states the following:

Lynx was started as APA-Renga by Tundra Wind (Jim Wilson) of Monte Rio, California, in 1985. Tundra was active in Amateur Publishing Associations (APAs) – groups of writers who shared their work by sending copies of their writings to a central location which were then collated and sent on to the other subscribers.

The editors are Jane and Werner Reichhold. I’ve reviewed Jane’s book, Basho, and an interview with Jane Reichhold can be found in the Vermont Poetry Newsletter of January 8th, 2009 (the Newsletter and interview are not mine).

I’ve been reading some of the poetry on the E-Zine. I’ve always been attracted to the intensely imagistic quality of haiku – no time for discourse, confession, rhetoric. The poem lives or dies on the depth, insight and vividness of a single observation. *This* is poetry and it is an attribute that many of our modern poets, with poems chalk full of pedestrian imagery,  have either abandoned, overlooked, or are incapable of. A sample from the E-Zine:

ILUKO HAIKU
Alegria Imperial

batbato inta
kapanagan
sabsabong ti sardam

stones
on the riverbank
dawn flowers

daluyon iti
tengga’t aldaw
ararasaas mo

billows
at high tide
your whispers

bulan nga
agpadaya
magpakada kadi?

setting moon
in the east
did you say goodbye?

inururot
nga Pagay
tedted ti lulua

pulled strands
of rice grain
tear drops

dagiti bulbulong
nga agtataray
lenned diay laud

rustle
of leaves
sun set

divider1

[I have posted this information from the notice.]

BOOK REVIEWS

White Petals by Harue Aoki. Shichigatsudo Ltd. Tokyo, Japan. ISBN: 978-4-87944-120-1. Perfect bound with glassine dust jacket, 5 x 7.25 inches, Introduction by Sanford Goldstein, 130 pages, ¥1500.    The Unworn Necklace by Roberta Beary, edited by John Barlow. Snapshot Press, P.O Box 123, Waterloo, Liverpool, United Kingdom L22 8WZ: 2007. Trade perfect bound with color cover, 5.5 x 8.5 inches, 80 pages one haiku per page. US$14; UK£7.99.

Seeing It Now: haiku & tanka by Marjorie Buettner. Red Dragonfly Press, press-in-residence at the Anderson Center, P.O. Box 406, Red Wing, MN 55066. Cover illustration by Jauneth Skinner. Introduction by H.F. Noyes. Perfect bound, 5.5 x 8.5, 44 pages, $15. ISBN:978-1-890193-85-0.

Songs Dedicated to my Mother Julia Conforti by Gerard J. Conforti AHA Online Books, 2008.

Kindle of Green by Cherie Hunter Day and David Rice. Letterpress on emerald Stardream cover and hand-sewn binding by Swamp Press. Illustrations by Cherie Hunter Day. ISBN: 978-0-934714-36-5, 48 pages, 5.5 x 8 inches, $13 ppd. USA and Canada. $15 for international orders. Write to Cherie Hunter Day, P.O. Box 910562, San Diego, CA 92191.

Because of a Seagull by Gilles Fabre. The Fishing Cat Press. Perfect bound, 8.5 x 5.5, unnumbered pages, two haiku per page. Includes a CD with a French translation of the poems. 2005. ISBN:0-9551071-0-5.

Gatherings: A Haiku Anthology edited by Stanford M. Forrester. Bottle Rockets Book #13. Published by Bottle Rockets Press, P.O. Box 189Windsor, Connecticut, 06095. Flat spine, color cover, 5 x 6.5 inches, 78 pages, ISBN:978-0-9792257-2-7, $14.

Opening the Pods by Silva Ley. Translation from the Dutch Ontbolstering by Silva Ley. AHA Online Book, 2008.

In the Company of Crows: Haiku and Tanka Between the Tides by Carole MacRury. Edited by Cathy Drinkwater Better. Black Cat Press, Eldersburg, Maryland: 2008. Perfect bound, 140 pages, sumi-e by Ion Codrescu, author and artist notes, $18.

The Japanese Universe for the 21st Century: Japanese / English Japanese Haiku 2008, edited and published by the Modern Haiku Association (Gendai Haiku Kyokai) Tokyo, Japan. Perfect bound, dust jacket, 220 pages, indexed, bilingual with kanji and romaji for each poem. Translation of haiku by David Burleigh and prose by Richard Wilson ISBN:978-4-8161-0712-2, $25.

Haiga 1998   2008 Japan Collection by Emile Molhuysen. Binder bound, 8 x 12, unnumbered pages, with a CD included. E-mail for price and shipping.Website.

Haiku, Haibun, Haiga   De la un poem la altul by Valentin Nicolitov. Societatea Scritorilor Militari, Bucuresti: 2008. Translated from Romanian into English and French. Flat-spine, 5.5 x 8 inches, 142 pages. ISBN:978-973-8941-34-2.

Floating Here and There written and translated by Ikuyo Okamoto. Kadokawa Shoten. ISBN:978-4-04-52039-5, US$15. Perfect bound, 4 x 7, 130 pages, bilingual with poems in kanji and English.

So the Elders Say Tanka Sequence by Carol Purington and Larry Kimmel. Folded 8 x 11 inches single sheet with color photos. Winfred Press, 2008

The Irresistible Hudson: A Haiku Tribute Based on Yiddish Poetry by Martin Wasserman. Honors Press, Adirondack Community College, State University of New York, 640 Bay Road, Queensbury, New York, 12804. Flat-spine, 28 pages, 5.5 x 8 inches. No Price, no web access given.

The Tanka Prose Anthology, edited by Jeffrey Woodward. Modern English Tanka Press, PO Box 43717, Baltimore, MD 21236 USA. Perfect bound, 6 x 9, 175 pages, biographies of contributors, bibliography, $12.95. Available through Lulu.com

Tanka written and translated by Geert Verbeke. Cover photo by Jenny Ovaere taken in Nagarkot Nepal. Printed by Cybernit.net, in Govindpur Colony, Allahabad, India. 2008. Perfect bound with color cover, 5.25 x 8.5 inches, 48 pages, with two poems per page in Dutch and English. Contact Geert Verbeke for purchase information. He often will do a simple trade; send him your book and he will send you his.


NOTES OF OTHER BOOKS AND REVIEWS

Curtis Dunlap has written a book review of Basho The Complete Haiku that you can find at: http://tobaccoroadpoet.blogspot.com/2009/01/basho-complete-haiku-book-review .html

Modern Haiga is an annual journal both print and digital dedicated to publishing and promoting fine modern graphic poetry, especially but not limited to, haiku, senryu, tanka, cinquain, cinqku, crystallines, cherita, and sijo. Many writers and artists around the world have generously shared their work in Modern Haiga.

Jack Fruit Moon, haiku and tanka by Robert D. Wilson, Published by Modern English Tanka Press. Available from Lulu.com, from major booksellers, and from the publisher. Complete information and a mail or email order form are available online. Trade paperback price: $16.95 USD. ISBN 978-0-9817691-4-1. 204 pages, 6.00″ x 9.00″, perfect binding, 60# cream interior paper, black and white interior ink, 100# exterior paper, full-color exterior ink.

LETTERS from

Curtis Dunlap, Christopher Herold, Salvatore Buttaci, Mike Montreuil, Renee Owen, Sheri Files, Linda Papanicolaou, . Rabbi Neil Fleischmann, Robin Bownes, Allison Millcock, Dick Pettit, Patrick M. Pilarski

CONTESTS AND CONTEST RESULTS

ukiaHaiku festival, Kikakuza Haibun Contest – English Section, Pinewood Haiku Contest

ADVERTISEMENTS OF MAGAZINES, BOOKS, AND WEBSITES

White Lotus   A Journal of Short Asian Verse & Haiga, Wollumbin Haiku Workshop, Rusty Tea Kettle, Proposing to the Woman in the Rear View Mirror by James Tipton,  The Heron’s Nest, The Twelve Days Of Christmas by Gillina Cox, Allison Millcock’s blog @ http://millcock. blogspot.com/ ,Curtis Dunlap’s blog, Modern Haibun & Tanka Prose, bottle rockets press, MET 10, Winter 2008, has been published in print and digital editions. Call for Submissions Modern English Tanka. Issue Vol. 3, No. 3. Spring 2009,  Pat Lichen’s new website, Gene Doty’s The Ghazal Page. Ghazal blog.Marlene Mountain,  December of CHO issue, website of Isidro Iturat, Sketchbook, Simply Haiku, John Barlow Editor, Snapshot Press, The new issue of Shamrock Haiku Journal.

ARTICLES

A TALE OF A FESTIVAL by Kate Marianchild; THE FIRST ENGLISH-LANGUAGE HAIKU ANTHOLOGY AN INTERVIEW WITH MARGOT BOLLOCK by Jane Reichhold & Margot Bollock; THE REVOLUTION IS SETTING THE CHILDREN OUT ON THE RAPIDS WHERE THEY KEEP FLOATING ALONG by Werner Reichhold

The Annotated “To be or not to be”

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150px-shakespeareAs far as this soliloquy goes, there’s a surplus of good online analysis. And if you’re a student or a reader then you probably have a book that already provides first-rate annotation. The only annotation I haven’t found (which is probably deemed unnecessary by most) is an analysis of the blank verse – a scansion – along with a look at its rhetorical structure. So, the post mostly reflects my own interests and observations – and isn’t meant to be a comprehensive analysis. If any of the symbols or terminology are unfamiliar to you check out my posts on the basics of Iambic Pentameter & scansion. Without further ado, here it is. (I’ve numbered the lines for the convenience of referencing.)

text-with-scansion-merged-cropped1

1.) The first line, in a single line, sums up the entirety of the soliloquy – as though Shakespeare were providing crib notes to his own soliloquy. There’s a reason. He wants to cleanly and clearly establish in the playgoers mind the subject of the speech. There will be no working out or self-discovery. Shakespeare is effectively communicating to us some of the reason for Hamlet’s hesitancy.  The speech, in effect, is the reverse of the Shakespearean Sonnet that saves its epigrammatic summing up for the last line. The Shakespearean Sonnet, as Shakespeare writes it, is the working out of a proposition or conflict that finds a kind of solution in the epigrammatic couplet at its close.

Metrically, the first line is possibly one of the most interesting and potentially ambiguous in the entire speech. I chose to scan the line as follows:

  • To be |or not |to be: |that is |the question
  • first-line-iambic

But if you google around, you may find the line more frequently scanned as follows:

  • To be |or not |to be: |that is|the question
  • first-line-trochaic

First to the disclaimer: There is no one way to scan a line but, as with performing music, there are historically informed ways to scan a poem. Shakespeare was writing within a tradition, was a genius, and knew perfectly well when he was or wasn’t varying from the Iambic Pentameter pattern of blank verse. To assume less is to assume that he was mindlessly writing a verse he either didn’t or couldn’t comprehend.

An actor has some latitude in how he or she wants to perform a line, but choosing to ignore the meter is akin to ignoring slurs or other markings composers provide in musical scores. Putting the emphasis on that subtly alters the meaning of the line. It sounds as though Hamlet were looking for the question, the conundrum, and once he has found it he says: Ah ha! That is the question. And this is how most modern readers read the line.

By putting the emphasis on is, in keeping with the Iambic Meter, the meaning of the line takes on a more subtle hue – as if Hamlet knew the question all along. He says: That is the question, isn’t it. The one question, the only question, ultimately, that everyone must answer. There’s a feeling of resignation and, perhaps, self-conscious humor in this metrical reading.

That said, William Baer, in his book Writing Metrical Poetry, typifies arguments in favor of emphasizing writing-metrical-poetrythat. He writes: “After the heavy caesura of the colon, Shakespeare alters the dominant meter of his line by emphasizing the word that over the subsequent word is. ” (Page 14)

How does Baer know Shakespeare’s intentions? How does he know that Shakespeare, in this one instance, means to subvert the iambic meter? He doesn’t tell us.  All he says is that “most readers will substitute a trochee after the first three iambs” – which hardly justifies the reading. Baer’s argument seems to be: Most modern readers will read the foot as a trochee, therefore Shakespeare must have written it as a trochee.

The word anachronistic comes to mind.

If one wants to emphasize that for interpretive reasons, who am I to quarrel? But the closest we have to Shakespeare’s opinion is what he wrote and the meter he wrote in. And that meter tells us that is receives the emphasis, not that.

Note: Baer later mis-attributes the witch’s chant in Macbeth (Page 25) as being by Shakespeare- an addition which most Shakespearean scholars recognize as being by Middleton. Not a big deal, but this stuff interests me.

Anyway, I prefer an iambic reading knowing that not everyone will.

The line closes with a feminine ending in the fifth foot. For this reason, the line  isn’t an Iambic Pentameter line but a variant within the larger Iambic Pentameter pattern. Compare the blank verse of Shakespeare to that of many modern Formalist poets. Shakespeare is frequently far more flexible but, importantly, flexes the pattern without disrupting it. Finding a balance between a  too-strict adherence to a metrical line and too-liberal variation from it is, among modern poets, devoutly to be wished for. But modern poets are hardly unique in this respect, compare this to Middleton’s blank verse (a contemporary who collaborated with Shakespeare.) Middleton stretches blank verse to such a degree that the overall pattern begins to dissolve. He is too liberal with his variants.

2-3.) Both lines close with a feminine ending. They elaborate on the first part of the question- To be. The elegance & genius of Shakespeare’s thought and method of working out ideas is beautifully demonstrated in this speech. The speech as a whole stands as a lovely example of Prolepsis or Propositio – when a speaker or writer makes a general statement, then particularizes it. Interestingly, I was going to provide a link for a definition of Prolepsis but every online source I’ve found (including Wikipedia and Brittanica!) fails to get it completely right. (So much for on-line research.)

OK. Digression. (And this will only appeal to linguists like me.) Here’s a typical definition of Prolepsis as found online:

  • A figure of speech in which a future event is referred to in anticipation.

This isn’t wrong, but it’s not the whole story. Whipping out my trusty Handbook to Sixteenth Century Rhetoric, we find the following:

  • Propositio
  • also known as prolepsis (not to be confused with praesumptio)
  • Susenbrotus ( 28 )
    Scheme. A general statement which preceedes the division of this general proposition into parts.

Praesumptio is the other meaning of Prolepsis, which is what you will find on-line. So, I guess you heard it here, and online, first. Prolepsis has two meanings.

Anyway, Shakespeare takes the general To be, and particularizes it, writing : Is it nobler “to be”, and to suffer the “slings and arrows” of life? The method of argumentation, known as a Topic of Invention, was drilled into Elizabethan school children from day one. All educated men in Shakespeare’s day were also highly trained rhetoricians – even if the vast majority forgot most of it. Shakespeare’s method of writing and thought didn’t come out of the blue. His habit of thought represents the education he and all his fellows received at grammar school.

4-5.) These two lines also close with feminine endings. Shakespeare, unlike earlier Renaissance dramatists, isn’t troubled by four such variants in a row. They elaborate on the second part of the of the question – not to be. Or is it better, Hamlet asks, to take arms and by opposing our troubles, end both them and ourselves? Is it better not to be?

6-9.) Up to this point, there has been a perfect symmetry in Shakespeare’s Prolepsis. He has particularized both to be and not to be. Now, his disquisition takes another turn. Shakespeare particularizes not to be (death) as being possibly both a dreamless sleep (lines 6 through 9) or a dream-filled sleep (lines 10 through 12). So, if I were to make a flowchart, it would look like this:

to-be-tree-updated

In line 7, natural should be elided to read  nat‘ral, otherwise the fifth foot will be an anapest. While some metrists insist that Shakespeare wrote numerous anapests, I don’t buy their arguments. Anapests were generally frowned on. Secondly, such metrists need to explain why anapests, such as those above, are nearly always “loose iambs”, as Frost called them – meaning that elipsis, synaloepha or syncope could easily make the given foot Iambic. Hard-core, incontestable anapests are actually very difficulty to find in Shakespeare’s verse. They are mitigated by elision, syncope or midline pauses (epic caesuras).

10-13.) Shakespeare now particularizes “not to be” (or death) as, perhaps, a dream filled state. This is the counterpart to lines 6-9 in this, so far, exquisitely balanced disquisition. For in that sleep of death what dreams may come – he asks.

14-27.) At this point, Shakespeare could have enumerated some of the fearful dreams attending death – a Dante-esque descent into fearful presentiments. But Shakespeare was ever the pragmatist – his feet firmly planted in the realities of life. He took a different tact. He offers us the penury, suffering and the daily indignities of life. We suffer them, despite their agonies, fearing worse from death. We bear the whips and scorns of time (aging and its indignities), the wrongs of oppressors (life under tyranny), the law’s delay, the spurns of office. Who, he asks, would suffer these indignities when he could end it all with an unsheathed dagger (a bare bodkin) to his heart or throat? – if it weren’t for the fear of what might greet them upon death? Those dreams must be horrible! And he leaves it to us to imagine them – our own private hells – rather than describe that hell himself – Shakespeare’s genius at work.

Line 15 presents us with a rhetorical figure Hendiadys. Interestingly, it’s in Hamlet that Shakespeare uses this figure the most:

  • For who would bear the whips and scorns of time?

The figure denotes the use of two nouns for a noun and its modifier. It’s a powerfully poetic technique in the right hands, and one that is almost unique to Shakespeare. Few poets were ever, afterward, as rhetorically inventive, adventurous or thorough in their understanding and use of rhetoric. It’s part and parcel of why we consider Shakespeare, not just a dramatic genius, but a poetic genius. He unified the arts of language into an expressive poetry that has never been equaled.

Line 16 presents us with some metrical niceties. I’ve chosen to use synaloepha to read The oppres|sor’s wrong as (Th’op)pres|sor’s wrong. I’m not wedded to that reading. One might also consider it a double onset or anacrusis (as some prefer to call it) – two unstressed syllables followed by a stressed syllable in the first foot. Interestingly, metrists have historically preferred to consider this anapest a special variant and so don’t refer to it as an anapest. As a practical matter (considering how the line is likely to be spoken by an actor) I suspect that the first foot will sound more like an Iamb or a loose Iamb – which is why I scanned it the way I did. Line 16 closes with the word contumely. I think that nearly all modern readers would read this as con-tume-ly. A glance at Webster’s, however, reveals that the word can also be pronounced con-tume-ly. The difference probably reflects changes in pronunciation over time. In this case, it’s the meter that reveals this to us. An incontestable trochee in the final foot is extremely rare in Shakespeare, as with all poets  during that time. If you’re ever tempted to read a final foot as trochaic, go look up the word in a good dictionary.

In line 22 the under, in the third foot (under |a wear|y life), is nicely underscored by being a trochaic variant.

In line 25 the fourth foot echoes line 22 with the trochaic puzzles. This is a nice touch and makes me wonder if the reversal of the iambic foot with under and puzzles wasn’t deliberate – effectively puzzling the meter or, in the former, echoing the toil of a “weary life” and the “reversal” of expectations. But it’s also possible to read too much into these variants.

By my count, there are only 6 Iambic Pentameter lines out 13 or so lines (lines 14-27). The rest of the lines are disrupted by variant feet. That means that less than 50% of Shakespeare’s lines, out of this tiny sampling, are Iambic Pentameter. The Blank Verse of Shakespeare (an ostensibly Iambic Pentameter verse form) is far more flexible and varied than one might, at first, expect.

28-33.) These lines mark the true close of the soliloquy. “The native hue of resolution/Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought.” Fear of the dreams that may inhabit death makes cowards of us all. Some modern readers might be tempted to read line 28 as follows:

  • Thus con|science does |make co|wards of |us all

But the Iambic Pentameter pattern encourages us (when we can) to read feet as Iambic. In this case it makes more sense to emphasize does rather than make.

  • Thus con|science does |make co|wards of |us all

One thing worth noticing, and it’s my very favorite poetic technique and one that has been all but forgotten by modern poets, is anthimeria – the substitution of one part of speech for another.

arts-of-language-color-correctedThe native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought

Sickly is an adverb that Shakespeare uses as a verb. In Sister Miriam Jospeh’s book, Shakespeare’s Use of the Arts of Language, she writes: “More than any other figure of grammar, it gives vitality and power to Shakespeare’s language, through its packed meaning, liveliness and stir. ” She herself goes on to quote another writer, Alfred Hart:

Most Elizabethan and Jacobean authors use nouns freely as verbs, but they are not very venturesome…. The last plays of Shakespeare teem with daringly brilliant metaphors due solely to this use of nouns and adjectives as verbs…. they add vigor, vividness and imagination to the verse… almost every play affords examples of such happy valiancy of phrase.

Finally, notice the imagistic and syntactic parallelism in “the native hue of resolution” and “the pale cast of thought”. It’s a nice poetic touch that adds emphasis to Shakespeare’s closing argument – our fears dissuade us from enterprises “of great pith and moment”.

Interestingly, even as Hamlet’s dithering ends, he never truly decides whether “to be or not to be”.

If this has been helpful, let me know.

Vermont Poetry Newsletter: January 16 2009

[This is a newsletter I receive on a regular basis from Ron Lewis. I did not write this. But I am posting it here as a resource for others interested in Vermont happenings.]

Vermont Poetry Newsletter
Your Poetry & Spoken Word Gateway in the Green Mountain State

Newsletter Editor’s Note

  • The Vermont Poetry Newsletter Network is made up of people of all
    backgrounds, ages and skills who appreciate the craft of poetry and
    want to promote it in the beautiful state of Vermont. The network
    consists of a free e-mail list, an eventual web site, workshops, open
    mics, poetry performances and other literary events. The network
    provides opportunities to meet local poets, talk about and enjoy
    poetry, and motivate and inspire yourself in whatever writing
    projects you are involved.

January 16, 2009 – In This Issue:

  1. Writing Assignments/Suggestions/Exercises/Prompts
  2. Inauguration PoemsInauguration Poem Story – Robert Frost
  3. JFK Library Gets Famous Frost Inauguration Poem
  4. April Ossmann’s Poetry Workshops
  5. Poetry Reading at Red Hen Bakery & Café
  6. Carol Muske-Dukes California Poet Laureate
  7. Hayden Carruth Memorial Fund
  8. In Memoriam: Chris White
  9. In Memoriam: W.D. Snodgrass
  10. A Green Mountain Idyll-Poems for Hayden Carruth
  11. Did You Know? Poet Sonia Sanchez was in Middlebury?
  12. Ponderings – Latest Broadway Play “Romantic Poetry”
  13. Poetry Quote (Maxwell Bodenheim)
  14. US Poets Laureate List
  15. Linebreak Poem
  16. Copper Canyon Press Poem
  17. American Life in Poetry Poem
  18. Vermont Poets Past and Present Project
  19. Vermont Poet Laureates
  20. Contact Info for Publisher of VPN: Ron Lewis
  21. Year-Round Poetry Workshops in Vermont
  22. Other Poetry Workshops in Vermont
  23. Year-Round Poetry Writing Centers in Vermont
  24. Poetry Event Calendar

Dear Friends of Poetry:

The Otter Creek Poets will be meeting in the Ilsley Library’s Vermont
Room (upstairs) on Thursday, January 22nd. If you’re interested in
joining the Otter Creek Poets, please see the information on
workshops, found near the tail end of this email.

Speaking of new members, poets Kelly Moss Chitwood and Fay Levitt
have become the newest members of the Otter Creek group. We welcome
them into this wonderful association of writers. New members have to
ask themselves in reading their first poem to the group, “What do you
look for in bringing a poem to a workshop?” or “What part in the poem
do you say to yourself, I’ve said it, or that’s what I was trying to
get out.” Food for thought.

April is National Poetry Month and it is sooner than you think.
David Weinstock of the Otter Creek Poets is now taking suggestions
for guest speakers, guest poets, and other events in celebration of
the art and its month. They have four Thursdays to plan for, April
2, 16, 23 and 30. (April 9 is the first night of Passover.) If you
have any interesting program ideas for us to mull over, please let me
know and I will pass them on to David.

There has already been serious discussion about an Otter Creek Poets
Anthology, which will be it’s 4 such collection. For OCP’s, it’s
time to begin getting your best 3 or 4 poems together for possible
publication. From what I’ve seen during the past year, this should
be an amazing compilation.

For those OCP members thinking about writing a poem about slide
rules, and I’ve heard the subject batted around a bit, there will be
a slide rule lesson in Middlebury at the Ilsley Public Libary on
Sunday, January 25th, at 2:00. Learn how to do complex calculations
with the tool that predates the calculator. Bring your old slide
rule, if you can find it; look next to the lava lamp! Led by John
Wesley; for additional info, 388-4095.

Ron Lewis
VPN Publisher
247-5913

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1.)

THIS WEEK’S
WRITING ASSIGNMENT/SUGGESTION/EXERCISE:


WRITE ABOUT MONEY

  • The best way to find an original poem is to take up a new subject, one that formerly has been considered unsuitable for poetry. In the 1950s, the personal lives of American men became possible to write about. In the 1960s and 70s, the lives of women joined the list of topics. Which topics are still out of bounds? I suggest that for nextweek, you write a poem about money, in any of its roles and disguises.


LAST WEEK’S
WRITING ASSIGNMENT/SUGGESTION/EXERCISE:

  • Poet Elizabeth Alexander has been chosen to read a poem at Barack Obama’s presidential inauguration. She’s a good sport for taking the gig, because no matter how good she is, other poets will make fun of her until the end of time. Not to mention all the things that might go wrong. Remember how Robert Frost forgot his reading glasses and could not read the poem he had composed for JFK’s inauguration in 1961? Of course, inauguration organizers have a backup plan. It’s YOU..

Assignment:

  • If Ms. Alexander cannot read her inauguration poem for whatever reason, you have been selected as her understudy. Please write a poem to suit (or disrupt) the occasion and bring it on Jan. 15. Limit: 100 lines.

Good luck!

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In thinking about the inauguration poem you’ll be hearing on the
20th, or if you’re trying to do last week’s Otter Creek Poets
assignment, you might be interested in these 9 inauguration poems by
9 prominent poets, and how they handled it.

Odes to Obama: A poem or 2 for the new president

Associated Press

WASHINGTON – Poets don’t typically write to order. You can’t just call them up and ask them for a poem. Not even for an inauguration. But The Associated Press did ask. And they did write.The inauguration of a new president just seems to be a fitting time for poetry, and so 10 American poets accepted the AP’s invitation to come up with a little something to mark Barack Obama’s ascension to the presidency.

The poems came from an eclectic assortment of American wordsmiths, ranging from a former poet laureate and a Pulitzer Prize winner to a self-described “cowboy poet.”

Billy Collins, U.S. poet laureate from 2001 to 2003, submitted “launch,” containing shimmery imagery of a boat set afloat under “the sun’s golden rafters.”

In “Making the News,” Californian Gary Soto wrote about setting a match to the newspaper and letting “the bad years go up in a question mark of smoke.”

Novelist and poet Julia Alvarez, who spent her first 10 years in the Dominican Republic, wrote a rebuttal to the poem that Robert Frost had recited at John F. Kennedy’s inauguration in 1961. Alvarez remembers watching Kennedy’s inauguration and being fascinated with the “old, cranky, white-haired man” who recited “The Gift Outright.” Later, she studied the poem and came to see it as overlooking huge swaths of the U.S. population.

Frost’s poem focused on the American colonists from England and stated that “The land was ours before we were the land’s.” Alvarez countered that “The land was never ours, nor we the land’s: no, not in Selma, with the hose turned on, nor in the valley picking the alien vines. Nor was it ours in Watts, Montgomery – no matter what the frosty poet said.”

Themes of change and hope were everywhere in the poems.

In “The Procession,” Yusef Komunyakaa wrote that “Each question uncurls a little whip in the air. Can we change tomorrow?”

In “The World Has Changed,” Alice Walker, who won the Pulitzer Prize for “The Color Purple,” exhorted readers to “wake up & smell the possibility.”

Almost as poetic as some of the poems that arrived were the comments of poets who either said they’d give it a try, or who wouldn’t think of it.

Nathaniel Mackey explained that writing an inaugural ode would be a challenge because “I tend to write in a rather dark vein.” Nothing came of his pledge to try.

Sandra Cisneros wouldn’t make any promises, writing that “I just go to sleep, and it’s just born or it’s not.” It wasn’t.

Charles Simic, another former poet laureate, said “it’s impossible to say yes or no. … I can’t write to order. … When do you need it by?” His good intentions didn’t bear fruit.

New Yorker Sharon Olds deemed her efforts unworthy. “It’s as I suspected,” she e-mailed. “I’m not able to come up with anything near good enough, tho I used a lot of paper!”

Andrei Codrescu, who was born in Romania and became a U.S. citizen in 1981, wasn’t one even to venture a try. “I voted for Obama, but I grew up under Ceausescu,” Codrescu wrote of the former Romanian dictator. “The idea of writing poems for people in power gives me the creeps.”

There was some modesty among those who did venture to write something.

Soto – winner of too many poetry prizes to list – sent his in with the instructions: “feel free to edit.”

Alvarez sent hers along with the caveat that “it’s in the nature of occasion poems to be somewhat disposable.”

The AP set no ground rules for the poems. But poet David Lehman, editor of the Best American Poetry series, decided his should meet the same guidelines as those established for an inaugural ode contest sponsored by the poetry series that he edits. Writers were required to use at least three of six designated words (integrity, faith, change, hope, power and honor.) Lehman managed to work five into a poem that offered Obama the wish that “May God, in this winter hour, shine on your countenance and teach you to balance the heart’s poetry and the mind’s power.”

Digital poet Christopher Funkhouser bypassed the whole words-on-paper realm to create a swirl of bouncing letters and words that form and re-form on a video screen. He ended up creating three poems, explaining: “I couldn’t manage to do just one!” You can see them at: http://wepress.org/inauguration/

Bob Holman, founder of the Bowery Poetry Club in New York, happened to be in West Africa filming a documentary on oral storytellers when the request for a poem arrived. He drew inspiration from his surroundings to write “Africa goes for Obama!”

Cowboy poet Ted Newman penned a plea to Obama to “be the president our country needs.”

Amiri Baraka, former poet laureate of New Jersey, took a short cut and sent in something he’d written about Obama last February: “Imagine Obama Talking To A Fool.”

One of the poets who didn’t respond to the AP’s invitation was poet Elizabeth Alexander. It turns out she’ll be reciting an original poem at the inauguration.

Apparently, Obama’s invitation took priority over the AP’s.

Poems for the inauguration of Barack Obama

Launch

A boat is sliding into the water today
to test the water and the boat

which glides down a grassy bank
the prow touching the wavelets

then another push
and the length of it up and buoyant

the tapered length of it floating
toward the middle on its own

as we watch from the shore
pointing to the heavy clouds coming in

from every side
but now above us only the sun’s golden rafters

and the boat afloat
out there on the bright surface of the water.

by Billy Collins.

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The land was never ours, nor we the land’s:
no, not in Selma, with the hose turned on,
nor in the valley picking the alien vines.
Nor was it ours in Watts, Montgomery–
no matter what the frosty poet said.
We heard the crack of whips, the mothers’ moans
in anthems like an undertow of grief.
The land was never ours but we believed
a King’s dream might some day become a deed
to what we did not own, though it owed us.
(Who had the luxury to withhold himself?)
No gift outright for us, we earned this land
with sorrows currency: our hands, our backs,
our Rosas, Martins, Jesses our Baracks.
Today we give our land what we withheld:
the right at last to call itself one nation

–By Julia Alvarez.

Copyright (c) 2009 by Julia Alvarez. By permission of Susan Bergholz Literary Services, New York and Lamy, NM. All rights reserved.

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Making the News

It’s not right to burn newsprint,
The stink of ink in the air,
But I have to crumple at least a few pages
And strike a match in the fireplace–
The bad years go up in a question mark of smoke.

Or should I make confetti from the sports section,
Or shape a dunce hat from the business page–
I, the investor in rubber bands
That shot me in the foot.

Or should I cut out coupons–
Two cans of soup for the price of one.
Or, for a laugh, should I spread open the comics
On the kitchen table and string a macaroni necklace,
The playground craft I could master.

I choose smoke and fire,
The sting in my eyes on this January day,
And poke a wreath of newspaper
Until it crackles with a steady fire.

Let’s air out the square and oval rooms.
Let’s wave at a dog frolicking on the lawn.
Let’s hear children and the tap of rain on a tulip.
Let’s welcome the new resident to our house,
His handshake strong from the clasp of so many.

–By Gary Soto.


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The Procession

Yes, the dust of the Great Migration
is in our dreams & on the soles of our feet,
but we can foxtrot into this bandaged season
limping toward us from the fog. Each question
uncurls a little whip in the air. Can we change
tomorrow? Can we love what’s in the deep mirror
& trace fault lines beneath nocturnal streets?
Loneliness & anger always know the road home.
Now the long-lost ones stand at the threshold
& gaze into our eyes. Please don’t turn away,
don’t retreat into caves of artificial light
& borrowed lowly laughter brimming up.
There’s a hard, long road ahead. Nights
&days ahead, one foot in front of the other.

Days ahead, one foot in front of the other
is how we ascend Jacob’s tangled ladder.
Bring your lantern & philosopher’s stone,
your pick & shovel, ball of twine, hook
& sinker, your slide ruler & plumb bob.
There’s some faithful work to be done
on this hill & down in the valley, too.
Bring your running shoes & baseball cap.
I tell you, I’m no one’s Benjamin Banneker,
but I know a cul-de-sac is a whiplash
& slipknot. Sometimes you have to bow
to self-given thorns, or weave around a body
of water. Some things you argue against
or for, & then you go straight through bedrock.

You have to go straight through bedrock
to find hope, I said. You can’t kill the past
to erase a page. Cut out a tongue singing delta,
& still a windy lamentation crests the hilltop.
Burn odes into ash to smear on the forehead,
but still the laconic cricket calls the night
to sing deeds, blasphemies, & allegories
droning beneath the earth’s blueprint.
Yes, even if we parade in secondhand garb
as priestly nobodies, the Daylight Boys,
or other heretical truth-seekers, we know
weeping isn’t a fly in a spider’s web.
If you can’t see hunger on our streets,
at least remember hard songs left behind.

At least remember hard songs left behind
on fields from Concord to the Green Zone.
Our maps go to the edge of a lost frontier,
following every unsolved riddle & tributary,
indigenous souls still in the drizzle & bog
grass, behind hedgerows–beyond imagination.
Now there’s one sky, with holes in the ozone.
Limitless steps across snow recast star charts.
All the old gods gaze at us like deathwatch
beetles, waiting to see what we do with this hour.
Let Walt Whitman put his lips to your ear
as he rocks the dead of north & south in his arms.
Words taproot down to what we are made of,
& these hosannas are ours to surrender to.

These hosannas are ours to surrender to
till laurel & olive branch into our footpath,
an eruption of blooms overtaking our heads.
We’re here to honor those who came before,
who gladly or sadly gave themselves back
to earth. You know their names. We know
who stood & never lost ground. We know
who knelt beside their contraband drums
& depended on hawthorn to guard them.
Sunlight & water draw roots deep as seed
& oath; their sway & pull can bend an oak
over a grand monument. Evermore pours
from a beggar’s tin cup as one thousand
clocks strike inside the stone base.

Clocks strike inside the stone base.
The mainsprings are about to be adjusted
& oiled. For the first time in decades
the blindfold has slipped off her face,
& we are now seeing her true reflection
on the harbor. The shortcuts tell us, no,
the winding road isn’t a second guess,
& one could risk one’s life getting here.
Where I stand in splendor, at this point
of view, surely, it is already Springtime.
How could it not be? The Sunday-go-to-
meeting clothes, the bright hats cocked
at the true angle that slays blue devils.
How could it not be? This is the hour.

How could it not be? This is the hour
beckoning the North Star & drinking gourd,
waist-deep shadows crossing the Ohio River,
& I hear Fredrick Douglass’ voice in a brisk
shiver of dry leaves, saying, “When the dogs
in your streets, when the fowls of the air,
when the cattle on your hills, when the fish
of the sea, & then reptiles that crawl”
The rattle of night pods is the only shaman
at this late hour. Secret markers run
from flatland to river town, pale desert
to mountain, grassland to autumn skyline.
From here I see a lighthouse, love of the planet
bringing a polar bear back to its ice floe.

By Yusef Komunyakaa.

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The World Has Changed

The World Has Changed:
Wake up & smell
The possibility.
The world
Has changed:
It did not
Change
Without
Your prayers
Without
Your faith
Without
Your determination
To
Believe
In liberation

Kindness;
Without
Your
Dancing
Through the years
That
Had
No
Beat.
The world has changed:
It did not
Change
Without
Your
Numbers
Your
Fierce
Love
Of self

Cosmos
It did not
Change
Without
Your
Strength.

The world has
Changed:
Wake up!
Give yourself
The gift
Of a new
Day.

The world has changed:
This does not mean
You were never
Hurt.
The world
Has changed:
Rise!
Yes

Shine!
Resist the siren
Call
Of
Disbelief.
The world has changed:
Don’t let
Yourself
Remain
Asleep
To
It.

By Alice Walker
(Copyright (c) 2008 by Alice Walker.)

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Poem for Obama

We want a hero, an uncommon one,
The common wisdom being that integrity
In an age of irony is as unlikely as fun
On jury duty and equally as vital to the city,

The state, and the nation. Put the likelihood
Of rejection and the inevitability
Of injustice on one side; the ability
Of free people to choose their livelihood

On the other; and though hope is genteel
And faith obsolete, yet breathes there
A man or woman who cannot feel
The charge of the change in the air?

May God, in this winter hour,
Shine on your countenance
And teach you to balance
The heart’s poetry and the mind’s power.

By David Lehman.

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PLEA TO THE PRES

BAILOUTS FOR THE BIG GUYS
BUY BACK THEIR ROTTED FRUIT
FORGET THE CANOPY OF GOLD
IT’S THE PLATINUM PARACHUTE.

NO ONE INDICTS THE AUTHORS
GUYS LIKE FRANK AND DODD
THEY SAY SHOW ME THE MONEY
WE’LL BAIL YOU OUT BY GOD.

THE FRED AND FANNY WATCHDOGS
WITH OUR MONEY PLAY SO LOOSE
THEY BORROW US INTO SERFDOM
AS THEY KILL THE GOLDEN GOOSE.

THEY POSTURE AND PONTIFICATE
AS THEY DIVIDE THE LOOT
THEN REWARD THE BIG CONTRIBUTORS
WITH PLATINUM PARACHUTES.

THE DOUBLESPEAK AND DOUBLETALK
OF LEADERS PSUEDO-BRAVE
MORTAGAGE CHILDREN’S FUTURES
AS THEY TAX US TO THE GRAVE.

THANKS TO CORRUPT LEADERSHIP
AND IGNORANCE TO BOOT
THEY’LL SAVE US THE UNWASHED MASSESS
WITH PURE LEAD PARACHUTES.

SO PLEASE MR. OBAMA
DON’T LET THEM PLAY THEIR GAMES
DON’T LET THE LIES CONTINUE
DON’T LET THEM HIDE THE BLAME.

BE THE PRESIDENT OUR COUNTRY NEEDS
LET’S REALLY REARRANGE
THE POLITICAL HYPOCRACY
KEEP YOUR WORD AND BRING US CHANGE.

By Ted Newman

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Imagine Obama Talking To A Fool

To Lead, is what
We fought We fighting now, We been
At war For equality, equal citizenship
Rights. Are those ours, No, no yet.
Our struggle Self Determination
Is always by the moment, is on us
Always, as our skin is, gleaming
Inside & outside w/ the fulfilled beauty
Of promise, as an eye arrow streaks
Through the darkness toward itself at
Thousands of miles an hour.
We are ourselves always
Full of ourselves. What we know
Is boundless as our everybody
All our hands & muscles, our swiftness
Is itself a thought & not a thought
But a being, a seeing, that, yes,
We want to lead, we are not fools
Or forever weaker than that self that cd
Be him, them, her, they, we can raise this
Stupid filthy place, we can strangle foolishness
Where it lurks and hurl it into hah hahs
Of imbecility. Why wd you taunt a person
With skeletons challenged by
The enlightenment?
So they turn the hood backwards
&now can see nothing
But how their weak breath
Makes the bedsheet soggy.
Yes, we can. Lead! We will anyway.
But we want to lead. Whats wrong
With that? We can!
And with all this mountain pile
Of wrong, backward, dumb,
Dishonest, boring, filthy
Thing you or they have created
This thing that we us I have
Hated, It can not be a surprise
That someone else shd see this world
Through their own eyes. Yes,
I want to lead. You have
Already failed.
We have all heard those songs
Those tales. I want to lead
You have already failed!

By Amiri Baraka
Feb. 10, 2008

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Africa Goes for Obama!

In Bamako, the koras can’t stop singing praises
Of the African king named Barack Obama.
You can talk all you want
in the courtyard
under the mango tree,
But these harps know their stories, revel
In contradiction’s harmony.
A song that consumes history.

Meanwhile, in Timbuktu
The shirt off my back
Spirited off in high-fived exuberance
Barack Obama’s face
Lifted in 2008 Sahara sandstorm

Lifting off from Dakar, Leopold
Senghor – they name their airports
After Poet-Presidents here —
An “I Made it to Timbuktu
And Back!” t-shirt on my back

Back to Union Square, 14th Street,
New York City, flying Middle Passage
Route of Bones Fair Trade Agreement

By Bob Holman

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2.)

And, if you didn’t know the story behind our own Robert Frost, and his own attempt at an inaugural poem, here you are:

FROST DEDICATES JFK OUTRIGHT

For John F Kennedy’s inauguration as President of the United States Robert Frost wrote a new poem entitled, “Dedication”. Like many others he conceived the new president as young Lochinvar, the perfect combination of spirit and flesh, passion and toughness, poetry and reality:

“… The glory of a next Augustan age
Of a power leading from its strength and pride,
Of young amibition eager to be tried,
Firm in our free beliefs without dismay,
In any game the nations want to play.
A golden age of poetry and power
Of which this noonday’s the beginning hour.”

But the poet was old (87) and he couldn’t see the words because of the sun’s glare that bright, cold January day. The poem’s newness to him and his unfamiliarity with and uncertainty about the way it went caused him to stumble uncertainly with his voice and tone and he gave up. Instead he fell back on an old one he knew perfectly, and in the most splendidly commanding of voices, recited it impeccably:

~ The Gift Outright ~

The land was ours before we were the land’s.
She was our land more than a hundred years
Before we were her people. She was ours
In Massachusetts, in Virginia.
But we were England’s, still colonials,
Possessing what we still were unpossessed by,
Possessed by what we now no more possessed.
Something we were withholding made us weak.
Until we found out that it was ourselves
We were withholding from our land of living,
And forthwith found salvation in surrender.
Such as we were we gave ourselves outright
(The deed of gift was many deeds of war)
To the land vaguely realizing westward,
But still unstoried, artless, unenhanced,
Such as she was, such as she would become.
~ Robert Frost; 1874-1963 ~

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3.)

And, here’s a little more history for you – very interesting! What’s in blue is truly unforgettable.

JFK Library Gets Famous Frost Poem
By NANCY RABINOWITZ
The Associated Press
Friday, April 21, 2006; 5:38 PM

BOSTON — The John F. Kennedy Library and Museum has obtained the original version of the poem that Robert Frost prepared for the inauguration of John F. Kennedy, but never read in its entirety because of the glare of the sun.

At Kennedy’s 1961 inauguration, Frost, who was 86 at the time, stood at the podium reading the beginning of “Dedication,” a poem he wrote by hand, then typed for easier reading at the inauguration. But after trying to use a hat borrowed from Vice President Lyndon Johnson to shield the page from bright sun glancing off the snow, Frost recited his poem, “The Gift Outright,” from memory.

Frost had intended to deliver a full reading of “Dedication” before reciting “The Gift Outright.”

The museum received the original handwritten poem this week from the estate of Frederick Holborn, one of President Kennedy’s special assistants, who died last June.

“It is such a remarkable piece of American history and culture. It is just wonderful to have it back home,” said Deborah Leff, the museum’s director.

The poem speaks of the rise of American democracy and its affect on the world. At the bottom of the original version of the poem, Frost wrote, “To John F. Kennedy, At his inauguration to be president of this country. January 20th, 1961. With the Heart of the World,” followed by, “Amended copy, now let’s mend our ways.”
The document is being sent to a conservator because the material used to frame it is causing acid damage, said Brent Carney, a spokesman for the JFK Library and Museum. After it is returned to the museum, officials plan to display it in one of the museum’s galleries, though they aren’t yet certain which one.

Jacqueline Kennedy had the poem framed for the president to hang in the White House and wrote a now barely legible note to the president on brown paper on the back of the frame. The note was not discovered until museum archivist James M. Roth removed the paper from the frame this week.

Roth said the note reads, “For Jack, January 23, 1961. First thing I had framed to put in your office. First thing to be hung there.”

“There is no signature but it’s definitely her handwriting,” Roth said.

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4.)

Thinking Like a Poetry Editor: How to Be Your Own Best Critic

(“The Ossmann Method” Poetry Workshop – Crash Course)

Instructor: April Ossmann
The Writer’s Center, 58 North Main Street, White River Jct., VT 05001
Saturday, January 17th OR Saturday, February 14th
2 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.
$45

Learn how to think like a poetry editor! In this workshop we’ll turn the usual workshop model on its head and not only allow the poet being critiqued to speak, but to speak first and critique their own poem, discussing correlations between the criticisms s/he has for other participants’ poems and her/his own before group discussion begins. This will offer a taste of what it means to be both poet and poetry editor, a position in which it becomes easier to objectively assess your own work; to spot dull vs. energetic syntax, generic vs. original imagery and other strengths and weaknesses you may have overlooked. It also empowers the poet in the process, and engenders an unusually positive and congenial workshop atmosphere. Participants will receive written editorial suggestions for both poems from the instructor. Pre-registration required; enrollment limited to 8. Info: (802) 333-9597 or aprilossmann@hotmail.com and www.aprilossmann.com

The Ossmann Method Poetry Workshop: Building Your Tool Kit
Instructor: April Ossmann
The Writer’s Center, 58 North Main Street, White River Jct., VT 05001
Sundays, 8 weeks, January 18th – March 8th
2 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.
$200

Build or improve your poetic techniques tool kit and learn how to think like a poetry editor! In this workshop we’ll turn the usual workshop model on its head and not only allow the poet being critiqued to speak, but to speak first and critique their own poem, discussing correlations between the criticisms s/he has for other participants’ poems and her/his own before group discussion begins. This will offer a taste of what it means to be both poet and poetry editor, a position in which it becomes easier to objectively assess your own work; to spot dull vs. energetic syntax, generic vs. original imagery and other strengths and weaknesses you may have overlooked. It also empowers the poet in the process, and engenders an unusually positive and congenial workshop atmosphere. This workshop will be both critical and generative, so I will assign reading and generative exercises meant to teach or improve writing skills. Pre-registration required; enrollment limited to 8 (minimum enrollment for the course to proceed is 4). Info: (802) 333-9597 or aprilossmann@hotmail.com and www.aprilossmann.com

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5.)

Please join us!
Poetry Reading at the Red Hen Bakery & Café
Celebrate Robert Burns’ 250th Birthday with our own Scottish Poet Len Irving

Sunday
January 25, 6:30 pm
Route 2 in Middlesex Village

Come and read poetry – your own or your favorites – or listen to others.

More info? Call Earline at 223-6777
The Red Hen Bakery is open at this time only for the poetry reading.

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6.)

Carol Muske-Dukes, California’s new poet laureate, on her post alifornia’s new poet laureate considers the seeming contradictions of the post and how to approach its potential.

By Carol Muske-Dukes
December 12, 2008

Could there be an honorific less American-sounding than poet laureate? The title conjures images of a laurel wreath askew on the pale brow of a loitering bard — scribbling couplets beside a throne (“I am his Highness’ dog at Kew; / Pray tell me, sir, whose dog are you?”) British poets laureate write occasional verse to celebrate royal birthdays, ship christenings and Tube station openings. As California’s new poet laureate, I haven’t been asked to write a sonnet or triolet in honor of Gov. Schwarzenegger, who appointed me last month, nor a pantoum in honor of Maria Shriver — and I don’t expect to have to honor such a request. The governor and first lady clearly admire the idea of the poet laureate without insisting on a job description or the odd panegyric.

In Britain, the poet laureate remains a half-jester, half-noble figure. In the U.S., we remain “half-cracked,” as Emily Dickinson said. We have a poetry tradition — a “Body Electric” anarchic romance — which gives rise to our present poetry polyglot: neo-formalist, plain style, abstract, imagist, l-a-n-g-u-a-g-e, ethnic, feminist, mystical, abcderian, post-colonial, lyric-narrative or minimalist, William-Carlos-Williams-take-the damn-refrigerator-note- down-and-mix-me-a-plum-daiquiri schools of poetry.
Poetry is, like prayer, spun from the imagination — from ultimate contradiction — like the idea of a democratic crown. Who’s lucky or brazen enough to wear this headgear? I’m brazen enough to bow my head and gratefully accept the honor. Born in Minnesota, I teach creative writing at the University of Southern California, have written books of poems and, for years, wrote a poetry review column for this newspaper. Our governor was born in Austria and his first lady was born into an American “royal” family sprung from Irish immigrants. Each of us, with our homegrown or immigrant souls, has an idea of what sort of poetry should come out of the state — whether it should sound like Gary Snyder, Robinson Jeffers, Kenneth Rexroth or Robert Frost (born in San Francisco), or like Sor Juana, Carolyn Kizer, Jane Hirschfield, Marilyn Chin or Harryette Mullen. In a letter, Maria Shriver told me that California women are “trailblazers” in everything they do. I agree — in particular about poets, those psychic pioneers.
There’s the answer, I think, to who or what a “poet laureate” is in this republic: There are no rules, the path is open. The first California poet laureate (appointed in 1915) was Ina Coolbrith, who blazed a way through the wilderness, literally. She was born in Nauvoo, Ill., as Josephine Donna Smith. Her father was Don Carlos Smith, a brother of the Mormon prophet, Joseph Smith. Her mother fled Mormon polygamy with her second husband and her young daughter, traveling by covered wagon to California. (In the Golden State, Josephine Donna Smith reinvented herself as Ina Coolbrith to escape the history of the Smith name.) Coolbrith was outspoken, generous — a librarian and a teacher-mentor to the young Jack London — and fast friends with writers like Joaquin Miller, but her poems were steeped in a high tea lavender style. Even a poem called “California Poppy” sounded a bit like hapless British laureate Colley Cibber:

Not all proud Sheba’s queenly offerings
Could match the golden marvel of thy blooms.

She was most certainly a trailblazer — and she was free to write about whatever she wished, in whatever style she chose. California was her refuge and source of her literary reputation. And yet, her 21st century reader cannot help but wonder what a poem about fleeing polygamy, crossing the Sierras in the first wagon in a caravan coming into California, about standing before the Pacific (as Frost’s “Once By the Pacific”) might have sounded like in her “un-miked” voice. The lordly office of British Poet Laureate colonized the voice of Coolbrith, pioneer and passionate advocate, yet California remained her inspiration.

We’ve entered a new America in the last few months: We are redefining ourselves. If “poet laureate” sounds like a contradiction in terms here in California, the last frontier, then I accept that contradiction, just as I accept the extremely high standards that the outgoing poet laureate, Al Young, has set. But here’s what I most hope to do. I hope to speak in a voice that is in touch with California, about California — perhaps to children reading poetry for the first time, hospital patients, inmates of prisons or anyone fascinated or intimidated by its unlikely power.

To speak about the state of mind which is California and the words swirling in the wind — desert by the sea, one hundred tongues, snow-peaked, blowing fire, homeless under the freeway, homeboy jewel in the lotus, Inland Empire, pool-blue aftershock, silver screen, aerospace grasslands, grapevined aqueduct air base on the Pacific Rim . . . You see where this is going. Perhaps finally, and with great respect, to readdress the ordinary California poppy — waiting there, egalitarian in the golden marvel of its blooms.

Muske-Dukes is professor of English and creative writing at USC and the author of several books, including “Channeling Mark Twain,” “Sparrow” and “An Octave Above Thunder.”
You can find out more about Carol at: http://www.carolmuskedukes.com/

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7.)

Dear Friends of Hayden Carruth,

As you may imagine, the loss of Hayden Carruth has left his immediate family with some financial strains. Anyone wishing to help may send a check payable to HAYDEN CARRUTH MEMORIAL FUND c/o Paul V. Noyes, Esq. 131 Sherrill Rd, Sherrill, NY 13461. The fund will remain active until January 15, 2009; you may request anonymity or your name will be added (without the amount of your gift) to a list of contributors when Mr. Noyes gives Joe-Anne the proceeds (and any messages included with the donations) shortly after January 15. Please accept your canceled check as notification that your gift has been received.

The Hayden Carruth Memorial Fund Committee

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8.)

In Memoriam:

We’ve lost 2 wonderful poets this past week, one a member of the PSOV, Poetry Society of Vermont, and the other an internationally-known poet.

Here’s what information I have at the moment for the first of two:

Christopher Clarke White (“Doc White”)

CASTLETON – The memorial service for Christopher Clarke White, 71, who died Jan. 14, 2009, will be held at 11 a.m. Monday, Jan. 19, at the Ducharme Funeral Home in Castleton. The Rev. Robert Noble, pastor of Castleton Federated Church, will officiate.

A full obituary will be published in a future edition of the Rutland Herald.

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9.)

And , the 2nd:

W.D. Snodgrass

Pulitzer Prize-winning poet W.D. Snodgrass dies

W.D. Snodgrass, a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet who had a nearly 40- ear teaching career, died at his upstate New York home after a four- onth battle with inoperable lung cancer. He was 83.

SYRACUSE, N.Y. —

W.D. Snodgrass, a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet who had a nearly 40- ear teaching career, died at his upstate New York home after a four- onth battle with inoperable lung cancer. He was 83.

His family said he died Tuesday at his home in Madison County, just east of Syracuse. Snodgrass won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1960 for his first book, “Heart’s Needle,” which grew from heartbreak at losing custody of his daughter in a bitter divorce.

Although widely credited as a founding member of the “confessional” school of poetry, Snodgrass himself dismissed the label.

Born William DeWitt Snodgrass in Wilkinsburg, Pa., on Jan. 5, 1926, he was known to friends throughout his life as “De,” pronounced “dee.” He briefly attended Geneva College in Pennsylvania before he was drafted into the Navy during World War II.

Although he aspired to a career in music before the war, Snodgrass enrolled afterward in the Writer’s Workshop at the University of Iowa, hoping to become a playwright. Instead, he drifted into some poetry classes and studied with such greats as John Crowe Ransom, Karl Shapiro, John Berryman, Randall Jarrell and Robert Lowell.

After receiving two master’s degrees in writing, Snodgrass embarked in 1955 on a nearly 40-year teaching career, which included stints at Cornell University, the University of Rochester, Wayne State University, Old Dominion University and, from 1968 to 1977, Syracuse University. He retired from teaching in 1994.
Snodgrass was the author of more than 30 books of poetry and translations.

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10.)
FROM POETS.ORG:

W. D. Snodgrass

William De Witt Snodgrass was born in Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania, on January 5, 1926. He attended Geneva College and then served in the United States Navy until 1946. He then attended the State University of Iowa, where he earned his M.F.A. in 1953. His early work was compared to the work of Robert Lowell and Randall Jarrell, both of which were his teachers.

His first collection of poetry, Heart’s Needle, was published in 1959 and received the Pulitzer Prize in 1960. Since then, he has published numerous books of poetry, including Not for Specialists: New and Selected Poems (BOA Editions, 2006); The Führer Bunker: The Complete Cycle (1995); Each in His Season (1993); Selected Poems, 1957-1987; The Führer Bunker: A Cycle of Poems in Progress (1977), which was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry and produced by Wynn Handman for The American Place Theatre; and After Experience (1968).

He is often credited as being one of the founding members of the “confessional” movement, though he does not consider his poetry as fitting in that school. About his own work, Snodgrass has said, “I first became known for poems of a very personal nature, especially those about losing a daughter in a divorce. Many of those early poems were in formal metres and had an ‘open’ surface. All through my career, however, I have written both free verse and formal metres.”

He has also produced two books of literary criticism, To Sound Like Yourself: Essays on Poetry (2003) and In Radical Pursuit (1975), and six volumes of translation, including Selected Translations (BOA Editions, 1998), which won the Harold Morton Landon Translation Award.

His honors include an Ingram Merrill Foundation award and a special citation from the Poetry Society of America, and fellowships from The Academy of American Poets, the Ford Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Institute of Arts and Letters, and the National Endowment for the Arts. He lived in upstate New York and died on January 13, 2009.
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11.)

From Bob & Susan Arnold at Longhouse, a fine Vermont press that not only issues gorgeous, incredible letterpress work, but also has served as a nerve center for poets and political activism for southeastern Vermont and sometimes for all of New England, I found this beautiful section of poetry, which centers around friendships with Hayden Carruth. I think they’re worth reading:

http://www.longhousepoetry.com/carruth.html

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11.)

Did You Know? . . . that even I can miss posting a poetry event?

Yes, it happens once in awhile. That’s why I appreciate emails from poets who receive the VPN about possibly obscure poetry-related events around the state. I can’t find them all by myself, although I certainly try. The VPN is your resource, so contribute when you can – events, anything!

What I missed, only because it was posted late at Middlebury College, was a poetry reading at the college on Thursday evening, January 15th, in honor of Martin Luther King day, the 19th. The special event was headed by nationally-known poet, Sonia Sanchez, who was at my college, San Francisco State, in the years just before I got there.

Here’s Ms. Sanchez’ bio:

Sonia Sanchez was born Wilsonia Benita Driver on September 9, 1934, in Birmingham, Alabama.

Her mother died a year later, and Sanchez lived with her paternal grandmother and other relatives for several years. In 1943 she moved to Harlem with her sister to live with their father and his third wife. She earned a B.A. in political science from Hunter College in 1955. She also did postgraduate work at New York University and studied poetry with Louise Bogan. Sanchez formed a writers’ workshop in Greenwich Village, attended by such poets as Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones), Haki R. Madhubuti (Don L. Lee), and Larry Neal. Along with Madhubuti, Nikki Giovanni, and Etheridge Knight, she formed the “Broadside Quartet” of young poets, introduced and promoted by Dudley Randall. She married and divorced Albert Sanchez, a Puerto Rican immigrant whose surname she has used when writing, and the poet Etheridge Knight, with whom she had three children. During the early 1960s she was an integrationist, supporting the philosophy of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE).

But after considering the ideas of Black Muslim leader Malcolm X, who believed blacks would never be truly accepted by whites in the United States, she focused more on her black heritage from a separatist point of view. Sanchez began teaching in the San Francisco area in 1965 and was a pioneer in developing black studies courses at what is now San Francisco State University, where she was an instructor from 1968 to 1969. In 1971 she joined the Nation of Islam, but by 1976 she had left the Nation, largely because of its repression of women.
Sonia Sanchez is the author of more than a dozen books of poetry, including Homegirls and Handgrenades (White Pine Press, 2007), Shake Loose My Skin: New and Selected Poems (1999); Like the Singing Coming Off the Drums: Love Poems (1998); Does your house have lions? (1995), which was nominated for both the NAACP Image and National Book Critics Circle Award; Wounded in the House of a Friend (1995); Under a Soprano Sky (1987); Homegirls & Handgrenades (1984), which won an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation; I’ve Been a Woman: New and Selected Poems (1978); A Blues Book for Blue Black Magical Women (1973); Love Poems (1973); Liberation Poem (1970); We a BaddDDD People (1970); and Homecoming (1969).
Her published plays are Black Cats Back and Uneasy Landings (1995), I’m Black When I’m Singing, I’m Blue When I Ain’t (1982), Malcolm Man Don’t Live Here No Mo’ (1979), Uh Huh: But How Do It Free Us? (1974), Dirty Hearts ’72 (1973), The Bronx Is Next (1970),and Sister Son/ji (1969). Her books for children include A Sound Investment and Other Stories (1979), The Adventures of Fat Head, Small Head, and Square Head (1973), and It’s a New Day: Poems for Young Brothas and Sistuhs (1971). She has also edited two anthologies: We Be Word Sorcerers: Twenty-five Stories by Black Americans (1973) and Three Hundred Sixty Degrees of Blackness Comin”at You (1971).
Among the many honors she has received are the Community Service Award from the National Black Caucus of State Legislators, the Lucretia Mott Award, the Outstanding Arts Award from the Pennsylvania Coalition of 100 Black Women, the Peace and Freedom Award from Women International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), the Pennsylvania Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Humanities, a National Endowment for the Arts Award, and a Pew Fellowship in the Arts.
Sonia Sanchez has lectured at more than five hundred universities and colleges in the United States and had traveled extensively, reading her poetry in Africa, Cuba, England, the Caribbean, Australia, Nicaragua, the People’s Republic of China, Norway, and Canada. She was the first Presidential Fellow at Temple University, where she began teaching in 1977, and held the Laura Carnell Chair in English there until her retirement in 1999. She lives in Philadelphia.

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12.)

“Ponderings”

Repressed whimsy, it seems, can build up and fester in a person, the way unexpressed rage or resentment does. The time comes when, to save your sanity, you just have to get it out of your system in one big, cleansing blast. The evidence is in “Romantic Poetry,” a marmalade-sticky musical that opened recently on Broadway, at the Manhattan Theater Club.

Ruby Washington/The New York Times

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13.)

‘Poetry is the impish attempt to paint the color of wind.’

Poetry Quote by Maxwell Bodenheim

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14.)

Poets Laureate of the U.S.A.

  • A Net-annotated list of all the poets who have served the Library of Congress as Consultant (the old title) or Poet Laureate Consultant (the new title). Biographies & general reference sites are linked to the poets’ names — for the recent Laureates these are our own poet profiles with book-buying links at the bottom. Many of the other linked biographies are pages from the Academy of American Poets’ Find a Poet archive, a growing & invaluable resource. If there is no general information site about the poet, we have searched the Net for sample poems or other writings or recordings & listed those below the poet’s name.

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15.)

Linebreak is an online journal with a bias for good poetry. Here is a poem from their web site this week:

Head First
BY KRISTINE ONG MUSLIM

Kristine Ong Muslim has stories and poems published or forthcoming in more than three hundred publications worldwide, including Adbusters, Bellevue Literary Review, and Narrative Magazine. She has received a nomination for the Science Fiction Poetry Association’s Rhysling Award, three nominations for the Pushcart Prize, and several Honorable Mentions in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror.


“We have seen that the members of the same class, independently of their habits of life, resemble each other in the general plan of their organisation.”

— Charles Darwin, “On the Origin of Species”

Start from scratch.
There goes the cult of
the sleepless late twenties,
all burned out matchsticks.
The orbs of their heads
are darker when seen
from above.
Their posture is the arc
of sunset. Beautifully bent.

http://linebreak.org/

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16.)

Here’s a poem from Copper Canyon Press, not in its “Reading Room” (http://www.coppercanyonpress.org/) as I usually reprint in the Newsletter, but from another source. It was such a find that I felt you should read it in this space usually reserved for a Copper Canyon poem.

Sascha Feinstein
Blues Knowledge

Rain fizzles to electric portraits
of dazzling glitter and soot
as whorls of sparkled static shade
a flock of pigeons that circle
the cupola where stained glass
from a fire in the pews expanded
and blasted to the pavement
rosettes and shields
long since swept to the gutters
to grind in the silt of the Hudson
stirring now from a Southern hurricane’s
humid tumult of newspapers and necklaces
silhouetted against cherry trees
far above this unimaginable city below
where the worn yellow lines
like unboarded bath houses
hold no one from leaning into death
as if our eyes could summon those lights
that always turn the same bend
before machinery blossoms
and children hold their ears
and the crowd shifts awkwardly
into this time of need
so desperate in its planetary pull
no one allows themselves to feel
beyond the urgent discomfort of steam
that slicks hair to the skull
until despair becomes the steel bolts
blurring perfect circles to ovals and sinking
into paint thicker than most lives
and browner than cave paintings
or dogs from Lenox Avenue
and everything tenants kill
to purify apartments or boulevards
which is why this man dragging
tin and plastic knows for sure only that
his token had a hole in its center the way I
know this train will take me
not to my wife and child
but to the blues knowledge of departure
that makes everyone hold their sweat
and turn strangely now to watch
a huge woman bespangled
in a full-length dress and cushioned beret
the color of cranberries in ginger ale
as she loops her microphone cord
and clicks the cassette into its groove
of Mississippi guitar
over the backbeat of Aretha’s gospel
singing Can’t find nobody like you
to another who could be her sister
but stands with tears so full and fluid
her cheeks reflect the scarlet sequins
and beside me the man’s black bags
bloom into silver stamens as he raises
both palms into fingers and fists
and fingers blinking amen
and honey you’ve got to believe me
when I tell you on this platform
of people all living
in this city of got-to-get-there-yesterday
half of us let our trains roll on by

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17.)

American Life in Poetry: Column 198
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

This column has had the privilege of publishing a number of poems by young people, but this is the first we’ve published by a young person who is also a political refugee. The poet, Zozan Hawez, is from Iraq, and goes to Foster High School in Tukwila, Washington. Seattle Arts & Lectures sponsors a Writers in the Schools program, and Zozan’s poem was encouraged by that initiative.

Self-Portrait

Born in a safe family
But a dangerous area, Iraq,
I heard guns at a young age, so young
They made a decision to raise us safe
So packed our things
And went far away.
Now, in the city of rain,
I try to forget my past,
But memories never fade.
This is my life,
It happened for a reason,
I happened for a reason.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-
Lincoln. Poem copyright (c) 2007 by Seattle Arts & Lectures. Reprinted from “We Will Carry Ourselves As Long As We Gaze Into The Sun,” Seattle Arts & Lectures, 2007, by permission of Zozan Hawez and the publisher. Introduction copyright (c) 2009 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

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18.)

KEEP PAST VERMONT POETS ALIVE!

I’M SOLICITING YOUR HELP:

POETS OF VERMONT
PAST AND PRESENT
PROJECT

I’m looking for a copy of:

1) The Literature of Vermont: A Sampler, University Press of New England, Arthur W. Biddle and Paul A. Eschholz, Editors, 1973
2) Poets and Poetry of Vermont, by Abby Maria Hemenway, 1858
3) “Driftwood,” a poetry magazine begun in 1926 by Walter John Coates
If you have any books of poetry, chapbooks, or just poems written by Vermont poets, dating 1980 and earlier, famous or not, I’d like to know about them. I’m beginning a project that deals strictly with Vermont poets, from Vermont’s past, with summaries of the poets themselves, a portrait photo or drawing of the poet, along with a small sampling of poems. If you think you can help, you probably can! Please contact me by replying to this newsletter.

Ronald Lewis

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VERMONT POET LAUREATES

1) Robert Frost – 1961
2) Galway Kinnell
3) Louis Glück
4) Ellen Bryant Voigt
5) Grace Paley
6) Ruth Stone

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20.)

If you ever have a need to contact me, here’s how to go about doing so:
Ronald Lewis:
Phone: 802-247-5913
Cell: 802-779-5913
Home: 1211 Forest Dale Road, Brandon, VT 05733
Email: sshortpt@verizon.net

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21.)

YEAR-ROUND POETRY WORKSHOPS IN VERMONT

MIDDLEBURY

1) The Otter Creek Poets offer a poetry workshop every Thursday afternoon, from 1:00 to 3:00 in the basement meeting room of the Ilsley Public Library, 75 Main Street, Middlebury. This workshop, the largest and oldest of its kind in the state, has been meeting weekly for 13 years. Poets of all ages and styles come for peer feedback, encouragement, and optional weekly assignments to get the poetry flowing. Bring a poem or two to share (plus 20 copies). The workshops are led by David Weinstock. There is considerable parking available behind the library, or further down the hill below that parking lot. For more information, call David at 388-6939 or Ron Lewis at 247-5913.
2) The Spring Street Poets. This group is by invite only and consists of six members, Jennifer Bates, Janet Fancher, Karin Gottshall, Ray Hudson, Mary Pratt and David Weinstock.

BELLOWS FALLS


1) Great River Arts Institute – See details elsewhere in this newsletter
2) Poetry Workshop at Village Square Booksellers with Jim Fowler (no relation to owner Pat). The goal of this course is to introduce more people to the art of writing poetry and will include a discussion of modern poetry in various forms and styles. Each week, the course will provide time to share and discuss participant’s poetry. Students should bring a poem and copies to the first class. The course will be limited to 5 to 8 students to allow adequate time to go through everyone’s poetry contributions and will meet in the cafe at Village Square Booksellers. James Fowler, of Charlestown, New Hampshire, has a Masters Degree in Environmental Science with a major in Nature Writing. He was the editor of Heartbeat of New England, a poetry anthology. Fowler has been widely published since 1998 in such journals as Connecticut Review, Quarterly of Light Verse, and Larcom Review. Fowler is a founding member of the River Voices Writer’s Circle, and a regular reader at Village Square Booksellers-River Voices Poetry Readings. The fee for this 6 week Workshop is $100, payable to Mr. Fowler at the first class. Pre-registration for the Poetry Workshop is suggested and may be made by calling Village Square Booksellers at 802-463-9404 or by email at vsbooks@sover.net or jfowler177@comcast.net.

GUILFORD

The Guilford Poets Guild, formed in 1998, meets twice a month to critique and support each other’s work. Their series of sponsored readings by well-known poets which began at the Dudley Farm, continues now at the Women and Family Life Center.

WAITSFIELD

The Mad River Poets consists of a handful of poets from the Route 100 corridor. More on this group in the future.

STOWE

There is another poetry workshop happening in Stowe, but unfortunately I know nothing much about this group. If you do, contact me!

NORWICH

This group meets on the first Sunday of every month at the Norwich Library, 6:30 p.m.

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22.)

OTHER POETRY WORKSHOPS IN VERMONT

BURLINGTON

Scribes in the making put pen to paper as part of an open verse-
writing session at the Fletcher Free Library, 235 College Street. Three consecutive Thursdays, starting January 8, 2009, 5:00-6:00 p.m. Free. Contact information: 862-1094.

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION

Thinking Like a Poetry Editor: How to Be Your Own Best Critic
(“The Ossmann Method” Poetry Workshop – Crash Course)
Instructor: April Ossmann

The Writer’s Center, 58 North Main Street, White River Jct., VT 05001
Saturday, January 17th OR Saturday, February 14th
2 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.
$45

Learn how to think like a poetry editor! In this workshop we’ll turn the usual workshop model on its head and not only allow the poet being critiqued to speak, but to speak first and critique their own poem, discussing correlations between the criticisms s/he has for other participants’ poems and her/his own before group discussion begins. This will offer a taste of what it means to be both poet and poetry editor, a position in which it becomes easier to objectively assess your own work; to spot dull vs. energetic syntax, generic vs. original imagery and other strengths and weaknesses you may have overlooked. It also empowers the poet in the process, and engenders an unusually positive and congenial workshop atmosphere. Participants will receive written editorial suggestions for both poems from the instructor. Pre-registration required; enrollment limited to 8. Info: (802) 333-9597 or aprilossmann@hotmail.com and www.aprilossmann.com

The Ossmann Method Poetry Workshop: Building Your Tool Kit
Instructor: April Ossmann
The Writer’s Center, 58 North Main Street, White River Jct., VT 05001
Sundays, 8 weeks, January 18th – March 8th
2 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.
$200

Build or improve your poetic techniques tool kit and learn how to think like a poetry editor! In this workshop we’ll turn the usual workshop model on its head and not only allow the poet being critiqued to speak, but to speak first and critique their own poem, discussing correlations between the criticisms s/he has for other participants’ poems and her/his own before group discussion begins. This will offer a taste of what it means to be both poet and poetry editor, a position in which it becomes easier to objectively assess your own work; to spot dull vs. energetic syntax, generic vs. original imagery and other strengths and weaknesses you may have overlooked. It also empowers the poet in the process, and engenders an unusually positive and congenial workshop atmosphere. This workshop will be both critical and generative, so I will assign reading and generative exercises meant to teach or improve writing skills. Pre-registration required; enrollment limited to 8 (minimum enrollment for the course to proceed is 4). Info: (802) 333-9597 or aprilossmann@hotmail.com and www.aprilossmann.com

Note: If you know of any others, or have personal information about the workshop in Stowe and Guilford, please send me that information. I realize that there are several smaller groups or workshops around the state. However, because of their intimacy, they are not posted above, allowing them to offer “memberships” to close friends or acquaintances that they feel would be most appropriate.

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23.)

YEAR-ROUND POETRY WRITING CENTERS IN VERMONT

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION

The Writer’s Center is for serious writers and nervous beginners. It’s for procrastinators who could benefit from regular deadlines – and for the prolific who could benefit from quality feedback. It’s for anyone with a manuscript hidden in a drawer, or a life story or poem waiting to be written. It’s for people who don’t know where to start or how to end. And for writers who are doing just fine on their own, but would like the company of other writers. The Writer’s Center is for anyone who is writing or wants to write. One of the Center’s consultants is April Ossman (www.aprilossmann.com). Founded by Joni B. Cole and Sarah Stewart Taylor, the Writer’s Center offers instruction and inspiration through a selection of workshops, discussions, and community. We would love to see you – and your writing – at The Writer’s Center! For more info, http://
www.thewriterscenterwrj.com/
.

UNDERHILL

Women Writing for (a) Change supports the authentic experience of women who honor themselves through creative writing. Our community supports reflection as we move into our questions and awaken to change. Participants enhance expressive skills, strengthen their voices, deepen themselves as women as writers for positive change in all spheres of life. Creative writing in all genres is our shared vehicle. Women Writing for (a) Change is for women who, 1) dream of writing for self-discovery, for personal or social healing, 2) hunger for creative process in their lives, 3) yearn to explore their feminine voice, 4) crave reflective, space, and 5) are in transition. For more information, go to their web site at www.womenwritingVT.com/ or contact Sarah Bartlett at either 899-3772 or sarah@womenwritingvt.com.

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24.)

POETRY EVENT CALENDAR

Below please find the most current list of poetry happenings in Vermont for the near future. Please be aware that these events can be found on Poetz.com, but there is usually additional information that is typed here that would be cumbersome to place on Poetz.com. Please note all events are Vermont-based unless they are of extreme importance or happen to lie just outside our borders. If you would like to save on paper and ink, please just highlight what you need, or perhaps only events for the coming month, and print that information.

Fri, Jan 16: Outer Space Café in the Flynndog Gallery, 208 Flynn Avenue, Burlington, 7:00 p.m. Poet’s Night. First of this year’s series.

Fri, Jan 16: Deadline for Studio Place Arts exhibit. See Jan. 23rd event below.

Tue, Jan 20: Bear Pond Books, 77 Main Street, Montpelier, 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. Charles Barasch. Celebrate Inauguration Week with UVM linguistics teacher and the Plainfield town moderator, Charles Barasch, who will present Dreams of the Presidents, a collection of dream poems – one for each American president. Humorous, and laced with events of historical interest, each poem gives insight into the presidents’ lives. This book offers a well-timed look at politicians, as well some much-needed laughs. For info, 229-1069.

Wed, Jan 21: Robert Hull Fleming Museum, UVM Campus, 61 Colchester Avenue, Burlington, 6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. Art and Poetry: The Painted Word featuring poets Myronn Hardy and Matthew Miller. The Robert Hull Fleming Museum presents a poetry series hosted by Major Jackson, associate professor in the University of Vermont’s Department of English. This reading series highlights established and emergent New England poets whose work represents significant explorations into language, song, and art. Info, www.uvm.edu/
~fleming/
. Co-sponsored with the English Department and funded in part by the James and Mary Buckham Fund.

Thu, Jan 22: Vermont Humanities Council, 11 Loomis Street, Montpelier, 5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. “You Come, Too”: Winter with Robert Frost. Robert Frost’s poetry is known, among other things, for its ability to evoke the seasons of New England in all their complexity. Join Peter Gilbert, the Vermont Humanities Council’s executive director and the executor of Frost’s estate, in reading and discussing some of Frost’s winter poems. Participants are invited to either read the poems in advance or upon arriving. Refreshments served; free. RSVPs are encouraged at 802.262.2626 x307. Walk-ins welcome.

Thu, Jan 22: Briggs Carriage Bookstore, 16 Park Street, Brandon, 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. Charles Barasch. Celebrate Inauguration Week with UVM linguistics teacher and the Plainfield town moderator, Charles Barasch, who will present Dreams of the Presidents, a collection of dream poems – one for each American president. Humorous, and laced with events of historical interest, each poem gives insight into the presidents’ lives. This book offers a well-timed look at politicians, as well some much-needed laughs. For info, Peter Marsh at 247-0050.

Fri, Jan 23: Studio Place Arts (SPA), 201 N. Main Street, Barre, 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. Opening Reception – Poetry Reading. Studio Place Arts (SPA, http://www.studioplacearts.com) is having an exhibit in its main gallery from January20 – February 28, 2009 entitled Picture That Poem. Visual artists will be showing work that responds to poetry and/or incorporates poetry directly in the artwork.

At the same time, I am curating an exhibit in the second floor Student and Community artspace that will display published books of poetry. I am planning to display the books in a way that will allow visitors to browse the books and spend some time with them (which means that the volume on display may get some wear). I am looking for poets to exhibit one to three different books of poetry during that time. I would need two copies of each book, one to display and one to keep for sale. When a book sells, we will contact the poet to replace the sold volume, or we can take orders and fulfill them at the conclusion of the exhibit (for those big sellers!). SPA takes a 35% commission on sold works.

The opening reception for these two exhibits will be on Friday, January 23 from 5:30 – 7:30 PM. We would like to have a reading during that time when those who are interested (and able to attend) could read one or two of their works. SPA is a great place with lots of energy and well-attended shows and receptions.

*PLEASE HELP ME TO BROADCAST THIS CALL FOR PARTICIPATION* by forwarding to poets you think may be interested, or posting in appropriate places, and respond to me (or Studio Place Arts) before the end of December indicating:

* How many different books of your poetry you would like to display
in the January 20 – February 28 exhibit
* Whether you would be interested in reading at the opening
reception on January 23

We will need to have the books in hand by Friday, January 16, 2009. Mail or deliver to SPA at 201 North Main Street, Barre, VT 05641. Return postage SASE is appreciated by this non-profit arts center!

Janet Van Fleet
32 Thistle Hill Road, Cabot, VT 05647
802 563 2486

Check out my blog at http://janetvanfleet.blogspot.com/
Fri, Jan 23: Salisbury Library, Salisbury, 7:30 p.m. Spring Street Poets. The six members of the Spring Street Poets will be providing a rare reading. Hear the quality work of Jennifer Bates, Janet Fancher, Karin Gottshall, Ray Hudson, Mary Pratt and David Weinstock.

Sun, Jan 25: Red Hen Baking Company & Café, Route 2, Middlesex Village, 6:00 p.m. Poetry reading. Celebrate Robert Burns’ 250th birthday with our own Scottish Poet Len Irving! Come and read poetry – your own or your favorites – or listen to others. Info, Earline Marsh at 223-6777. (Red Hen readings are quarterly).

Mon, Jan 26: Grafton Library, Main Street, Grafton, 7:00 p.m. Robert Frost: Poetry and Prose. Second of three-part book discussion series led by Dr. Deborah Luskin from the Vermont Humanities Council. For info, Linda Montecalvo at 843-1444.

Mon, Jan 26: Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, exact time not yet determined. Poet Eileen Myles to read. Of Sorry, Tree Eileen Myles most recent volume Chicago Review says: “Her politics are overt, her physicality raw, yet it is the subtle gentle noticing in her poems that overwhelms.” Eileen Myles is among the ranks of the officially restless, a poet who writes fiction (Chelsea Girls, Cool for You) an art writer and journalist whose essays and reviews have appeared in Art Forum, and Book Forum, The Believer, Parkett, The Nation and a libretticist whose opera “Hell” (w composer Michael Webster) was performed on both coasts in 2004 and again in 2006. Her first full collection of nonfiction writings, The Importance of Being Iceland, for which she received a Warhol/Creative Capital grant will come out in spring 09 from Semiotext(e)/MIT.

Wed, Jan 28: Kellogg-Hubbard Library, 135 Main Street, Montpelier, 7:00 p.m – 8:00 p.m. Poetry reading. Celebrate Robert Burns’ 250th birthday with Scottish Poet Len Irving! Widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland, this 18th century poet has left a legacy in song and poetry that endures to this day. Join a modern Scottish poet, Leonard Irving, for a salute to the author of Auld Lang Syne.

Thu, Feb 5: Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, exact time not yet determined. Poet Cleopatra Mathis to read. Cleopatra Mathis was born and raised in Ruston, Louisiana. Her first five books of poems were published by Sheep Meadow Press. A sixth collection, White Sea, was published by Sarabande Books in 2005. Her work has appeared widely in anthologies, textbooks, magazines and journals, including The New Yorker, Poetry, American Poetry Review, Tri-Quarterly, The Southern Review, The Georgia Review, The Made Thing: An Anthology of Contemporary Southern Poetry, The Extraordinary Tide: Poetry by American Women, and The Practice of Poetry. Various prizes for her work include two National Endowment for the Arts grants, in 1984 and 2003; the Jane Kenyon Award for Outstanding Book of Poems in 2001; the Peter Lavin Award for Younger Poets from the Academy of American Poets; two Pushcart Prizes (1980 and 2006); The Robert Frost Resident Poet Award; a 1981-82 Fellowship in Poetry at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts; The May Sarton Award; and Individual Artist Fellowships in Poetry from both the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts and the New Jersey State Arts Council. She is the Frederick Sessions Beebe Professor of the Art of Writing at Dartmouth College, where she has directed the Creative Writing Program since 1982.

Fri, Feb 6: Firehouse Gallery, 135 Church Street, Burlington, 5:00 – 8:00 p.m. Poetry Reading and Drumming. As part of the Burlington Art Walk, poet and artist Terry Hauptman will provide a poetry reading accompanied by Jerry Geier’s drumming on his sculptural slit drums will entertain all. While you’re at the Firehouse Gallery, you can visit these two artists’ exhibits, titled Veiled Lineage. It features two Vermont artists investigating concepts of ancestry, heritage and tradition; using sculpture, painting, and installation. Jerry Geier’s assembly of sculptures, or totems, feature carved faces of wood and clay derived from indigenous and modern societies. The totems are hollowed and act as functional drums. Terry Hauptman’s Songline Scrolls feature colorful multi-cultural processions on wall-sized scrolls of paper. These scrolls are a metaphor for life, representing a continual unfolding revelation of change and celebration. In this 400th anniversary of European arrival in the Champlain Valley, this exhibit highlights our evolving notions of cultural and spiritual identity, and exposes the paradox of searching for meaning in the very same cultures that were supplanted by our own colonialist history.

Mon, Feb 9: Grafton Library, Main Street, Grafton, 7:00 p.m. Robert Frost: Poetry and Prose. Third of three-part book discussion series led by Dr. Deborah Luskin from the Vermont Humanities Council. For info, Linda Montecalvo at 843-1444.

Sun, Feb 15: Warming hut log cabin at the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park, 54 Elm Street, Woodstock, 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Winter Readings in the National Park. Join a park ranger in sharing short stories and poetry about winter at the ski shelter warming cabin. Bring your own stories and poetry to share or just listen to others readings while enjoying the warmth of the cabin’s woodstove. Hot chocolate will be provided. Cost: $5.00 trail pass from the Woodstock Inn & Resort Nordic Center. For info, Tim Maguire at 457-3368 X22 or Tim_maguire@nps.gov.

Wed, Feb 18: Vermont Humanities Council, 11 Loomis Street, Montpelier, 5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. “You Come, Too”: Winter with Robert Frost. Robert Frost’s poetry is known, among other things, for its ability to evoke the seasons of New England in all their complexity. Join Peter Gilbert, the Vermont Humanities Council’s executive director and the executor of Frost’s estate, in reading and discussing some of Frost’s winter poems. Participants are invited to either read the poems in advance or upon arriving. Refreshments served; free. RSVPs are encouraged at 802.262.2626 x307. Walk-ins welcome.

Mon, Feb 23: Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, exact time not yet determined. Poet Michael Waters to read. Michael Waters’ eight books of poetry include Darling Vulgarity (2006—finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize), Parthenopi: New and Selected Poems (2001), and Green Ash, Red Maple, Black Gum (1997) from BOA Editions, and Bountiful (1992), The Burden Lifters (1989), and Anniversary of the Air (1985) from Carnegie Mellon UP. His several edited volumes include Contemporary American Poetry (Houghton Mifflin, 2006) and Perfect in Their Art: Poems on Boxing from Homer to Ali (Southern Illinois UP, 2003). In 2004 he chaired the poetry panel for the National Book Award. The recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Fulbright Foundation, Individual Artist Awards from the Maryland State Arts Council, and four Pushcart Prizes, he teaches at Monmouth University in New Jersey and in the Drew University MFA Program.

Wed, Feb 25: Peabody Library, Route 113, Post Mills. Reception and book signing by the authors of the literary magazine, Bloodroot. Bloodroot Literary Magazine is a nonprofit publication released each December. Their mission is to provide a journal of high production values and quality material by established and emerging authors. The 2009 issue of Bloodroot features cover art by Christy Hale and poems, short stories and creative nonfiction by 28 outstanding authors, many of them familiar names here in Vermont – Regina Brault, Carol Milkuhn and Nancy Means Wright. The book is scheduled to be out and about in mid-December 2008.

Sun, Mar 8: Warming hut log cabin at the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park, 54 Elm Street, Woodstock, 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Winter Readings in the National Park. Join a park ranger in sharing short stories and poetry about winter at the ski shelter warming cabin. Bring your own stories and poetry to share or just listen to others readings while enjoying the warmth of the cabin’s woodstove. Hot chocolate will be provided. Cost: $5.00 trail pass from the Woodstock Inn & Resort Nordic Center. For info, Tim Maguire at 457-3368 X22 or Tim_maguire@nps.gov.

Sun, Mar 9: Plymouth State University, Smith Recital Hall, Johnson, NH, 7:00 p.m. Poet C.D. Wright. 2008 – 2009 Eagle Pond Author’s Series. A compelling and idiosyncratic poet, C.D. Wright has twelve collections including Rising, Falling, Hovering (2008), a weaving of deeply personal and politically ferocious poems; Deepstep Come Shining and Cooling Time. Her collaboration with photographer Deborah Luster, One Big Self: Prisoners of Louisiana was awarded the Dorothea Lange-Paul Tayor Prize. Her new and selected poems Steal Away was on the shortlist for the Griffin Trust Award. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and is the Israel J. Kapstein Professor at Brown University. Free. (603) 535-5000 to reserve spaces.
Thu, Apr 2: Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, exact time not yet determined. Poet Rosanna Warren to read. Rosanna Warren was born in Connecticut in 1953.

She was educated at Yale (BA 1976) and Johns Hopkins (MA 1980). She is the author of one chapbook of poems (Snow Day, Palaemon Press, 1981), and three collections of poems: Each Leaf Shines Separate (Norton, 1984), Stained Glass (Norton, 1993, Lamont Poetry Award from the Academy of American Poets), and Departure (Norton, 2003). She edited and contributed to The Art of Translation: Voices from the Field (Northeastern, 1989), and has edited three chapbooks of poetry by prisoners. She has won fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, ACLS, The Ingram Merrill Foundation, and the Lila Wallace Readers’ Digest Fund, among others. She has won the Witter Bynner Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Lavan Younger Poets’ Prize from the Academy of American Poets, and the Award of Merit in Poetry from The American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2004. She is Emma MacLachlan Metcalf Professor of the Humanities at Boston University.

Sun, Apr 5: Plymouth State University, Smith Recital Hall, Johnson, NH, 7:00 p.m. Poet Wesley McNair. 2008 – 2009 Eagle Pond Author’s Series. Wesley McNair is the recipient of fellowships from the Rockefeller, Fulbright, and Guggenheim Foundations and a United States Artists Fellowship to “America’s finest living artists.” Other honors include the Robert Frost Prize; the Jane Kenyon Award for Outstanding Book of Poetry (for Fire); the Theodore Roethke prize from Poetry Northwest; the Pushcart Prize and the Sarah Josepha Hale Medal. McNair is currently Professor Emeritus and Writer in Residence at the University of Maine at Farmington. Free. (603) 535-5000 to reserve spaces.

Mon, Apr 20: Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, exact time not yet determined. Poet Eric Pankey to read. Eric Pankey is the author of six books of poetry: Reliquaries, Cenotaph, The Late Romances, Apocrypha, Heartwood and For the New Year. Among his awards are a Guggenheim Fellowship, a NEA Fellowship, the Academy of American Poets’ Walt Whitman Award, and an Ingram Merrill Grant. His work has appeared in many journals, including Partisan Review, The New Yorker, Triquarterly, DoubleTake and The New England Review. He teaches at George Mason University and lives in Fairfax, Virginia.

Thu, Apr 23: Middlebury College, Robert A. Jones ’59 Conference Room, 4:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. A talk by Adina Hoffman, on her new book, My Happiness Bears no Relation to Happiness: Poet Taha Muhammad Ali and the Palestinian Century, (Yale University Press), the first biography of a Palestinian poet, and the first portrayal of Palestinian literature and culture in the 20th Century. Sponsored by the Program in Jewish Studies, Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference, and the Middle East Studies Program. For info, 443-5151, E-mail: schine@middlebury.edu.

Thu, May 14: Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, exact time not yet determined. Poet Michael Harper to read. Michael S. Harper was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1938. He earned a B.A. and M.A. from what is now known as California State University, and an M.F.A. from the University of Iowa. He has taught at Brown since 1970. Harper has published more than 10 books of poetry, most recently Selected Poems (ARC Publications, 2002); Songlines in Michaeltree: New and Collected Poems (2000); Honorable Amendments (1995); and Healing Song for the Inner Ear (1985).

A new poetry collection, Use Trouble, is forthcoming in fall 2008 from The University of Illinois Press. His other collections include Images of Kin (1977), which won the Melville-Cane Award from the Poetry Society of America and was nominated for the National Book Award; Nightmare Begins Responsibility (1975); History Is Your Heartbeat (1971), which won the Black Academy of Arts and Letters Award for poetry; and Dear John, Dear Coltrane (1970), which was nominated for the National Book Award. Harper edited the Collected Poems of Sterling A. Brown (1980); he is co-editor with Anthony Walton of The Vintage Book of African American Poetry (2000) and Every Shut Eye Ain’t Asleep: An Anthology of Poetry by African Americans Since 1945 (1994), and with Robert B. Stepto of Chant of Saints: A Gathering of Afro-American Literature, Art, and Scholarship (1979).

Harper was the first poet laureate of Rhode Island (1988-1993) and has received many other honors, including a fellowship from the Guggenheim Foundation and a National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Award. Harper is also a Phi Beta Kappa scholar, an American Academy of Arts and Sciences fellow, and the recipient of numerous distinctions, including the Robert Hayden Poetry Award from the United Negro College Fund, the Melville-Cane Award, the Claiborne Pell Award for Excellence in the Arts, and the Black Academy of Arts and Letters Award.

Mon, Jun 1: Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, exact time not yet determined. Poet Eamon Grennan to read. Eamon Grennan was born in Dublin in 1941 and educated at UCD, where he studied English and Italian, and Harvard, where he received his PhD in English. His volumes of poetry include What Light There Is & Other Poems, (North Point Press, 1989), Wildly for Days (1983), What Light There Is (1987), As If It Matters (1991), So It Goes (1995), Selected and New Poems (2000) and Still Life with Waterfall (2001). His latest collection, The Quick of It, appeared in 2004 in Ireland, and in Spring 2005 in America. His books of poetry are published in the United States by Graywolf Press, and in Ireland by Gallery Press. Other publications include Leopardi: Selected Poems (Princeton 1997), and Facing the Music: Irish Poetry in the 20th Century, a collection of essays on modern Irish poetry.

His poems, reviews, and essays have appeared in many magazines both in Ireland and the US. Grennan has given lectures and workshops in colleges and universities in the US, including courses for the graduate programs in Columbia and NYU. During 2002 he was the Heimbold Professor of Irish Studies at Villanova University. His grants and prizes in the United States include awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Guggenheim Foundation. Leopardi: Selected Poems received the 1997 PEN Award for Poetry in Translation, and Still Life with Waterfall was the recipient of the 2003 Lenore Marshall Award for Poetry from the American Academy of Poets. His poems have been awarded a number of Pushcart prizes. Grennan has taught since 1974 at Vassar College where he is the Dexter M. Ferry Jr. Professor of English.

Thu, Jul 9: Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, exact time not yet determined. Poet Michael Ryan to read. Michael Ryan has published three collections of poetry, including In Winter, Threats Instead of Trees, has been a finalist for the National Book Award, and God Hunger, as well as A Difficult Grace: On Poets, Poetry, and Writing, and the memoir Secret Life. His work has appeared in Antaeus, The Atlantic Monthly, The New Yorker, New Republic, and elsewhere. Ryan has been honored by the Lenore Marshall Prize, a Whiting Writers Award, the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award, and a Guggenheim. Ryan is Professor of English and Creative Writing at UC, Irvine.

Mon, Jul 27: Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, exact time not yet determined. Poet Doreen Gilroy to read. Doreen Gilroy’s first book, The Little Field of Self (The University of Chicago Press, 2002), won the John C. Zacharis First Book Award from Ploughshares. Her second book, Human Love, was published by the University of Chicago Press in October 2005. Her poems have appeared in The American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, Slate, TriQuarterly and many other magazines.

Mon, Aug 17: Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, exact time not yet determined. Poet Cole Swensen to read. Cole Swensen is the Director of the Creative Writing Program at the University of Denver. She is the author of five collections of poems, including Try (University of Iowa Press, 1999), winner of the 1998 Poetry Prize; Noon (Sun and Moon Press, 1997), which won a New American Writing Award; and Numen (Burning Deck Press, 1995) which was nominated for the PEN West Award in Poetry. Her translations include Art Poetic’ by Olivier Cadiot (Sun & Moon Press, Green Integer Series, 1999) and Natural Gaits by Pierre Alferi (Sun & Moon, 1995). She splits her time among Denver, San Francisco and Paris.

Thu, Sep 3: Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, exact time not yet determined. Poet Marge Piercy to read. Marge Piercy has published 17 books of poetry, including What Are Big Girls Made Of, Colors Passing Through Us, and most recently her 17th volume, The Crooked Inheiritance, all from Knopf. She has written 17 novels, most recently SEX WARS in Perennial paperback now. Her memoir Sleeping With Cats is also in Harper Collins Perennial. Last spring, Schocken published Pesach for the Rest of Us. Her work has been translated into 16 languages. Her CD Louder We Can’t Hear You Yet contains her political and feminist poems. She has been an editor of Leapfrog Press for the last ten years and also poetry editor of Lilith.

Thu, Oct 1: Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, exact time not yet determined. Poet Pattiann Rogers to read. Pattiann Rogers has published ten books of poetry, a book-length essay, The Dream of the Marsh Wren, and A Covenant of Seasons, poems and monotypes, in collaboration with the artist Joellyn Duesberry. Her 11th book of poetry, Wayfare, will appear from Penguin in April, 2008. Rogers is the recipient of two NEA Grants, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a 2005 Literary Award in Poetry from the Lannan Foundation, and five Pushcart Prizes. In the spring of 2000 she was in residence at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Study and Conference Center in Bellagio, Italy. Her papers are archived in the Sowell Family Collection of Literature, Community and the Natural World at Texas Tech University. She has taught as a visiting professor at various universities, including the Universities of Texas, Arkansas, and Montana, Houston University, and Washingon University. She is currently on the faculty of Pacific University’s MFA in Writing Program. Rogers has two sons and three grandsons and lives with her husband in Colorado.

Tue, Oct 20: Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, exact time not yet determined. Poet Major Jackson to read. “Jackson knows the truth of black magic. It is a magic as simple as the belief in humanity that subverts racism, or the esoteric and mystical magic of making jazz, the music of hope and love.” —Aafa Weaver. Major Jackson is the author of two collections of poetry, Hoops (Norton: 2006), a finalist for an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literature-Poetry. and Leaving Saturn (University of Georgia: 2002), winner of the 2000 Cave Canem Poetry Prize and finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award. Poems by Major Jackson have appeared in the American Poetry Review, Boulevard, Callaloo, Post Road, Triquarterly, The New Yorker, among other literary journals and anthologies. He is a recipient of a Whiting Writers’ Award and has been honored by the Pew Fellowship in the Arts and the Witter Bynner Foundation in conjunction with the Library of Congress. He has received critical attention in The Boston Globe, Christian Science Monitor, Parnassus, Philadelphia Inquirer, and on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered. Jackson is an Associate Professor of English at University of Vermont and a faculty member of the Bennington Writing Seminars. In 2006-2007, he was a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University.

Tue, Nov 17: Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, exact time not yet determined. Poet Sebastian Matthews to read. Sebastian Matthews is the author of the poetry collection We Generous (Red Hen Press) and a memoir, In My Father’s Footsteps (W. W. Norton). He co-edited, with Stanley Plumly, Search Party: Collected Poem s of William Matthews. Matthews teaches at Warren Wilson College and serves on the faculty at Queens College Low-Residency MFA in Creative Writing. His poetry and prose has appeared in Atlantic Monthly, Georgia Review, New England, Review, Poetry Daily, Poets & Writers, Seneca Review, The Sun, Tin House, Virginia Quarterly Review and The Writer’s Almanac, among others. Matthews co-edits Rivendell, a place-based literary journal, and serves as poetry consultant for Ecotone:
Re-Imagining Place.

2010

Mon, Feb 22: Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, exact time not yet determined. Poet David Shapiro to read. David Shapiro (born January 2, 1947) is an American poet, literary critic, and art historian and . Shapiro has written some twenty volumes of poetry, literary, and art criticism. He was first published at the age of thirteen, and his first book was published at the age of eighteen. Shapiro has taught at Columbia, Bard College, Cooper Union, Princeton University, and William Paterson University. He wrote the first monograph on John Ashbery, the first book on Jim Dine’s paintings, the first book on Piet Mondrian’s flower studies, and the first book on Jasper Johns’ drawings. He has translated Rafael Alberti’s poems on Pablo Picasso, and the writings of the Sonia and Robert Delaunay. Shapiro has won National Endowment for the HumanitiesNational Endowment for the Arts fellowships, been nominated for a National Book Award, and been the recipient of numerous grants for his work. Shapiro lives in Riverdale, The Bronx, New York City, with his wife and son.

Again, if you become aware of an event that isn’t posted above, please let me know. My apologies if I have left off anything of importance to any of you, but it can always be corrected in the next Vermont Poetry Newsletter.

That’s about it for now. Again, keep your eyes peeled for poetry events. I hope this email finds you all with good health and sharp pencils.

Your fellow Poet,
Ron Lewis

Vermont Poetry Newsletter January 8th 2009

[I actually posted this after the January 16th Vermont Poetry Newsletter.  For the sake of chronology, however, I reposted the Newsletter of the 16th so that this post would appear first. Here it is (minus some items that are out of date). From this point on, I will try to post these Newsletters as soon as I receive them and as long as I have Ron Lewis’ permission – UpinVermont.]

Vermont Poetry Newsletter
Your Poetry & Spoken Word Gateway in the Green Mountain State

Newsletter Editor’s Note

  • The Vermont Poetry Newsletter Network is made up of people of all backgrounds, ages and skills who appreciate the craft of poetry and want to promote it in the beautiful state of Vermont. The network consists of a free e-mail list, an eventual web site, workshops, open mics, poetry performances and other literary events. The network provides opportunities to meet local poets, talk about and enjoy poetry, and motivate and inspire yourself in whatever writing projects you are involved.
  1. Essay on John Ashbery
  2. The Sea Shell Game – Haiku
  3. Interview of Jane Reichhold on Basho
  4. Best Internet Site for Short Forms of Poetry
  5. Did You Know? POEMS Syndrom
  6. Poetry Quote (Robert Penn Warren)
  7. In Memoriam: Adrian Mitchell, British Poet
  8. Poetry Magazine 2-for-1 Offer
  9. Linebreak Poem
  10. Copper Canyon Press Poem – M.S. Merwin Broadside
  11. American Life in Poetry Poem
  12. Vermont Poets Past and Present Project
  13. Contact Info for Publisher of VPN: Ron Lewis
  14. Year-Round Poetry Workshops in Vermont
  15. Other Poetry Workshops in Vermont
  16. Year-Round Poetry Writing Centers in Vermont
  17. Poetry Event Calendar

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1.)

For you John Ashbery fans, here is a wonderfully personal essay on
the poet (and a look inside his grand home!)
:

Hudson 1993:
A Tour of John Ashbery’s Home
By Rosanne Wasserman
Illustrated by Ahndraya Parlato

Foreword, March 2008

Fifteen years ago, when John Ashbery and I walked at snail’s pace around his house to prepare this article, he was still in the process of fashioning his surroundings; he has not ceased to create and recreate them in the intervening decade and a half. Not surprisingly, then, the article describes only one stage in the evolution of his house, some rooms of which have, since then, been further embellished, or reimagined, or pulled apart and are still being put together.

Changes both major and minor have altered these rooms described below. In the Music Room, sparkle has been provided aplenty by the addition of an enormous antique strung-crystal basket-style chandelier. Some paintings, like the white rose by Alex Katz, are no longer on the walls where they were: they are traveling, on loan to various shows at museums or galleries, or they have been replaced by different pieces, as the poet’s taste has changed or sought refreshment. Notable, for example, is a large black-and-white seascape photograph by Lynn Davis, on the wall where the white rose hung. A collection of poetry books has migrated from bedroom to parlor; the toys on the coffee tables are not the same. Some paintings that were in upstairs closets then are on the walls now; the closet stores other canvases at present. (Some of the painters, too, have traveled on: Larry Rivers passed away in 2002; R. B. Kitaj in 2007.)

A significant omission in this article is any discussion of the cellar, which has the usual laundry and furnace rooms, an extra freezer, and another bathroom, as well as two busy offices, files, and archives. In 1993, still more archives were shelved in the unfinished, high-roofed main room of the attic, and since that time, Flow Chart Foundation archives have been stored in an additional space elsewhere in Hudson.

Also omitted below are some important dates: foremost is 1983, not the year in which John purchased the house (he bought it in December 1978), but the date that David Kermani gives as when the house began to become a home, with renovations underway. Five years later, John and David with great generosity offered temporary lodgings to my husband, Eugene Richie, and myself, while we were renovating our own house, an A. J. Downing-style cottage a mile away, a task that took the better parts of 1987–90.

Although an old home requires constant maintenance and repair, so that workmen still come and go, John was just developing his ideas for the house at that time. The process of creating the space was in full sail during the years we were there, and indeed continued right through and past the 1993 tour. However, although some significant acquisitions came much later—the Music Room chandelier being primary among these—nevertheless, by 1993, the interior was recognizably what it is today. (This chandelier and a number of other works and scenes discussed below appear in illustrations accompanying articles by Stephen Sartarelli, “Art of the Poet”1; Dinitia Smith, “Poem Alone”2; and Brice Brown, “Any Interpretation Will Do.”3) These years also saw the writing and publication of A Wave, April Galleons, and Flow Chart, books that I think of as moved by the same muses with whom and for whom John was designing the spaces of his home. His later books, by contrast, seem more to reflect on these spaces, live within them, and rest inside the finished work.

Living at John’s was a splendid treat and an inspiration in those years before our son, Joseph, was born and I began to teach full time. I wrote many poems about or including elements of the house, and was not alone in doing that—many poets and artists who were guests in Hudson found themselves equally moved to write, record, and respond to his gorgeous and idiosyncratic spaces. One of the most beautiful works inspired by the house has been the composer Robin Holloway’s Violin Concerto, Opus 70. When someone once complimented John on this effect, he grinned and troped Falstaff—“I am not only poetic in myself, but the cause that poetry is in other men!” As Ann Lauterbach has written, “His greatness has allowed many poets—from David Lehman to, say, Charles Bernstein, to name two not quite at random—to explore the territory he opened.”4 She’s discussing literary territory, but the metaphor reverts neatly to the actual interiors of his home. For my own part, after many years working as an editor of art and exhibition catalogues at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I found John’s house a perfect antidote for what I like least about museums: that they are not lived-in spaces. John’s house, filled with objets d’art and arranged into subtle, funny, and magnificent scenarios, is also always a place where people live and visit, sleep and dine, watch TV, wash up dishes, sit in chairs. Long may they do so.

When the poet John Ashbery saw the opportunity to purchase a grand old Victorian townhouse upstate in the Hudson Valley, he entered upon what was, for him and his temperament, a very special pursuit. For over a decade, he then worked at restoring, redecorating, and enriching this already beautifully constructed and well-preserved building, creating for himself a space as marvelous as the best of his poetry. This house and its furnishings—like Frederic Church’s Olana just a few miles away above the Hudson River—are a masterwork of visual imagination, revealing not just the personality but the muse of its artist-owner. In a review of Hotel Lautréamont, Michael Wood suggests that Ashbery’s poetry often parodies “the generic voice of a moment or manner in earlier poetry.” Wood writes:

The tone of these allusions is far from that of a solemn adherent to a great tradition, a poet daunted by the lateness that so interests Harold Bloom; more like that of a brilliant and naughty child in an attic full of toys. Or an inquisitive adult in a bazaar crowded with beautiful, battered, and improbable objects.5 Wood’s similes are in fact a fair literal description of the spirit of Ashbery’s interiors.

The Classical Revival town house was built in 1894, and is a model example of late Victorian architecture and decor, with intricate woodworking, stained glass, and built-in shelves and cupboards. Ashbery has filled its fifteen rooms with paintings and prints by artists he knows and loves; with collectible and rare objects of pottery, glass, metal, porcelain; with books reflecting his influences and enthusiasms; and with, to lift a list from Rimbaud, “door panels, stage sets, back-drops for acrobats, signs, popular engravings, old-fashioned literature, church Latin, erotic books with bad spelling, novels of our grandmothers, fairy tales, little books from childhood, old operas, ridiculous refrains, naïve rhythms,”6 and B-movie video cassettes. Moreover, to quote Ashbery himself, “There are a lot of other things of the same quality / as those I’ve mentioned.”7

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Hudson: Fairy tales, little books from childhood, old operas, ridiculous refrains, naïve rhythms. Music room. Photo by Ahndraya Parlato.

More than fifty paintings or works on paper are framed on the walls, along with posters, lithographs, pages cut from old magazines, photographs, and other graphics. Each room has a variety of objects and themes so dense and yet so magically right that their individual atmospheres seem almost human; they have not so much been decorated by, as possessed by the spirit of the master of the house. Ashbery once mentioned to me that his arrangements of objects follow various dramas in his imagination: in part a re-creation of his grandparents’ home in Rochester, New York, where he spent much of his childhood; and in part an idea of what might exist in each room, in some dreamed-up family, as if he were designing a stage set, a giant dollhouse, or a gargantuan Cornell box. For more about his grandparents’ home, the poet’s own words are best consulted, in an article from Architectural Digest, which also features many images of the house circa 1994.8

In 1993, the poet and I walked together through the work-in-progress of his habitat; I invite you now to tour this wonderful house with John Ashbery and me, room by room, to see the paintings and prints on the walls, as well as a few of the other remarkable objects gathered there. Ashbery kindly showed me all around the house, identifying and commenting on the things we saw; I will relay to you what he told me. Since I am not an art historian, I cannot offer an exact descriptive catalogue; I will instead describe both what caught my eye and what Ashbery thought worth mentioning.

There are two main floors to visit, with a brief look up to the attic. On the first floor is a large front hall, with a music room to the left, a library to the right. Off the back of the hall is a dining room, from which a left door leads to the butler’s pantry, then into the kitchen. A grand front staircase from the hall leads upstairs, as does a narrower back stair from the kitchen. A central hall upstairs opens onto six main areas: the upstairs sitting room, a second upstairs library, the master bedroom and its screened sleeping porch overlooking the garden, a guest bedroom, and the bathroom. Between the guest bedroom and the upstairs sitting room is a small but sunny study. The sixth door leads to the attic, where an attic room is also furnished for guests.

The front hall is preceded by a small foyer just past the outside doors with their great curling hinges. The alcove is floored with unglazed gray and white ceramic tiles. Between foyer and front hall is a brilliant wall of uncolored, leaded glasswork and oak wainscotings; the inner doors, too, are set with leaded clear-glass windows, with a spoked-oval spiderweb design of the sort so popular in Gothic cinema. A small Persian star-shaped ceiling lamp set with colored glass bosses hangs above. On the left are two large ceramic umbrella-stands with oriental dragon motifs; on the right, a small gilded rush-bottom chair, very squarely built but delicate-looking. It seems to say, “If you must sit down on me to take off your boots, go ahead; but don’t sit down too hard.”

After the grisailles of the foyer, the dark, richly colored front hall comes as a sumptuous surprise. The hall is magnificent with carved wood details: oak panel wainscoting, inlaid woods on the floors, carvings on the ceiling, great sliding doors off to the left and right, an ornate gilded chandelier, a grand staircase curving into the room at right, a fireplace and big mirror at the back, which reflects the foyer’s glasswork as you leave it and progress into the house. The mantel before it holds a brass clock and two Royal Teplitz porcelain candelabra figurines, shepherd and shepherdess, which Ashbery inherited from his grandparents. All of these details are usually lit only by colored sun falling from the monumental stained-glass window at the top of the first landing of the staircase, so the room is dark and glittery like an Arabian treasure cave. The Persian carpets on the floor show the concern of Ashbery’s friend David Kermani; it is also Kermani who creates and tends to the mammoth Christmas trees, covered with antique glass ornaments from his collection, which illuminate and enchant the back of this hall for a good part of the year.

The hall’s art is primarily oriental, larger and smaller prints and paintings not brightly lit, but of clear figurative designs that make their statements from the comparative dimness of the hall, or blend quietly into the shadows until studied, when they suddenly surprise the watcher: that wall’s full of life! There are a number of Chinese landscape scrolls: one of monkeys, three of birds: these are machine-made textiles. Smaller Japanese prints are grouped together on the left wall: first, a Hokusai design of moon and cherry blossoms in black and white; with it, a very blue blue jay among some very orange leaves. At the back of the hall, a three-part print tells some tale of a tempest, a demon on a rope, and a dancer with a fan under a parasol. This print oddly foreshadows the large Kitaj in the music room next door.

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Hudson: The room gives the impression of a small manmade lake. Music room. Photo by Ahndraya Parlato.

The music room at the left of the foyer is full of a steady but not sparkling light, its fireplace and mantle painted white, with an oval mirror built in above. The room gives the impression of a small manmade lake, not because there is anything blue or skylike in it, but because of its stillness, order, and light. The mantle features a replica of a Jean-Antoine Houdon terracotta bust of a child; on a side table is an original, a 1775 terracotta of a young lady by Phillipe-Laurent Roland. The eighteenth-century French motif is repeated with marble-topped tables, inset with porcelain plaques; gilded chairs and sofa; two side mirrors; and the two front windows with a gilded mirror in between. American details include a small brass reading lamp shaded by a Steuben glass creation called “Aurene”; a hand-painted glass landscape shade enhances another side-table lamp. But the Surrealists have been here, as well, with a little playful trompe l’oeil: two ashtrays seem to hold a pipe or a nutcracker and nuts: all are of porcelain. A potted ficus tree and a grand piano draped with a red paisley shawl complete the scene.

Six large works hang on these walls. The eye is seized first by a very big genre scene, full of colorful figures, action, and violence: Susan Dakin’s painting of an assassination attempt on a general, an episode from the 1929 Mexican novel of political intrigue and corruption, La Sombra del Caudillo by Martin Luis Guzman. The wounded leader lies on the floor of a posh restaurant, behind an overturned table, his napkin still in his collar, bloodstains on his uniform, a gun in its holster at his hip; he is surrounded by the dark, concerned faces of his staff and attendants, some of whom have apprehended the gunman as he tried to flee out the restaurant’s windowed street doors in the background. Food, flowers, and blue seltzer bottles spill around in the foreground. The New World revolutionary mood of the entire piece suggests that a window from the future has opened into this eighteenth-century room; or perhaps it’s the door of a time machine from which we visitors have just tumbled.

After this canvas, the others seem quieter, deeper, even the Willem de Kooning, a calligraphic black-and-white silkscreen dated 1970. The print is numbered 27/28. Its abstract but violent squiggles recall Japanese sumi, especially after the orientalism of the hall. This work is one of the series Ashbery reviewed during his decade-long Paris sojourn, while writing for the Herald Tribune.9 Even quieter, on the opposite wall, is a huge white rose on a burgundy background, its petals highlighted with gray and yellow. I always think of Georgia O’Keefe at first sight of this painting, but it’s an early Alex Katz, 1966, not his familiar human figures, but with his recognizable, simply stated two-dimensionality.

With these works hangs a portrait, in subdued but clear colors, of the poet as a young man: “John Ashbery” by Fairfield Porter, from the painter’s Southampton home in 1957. The poet wears a blue short-sleeve shirt and tan slacks with a brown belt; he turns the left profile as he sits in a studio chair. (The image was reproduced in 2004 on the cover of Ashbery’s Selected Prose.) Another portrait hangs by the piano: “Eduard,” the head of a man from a series painted in 1943 by Jean Hélion. This abstract bust wears a black-banded fedora; his red tie is the only bright color in a gray palette; the face is reminiscent of a Léger. Painted during his American period, it shows the qualities Ashbery lists in “Jean Hélion Paints a Picture”: “clear, monumental, rounded forms and quiet metallic tones, which give an impression of tranquility and unclamorous strength.” 10

Above the piano is the print by R. B. Kitaj, an Ohio-born painter living in England, whom Ashbery has praised for his “literary qualities.”11 Entitled “French Subjects,” this collagelike work contains three line-drawn portrait heads, one labeled “A. Legros,” the others unnamed. The name “Gerard Phillipe” banners across one section of the piece; ten stylized soup bowls in two rows stand upside-down at top left; and at lower right, we are given a mysterious photograph-derived image of two people in coats, walking toward a building with an inverted horseshoe and the word “cottage” on its side. The work is inscribed by hand: “Kitaj (proof) For John Ashbery, love.”

Finally, with the bibelots and curios on the piano—some art pottery, some music books, a marble sculpture of something between a chess bishop and a lighthouse—is a stand supporting a canvas painted by the British artist and poet Trevor Winkfield. The small, strange, jewel-like images, in flat, bright colors, include a pair of dice, a fly, two jingle bells, and the lower halves of a few flowerpots. A gift from the young artist during Ashbery’s long hospitalization in the 1980s, its back is inscribed: “Fragment,” “this, my first canvas in seventeen years, for John Ashbery abed, May 1982.” Needless to say, Winkfield is another exceptionally literary painter, in fact a Roussellian, and a dear friend of Ashbery’s.

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Hudson: The library is peculiarly Germanic, in a Black Forest fairytale way. Downstairs library. Photo by Ahndraya Parlato.

The library at the left of the hall seems to be the forest counterpart of the lakelike music room. Where the music room is decidedly French, both antique and modern, the library is peculiarly Germanic, in a Black Forest fairytale way, Victorian and gnomic, not to say gnomelike. This impression is chiefly conveyed by the oak paneling and the large pieces of furniture: there are no fewer than five big upholstered armchairs arranged in a circle here, with carved arms and legs, leafy fabrics or figurative needlework, antimacassars and pillows. Small coffee tables between them support Tiffany lamps. The three floor lamps are carved of large wooden posts, adding to the woodland feeling, further heightened by a leafy potted palm. This room’s paneled ceiling and high wainscoting can be seen in the book American Victorian.12 The books that give the room its name—
specially bound books and journals, including an entire set of Art News—are in the background, behind built-in glass-doored shelves.

This room, too, has a special place for the American: on the mantle, Ashbery displays a select collection of American art pottery, which completes the Midsummer’s Night’s Dream spirit of the atmosphere. Small pots and dishes, mugs and vases, jars and candlesticks, in green and brown earthtones, glowing blues and turquoise, iron pinks and ochres, are reflected in the mantelpiece mirror. An old crackle-glazed blue-on-white Dedham rabbit plate rests in a stand as a centerpiece within a square niche above the dark tile of the fireplace, below the mantle. One shelf holds a Roycroft metalwork vase. These pieces are from the studios of small artisans or industries from all over the country, both older and newer kilns—Weller, Van Briggle, George Ohr, Marblehead, Gruby, Hampshire, Jugtown, Cowan, Frankoma, Fuller, Roseville, and Prang. While many can be identified by the potters’ marks, Ashbery has collected not only the pottery but also books about it for many years, and he is able to recognize the origins and value of little dishes and trays that most people would overlook in a dark thrift shop. Like Puck and his band in an Arthur Rackham illustration, the grotesque and graceful forms of the earthenware gathered on the mantle seem to dance in trees above the heads of the poet’s afternoon guests.

Another whimsical Victorian is represented here: above the high oak panel hangs a colored print by Edward Lear, one of his sketchbook Italian scenes, labeled Ponta Pingiana. There are, in addition, three Piranesi prints: the Veduta di Franco del Campidoglio, Rome, in black and white; a 1777 scene of the Porto Orientale, showing the harbor surrounded by ornate statuary; and a vista down a curving street, the Veduta della Gran Curia Innocenziana, filled with three-story urban façades. Finally, there is another Englishman’s view of Italy, a large colored print of Venice by J. Alphege Brewer. The combined effect of the prints is light, airy, and at the same time rather literary, appropriately. Are they far-off scenes glimpsed through the forest trees, or endpoints of maps of where we might be off to next? So detailed but so unobtrusive, they invite and avoid deeper study.

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Hudson: Far-off scenes glimpsed through the forest trees. Downstairs library. Photo by Ahndraya Parlato.

The dining room is papered with real Lincrusta Walton, the wallpaper immortalized by Oscar Wilde as the one thing he most missed while in Reading Gaol. The room represents the sumptuous Victorian style, with built-in curved-glass cupboards and a stained-glass window. The table and chairs, as described in American Victorian, were “built especially for the room, with an edge molding of the same egg-and-dart design as the handsomely paneled woodwork and cabinets,” and other “high-style Colonial Revival flourishes.”13 The poet searched long to match a missing shade for the chandelier, which now has all four golden Steuben Aurene glass shades, like the one in the music room. The warm golden light is deepened by the oak woodwork and burnished by the stained glass above the mirror at the back of the room, with its harvest grapevine motif. In one corner, a large embossed brass plate with a tavern scene gilds the lily. This item came from a Rochester, New York, antique store at the top of the block where Ashbery lived as a child with his grandparents during the school year.

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Hudson: The warm golden light is deepened by the oak woodwork and burnished by the stained glass. Dining room. Photo by Ahndraya Parlato.

The ceramics on the shelves and enclosed in the cabinets of the dining room include Czech pottery, blue willow, a large collection of French matchholders that the poet gathered during his years in Paris, plates with scenes from Roman history and captions in French, and a Little Orphan Annie mug with the balloon, “Didja ever taste anything so good as Ovaltine? And it’s Good for yuh, too—.” There is a blue-transfer plate featuring American poets: Bryant, Holmes, Lowell, Whittier, Poe, and Emerson, with Longfellow in the center. On the back stands a pair of pouter pigeons by Goldschneider; on a side table are pieces of glassware: a Dorflinger spiral-stem candy dish, a Daum potpourri bowl, and a mottled yellow Loetz dish.

Over the mantle, which is full of Teplitz amphorae and German art glass vases, a portrait shows a rather beefy sea captain, no relation to the poet, painted perhaps by Samuel F. B. Morse. He’s there because he’s supposed to be there, one of the elements in Ashbery’s exquisite Victorian parody, if it is a parody. There is also the requisite still life of sliced fruits and open pomegranates, with an indecipherable signature. A print of Guido Reni’s Aurora hangs above the left cabinet, and there is a convex mirror at head-height as you turn left into the butler’s pantry. That mirror, of course, is tantamount to Ashbery’s signature on the room, which is one of his favorites in the house.

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Hudson: A rather beefy sea captain is there because he’s supposed to be there. Dining room. Photo by Ahndraya Parlato.

A doorway at the back of the left wall leads to the butler’s pantry, a narrow room or a very wide hall between the dining room and kitchen. There are counters on either side of the passage, a window onto the backyard at the right, and cupboards at the left that reach straight up to the high ceiling. On these shelves are more ceramics and glassware; on the walls, a wonderful William Morris print paper in brown and rust tones, his “Tobacco Leaf” design. The Fiestaware is stored here, as well as a number of Czech ceramics and a collection of fake food: clay vegetables and breads; wooden, wax, and plastic fruit. There is an old black plastic handset telephone—with a real dial—on a phone shelf just before the kitchen door.

Under the window, a marble counter with a copper sink is covered with bottles: this side is the bar. And there are appropriate paintings: a still life of Bombay gin bottles by Archie Rand, and a small piece by J. Shannon, a 1979 portrait of Walter Hopps (1932–2005; a curator of twentieth-century art at the Menil Collection museum). Hopps wears rolled-up shirtsleeves and a bright tie, and stands with a drink in one hand, the other hand in his pants pocket. A cartoon from 1924 is also framed, showing two cute urchins and a pup with a bow, entitled “L’heure du cocktail.” A tin advertising sign reads “Drink sunspot / bottled sunshine.” And there is a coaster from Harry’s New York Bar, Munich: two dancing grasshoppers in top hats.

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Hudson: “Drink sunspot / bottled sunshine.” Butler’s pantry and kitchen. Photo by Ahndraya Parlato.

In the kitchen, the warm light from side and back windows and the back porch door is complemented by the yellow and white paint of walls and ceiling. The room is full of useful things and of less useful but more interesting collections, including at least nine tin fish molds on the walls and several yellowware bowls of all sizes on a stand. There are two walk-in pantries, a smaller one with china dishes and glassware, and a huge one for cookware with an entire wall of shelves full of cookbooks. The house’s original woodstove stands at the left side of the kitchen table; painted a shiny black, it now supports the microwave, and its belly is full of boxes of tea as well as a blue glass jar holding peppermint grown and dried by the poet himself. On the refrigerator, a magnet shaped like a pack of Dentyne chewing gum holds up a coloring-book picture of Jim Henson’s Muppet Miss Piggy, reading a book to her dolly; it has been colored by Sarah Megan Williams, a six-year-old friend. Old advertising art dominates the walls: a poster for “Genuine Butter-Nut Bread” features white slices floating in an arc through the air down to a silver platter. And a placard for “Uncle Wabash Cupcakes” may be a subliminal early booster for integration: two white-frosted, five chocolate-iced cupcakes together on a plate, with old Uncle Wabash, a grizzled African-American, playing banjo in the lower left corner. Over the sink, a large metal sign, unframed, in yellow, red, and black, reads “Clabber Girl, the double-acting baking powder.”

There is a back staircase from the kitchen to the second floor, but for the proper way to go upstairs, we retrace our steps through the dining room so as to proceed up the formal front stairs to the upstairs hall. This staircase is stunning, not only for its showcase stained-glass window, but also because of the twenty Japanese prints purchased by Ashbery in the fifties in Paris. Their style is mostly after Hiroshige, and they depict bridges in rain, seashore, snow on sea and hills, street scenes, green mountain paths, a house on a sea cliff; there are two of Europeans, and there are “Yokohama prints” with geisha, as well as a view of Mount Fuji. There is also a typical ukiyo-e triptych of four figures. Glimmering lushly from the shadows at either side of the window, on two small built-in corner shelves, are two vases of what is known as Goofus glass: these shimmery painted objects, the poet says, are “really basically junk, although now of course there are books on them.” The window, which dominates and illuminates both downstairs and upstairs halls, has a landscape motif, with a design of mallows in the foreground and the purple Catskills in the background, all encircled by blue ribbons and wreaths.

The upstairs hall has a large travel poster of the town of Carpentras, a detail from a nineteenth-century painting of this walled city of North Provence in the south of France, a Jewish center in the Middle Ages. Ashbery visited there long ago, and again with Francis Wishart, son of the painter Anne Dunn; they saw the old synagogue and subterranean mikvah baths. Views of two German towns, Andernach and Neuwied, by the painter Schutz, hang here as well. A very small landscape view of Chillon, with a butterfly ship below the citadel, came from Ashbery’s grandparents’ home. Of its provenance, he says only, “I don’t know who did it or where it came from.” There is an old mirror topped with yet another reproduction of Reni’s Aurora, hanging above the round table with the phone—again, a nice heavy old-fashioned black 1950s dialer. On the table is also a dome-shaded Tiffany lamp, featuring a geometric pattern of circles and lines in monochromatic tones of pale gold.

This is not to say that the back stairs have been neglected: on the contrary, there’s not an inch of wasted space here. An amazingly eclectic gathering of prints and images carpet the cottage-style green-flowered wallpaper. At the foot of the stairs is a large frame holding the separate sheets of a “Tom Thumb’s Alphabet” by Edward Dalziel, from an 1867 publication entitled The Child’s Coloured Gift Book (the entire book can be viewed online at The Open Library). Each letter has a figure or two in caricature, and a rhyme, as below:

A was an archer,
who shot at a frog.
B was a Butcher,
who had a great dog.
C was a captain,
all covered with lace.
D was a drummer,
who played with a grace.
E was an Esquire,
with pride on his brow.
F was a Farmer,
who followed the plow.
G was a Gamester,
who had but ill-luck.
H was a Hunter,
who hunted a buck.
I was an Italian,
who had a white mouse,
whom John the footman
drove from the house.
K was a King,
so mighty and grand.
L was a Lady,
who had a white hand.
M was a miser,
who hoarded up gold.
N was a Nobleman,
gallant and bold.
O was an Organ-boy,
who played for his bread.
P a Policeman,
of bad boys the dread.
Q was a Quaker,
who would not bow down.
R was a Robber,
who prowled about town.
S was a sailor,
who spent all he got.
T was a Tinker,
who mended a pot.
V was a Veteran,
who never knew fear.
[U is missing forever from here.]
W was a waiter,
with dinners in store.
X was expensive,
and so became poor.
Y was a Youth,
who did not like school.
Z was a Zany,
who looked a great fool.

As we climb the stairs, when we can finally tear away from that extravagant and scary children’s alphabet, we find a print of Edward Burne-Jones’s Galahad and his steed; a lonesome pine on a trail in a 1920s colored photo of Yosemite; a photo of Nita Naldi wearing pearls and a high, pointed headdress, not the Theda Bara clone she appears to be but, says Ashbery, “someone in her own right”; a print of Hans Holbein’s Erasmus; several etchings, including two landscapes, one of a cloister with oxen on the road, signed by H. Toussaint; a geyser from Watkins Glen, which Ashbery calls a “childhood haunt”; a color poster of Diaghilev’s Ballet Russe Puss in Boots; and as a grande finale over the stairs, a large color movie poster of Rin-Tin-
Tin, Jr., a German shepherd posing vigilantly on a mountain ledge at sunset.

There are also a couple of pieces by Maxfield Parrish, “Interlude” and “Daybreak,” both from 1922; this Parrish collection continues in the bathroom, where three more enhance the paneling: “Circe,” 1907; “The Rubaiyat,” 1916 (originally art for a Crane’s Chocolates box); and a Collier magazine cover of 1908, a landscape with a figure, a gift to Ashbery from the poet Bill Berkson.

And there’s more on the stairs: “Liszt’s Matinee,” which Ashbery says is the famous print of Liszt and his circle by Joseph Kriehuber; “The Very Last Polka” by Francois Bernard, an 1800s sheet-music cover with a city evening scene and horse-drawn carriage; two tinted photos, “The Garden Gate” and “The Swimming Pool,” maybe by Wallace Nutting, a northeastern photographer popular for garden scenes and ladies in nineteenth-century dresses. There are ruins of the Roman Forum; Zurich’s bridges; the Via Dolorosa, Jerusalem, again from his grandparents’ home; a “Boy in Orchard,” which seems to be a three-dimensional embossed print of a child in a hat; one of those comic prints with the legend “Ne buvez jamais d’eau”; a Raphael Madonna and Babe; and the Uneeda Biscuit boy in his yellow slicker, carrying a box with the Nabisco logo beneath his arm.

We are rewarded at the top of either staircase by an invitation to the upstairs sitting room, actually the very important location of the television, VCR, coffee table, and six-o’clock news. Today there is an electronic remote-control whoopee cushion on the round Formica-
topped table in front of the main Potato Couch, as well as a wind-up metal duck on a motorcycle with a whirligig on its head, a gift from the poet Ed Barrett (this same duck can be seen in a mail-order catalogue called Russian Dressing); a porcelain gnome with a pipe, inscribed “Dingle”; and a plastic windup walking Christmas tree about two inches high. The table also holds the usual collection of magazines (Gourmet, Old-House Journal), Michelin guides, the latest Book Barn finds, poetry journals, biographies of musicians, and movie guides, especially The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film by Michael Weldon.

On the mantle opposite the couch are more serious, or at least older, porcelains: Staffordshire figurines of dogs and lovers, a miniature bust of Byron. The William Morris wallpaper here is again “Tobacco Leaf,” in a bittersweet color. A bibelot shelf in the corner holds a good-sized collection of miniature shoes, fashioned in glass, porcelain, metal, and other media. There is a Nordic Track indoor ski machine. There is a miniature table that seems to be made of buttons. The bookcase is full of cassettes of cartoons, old B films, lots of “Mad Movies” from San Francisco, and old SCTV reruns, as well as books about Hollywood, music, and cinema.

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Hudson: Detail of a Rodrigo Moynihan painting to which Ashbery is particularly attached. Upstairs sitting room. Photo by Ahndraya Parlato.

Despite the wealth of pop culture here, the nine paintings in the room elevate the atmosphere even with the television on. Many are pieces to which Ashbery is particularly attached: a Jane Freilicher still life with a copy of ARTNews; Anne Dunn’s “Orchard” of 1989; an Elaine de Kooning garden, Casale Sonnino, watercolor on paper, inscribed “Happy birthday 9/20/81”; and a Rodrigo Moynihan painting of light bulbs. Over the mantlepiece is a large print, captioned “Grand Theatre Chalet.–Fond.” It shows a mountain house with a brook on the right: Ashbery identifies it as an image d’Epinale, the town in eastern France famed for its colored chromo illustration industry. There are three Hélions: a sketchbook leaf showing a Paris street scene of people walking between parked cars; a watercolor study for a large oil painting of three figures, 1937; and one piece inscribed to Ashbery, showing the studio where the painter’s wife lived, the flat space of the roof, chimneys in the background, a bridge leading over to his studio. Above the couch is one of Jim Bishop’s huge colorfield paintings, whitish blue, blue, red, and green.

In the upstairs library across the large central hall, white bookshelves rise from floor to ceiling along three of the walls, interrupted only by windows and a fireplace. Once a bedroom, this study is now the main repository of reading material in the house, and the working office for Ashbery, holding both the computer and the stereo equipment. The titles on the shelves are mostly fiction, philosophy, mysticism, and biographies, as well as records, tapes, compact discs, and books about music.

The Morris wallpaper here is the Iris pattern, a deep turquoise floral, not much of which is visible behind the bookshelves. It harmonizes with the faux-malachite marbleized fireplace and with the Larry Rivers double portrait of Ashbery and Kermani, “David and John,” 1977. The painting incorporates as background several lines from the poem “No Way of Knowing” from Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror, beginning with “And then? Colors and names of colors.” There are old family photos here—actual family this time—on the mantle and above the computer desk: one shows Grandfather Ashbery and the soccer team he coached at a Pennsylvania school where he taught in the 1880s. The closet of this room holds Jane Freilicher’s unfinished portrait of Ashbery, painted about 1965, and another piece of French antique ephemera, the backdrop for a puppet theater, a set of scenes including railroad, towns, and a cityscape. On the walls hang Anne Dunn’s red flower/phallus image, 1962; a poster of Gentileschi’s “A Sibyl,” circa 1620, from the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; a small canvas by Hélion of Belle Isle en Mer, showing a port scene at Amici, with two white brushstrokes like a heart or dove in the sky, tethered boats, and boxy houses; and a modern New York cityscape by Darragh Park, entitled “Freeze,” set near the poet’s apartment on 22nd Street in Chelsea.

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Hudson: And then Colors and names of colors. Upstairs library.Photo by Ahndraya Parlato.

There is another small office upstairs, in a bright windowed alcove between the sitting room and the guest bedroom. The desk in this office faces three small stained-glass panels set into a large bay full of potted plants. Another small bookshelf holds odds and ends, children’s books, gardening titles. There are four more pieces here by Winkfield: one mysterious puzzle featuring a 1920s-garbed lady, a gagged but pointing boy, and a leopard in a cage; two from his series “Marine Architecture”; and one mandala design of a bearded face, hardware nuts, and mirror, multiplied on a quadrant. On the right wall are three small nineteenth-century landscape drawings by minor artists, pale sketches: an Adolphe Appian of a fisherman in a mountain stream; an Antoine Chintreuil shoreline; and a seascape by Antoine Vollon. In contrast is the abstract piece by the Texas-based painter Robin Utterbach, behind the desk.

The master bedroom is a deep lagoon, a place for a lorelei or a kraken to dream. As Descartes and Proust did in their rooms, Ashbery spends a good deal of time in his large brass bed here, especially weekend mornings, with the classical radio station out of Albany and the New York Times. “White Pimpernel” Morris wallpaper dominates the walls with cool greens and creamy white flower petals in Celtic swirls. There is a flowered chaise longue and wall of books, mostly art history and art catalogues, collections of classic comics, travel, antique magazines, and the histories of various cities and locales, especially New York, Paris, and the Hudson Valley. A white door leads outside to a screened sleeping porch, furnished with white-painted wicker chairs and old rockers, hung with baskets of ivy, spider plants, and bleeding-heart or fuchsias. The porch looks west: the poet sits out there during summers and watches his garden, the sunsets, and in particular one huge old arabesquing elm tree way down the block. There are three large Victorian houses along the street and alley, rising over a new glass solarium built in the appropriate Gothic style.

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Hudson: A place for a lorelei or a kraken to dream. Master bedroom. Photo by Ahndraya Parlato.

The paintings in this room again include Hélion, a small sketch made for Ashbery in 1962 of a garden with a wheelbarrow; and Freilicher, a painting of a basket of Queen Anne (oxheart) cherries, inscribed “Happy Birthday John, July 1977”; another Freilicher, “Sunset,” shows her penthouse view, painted some time between 1969 and 1988. There is also a funny Red Grooms, titled “Summer Still Life,” featuring a can of Barbasol, razor, screen with seven hooks, a sailboat, and a fly, dated 1978; a very small piece by Danny Moynihan of two white stones; the Alex Katz portrait of Pierre Martory with a pipe, from about 1969, made from a metal cutout print, of which this image is a silkscreen detail. James Schuyler refers to this piece in his poem “Letter to a Friend: Who is Nancy Daum?” from The Crystal Lithium.14 There is also a sketch of Ashbery’s grandparents’ summer home in Pultneyville, New York, given to him in 1985 by Philip Bornarth, a painter who taught at Rochester Institute of Technology (he retired in 1999), and his wife Sylvia. “This was a summer cottage, remodeled for winter after his retirement,” says Ashbery.

There are two paintings by Neil Welliver: both Maine landscapes, one entitled “Drowned Cedar,” with a dead bough in the water; the other a view from his home. The latter is a small version of a larger painting that Ashbery once arranged to appear on the cover of ARTNews, when the original cover fell through and left editor Thomas Hess strapped, thereby jumpstarting Welliver’s career. Welliver painted this small version and gave it to Ashbery to thank him.

A Color Chart over the radio by the bed features several natural and manmade objects to illustrate the colors of the spectrum; it was acquired from the same Paris shop as the puppet-theater backdrops: “a shop full of wonderful old toys,” says Ashbery. The Joseph Cornell poster for a 1977 show features the print that appears on the cover of Ashbery’s collection Hotel Lautréamont. On the dresser, with a photo of his mother, is another of Ashbery in suit and tie from 1956 at an aunt and uncle’s; and what he calls a “daub” inscribed “Happy birthday,” by Mary Abbot, a friend of the poet Barbara Guest.

Adjoining the master bedroom—connected, in fact, by a walk-through closet—is the guest bedroom, papered with a truly eye-teasing Morris floral of white, yellow, green, blue, pink, gray, and other fresh, clear hues just a bit away from bright, with a pattern just short of busy. If the other bedroom was a lagoon, this one is a summer meadow. White-painted bookcases, woodwork details, and the yellow tile fireplace harmonize with and calm the excitement, which is, however, revived in miniature with a collection of “end-of-day” glass on the mantle, primarily vases with swirling color-dot patterns in every shape and size. Ashbery is justifiably proud of this room’s faux-
bamboo bedroom set of birds-eye maple; he has seen the same in a museum. A little ceramic lady with a fan kicks up her leg on a swinging hinge on the dresser top. The bookcase holds a collection of poetry: whether the poet stores these titles here because he likes the thought of these books in this particular room, or because he doesn’t want all those other voices right next to his own bed, I am not sure.

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Hudson: If the other bedroom was a lagoon, this one is a summer meadow. Guest room. Photo by Ahndraya Parlato.

Given the energy of the backdrop, the walls here have been hung with an appropriately quieter collection of smaller images: a Currier and Ives print of Saratoga Lake; an atypical Freilicher, from her short-
lived abstract period, captioned “Near the Sea”; a black and white Corot print, “Une matinee,” of dancing nymphs and sirens; a 1979 painting by Susan Shatter, “Scarlet Sunset,” showing a view of Lake Wesserunsett, Maine; another print, the “Horse Fair” of Rosa Bonheur; a drawing in pen and ink over pencil of loopy calligraphic figures, made by Raymond Mason, an English artist living in Paris and inscribed “1984, for JA”; another Bishop, this one a dark abstract gouache, 1960; by Nell Blaine, a 1953 ink sketch of a forest pond; by Joe Brainard, a wonderful flowery collage and watercolor entitled “Garden IV,” of about 1969; a framed oval print of a young girl after Jean-Baptiste Greuze—called “The Broken Pitcher,” it is a late eighteenth-century French allegory of lost virginity. “He did a lot of these!” remarks Ashbery. With the kicking lady on the dresser is a Hélion sketch of three musicians from 1968, when, caught up in the student movement, the artist made many such street scenes.

The guest bedroom is the last of the main rooms on the second floor; the bathroom is the only one I have not described, although, with its Rookwood tiles, cast-plaster ceiling moldings, and eight-foot tub supported by plump little caryatids, it certainly holds its own with the other rooms. It is, obviously, a most magnificent antique bathroom, one of the delights of which includes a bottle of Acacia Violet cologne given to the poet by Schuyler.

There is one last place to view: a doorway between the entrances of the two bedrooms leads up another flight of stairs. The attic staircase, unpapered, offers an illusion: its old painted plaster seems to be hung with one solitary frame about two feet square. But when we approach it, we discover that, no, it is not a frame, not a picture within a frame, but an air vent, nicely made and finished as if it were a glassless window. I am fond of this error, which I always make: expecting to see a work in a frame, I find only space through which I can look down and see the images hanging in the hall of the back staircase. I find it surprising, funny, mysterious, serendipitous, and literally absolutely clear: like so much of Ashbery’s poetry.

A little guest bedroom, once a maid’s room or nursery, opens at the top of these stairs. Two old twin beds have handwoven navy and white wool-and-cotton coverlets, one of which was woven by an Ashbery ancestor and dated 18-something. Here, on another wall of bookshelves, are the poet’s collection of French titles and the entire Anchor Bible. There is a large Hélion poster from 1980, published by the Galerie Karl Flinker, of a nude woman, with a baguette on a tableclothed table. Between the two beds hangs a large, handsome Kovac Star Map, a dark blue rectangle with white circles sprinkled with stars, and in a small frame on the right side of the room is the cover of Childlife Magazine from Christmas 1937.

1Contemporanea (January 1990), pp. 52-57. With photographs by Ken Schles.
2New York (May 20, 1991), pp. 46-52.
3Sienese Shredder (2008), pp. 20–23.
4“Slaves of Fashion,” The Night Sky: Writings on the Poetics of
Experience (New York: Viking, 2005), p. 180.
5“Outside the Shady Octopus Saloon,” New York Review of Books XLI. 10 (May 23, 1993), pp. 32-33.
6Complete Works, trans. Wallace Fowlie (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970), p. 193.
7“And Ut Pictura Poesis Is Her Name,” Selected Poems (New York:
Penguin, 1986), p. 235.
8“Guest Speaker: John Ashbery, The Poet’s Hudson River
Restoration,” Architectural Digest (June 1994), pp. 36–44.
9Reported Sightings: Art Chronicles 1957–1987 (New York: Knopf, 1989), pp. 181-187.
10Reported Sightings, p. 59.
11Reported Sightings, p. 300.
12Lawrence Grow and Dina von Zweck, American Victorian: A Style and Source Book (New York: Harper and Row, 1984).
13American Victorian, p. 129.
14Selected Poems (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007), pp. 85-90.

Rain Taxi Online Edition, Summer 2008 | © Rain Taxi, Inc. 2008

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2.)

The Sea Shell Game

Do you enjoy finding which of two similar things is the better? Do you like to learn by observing how two poems compare? Would you like to see a poem of yours compared to one by someone else?
For centuries part of the training of Japanese children to be sensitive to beauty and the different levels of it was accomplished by a game. Even adults, in their lighter moments, will start a game with shells, or leaves or flowers. Perhaps you, too, have done the same process in order to find the best or loveliest in a collection.

From a pile of, let us say, stones one person draws two stones at random. The stones are compared and then judged to say, “This stone is lovelier than that one.” The *winners* go in one pile, the *losers* in another until all the stones have been compared. Then the process is repeated with the *winners*, again and again, until one stone remains.

When poets would gather for poetry contests, often sponsored by the emperor, even in times before Japan’s written history (764 AD), this same process of elimination was used. The prizes then were bolts of silk or, if a poem was really special, the emperor would give one of his possessions — a musical instrument or his fan.

When Basho was a young teacher of renga (the linked poetry form) he felt that the first verse of a renga (then called a hokku) was so important that his students should be made aware of the difference between a *good* hokku and a great one. Basho would organize contests built on the old principles of comparing things. Thus, in 1672 he commissioned scribes to write down records of his judging comments to be saved and these he collected under his title of “The Sea Shell Game.” This was the only book he published in his lifetime. Other books that he compiled or advised were all published by his patrons or students. Translations of “The Shell Game” give us a peek into what and how he taught.

WHAT THE SHELL GAME IS AT AHA! POETRY

For the first time, we are playing the Japanese Sea Shell Game in English. Poems which are called haiku are compared, commented on, and sorted out until one poem remains as *winner*. Various persons who are active haiku writers will be invited to do the judging. Your own haiku may be submitted for the contest.

Your poem will be printed without your name but with a pen name if you so chose. These will be picked, two at a time, at random. The judge will display the poems, comment on each and choose one over the other. This process will continue until one haiku is left. This one will be declared winner, the author’s name will be revealed and a prize awarded. A list of the winning haiku will be kept so that people who are new to the game can read the winning poems and authors’ names. The judges’ comments, as well as the poems discussed, will be archived in the AHA!POETRY Archive for reference and downloading.

Here are some examples of the game (there are many others as well) – by reading through the games that have already been judged, you can learn what it is that makes a good haiku, a winning haiku. Read on.

Sea Shell Game #1

JUDGE: Jane Reichhold
DATE: August 1, 1995
PARTICIPANTS: Anonymous

ROUND ONE – A

1.

ripples
on calm waters
sailors’ dreams

2.

artist’s diet
how lovingly she traces
the sandwich

Even though #1 is an excellent poem and completely without a flaw, I could not pick it for a winner because it is too close to Basho’s famous poem, “summer grass / the dreams / of warriors” which was possibly read by the author. There is a strong suspicion that having once seen wind rippling long grass on hill so that it looked as such a scene must have to Basho, that ghostly warriors were storming the rise. One of the ways of learning how haiku works is to take the Old Masters’ works into a new situation, as was done here. However, the question is, does one enter such an exercise in a contest? It is an excellent haiku and if Basho had not beat the author by his arrival on earth 300 years earlier, it would be a winner. So, I pick “artist’s diet” as winner of this round.

ROUND ONE – B

3.

dimples in a spa
the fat lady
and the rain

4.

still asleep
everyone but bald monks
praying at dawn

Though #3 is hardly profound, it does contain a comparison of the dimples rain would make in an outdoor (which is not clear, and here is only assumed) with those which one could see on the fat lady’s skin. And, there is a good chance that no one in haiku history has made that comparison! The poem is built on the very simple technique of using a phrase that encompasses both parts of the comparison.

It is almost like a riddle: where are the dimples in the spa? The word “dimples” could lead one to think “fat person”. The bit of nature “the rain” comes along as a bit of a surprise. It causes the reader to think: how do drops hitting water look? and how does a dimple look? and are they really that similar.

What bothers me in this poem is the phrase “the fat lady”. It moves the poem into an area of poetry the Japanese call “senryu” (SEND-JEW or SEN-YOU-ROO) which uses the haiku form to criticize others or make cruel jokes about them. The poem may make some readers smile, but it could be offensive to large women.

The poem “still asleep” has some problems in it, but because of the potential cruelty in “fat woman” I will pick #4.

ROUND ONE – C

5.

candled egg
the moon too seems full
of new life

6.

a binge
and two aspirins
poems arrive

“Haiku” similar to #6 make the hairs on the back of my neck to rise. Whether the poem is short and haiku-like or a long modern free verse work; there is something about this kind of bellyaching that makes me feel the writer is wasting the opportunity to be a poet. “Poems” complaining about how hard it is to be a poet or get a piece written is not about *vision* or *seeing*. No. # 6 tells us too much about the author. I would rather read the poems. Just looking at the shape of the two poems, however, it *feels* as if #5 is too long or too full and #6 has the traditional/modern (you got that?) look. But the content in #6, in this case, turns me against the work — a case where a personal prejudice of the judge can ruin a perfectly good poem.

ROUND ONE – D

7.

on the path home
cold frost darkens
children’s ruddy cheeks

children’s cheeks
windfall apples in a sack
still the tree is huge

Here we can see an author trying to work through what s/he would probably call “a haiku moment”. By reading both the poems one gets a pretty clear picture of what it was that was found to be touching. The poem #7 sets up a very interesting riddle. Something unknown which is “on the path home” is *darkened* by frost. Most often in haiku (which stressed the light in life), frost is thought of whitening everything it touches. As one contemplates the phrase “frost darkens” the reader is forced to look at the other side of frost and to see that it does, later, cause vegetation to turn dark. So what is the answer? — “children’s ruddy cheeks”? That is not what the reader expected to read! How great! A surprise! (it wakes the reader up!). When I was at the end of line two I expected to read “tomatoes” with the sad thought of those awful black globes on the plants the next morning. How welcomed it was then, to read “children’s ruddy cheeks”. To have used the old man’s ruddy cheeks would have spoiled the joke. It seems the word “cold” is not needed. Most frost is cold enough, unless the author needed another word or two to lengthen the second line. This is known as “padding” and is a questionable procedure. It is like a hem on a dress. One needs it but if the technique shows it was not done well. Rewrite. Thus, in this round, #8 wins.

ROUND TWO – A

2.

artist’s diet
how lovingly she traces
the sandwich

4.

still asleep
everyone but bald monks
praying at dawn

The poem #2 has some of the qualities of “a binge” as above, as it speaks of the *agony* of being creative. However, here the *picture* is somewhat clearer. It is easier to *see* a woman who is very hungry, not because of poverty but from dieting, bent over the drawing board idly drawing around the sketch of a sandwich while waiting for it to be time for lunch. There are reverberations regarding the drawn image and the real thing, and the *work of art* relating to the inner needs of the artist. I would question the use of the word “lovingly” in a haiku; it tends to be judgmental and attributes an emotion which may or may not be felt by the actor in the poem. If one could find a synonym for “lovingly” which could also be applied to both drawing and eating (none come to mind at the moment, but there must be one!) the writer could bump this poem into the winners’ list. Until then #4 “still asleep” will win.

ROUND TWO – B

5.

candled egg
the moon too seems full
of life

8.

children’s ruddy cheeks
windfall apples in a sack
still the tree is huge

Both of these poems use the comparison technique. In #5 the candled egg is compared to the full moon and I wonder how many people still know what a “candled egg” is. Still, if you have ever held a fertilized egg up to the light and have seen the dark shape of the chick within, you can appreciate the comparison. The last line bothers me since “of life” is a phrase fragment. It would feel better to have “full of life” be the third line. The words “too seems” are *weak* words and “seems” as too close to “as” or “like” — the dead giveaways for English metaphor. Just to say “candled egg” and “the moon” and “full of life” are all too close. There is no mystery or leap. No. #8 has the fault of not having one grammatical stop. It has two — at the end of both the first and second lines which causes it to sound choppy. But the poem does contain a comparison and the mystery is there because of the puzzle in the third line. No #8 wins by default.

ROUND THREE – END

4.

still asleep
everyone but the monks
praying at dawn

children’s ruddy cheeks
windfall apples in a sack
still the tree is huge

No. 4 contains a puzzle that results from the way the poem is written. Does it mean everyone is asleep except the monks who are praying at dawn? or does it mean all those who are asleep are praying — accepting the idea that sleep is a type of meditation? or a different kind of prayer? Would the poem work without the word “still”?

No. 8 has too many breaks. If it were possible to put a verb in this haiku that applied to “cheeks” and a sack of apples (maybe bulge?) the poem could be rescued. The idea of putting the comparisons together “ruddy cheeked children” “apples in a sack” coupled with “the tree is huge” sets up a tension the mind cannot quite comprehend but want to think about with the hope of finding an answer. That is one of the secrets of an unforgettable haiku — when the mind thinks there is a connection but cannot solve the riddle. Since neither poem is perfect, for this contest I would call it a draw.

Ready to play? Then go to http://www.ahapoetry.com/ shelgame.htm#GAME. Good luck!

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3.)

Listen to a wonderful interview of Jane Reichhold, a master of haiku, about Basho (THE Master) and about her latest book on Basho. Many interesting facts about Basho are presented. All you need to do is click on the “Haiku Basho interview” below or go to http:// www.ahapoetry.com/ and look for this on the page that pops up (bottom, left side).

Listen to
Haiku Basho interview conduced by Fred Adler
on Oct. 5, 2008

ocean breezes
the white sail fills
with summer

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4.)

While we’re at it, here is what I believe is the best site on the internet for short forms of poetry – technique, theory, etc.:

http://www.ahapoetry.com/h_info.html

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5.)

Did You Know?
That there was such a thing known as: POEMS Syndrome?

Background

Polyneuropathy, organomegaly, endocrinopathy, monoclonal gammopathy, and skin changes (POEMS) syndrome is a rare multisystemic disease that occurs in the setting of a plasma cell dyscrasia. The pathophysiologic link between the constellation of symptoms and the underlying disease is not well understood, but the link may be related to changes in the levels of a cytokine or a growth factor. POEMS syndrome was first described by Crow in 1956 and then by Fukase in 1968. The syndrome was termed Crow-Fukase syndrome (by which it is known in Japan) by Nakanishi in a study of 102 cases in Japan.

In 1980, the acronym POEMS was coined by Bardwick et al based on the 5 main features of the disease, namely, polyneuropathy, organomegaly, endocrinopathy, monoclonal gammopathy, and skin changes.

No specific case definition exists for POEMS syndrome; however, most authors agree that patients with POEMS syndrome should have 3 or more of the 5 features. Some authors have proposed that the presence of 2 major criteria, including a monoclonal plasma-proliferative disorder and polyneuropathy, in addition to the existence of 1 minor criterion, is sufficient for diagnosis. The suggested minor criteria include sclerotic bone lesions, organomegaly, edema, endocrinopathy, papilledema, and skin changes. However, the findings of a retrospective analysis of 629 patients using these criteria suggest that this approach may be inadequate for excluding other disease processes that may account for symptoms and that atypical presentations of POEMS may be misdiagnosed.1, 2

The polyneuropathy associated with POEMS syndrome is a bilateral symmetric disturbance. It involves both motor and sensory nerves, begins distally, and has a progressive proximal spread. Associated cranial or autonomic nerves are not involved. Both demyelination and axonal degeneration are noted.

The liver, the lymph nodes, and the spleen are the organs most frequently involved. Enlargement of the lymph nodes and spleen is secondary to changes consistent with Castleman disease (giant angiofollicular hyperplasia, multicentric plasma cell variant) in most patients. Approximately 15% of patients with POEMS syndrome have concomitant evidence of Castleman disease. Hepatomegaly is not associated with any defined histologic or pathophysiologic changes.

Multiple endocrinopathies have been associated with POEMS syndrome, and most patients have more than 1 endocrine abnormality. Many of the abnormalities noted can be explained by elevations in estrogen levels. Impotence and gynecomastia are common among men. Amenorrhea is common among women. Diabetes mellitus and glucose intolerance are also noted in many patients. Other associated endocrinopathies include hypothyroidism, hyperprolactinemia, and hypoparathyroidism.

POEMS syndrome is seen in the setting of a plasma cell dyscrasia. Although many plasma cell disorders have been reported in patients with POEMS syndrome, most patients are seen with osteosclerotic myeloma or monoclonal gammopathy of unknown significance.

The M proteins most frequently found are the immunoglobulin A (IgA)– gamma and immunoglobulin G (IgG)–gamma light chains. In a case report of one patient with POEMS syndrome,3 serum electrophoresis demonstrated an M-band with isolated IgA heavy chain but no abnormal light chain, which could suggest abnormal secretion of monoclonal protein or the rare possibility of coincidental heavy-chain disease in association with POEMS syndrome. A single case of POEMS syndrome in association with Waldenström macroglobulinemia,4 characterized by immunoglobulin M–kappa paraproteinemia, has been reported. Classic multiple myeloma has not been associated with the disease. The type of plasma cell disorder has not been shown to be correlated with the constellation of symptoms noted in patients with POEMS syndrome.

Multiple dermatologic changes have been associated with POEMS syndrome. The most common changes include hyperpigmentation, skin thickening, sclerodermoid changes, and hypertrichosis. Other skin changes, including whitening of the proximal nail (Terry nails), peripheral edema, hyperhidrosis, clubbing of the fingers, Raynaud phenomenon, and angiomas, have been observed.

Other signs and symptoms associated with POEMS syndrome include papilledema, anasarca, pleural effusions, ascites, fever, thrombosis, renal insufficiency, and diarrhea.

(So that’s PAPA FeThiRD if you’re looking for another acronym!)

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6.)

‘The poem is a little myth of man’s capacity of making life meaningful.
And in the end, the poem is not a thing we see —
it is, rather, a light by which we may see —
and what we see is life.’

Poetry Quote by Robert Penn Warren

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7.)
In Memoriam:

Adrian Mitchell, British Poetry’s Voice of the Left, Dies at 76

By William Grimes
Published: December 23, 2008, New York Times

Adrian Mitchell, a prolific British poet whose impassioned verse against social injustice, racism and violence was often declaimed at antiwar rallies and political demonstrations, died on Saturday in London. He was 76.

He had been hospitalized for pneumonia, which may have brought on a heart attack, said his agent, Nicki Stoddart.

Mr. Mitchell, a spiritual descendant of William Blake, Walt Whitman and Bertolt Brecht, combined ferocity, playfulness and simplicity, with a broad audience in mind, in his poetry, plays, novels, song lyrics, children’s books and adaptations for the stage. His voluminous output included white-hot tirades against the Vietnam War, rapturous nature poems, nonsense verse and children’s tales of a wooly mammoth who returns to the modern world.

“Mitchell is a joker, a lyrics writer, a word-spinner, an epigrammist, a man of passion and imagination,” the art critic and novelist John Berger once wrote. “Against the present British state, he opposes a kind of revolutionary populism, bawdiness, wit and the tenderness sometimes to be found between animals.”

Mr. Mitchell was born in London and attended private schools. In 1952, after completing his national service in the Royal Air Force, an experience that, he said, “confirmed my natural pacifism,” he enrolled at Christ Church, Oxford. His original plan to train as a teacher fell by the wayside as he was drawn into a circle of poets that included George MacBeth and A. Alvarez and became literary editor of the magazine Isis.

After leaving Oxford in 1955, Mr. Mitchell worked as a journalist for The Oxford Mail and The Evening Standard in London. He also began performing at poetry readings and taking part in left-wing political work. “I think a poet, like any other human being, should recognize that the world is mostly controlled by political forces and should become politically active too,” he told the magazine Contemporary Poets in 1991.

His early poetry, nearly all of it political, in highly structured verse forms, relied on simple, democratic language. “Most people ignore most poetry because most poetry ignores most people,” he wrote in the preface to his first substantial collection, “Poems” (1964). His later poetry, often loose and improvisatory, included more personal subject matter. Much of it was written for children. Poems like “To Whom It May Concern (Tell Me Lies About Vietnam),” which he first read at a rally in Trafalgar Square in 1964 and has updated over the years to suit changing events, helped establish Mr. Mitchell as British poetry’s voice of the left.

The poem begins:

I was run over by the truth one day.
Ever since the accident I’ve walked this way
So stick my legs in plaster
Tell me lies about Vietnam.

In 2003, the socialist magazine Red Pepper anointed him Shadow Poet Laureate, an appropriate title for the author of the collections “Peace Is Milk” (1966), “Out Loud” (1968), “Love Songs of World War III” (1988 ) and “Heart on the Left” (1997).

He wrote many plays and adaptations for the stage, for adults and children. Most notably, he collaborated with Peter Brook on two productions for the Royal Shakespeare Company, Peter’s Weiss’s “Marat/Sade” (1964) and the antiwar play “US” (1966), for which he wrote seven song lyrics.

He also wrote “Tyger” (1971), a play about William Blake, and the song lyrics for Peter Hall’s stage version of George Orwell’s “Animal Farm.” And he edited “Blackbird Singing” (2001), a collection of Paul McCartney’s poetry and lyrics.

At his death Mr. Mitchell had just completed three works to be published next year: “Tell Me Lies: Poems 2005-2008” (Bloodaxe Books), the children’s collection “Umpteen Poems” (Orchard Books) and “Shapeshifters” (Frances Lincoln), a retelling of Ovid’s “Metamorphoses.”

His first marriage ended in divorce. He is survived by his wife, Celia Hewitt; three daughters, Briony, Sasha and Beattie; two sons, Alistair and Danny; and nine grandchildren.

In a 2005 poll conducted by the Poetry Society, Mr. Mitchell’s “Human Beings” was voted the poem that people most wanted to send into space in the hope that it would be read a century later. “It is about the joy of being human, but that doesn’t mean that it’s against animals or alien beings,” Mr. Mitchell said. “When it goes into space and it’s read by aliens, I’d hate for them to think that it’s anti-alternative life forms.”

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8.)

Does anyone want to get Poetry magazine for half-price? A gift subscription is available during the holiday season, so I’m looking for someone to purchase the 2-for-1 subscription with me, essentially getting this wonderful publication for half-price. Call me if you want to go partners – Ron – 247-5913.

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9.)

Linebreak is an online journal with a bias for good poetry. Here is a poem from their web site this week:

Falling
By Traci Brimhall

Traci Brimhall is the current Jay C. and Ruth Halls Poetry Fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She holds degrees from Florida State University and Sarah Lawrence College. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Virginia Quarterly Review, Harpur Palate, and Pebble Lake Review.

For the 141 in the Triangle Waist Shirt Factory, Union Square, 1911

falling

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10.)

Here’s a poem from Copper Canyon Press, not in its “Reading Room” (http://www.coppercanyonpress.org/) as I usually reprint in the Newsletter, but from another source. It was such a find that I felt you should read it in this space usually reserved for a Copper Canyon poem.

RATHER THAN PROVIDE THE USUAL COPPER CANYON PRESS POEM, GO TO THE SITE BELOW AND SEE THE BEAUTIFUL BROADSIDE OF M.S. MERWIN, AS HIS OFFERING TO THEM FOR THEIR ANNUAL APPEAL. YOU CAN PRINT IT ON ANY QUALITY PAPER, IN ANY OF 4 SIZES, TO PROVIDE A LASTING BROADSIDE FOR YOUR OWN COLLECTION.

http://www.coppercanyonpress.org/yearendappeal/

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11.)

American Life in Poetry: Column 197

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

I suspect that one thing some people have against reading poems is that they are so often so serious, so devoid of joy, as if we poets spend all our time brooding about mutability and death and never having any fun. Here Cornelius Eady, who lives and teaches in Indiana, offers us a poem of pure pleasure.

A Small Moment


I walk into the bakery next door
To my apartment. They are about
To pull some sort of toast with cheese
From the oven. When I ask:
What’s that smell? I am being
A poet, I am asking

What everyone else in the shop
Wanted to ask, but somehow couldn’t;
I am speaking on behalf of two other
Customers who wanted to buy the
Name of it. I ask the woman
Behind the counter for a percentage
Of her sale. Am I flirting?
Am I happy because the days
Are longer? Here’s what

She does: She takes her time
Choosing the slices. “I am picking
Out the good ones,” she tells me. It’s
April 14th. Spring, with five to ten
Degrees to go. Some days, I feel my duty;
Some days, I love my work.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska- Lincoln. Poem copyright (c) 1997 by Cornelius Eady, from his most recent book of poetry, “Hardheaded Weather: New and Selected Poems,” A Marian Wood Book, Putnam, 2008. Reprinted by permission of Cornelius Eady. Introduction copyright (c) 2008 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

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12.)

KEEP PAST VERMONT POETS ALIVE! SOLICITING YOUR HELP:

POETS OF VERMONT

PAST AND PRESENT

PROJECT

If you have any books of poetry, chapbooks, or just poems written by Vermont poets, dating 1980 and earlier, famous or not, I’d like to know about them. I’m beginning a project that deals strictly with Vermont poets, from Vermont’s past, with summaries of the poets themselves, a portrait photo or drawing of the poet, along with a small sampling of poems. If you think you can help, you probably can! Please contact me.

Ronald Lewis

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13.)

If you ever have a need to contact me, here’s how to go about doing so:

Ronald Lewis:
Phone: 802-247-5913
Cell: 802-779-5913
Home: 1211 Forest Dale Road, Brandon, VT 05733
Email: sshortpt@verizon.net

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14.)

YEAR-ROUND POETRY WORKSHOPS IN VERMONT

MIDDLEBURY

1) The Otter Creek Poets offer a poetry workshop every Thursday afternoon, from 1:00 to 3:00; this workshop has been meeting weekly for over 10 years. Bring a poem or follow their weekly assignments/ suggestions. For additional information, contact Ronald Lewis (see above).

2) The Spring Street Poets. By invitation only. More on this group in the future.

BELLOWS FALLS

1) Great River Arts Institute – See details elsewhere in this newsletter

2) Poetry Workshop at Village Square Booksellers with Jim Fowler (no relation to owner Pat). The goal of this course is to introduce more people to the art of writing poetry and will include a discussion of modern poetry in various forms and styles. Each week, the course will provide time to share and discuss participant’s poetry. Students should bring a poem and copies to the first class. The course will be limited to 5 to 8 students to allow adequate time to go through everyone’s poetry contributions and will meet in the cafe at Village Square Booksellers. James Fowler, of Charlestown, New Hampshire, has a Masters Degree in Environmental Science with a major in Nature Writing. He was the editor of Heartbeat of New England, a poetry anthology. Fowler has been widely published since 1998 in such journals as Connecticut Review, Quarterly of Light Verse, and Larcom Review. Fowler is a founding member of the River Voices Writer’s Circle, and a regular reader at Village Square Booksellers-River Voices Poetry Readings. The fee for this 6 week Workshop is $100, payable to Mr. Fowler at the first class. Pre-registration for the Poetry Workshop is suggested and may be made by calling Village Square Booksellers at 802-463-9404 or by email at vsbooks@sover.net or jfowler177@comcast.net.

GUILFORD

The Guilford Poets Guild, formed in 1998, meets twice a month to critique and support each other’s work. Their series of sponsored readings by well-known poets which began at the Dudley Farm, continues now at the Women and Family Life Center.

WAITSFIELD

The Mad River Poets consists of a handful of poets from the Route 100 corridor. More on this group in the future.

STOWE

There is another poetry workshop happening in Stowe, but unfortunately I know nothing much about this group. If you do, contact me!

NORWICH

This group meets on the first Sunday of every month at the Norwich Library, 6:30 p.m.
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15.)
OTHER POETRY WORKSHOPS IN VERMONT

BURLINGTON

Scribes in the making put pen to paper as part of an open verse- writing session at the Fletcher Free Library, 235 College Street. Three consecutive Thursdays, starting January 8, 2009, 5:00-6:00 p.m. Free. Contact information: 862-1094.

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION

Thinking Like a Poetry Editor: How to Be Your Own Best Critic
(“The Ossmann Method” Poetry Workshop – Crash Course)
Instructor: April Ossmann
The Writer’s Center, 58 North Main Street, White River Jct., VT 05001
Saturday, January 17th OR Saturday, February 14th
2 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.
$45

Learn how to think like a poetry editor! In this workshop we’ll turn the usual workshop model on its head and not only allow the poet being critiqued to speak, but to speak first and critique their own poem, discussing correlations between the criticisms s/he has for other participants’ poems and her/his own before group discussion begins. This will offer a taste of what it means to be both poet and poetry editor, a position in which it becomes easier to objectively assess your own work; to spot dull vs. energetic syntax, generic vs. original imagery and other strengths and weaknesses you may have overlooked. It also empowers the poet in the process, and engenders an unusually positive and congenial workshop atmosphere. Participants will receive written editorial suggestions for both poems from the instructor. Pre-registration required; enrollment limited to 8. Info: (802) 333-9597 or aprilossmann@hotmail.com and www.aprilossmann.com

The Ossmann Method Poetry Workshop: Building Your Tool Kit
Instructor: April Ossmann
The Writer’s Center, 58 North Main Street, White River Jct., VT 05001
Sundays, 8 weeks, January 18th – March 8th
2 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.
$200

Build or improve your poetic techniques tool kit and learn how to think like a poetry editor! In this workshop we’ll turn the usual workshop model on its head and not only allow the poet being critiqued to speak, but to speak first and critique their own poem, discussing correlations between the criticisms s/he has for other participants’ poems and her/his own before group discussion begins. This will offer a taste of what it means to be both poet and poetry editor, a position in which it becomes easier to objectively assess your own work; to spot dull vs. energetic syntax, generic vs. original imagery and other strengths and weaknesses you may have overlooked. It also empowers the poet in the process, and engenders an unusually positive and congenial workshop atmosphere. This workshop will be both critical and generative, so I will assign reading and generative exercises meant to teach or improve writing skills. Pre-registration required; enrollment limited to 8 (minimum enrollment for the course to proceed is 4). Info: (802) 333-9597 or aprilossmann@hotmail.com and www.aprilossmann.com
Note: If you know of any others, or have personal information about the workshop in Stowe and Guilford, please send me that information. I realize that there are several smaller groups or workshops around the state. However, because of their intimacy, they are not posted above, allowing them to offer “memberships” to close friends or acquaintances that they feel would be most appropriate.

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16.)

YEAR-ROUND POETRY WRITING CENTERS IN VERMONT

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION

The Writer’s Center is for serious writers and nervous beginners. It’s for procrastinators who could benefit from regular deadlines – and for the prolific who could benefit from quality feedback. It’s for anyone with a manuscript hidden in a drawer, or a life story or poem waiting to be written. It’s for people who don’t know where to start or how to end. And for writers who are doing just fine on their own, but would like the company of other writers. The Writer’s Center is for anyone who is writing or wants to write. One of the Center’s consultants is April Ossman (www.aprilossmann.com). Founded by Joni B. Cole and Sarah Stewart Taylor, the Writer’s Center offers instruction and inspiration through a selection of workshops, discussions, and community. We would love to see you – and your writing – at The Writer’s Center! For more info, http:// www.thewriterscenterwrj.com/.

UNDERHILL

Women Writing for (a) Change supports the authentic experience of women who honor themselves through creative writing. Our community supports reflection as we move into our questions and awaken to change. Participants enhance expressive skills, strengthen their voices, deepen themselves as women as writers for positive change in all spheres of life. Creative writing in all genres is our shared vehicle. Women Writing for (a) Change is for women who, 1) dream of writing for self-discovery, for personal or social healing, 2) hunger for creative process in their lives, 3) yearn to explore their feminine voice, 4) crave reflective, space, and 5) are in transition. For more information, go to their web site at www.womenwritingVT.com/ or contact Sarah Bartlett at either 899-3772 or sarah@womenwritingvt.com.

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17.)

POETRY EVENT CALENDAR

Below please find the most current list of poetry happenings in Vermont for the near future. Please be aware that these events can be found on Poetz.com, but there is usually additional information that is typed here that would be cumbersome to place on Poetz.com. Please note all events are Vermont-based unless they are of extreme importance or happen to lie just outside our borders. If you would like to save on paper and ink, please just highlight what you need, or perhaps only events for the coming month, and print that information.

2009:

Thu, Jan 8: Salisbury Library, Salisbury, 3:30 p.m. – 4:45 p.m. Children’s poetry workshop in Middlebury. Children’s poet Ted Scheu will share some of his own fun and funny poems and then lead children in writing their own poetry, reminiscent of Robert Frost’s. Info: 388-4014.

Sat, Jan 10: Village Square Booksellers, Bellows Falls, 2:00 – 4:00 p.m. Open Mic Poetry Reading. Hear local poets from the River Voices. Bring your own original work to share or read from a favorite author. Listen to poetry. Contact to participate as a reader or let them know that you’ll be attending as a listener. For info, 463-9404.

Mon, Jan 12: Grafton Library, Main Street, Grafton, 7:00 p.m. Robert Frost: Poetry and Prose. First of three-part book discussion series led by Dr. Deborah Luskin from the Vermont Humanities Council. For info, Linda Montecalvo at 843-1444.

Wed, Jan 14: Howe Library, Mayer Room, Hanover, NH. Reception and book signing by the authors of the literary magazine, Bloodroot. Bloodroot Literary Magazine is a nonprofit publication released each December. Their mission is to provide a journal of high production values and quality material by established and emerging authors. The 2009 issue of Bloodroot features cover art by Christy Hale and poems, short stories and creative nonfiction by 28 outstanding authors, many of them familiar names here in Vermont – Regina Brault, Carol Milkuhn and Nancy Means Wright. The book is scheduled to be out and about in mid-December 2008.

Wed, Jan 14: Kellogg-Hubbard Library, Hayes Room, 135 Main Street, Montpelier, 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. Why I Love Mountains and Rivers. Poet and translator David Hinton will speak on his passion for mountains and rivers. His new book, Classical Chinese Poetry: An Anthology, will be available for purchase and signing. For info, 223-3338, www.whyilovewhatilove.com.

Fri, Jan 16: Outer Space Café in the Flynndog Gallery, 208 Flynn Avenue, Burlington, 7:00 p.m. Poet’s Night. First of this year’s series.

Tue, Jan 20: Bear Pond Books, 77 Main Street, Montpelier, 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. Charles Barasch. Celebrate Inauguration Week with UVM linguistics teacher and the Plainfield town moderator, Charles Barasch, who will present Dreams of the Presidents, a collection of dream poems – one for each American president. Humorous, and laced with events of historical interest, each poem gives insight into the presidents’ lives. This book offers a well-timed look at politicians, as well some much-needed laughs. For info, 229-1069.

Wed, Jan 21: Robert Hull Fleming Museum, UVM Campus, 61 Colchester Avenue, Burlington, 6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. Art and Poetry: The Painted Word featuring poets Myronn Hardy and Matthew Miller. The Robert Hull Fleming Museum presents a poetry series hosted by Major Jackson, associate professor in the University of Vermont’s Department of English. This reading series highlights established and emergent New England poets whose work represents significant explorations into language, song, and art. Info, http://www.uvm.edu/~fleming/.

Co-sponsored with the English Department and funded in part by the James and Mary Buckham Fund.

Thu, Jan 22: Vermont Humanities Council, 11 Loomis Street, Montpelier, 5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. “You Come, Too”: Winter with Robert Frost. Robert Frost’s poetry is known, among other things, for its ability to evoke the seasons of New England in all their complexity. Join Peter Gilbert, the Vermont Humanities Council’s executive director and the executor of Frost’s estate, in reading and discussing some of Frost’s winter poems. Participants are invited to either read the poems in advance or upon arriving. Refreshments served; free. RSVPs are encouraged at 802.262.2626 x307. Walk-ins welcome.

Thu, Jan 22: Briggs Carriage Bookstore, 16 Park Street, Brandon, 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. Charles Barasch. Celebrate Inauguration Week with UVM linguistics teacher and the Plainfield town moderator, Charles Barasch, who will present Dreams of the Presidents, a collection of dream poems – one for each American president. Humorous, and laced with events of historical interest, each poem gives insight into the presidents’ lives. This book offers a well-timed look at politicians, as well some much-needed laughs. For info, Peter Marsh at 247-0050.

Sun, Jan 25: Red Hen Baking Company & Café, Route 2, Middlesex Village, 6:30 p.m. Poetry reading. Celebrate Robert Burns’ 250th birthday with our own Scottish Poet Len Irving! Come and read poetry – your own or your favorites – or listen to others. Info, Earline Marsh at 223-6777. (Red Hen readings are quarterly).

Mon, Jan 26: Grafton Library, Main Street, Grafton, 7:00 p.m. Robert Frost: Poetry and Prose. Second of three-part book discussion series led by Dr. Deborah Luskin from the Vermont Humanities Council. For info, Linda Montecalvo at 843-1444.

Mon, Jan 26: Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, exact time not yet determined. Poet Eileen Myles to read. Of Sorry, Tree Eileen Myles most recent volume Chicago Review says: “Her politics are overt, her physicality raw, yet it is the subtle gentle noticing in her poems that overwhelms.” Eileen Myles is among the ranks of the officially restless, a poet who writes fiction (Chelsea Girls, Cool for You) an art writer and journalist whose essays and reviews have appeared in Art Forum, and Book Forum, The Believer, Parkett, The Nation and a libretticist whose opera “Hell” (w composer Michael Webster) was performed on both coasts in 2004 and again in 2006. Her first full collection of nonfiction writings, The Importance of Being Iceland, for which she received a Warhol/Creative Capital grant will come out in spring 09 from Semiotext(e)/MIT.

Thu, Feb 5: Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, exact time not yet determined. Poet Cleopatra Mathis to read. Cleopatra Mathis was born and raised in Ruston, Louisiana. Her first five books of poems were published by Sheep Meadow Press. A sixth collection, White Sea, was published by Sarabande Books in 2005. Her work has appeared widely in anthologies, textbooks, magazines and journals, including The New Yorker, Poetry, American Poetry Review, Tri-Quarterly, The Southern Review, The Georgia Review, The Made Thing: An Anthology of Contemporary Southern Poetry, The Extraordinary Tide: Poetry by American Women, and The Practice of Poetry. Various prizes for her work include two National Endowment for the Arts grants, in 1984 and 2003; the Jane Kenyon Award for Outstanding Book of Poems in 2001; the Peter Lavin Award for Younger Poets from the Academy of American Poets; two Pushcart Prizes (1980 and 2006); The Robert Frost Resident Poet Award; a 1981-82 Fellowship in Poetry at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts; The May Sarton Award; and Individual Artist Fellowships in Poetry from both the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts and the New Jersey State Arts Council. She is the Frederick Sessions Beebe Professor of the Art of Writing at Dartmouth College, where she has directed the Creative Writing Program since 1982.

Fri, Feb 6: Firehouse Gallery, 135 Church Street, Burlington, 5:00 – 8:00 p.m. Poetry Reading and Drumming. As part of the Burlington Art Walk, poet and artist Terry Hauptman will provide a poetry reading accompanied by Jerry Geier’s drumming on his sculptural slit drums will entertain all. While you’re at the Firehouse Gallery, you can visit these two artists’ exhibits, titled Veiled Lineage. It features two Vermont artists investigating concepts of ancestry, heritage and tradition; using sculpture, painting, and installation. Jerry Geier’s assembly of sculptures, or totems, feature carved faces of wood and clay derived from indigenous and modern societies. The totems are hollowed and act as functional drums. Terry Hauptman’s Songline Scrolls feature colorful multi-cultural processions on wall-sized scrolls of paper. These scrolls are a metaphor for life, representing a continual unfolding revelation of change and celebration. In this 400th anniversary of European arrival in the Champlain Valley, this exhibit highlights our evolving notions of cultural and spiritual identity, and exposes the paradox of searching for meaning in the very same cultures that were supplanted by our own colonialist history.

Mon, Feb 9: Grafton Library, Main Street, Grafton, 7:00 p.m. Robert Frost: Poetry and Prose. Third of three-part book discussion series led by Dr. Deborah Luskin from the Vermont Humanities Council. For info, Linda Montecalvo at 843-1444.

Sun, Feb 15: Warming hut log cabin at the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park, 54 Elm Street, Woodstock, 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Winter Readings in the National Park. Join a park ranger in sharing short stories and poetry about winter at the ski shelter warming cabin. Bring your own stories and poetry to share or just listen to others readings while enjoying the warmth of the cabin’s woodstove. Hot chocolate will be provided. Cost: $5.00 trail pass from the Woodstock Inn & Resort Nordic Center. For info, Tim Maguire at 457-3368 X22 or Tim_maguire@nps.gov.

Wed, Feb 18: Vermont Humanities Council, 11 Loomis Street, Montpelier, 5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. “You Come, Too”: Winter with Robert Frost. Robert Frost’s poetry is known, among other things, for its ability to evoke the seasons of New England in all their complexity. Join Peter Gilbert, the Vermont Humanities Council’s executive director and the executor of Frost’s estate, in reading and discussing some of Frost’s winter poems. Participants are invited to either read the poems in advance or upon arriving. Refreshments served; free. RSVPs are encouraged at 802.262.2626 x307. Walk-ins welcome.

Mon, Feb 23: Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, exact time not yet determined. Poet Michael Waters to read. Michael Waters’ eight books of poetry include Darling Vulgarity (2006—finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize), Parthenopi: New and Selected Poems (2001), and Green Ash, Red Maple, Black Gum (1997) from BOA Editions, and Bountiful (1992), The Burden Lifters (1989), and Anniversary of the Air (1985) from Carnegie Mellon UP. His several edited volumes include Contemporary American Poetry (Houghton Mifflin, 2006) and Perfect in Their Art: Poems on Boxing from Homer to Ali (Southern Illinois UP, 2003). In 2004 he chaired the poetry panel for the National Book Award. The recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Fulbright Foundation, Individual Artist Awards from the Maryland State Arts Council, and four Pushcart Prizes, he teaches at Monmouth University in New Jersey and in the Drew University MFA Program.

Wed, Feb 25: Peabody Library, Route 113, Post Mills. Reception and book signing by the authors of the literary magazine, Bloodroot. Bloodroot Literary Magazine is a nonprofit publication released each December. Their mission is to provide a journal of high production values and quality material by established and emerging authors. The 2009 issue of Bloodroot features cover art by Christy Hale and poems, short stories and creative nonfiction by 28 outstanding authors, many of them familiar names here in Vermont – Regina Brault, Carol Milkuhn and Nancy Means Wright. The book is scheduled to be out and about in mid-December 2008.

Sun, Mar 8: Warming hut log cabin at the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park, 54 Elm Street, Woodstock, 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Winter Readings in the National Park. Join a park ranger in sharing short stories and poetry about winter at the ski shelter warming cabin. Bring your own stories and poetry to share or just listen to others readings while enjoying the warmth of the cabin’s woodstove. Hot chocolate will be provided. Cost: $5.00 trail pass from the Woodstock Inn & Resort Nordic Center. For info, Tim Maguire at 457-3368 X22 or Tim_maguire@nps.gov.

Sun, Mar 9: Plymouth State University, Smith Recital Hall, Johnson, NH, 7:00 p.m. Poet C.D. Wright. 2008 – 2009 Eagle Pond Author’s Series. A compelling and idiosyncratic poet, C.D. Wright has twelve collections including Rising, Falling, Hovering (2008), a weaving of deeply personal and politically ferocious poems; Deepstep Come Shining and Cooling Time. Her collaboration with photographer Deborah Luster, One Big Self: Prisoners of Louisiana was awarded the Dorothea Lange-Paul Tayor Prize. Her new and selected poems Steal Away was on the shortlist for the Griffin Trust Award. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and is the Israel J. Kapstein Professor at Brown University. Free. (603) 535-5000 to reserve spaces.

Thu, Apr 2: Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, exact time not yet determined. Poet Rosanna Warren to read. Rosanna Warren was born in Connecticut in 1953. She was educated at Yale (BA 1976) and Johns Hopkins (MA 1980). She is the author of one chapbook of poems (Snow Day, Palaemon Press, 1981), and three collections of poems: Each Leaf Shines Separate (Norton, 1984), Stained Glass (Norton, 1993, Lamont Poetry Award from the Academy of American Poets), and Departure (Norton, 2003). She edited and contributed to The Art of Translation: Voices from the Field (Northeastern, 1989), and has edited three chapbooks of poetry by prisoners. She has won fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, ACLS, The Ingram Merrill Foundation, and the Lila Wallace Readers’ Digest Fund, among others. She has won the Witter Bynner Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Lavan Younger Poets’ Prize from the Academy of American Poets, and the Award of Merit in Poetry from The American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2004. She is Emma MacLachlan Metcalf Professor of the Humanities at Boston University.

Sun, Apr 5: Plymouth State University, Smith Recital Hall, Johnson, NH, 7:00 p.m. Poet Wesley McNair. 2008 – 2009 Eagle Pond Author’s Series. Wesley McNair is the recipient of fellowships from the Rockefeller, Fulbright, and Guggenheim Foundations and a United States Artists Fellowship to “America’s finest living artists.” Other honors include the Robert Frost Prize; the Jane Kenyon Award for Outstanding Book of Poetry (for Fire); the Theodore Roethke prize from Poetry Northwest; the Pushcart Prize and the Sarah Josepha Hale Medal. McNair is currently Professor Emeritus and Writer in Residence at the University of Maine at Farmington. Free. (603) 535-5000 to reserve spaces.

Mon, Apr 20: Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, exact time not yet determined. Poet Eric Pankey to read. Eric Pankey is the author of six books of poetry: Reliquaries, Cenotaph, The Late Romances, Apocrypha, Heartwood and For the New Year. Among his awards are a Guggenheim Fellowship, a NEA Fellowship, the Academy of American Poets’ Walt Whitman Award, and an Ingram Merrill Grant. His work has appeared in many journals, including Partisan Review, The New Yorker, Triquarterly, DoubleTake and The New England Review. He teaches at George Mason University and lives in Fairfax, Virginia.

Thu, Apr 23: Middlebury College, Robert A. Jones ’59 Conference Room, 4:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. A talk by Adina Hoffman, on her new book, My Happiness Bears no Relation to Happiness: Poet Taha Muhammad Ali and the Palestinian Century, (Yale University Press), the first biography of a Palestinian poet, and the first portrayal of Palestinian literature and culture in the 20th Century. Sponsored by the Program in Jewish Studies, Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference, and the Middle East Studies Program. For info, 443-5151, E-mail: schine@middlebury.edu.

Thu, May 14: Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, exact time not yet determined. Poet Michael Harper to read. Michael S. Harper was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1938. He earned a B.A. and M.A. from what is now known as California State University, and an M.F.A. from the University of Iowa. He has taught at Brown since 1970. Harper has published more than 10 books of poetry, most recently Selected Poems (ARC Publications, 2002); Songlines in Michaeltree: New and Collected Poems (2000); Honorable Amendments (1995); and Healing Song for the Inner Ear (1985). A new poetry collection, Use Trouble, is forthcoming in fall 2008 from The University of Illinois Press. His other collections include Images of Kin (1977), which won the Melville-Cane Award from the Poetry Society of America and was nominated for the National Book Award; Nightmare Begins Responsibility (1975); History Is Your Heartbeat (1971), which won the Black Academy of Arts and Letters Award for poetry; and Dear John, Dear Coltrane (1970), which was nominated for the National Book Award. Harper edited the Collected Poems of Sterling A. Brown (1980); he is co-editor with Anthony Walton of The Vintage Book of African American Poetry (2000) and Every Shut Eye Ain’t Asleep: An Anthology of Poetry by African Americans Since 1945 (1994), and with Robert B. Stepto of Chant of Saints: A Gathering of Afro-American Literature, Art, and Scholarship (1979). Harper was the first poet laureate of Rhode Island (1988-1993) and has received many other honors, including a fellowship from the Guggenheim Foundation and a National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Award. Harper is also a Phi Beta Kappa scholar, an American Academy of Arts and Sciences fellow, and the recipient of numerous distinctions, including the Robert Hayden Poetry Award from the United Negro College Fund, the Melville-Cane Award, the Claiborne Pell Award for Excellence in the Arts, and the Black Academy of Arts and Letters Award.

Mon, Jun 1: Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, exact time not yet determined. Poet Eamon Grennan to read. Eamon Grennan was born in Dublin in 1941 and educated at UCD, where he studied English and Italian, and Harvard, where he received his PhD in English. His volumes of poetry include What Light There Is & Other Poems, (North Point Press, 1989), Wildly for Days (1983), What Light There Is (1987), As If It Matters (1991), So It Goes (1995), Selected and New Poems (2000) and Still Life with Waterfall (2001). His latest collection, The Quick of It, appeared in 2004 in Ireland, and in Spring 2005 in America. His books of poetry are published in the United States by Graywolf Press, and in Ireland by Gallery Press. Other publications include Leopardi: Selected Poems (Princeton 1997), and Facing the Music: Irish Poetry in the 20th Century, a collection of essays on modern Irish poetry. His poems, reviews, and essays have appeared in many magazines both in Ireland and the US. Grennan has given lectures and workshops in colleges and universities in the US, including courses for the graduate programs in Columbia and NYU. During 2002 he was the Heimbold Professor of Irish Studies at Villanova University. His grants and prizes in the United States include awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Guggenheim Foundation. Leopardi: Selected Poems received the 1997 PEN Award for Poetry in Translation, and Still Life with Waterfall was the recipient of the 2003 Lenore Marshall Award for Poetry from the American Academy of Poets. His poems have been awarded a number of Pushcart prizes. Grennan has taught since 1974 at Vassar College where he is the Dexter M. Ferry Jr. Professor of English.

Thu, Jul 9: Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, exact time not yet determined. Poet Michael Ryan to read. Michael Ryan has published three collections of poetry, including In Winter, Threats Instead of Trees, has been a finalist for the National Book Award, and God Hunger, as well as A Difficult Grace: On Poets, Poetry, and Writing, and the memoir Secret Life. His work has appeared in Antaeus, The Atlantic Monthly, The New Yorker, New Republic, and elsewhere. Ryan has been honored by the Lenore Marshall Prize, a Whiting Writers Award, the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award, and a Guggenheim. Ryan is Professor of English and Creative Writing at UC, Irvine.

Mon, Jul 27: Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, exact time not yet determined. Poet Doreen Gilroy to read. Doreen Gilroy’s first book, The Little Field of Self (The University of Chicago Press, 2002), won the John C. Zacharis First Book Award from Ploughshares. Her second book, Human Love, was published by the University of Chicago Press in October 2005. Her poems have appeared in The American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, Slate, TriQuarterly and many other magazines.

Mon, Aug 17: Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, exact time not yet determined. Poet Cole Swensen to read. Cole Swensen is the Director of the Creative Writing Program at the University of Denver. She is the author of five collections of poems, including Try (University of Iowa Press, 1999), winner of the 1998 Poetry Prize; Noon (Sun and Moon Press, 1997), which won a New American Writing Award; and Numen (Burning Deck Press, 1995) which was nominated for the PEN West Award in Poetry. Her translations include Art Poetic’ by Olivier Cadiot (Sun & Moon Press, Green Integer Series, 1999) and Natural Gaits by Pierre Alferi (Sun & Moon, 1995). She splits her time among Denver, San Francisco and Paris.

Thu, Sep 3: Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, exact time not yet determined. Poet Marge Piercy to read. Marge Piercy has published 17 books of poetry, including What Are Big Girls Made Of, Colors Passing Through Us, and most recently her 17th volume, The Crooked Inheiritance, all from Knopf. She has written 17 novels, most recently SEX WARS in Perennial paperback now. Her memoir Sleeping With Cats is also in Harper Collins Perennial. Last spring, Schocken published Pesach for the Rest of Us. Her work has been translated into 16 languages. Her CD Louder We Can’t Hear You Yet contains her political and feminist poems. She has been an editor of Leapfrog Press for the last ten years and also poetry editor of Lilith.

Thu, Oct 1: Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, exact time not yet determined. Poet Pattiann Rogers to read. Pattiann Rogers has published ten books of poetry, a book-length essay, The Dream of the Marsh Wren, and A Covenant of Seasons, poems and monotypes, in collaboration with the artist Joellyn Duesberry. Her 11th book of poetry, Wayfare, will appear from Penguin in April, 2008. Rogers is the recipient of two NEA Grants, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a 2005 Literary Award in Poetry from the Lannan Foundation, and five Pushcart Prizes. In the spring of 2000 she was in residence at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Study and Conference Center in Bellagio, Italy. Her papers are archived in the Sowell Family Collection of Literature, Community and the Natural World at Texas Tech University. She has taught as a visiting professor at various universities, including the Universities of Texas, Arkansas, and Montana, Houston University, and Washingon University. She is currently on the faculty of Pacific University’s MFA in Writing Program. Rogers has two sons and three grandsons and lives with her husband in Colorado.

Tue, Oct 20: Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, exact time not yet determined. Poet Major Jackson to read. “Jackson knows the truth of black magic. It is a magic as simple as the belief in humanity that subverts racism, or the esoteric and mystical magic of making jazz, the music of hope and love.” —Aafa Weaver. Major Jackson is the author of two collections of poetry, Hoops (Norton: 2006), a finalist for an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literature-Poetry. and Leaving Saturn (University of Georgia: 2002), winner of the 2000 Cave Canem Poetry Prize and finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award. Poems by Major Jackson have appeared in the American Poetry Review, Boulevard, Callaloo, Post Road, Triquarterly, The New Yorker, among other literary journals and anthologies. He is a recipient of a Whiting Writers’ Award and has been honored by the Pew Fellowship in the Arts and the Witter Bynner Foundation in conjunction with the Library of Congress. He has received critical attention in The Boston Globe, Christian Science Monitor, Parnassus, Philadelphia Inquirer, and on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered. Jackson is an Associate Professor of English at University of Vermont and a faculty member of the Bennington Writing Seminars. In 2006-2007, he was a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University.

Tue, Nov 17: Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, exact time not yet determined. Poet Sebastian Matthews to read. Sebastian Matthews is the author of the poetry collection We Generous (Red Hen Press) and a memoir, In My Father’s Footsteps (W. W. Norton). He co-edited, with Stanley Plumly, Search Party: Collected Poem s of William Matthews. Matthews teaches at Warren Wilson College and serves on the faculty at Queens College Low-Residency MFA in Creative Writing. His poetry and prose has appeared in Atlantic Monthly, Georgia Review, New England, Review, Poetry Daily, Poets & Writers, Seneca Review, The Sun, Tin House, Virginia Quarterly Review and The Writer’s Almanac, among others. Matthews co-edits Rivendell, a place-based literary journal, and serves as poetry consultant for Ecotone:
Re-Imagining Place.

2010:

Mon, Feb 22: Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, exact time not yet determined. Poet David Shapiro to read. David Shapiro (born January 2, 1947) is an American poet, literary critic, and art historian and . Shapiro has written some twenty volumes of poetry, literary, and art criticism. He was first published at the age of thirteen, and his first book was published at the age of eighteen. Shapiro has taught at Columbia, Bard College, Cooper Union, Princeton University, and William Paterson University. He wrote the first monograph on John Ashbery, the first book on Jim Dine’s paintings, the first book on Piet Mondrian’s flower studies, and the first book on Jasper Johns’ drawings. He has translated Rafael Alberti’s poems on Pablo Picasso, and the writings of the Sonia and Robert Delaunay. Shapiro has won National Endowment for the HumanitiesNational Endowment for the Arts fellowships, been nominated for a National Book Award, and been the recipient of numerous grants for his work. Shapiro lives in Riverdale, The Bronx, New York City, with his wife and son.

Again, if you become aware of an event that isn’t posted above, please let me know. My apologies if I have left off anything of importance to any of you, but it can always be corrected in the next Vermont Poetry Newsletter.

That’s about it for now. Again, keep your eyes peeled for poetry events. I hope this email finds you all with good health and sharp pencils.

Your fellow Poet,

Ron Lewis

Emily Dickinson: Iambic Meter & Rhyme

Dickinson the Imp

emilydickinsonEmily Dickinson possessed a genius for figurative language and thought. Whenever I read her, I’m left with the impression of a woman who was impish, insightful, impatient, passionate and confident of her own genius. Some scholars  portray her as being a revolutionary who rejected (with a capital R) the  stock forms and meters of her day.

My own view is that Dickinson didn’t exactly “reject” the forms and meter. She wasn’t out to be a revolutionary.  She was impish and brilliant. Like Shakespeare, she delighted in subverting conventions and turning expectations upside down.This was part and parcel of her expressive medium. She exploited the conventions and expectations of the day, she didn’t reject them.

The idea that she was a revolutionary rejecting the tired prerequisites of form and meter certainly flatters the vanity of contemporary free verse proponents (poets and critics) but I don’t find it a convincing characterization. The irony is that if she were writing today, just as she wrote then, her poetry would probably be just as rejected by a generation steeped in the tired expectations and conventions of free verse.

The common meters of the hymn and ballad simply and perfectly suited her expressive genius. Chopin didn’t “reject” symphonies, Operas, Oratorios, Concertos, or Chamber Music, etc… his genius was for the piano. Similarly, Dickinson’s genius found a congenial outlet in the short, succinct stanzas of common meter.

The fact that she was a woman and her refusal to conform to the conventions of the day made recognition difficult (I sympathize with that). My read is that Dickinson didn’t have the patience for pursuing fame. She wanted to write poetry just the way she wanted and if fame mitigated that, then fame be damned.  She effectively secluded herself and poured forth poems with a profligacy bordering on hypographia. If you want a fairly succinct on-line biography of Dickinson, I enjoyed Barnes & Noble’s SparkNotes.

The Meters of Emily Dickinson

Dickinson used various hymn and ballad meters.

Searching on-line, there seems to be some confusion of terms or at the  least their usage seems confusing to me. So, to try to make sense of it, I’ve done up a meter tree.

hymn-meter-tree-updated

The term Hymn Meter embraces many of the meters in which Dickinson wrote her poems and the tree above represents only the basic four types.

If the symbols used in this tree don’t make sense to you, visit my post on Iambic Pentameter (Basics). If they do make sense to you, then you will notice that there are no Iambic Pentameter lines in any of the Hymn Meters. They either alternate between Iambic Tetrameter and Iambic Trimeter or are wholly in one or the other line length. This is why Dickinson never wrote Iambic Pentameter. The meter wasn’t part of the pallet.

Common Meter, by the way, is the meter of Amazing Grace, and Christmas Carol.

And then there is Ballad Meter – which is a variant of Hymn Meter.

I’ve noticed that some on-line sites conflate Common Meter and Ballad Meter. But there is a difference. Ballad Meter is less formal and more conversational in tone than Common Meter, and Ballad Meter isn’t as metrically strict, meaning that not all of its feet may be iambic. The best example I have found is the theme song to Gilligan’s Island:

gilligans-island-updated

Obviously the tone is conversational but, more importantly, notice the anapests. The stanza has the same number of feet as Common Meter, but the feet themselves vary from the iambic strictness of Common Meter. Also notice the rhyme scheme. Only the second & fourth line rhyme. Common Meter requires a strict ABAB rhyme scheme. The tone, the rhyme scheme, and the varied meter distinguish Ballad Meter from Common Meter.

For the sake of thoroughness, the following gives an idea of the many variations on the four basic categories of Hymn meter. Click on the image if you want to visit the website from which the image comes (hopefully link rot won’t set it). Examples of the various meters are provided there.

hymn-ballad-meters

If you look at the table above, you will notice that many of the hymn and ballad meters don’t even have names, they are simply referred to by the number of syllables in each line. Explore the site from which this table is drawn. It’s an excellent resource if you want to familiarize yourself with the various hymn and ballad meters  Dickinson would have heard and been familiar with – and which she herself used. Note the Common Particular Meter, Short Particular Meter and Long Particular Meter at the top right. These are meters you will find in Dickinson’s poetry. Following is an example of Common Particular Meter. The first stanza comes from around 1830 – by J. Leavitte, the year of Dickinson’s Birth. This stuff was in the air. The second example is the first stanza from Dickinson’s poem numbered 313.  The two columns on the right represent, first, the number of syllables per line and, second, the rhyme scheme.

common-particular-meter

Short Particular Meter is the reverse of this. That is, its syllable count is as follows: 6,6,8,6,6,8 – the rhyme scheme may vary. Long Particular Meter is 8,8,8,8,8,8 – Iambic Tetrameter through and through – the rhyme schemes may vary ABABCC, AABCCB, etc…

The purpose of all this is to demonstrate the many metrical patterns Dickinson was exposed to – most likely during church services. The singing of hymns, by the way, was not always a feature of Christian worship. It was Isaac Watts, during the late 17th Century, who wedded the meter of Folk Song and Ballad to scripture. An example of a hymn by Watts, written in common meter, would be Hymn 105, which begins (I’ve divided the first stanza into feet):

Nor eye |hath seen, |nor ear |hath heard,
Nor sense |nor rea|son known,
What joys |the Fa|ther hath |prepared
For those |that love |the Son.

But the good Spirit of the Lord
Reveals a heav’n to come;
The beams of glory in his word
Allure and guide us home.

Though Watts’ creation of hymns based on scripture were highly controversial, rejected by some churches and meaures-of-possibilityadopted by others, one of the church’s that fully adopted Watts’ hymns was the  The First Church of Amherst, Massachusetts, where Dickinson  from girlhood on, worshiped. She would have been repeatedly exposed to Samuel Worcester’s edition of Watts’s hymns, The Psalms and Spiritual Songs where the variety of hymn forms were spelled out and demonstrated. While scholars credit Dickinson as the first to use slant rhyme to full advantage, Watts himself was no stranger to slant rhyme, as can be seen in the example above. In fact, many of Dickinson’s “innovations” were culled from prior examples. Domhnall Mitchell, in the notes of his book Measures of Possiblity emphasizes the cornucopia of hymn meters she would have been exposed to:

footnote-from-measures-of-possiblity

One more variation on ballad meter would be fourteeners. Fourteeners essentially combine the Iambic Tetrameter and Trimeter alternation into one line. The Yellow Rose of Texas would be an example (and is a tune to which many of Dickinson’s poems can be sung).

emilys-fourteeners-updated

dickinson-book-coverAccording to my edition of Dickinson’s poems, edited by Thomas H. Johnson, these are the first four lines (the poem is much longer) of the first poem Emily Dickinson wrote. Examples of the form can be found as far back as George Gascoigne – a 16th Century English Poet who preceded Shakespeare. If one divides the lines up, one finds the ballad meter hidden within:

Oh the Earth was made for lovers
for damsel, and hopeless swain
For sighing, and gentle whispering,
and unity made of twain

All things do go a courting
in earth, or sea, or air,
God hath made nothing single
but thee in His world so fair!

How to Identify the Meter

The thing to remember is that although Dickinson wrote no Iambic Pentameter, Hymn Meters are all Iambic and Ballad Meters vary not in the number of metrical feet but in the kind of foot. Instead of Iambs, Dickinson may substitue an anapestic foot or a dactyllic foot.

because-i-could-not-stop-for-death-updated

So, if you’re out to find out what meter Dickinson used for a given poem. Here’s the method I would use. First I would count the syllables in each line. In the Dickinson’s famous poem above, all the stanzas but one could either be Common Meter or Ballad Meter. Both these meters share the same 8,6,8,6 syllabic line count – Iambic Tetrameter alternating with Iambic Trimeter. (See the Hymn Meter Tree.)

Next, I would check the rhyme scheme. For simplicity’s sake, I labeled all the words which weren’t rhyming, as X. If the one syllabically varying verse didn’t suggest ballad meter, then the rhyme scheme certainly would. This isn’t Common Meter. This is Ballad Meter. Common Meter keeps a much stricter rhyme scheme. The second stanza’s rhyme, away/civility is an eye rhyme. The third stanza appears to dispense with rhyme altogether although I suppose that one should, for the sake of propriety, consider ring/run a consonant rhyme. It’s borderline – even by modern day standards. Chill/tulle would be a slant rhyme. The final rhyme, day/eternity would be another eye rhyme.

It occurs to me add a note on rhyming, since Dickinson used a variety of rhymes (more concerned with the perfect word than the perfect rhyme). This table is inspired by a Glossary of Rhymes by Alberto Rios with some additions of my own. I’ve altered it with examples  drawn from Dickinson’s own poetry – as far as possible. The poem’s number is listed first followed by the rhymes. The numbering is based on The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson edited by Thomas H. Johnson.

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RHYMES DEFINED BY NATURE OF SIMILARITY

perfect rhyme, true rhyme, full rhyme

  • 1056 June/moon

imperfect rhyme, slant rhyme, half rhyme, approximate rhyme, near rhyme, off rhyme, oblique rhyme

  • 756 prayer/despair
    123 air/cigar
    744 astir/door

augmented rhyme – A sort of extension of slant rhyme. A rhyme in which the rhyme is extended by a consonant.bray/brave grow/sown

  • (Interestingly, this isn’t a type of rhyme Dickinson ever used, either because she was unaware of it or simply considered it a rhyme “too far”.)

diminished rhyme – This is the reverse of an augmented rhyme. brave/day blown/sow stained/rain

  • (Again, this isn’t a technique Dickinson ever uses.)

unstressed rhymeRhymes which fall on the unstressed syllable (much less common in Dickinson).

  • 345 very/sorry
    1601 forgiven/hidden prison/heaven

eye rhyme – These generally reflect historical changes in pronunciation. Some poets (knowing that some of these older rhymes no longer rhyme) nevertheless continue to use them in the name of convention and convenience.

  • 712 day/eternity (See Above)
    94 among/along
    311
    Queen/been
    580
    prove/Love

identical “rhyme” – Which really isn’t a rhyme but is used as such.

  • 1473
    Pausing in Front of our Palsied Faces
    Time compassion took
    Arks of Reprieve he offered us –
    Ararats – we took
  • 130 partake/take

rich rhymeWords or syllables that are Homonyms.

  • 130 belief/leaf

assonant rhyme – When only the vowel sounds rhyme.

  • 1348 Eyes/Paradise

consonant rhyme, para rhyme – When the consonants match.

  • 744 heal/hell
    889 hair/here

feminine para rhyme – A two syllable para rhyme or consonant rhyme.

scarce rhymeNot really a true category, in my opinion, since there is no difference between a scarce rhyme and any other rhyme except that the words being rhymed have few options. But, since academia is all about hair-splitting, I looked and looked and found these:

  • 738 guess/Rhinoceros (slant rhyme)
    1440 Mortality/Fidelity (extended rhyme)
    813 Girls/Curls (true rhyme)

macaronic rhyme – When words of different languages rhyme. (This one made me sweat. Dickinson’s world was her room, it seems, which doesn’t expose one to a lot of foreign languages. But I found one! As far as I know, the first one on the Internet, at least, to find it!)

  • 313 see/me/Sabachthani (Google it if you’re curious.)

trailing rhyme –  Where the first syllable of a two syllable word rhymes (or the first word of a two-word rhyme rhymes). ring/finger scout/doubter

  • (These examples aren’t from Dickinson and I know of no examples in Dickinson but am game to be proved wrong.)

apocopated rhyme – The reverse of trailing rhyme. finger/ring doubter/scout.

  • (Again, I know of no examples in Dickinson’s poetry.)

mosaique or composite rhymeRhymes constructed from more than one word. (Astronomical/solemn or comical.)

  • (This also is a technique which Dickinson didn’t use.)

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RHYMES DEFINED BY RELATION TO STRESS PATTERN

one syllable rhyme, masculine rhyme – The most common rhyme, which occurs on the final stressed syllable and is essentially the same as true or perfect rhyme.

  • 313 shamed/blamed
    259 out/doubt

light rhyme – Rhyming a stressed syllable with a secondary stress – one of Dickinson’s most favored rhyming techniques and found in the vast majority of her poems. This could be considered a subset of true or perfect rhyme.

  • 904 chance/advance
    416 espy/try
    448 He/Poverty

extra-syllable rhyme, triple rhyme, multiple rhyme, extended rhyme, feminine rhyme – Rhyming on multiple syllables. (These are surprisingly difficult to find in Dickinson. Nearly all of her rhymes are monosyllabic or light rhymes.)

  • 1440 Mortality/Fidelity
    809 Immortality/Vitality
    962 Tremendousness/Boundlessness
    313 crucify/justify

wrenched rhyme – Rhyming a stressed syllable with an unstressed syllable (for all of Dickinson’s nonchalance concerning rhyme – wrenched rhyme is fairly hard to find.)

  • 1021 predistined/Land
    522
    power/despair

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RHYMES DEFINED BY POSITION IN THE LINE

end rhyme, terminal rhyme – All rhymes occur at line ends–the standard procedure.

  • 904 chance/advance
    1056 June/moon

initial rhyme, head rhyme – Alliteration or other rhymes at the beginning of a line.

  • 311 To Stump, and Stack – and Stem –
  • 283
    Too small – to fear –
    Too distant – to endear –
  • 876
    Entombed by whom, for what offense

internal rhyme – Rhyme within a line or passage, randomly or in some kind of pattern:

  • 812
    It waits upon the Lawn,
    It shows the furthest Tree
    Upon the furthest Slope you know
    It almost speaks to you.

leonine rhyme, medial rhyme – Rhyme at the caesura and line end within a single line.

  • (Dickinson’s shorter line lengths, almost exclusively tetrameter and trimeter lines, don’t lend themselves to leonine rhymes. I couldn’t find one. If anyone does, leave a comment and I will add it.)

 

caesural rhyme, interlaced rhyme – Rhymes that occur at the caesura and line end within a pair of lines–like an abab quatrain printed as two lines (this example is not from Dickinson but one provided by Rios at his webpage)

  • Sweet is the treading of wine, and sweet the feet of the dove;
    But a goodlier gift is thine than foam of the grapes or love.
    Yea, is not even Apollo, with hair and harp-string of gold,
    A bitter God to follow, a beautiful God to behold?

(Here too, Dickinson’s shorter lines lengths don’t lend themselves to this sort of rhyming. The only place I found hints of it were in her first poem.)

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By Position in the Stanza or Verse Paragraph

crossed rhyme, alternating rhyme, interlocking rhyme – Rhyming in an ABAB pattern.

  • (Any of Dickinson’s poems written in Common Meter would be Cross Rhyme.)

intermittent rhyme – Rhyming every other line, as in the standard ballad quatrain: xaxa.

  • (Intermittent Rhyme is the pattern of Ballad Meter and reflects the majority of Dickinson’s poems.)

envelope rhyme, inserted rhyme –  Rhyming ABBA.

  • (The stanza from poem 313, see above, would be an example of envelope rhyme in Common Particular Meter.)

irregular rhyme – Rhyming that follows no fixed pattern (as in the pseudopindaric or irregular ode).

  • (Many of Dickinson’s Poems seem without a definite rhyme scheme but the admitted obscurity of her rhymes – such as ring/run in the poem Because I could not stop for death – serve to obfuscate the sense and sound of a regular rhyme scheme. In fact, and for the most part, nearly all of Dickinson’s poems are of the ABXB pattern – the pattern of Ballad Meter . This assertion, of course, allows for a wide & liberal definition of “rhyme”. That said, poems like 1186, 1187 & 1255 appear to follow no fixed pattern although, in such short poems, establishing whether a pattern is regular or irregular is a dicey proposition.)

sporadic rhyme, occasional rhyme – Rhyming that occurs unpredictably in a poem with mostly unrhymed lines. Poem 312 appears to be such a poem.

thorn line – An un-rhymed line in a generally rhymed passage.

  • (Again, if one allows for a liberal definition of rhyme, then thorn lines are not in Dickinson’s toolbox. But if one isn’t liberal, then they are everywhere.)

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RHYME ACROSS WORD BOUNDARIES

broken rhyme – Rhyme using more than one word: 

  • 516 thro’ it/do it

(Rios also includes the following example at his website)

  • Or rhyme in which one word is broken over the line end:
    I caught this morning morning’s minion, king-
    Dom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
    Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
    High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing…

(I can find no comparable example in Dickinson’s poetry.)

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Getting back to identifying meter (in Dickinson’s Because I could not stop for death) the final method is to scan the poem. The pattern is thoroughly iambic. The only individual feet that might be considered anapestic variants are in the last stanza. I personally chose to elide cen-tu-ries so that it reads cent‘ries – a common practice in Dickinson’s day and easily typical of modern day pronunciation. In the last line, I read toward as a monosyllabic word. This would make the poem thoroughly iambic. If a reader really wanted to, though, he or she could read these feet as anapestic. In any case, the loose iambs, as Frost called them, argue for Ballad Meter rather than Common Meter – if not its overall conversational tone.

The poem demonstrates Dickinson’s refusal to be bound by form. She alters the rhyme, rhyme scheme and meter (as in the fourth stanza) to suit the demands of subject matter. This willingness, no doubt, disturbed her more conventional contemporaries. She knew what she wanted, though, and that wasn’t going to be altered by any formal demands. And if her long time “mentor”, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, had been a careful reader of her poems, he would have known that she wouldn’t be taking advice.

If I think of anything to add, I’ll add it.

If this post has been helpful, let me know.