Three Ways to Write a Poem

Of Plain Poems, Figurative Poems & Metaphoric Poems

Call this post a rough draft; and there are more than these three (like Allegorical Poems) but these are the three primary ways a poem is written, I think. On and off I get queries from poets who would like my opinion on their poems. In a very general way, I can break down their poems down into three main types — the Plain Poem, the Figurative Poem, and the Metaphoric Poem; though almost all the poetry sent me falls into the first two categories. I don’t know whether these categories are original to me. I doubt they are, and I may be using the terms differently (if they’re already out there). But so be it. There are poetic masterpieces in all three categories, so I’m not going to argue that one is superior to another, but of the three types of poetry — the Plain Poem and the Metaphoric Poem are the kind I admire most. But first things first:

The Plain Poem

plain-chant 002When I first began writing this, I called this kind of poem a ‘Literal Poem’; but I decided ‘Plain Poem’ is a more poetic description, and reminds me of plain chant. Plain Poem also allows for some variation, some touches of figurative language perhaps, whereas the term ‘Literal’ invites too strict an interpretation. I have no idea what percentage of contemporary poems are Plain Poems, possessing minimal figurative language, but my hunch is that they represent fewer than one might expect, maybe only single digits. They’re very difficult to write well (or memorably). Perhaps Edwin Arlington Robinson would be its finest exponent in traditional forms. The fact of his plainness may, in some measure, contribute to his relative neglect. (It’s ironic that Ezra Pound preached the gospel of “everyday language and materials”, as Christopher Clausen put it, only to write a massive book, “The Cantos”, that becomes progressively all but incomprehensible.)

Richard Cory
by EA Robinson

Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.

And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
‘Good-morning,’ and he glittered when he walked.

And he was rich – yes, richer than a king –
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.

So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.

RobinsonSome readers might object that Robinson uses a smattering of figurative language, but they’re of the colloquial, ‘every day’ sort. We don’t need editorial footnotes to understand “from sole to crown” or “fluttered pulses” or “glittered when he walked”. This is truly the language of the every day and the reader would have to stretch, or be a Helen Vendler, to read more into it than is there. The power of the poem isn’t to be found in any sort of figurative or metaphorical elusiveness. As with the majority of Robinson’s poems, it is what it is, but beautifully so. Robinson uses meter and rhyme to lend the poem direction, succinctness and to make the poem memorable. Until the very end the rhymes seem innocuous enough, and then the rhyme of bread and “put a bullet through his head” strikes like a thunderclap. As with many good rhyming poems, the reader is likely to anticipate the final coup de grâce, which gives the narrative that extra kick.

  • I’ve ready many passages of free verse poets, especially, posturing over the predictability of rhymes, but this bespeaks an ignorance of what good rhyme do. There are times when the predictable is exactly what the poet wants.

Another good example might be William Carlos Williams’ The Red Wheelbarrow:

so much depends
upon

a red wheel
barrow

glazed with rain
water

beside the white
chickens

There is such a reflexive determination to think that a poem has to mean something more than what it says. I’m not sure how much sweat and blood has been spilled over what Williams really meant. And yet, the haiku-like sublimity of the poem is self-evident and probably instinctively grasped by anyone who reads it (and needs no explanation or rationalization). This poem, wc williamsquite simply, means what it says. But what makes it so memorable? There’s no rhyme or meter, so something else is at play. In part, it’s very much its similarity to the best haiku. There’s no discourse or disquisition. In other words, a narrator doesn’t thrust himself, nattering, between the reader and the poem (an intrusion into the conversation that Williams can rarely resist). We are permitted to consider the facts as they are and draw our own conclusion — and that is how a poem is like a haiku. The next facet is the imagery. Williams has carefully chosen what to emphasize — the contrast between the red of the wheelbarrow and the white of the chickens, for example. As an experiment, substitute blue for red, or brown for white.

Red is an impish color when you think about it. It attracts attention to itself; (there’s a reason we call red cars “cop magnets”). The poetic juxtaposition of a loud color like red on a humble wheelbarrow gives it a sort of underdog status — like a red Volkswagon beetle — and endears it to the reader (maybe not universally but as a generalization I think this is probably true). After all, so much depends on that red wheelbarrow. What other color could it be? (Unfortunately, my own wheelbarrow is blue, but I’m going to spray paint it red.)

And then there are the chickens. What if they had been brown? Nah. The white chickens make the wheelbarrow all the redder. The contrast is easy to imagine. But what if Williams had written white horse or, white house, or white tractor? When the reader imagines the scene, the chickens will always be smaller than the wheelbarrow; and this has the effect of making the red wheelbarrow a little bigger, and a little more important, and a little more there, like an ever present, reassuring background to the lives of the chickens. If Williams had written ‘white horse’, then that might have diminished the importance of the wheelbarrow. The white chickens give us a contrast in color and in size.

But what about a white house or white tractor? These two would have diminished the wheelbarrow’s ‘scale’ (for lack of a better term). Not only that, but we can imagine the lives of the chickens being dependent on the wheelbarrow, but not an inanimate house or tractor. The wheelbarrow is larger than the chickens, and is brought into the living ecosystem of the barnyard by being beside the chickens. In a certain sense, it’s given life by giving life.

And glazed with rainwater? Why this detail? Well, what if it had been coated with dust? My own feeling is that a coat of dust implies disuse. There are certainly farm implements (and carpentry tools) that get dusty, but that coating is always disturbed by use. I think it’s safe to say that a well-used wheelbarrow would seldom be covered by dust. The word glazed is one most commonly used in reference to pottery. When we glaze a piece of pottery we are finishing it. We are, one might say, making it beautiful and, to a certain degree, transforming it into a finished work of art or, at minimum, a usable implement. Williams choice of word is probably no accident. There’s also the sense that o much depends on the wheelbarrow that it cannot be spared even in the rain. This is an indispensable presence in a living and working environment.

But this poem is lightning in a bottle. Williams only pulled it off twice, I think. With The Red Wheelbarrow and This Is Just to Say. These two poems are justly famous and plain poems. They are plain (or very literal), easy to grasp, but in their choice of observation, like the best haiku, they successfully evoke a world of emotional associations. And this, perhaps, is the trick to the greatest poems of this kind — the art of evocation.

  • I haven’t discussed haiku, but these deceptively simply poems (and carefully literal) are some of the most evocative poems in any language.

Another example of a plain poem would be Frost’s Stopping by Woods:

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Many attempts have been made to read meaning into this poem, but it is what it is. It’s beautifully simple and, in that simplicity, is profoundly evocative. This is poetry that uses language not only for its semantic content, as a way to communicate, but as an aesthetic experience in and of itself. The combination of rhyme and meter add to the memorability of the poem — a revelry in the “felicities of language” as Frost called it. William Pritchard had this to say:

Discussion of this poem has usually concerned itself with matters of “content” or meaning (What do the woods represent? Is this a poem in which suicide is contemplated?). Frost, accordingly, as he continued to to read it in public made fun of efforts to draw out or fix its meaning as something large and impressive, something to do with man’s existential loneliness or other ultimate matters. Perhaps because of these efforts, and on at least one occasion – his last appearance in 1962 at the Ford Forum in Boston- he told his audience that the thing which had given him most pleasure in composing the poem was the effortless sound of that couplet about the horse and what it does when stopped by the woods: “He gives the harness bells a shake/ To ask if there is some mistake.” We might guess that he held these lines up for admiration because they are probably the hardest ones in the poem out of which to make anything significant… [Frost: A Literary Life Reconsidered p. 164]

There’s a certain kind of reader for whom plain poems are anathema. One of the more common criticisms leveled at Frost was that his poetry was that of the “simple, farmer poet” — as if that were bad thing in and of itself. In truth, the plainly stated poem, done well or even greatly, is an exceedingly rare accomplishment. The criticism itself says vastly more about those making it. They seem to think that the only good poem is the “difficult” poem. The 20th century is nothing if not the pursuit of obscurity/difficulty as an end in itself, and not just any obscurity, but the kind meant to evoke layers of “meaning”, elusive and implying depth, brilliance and perhaps genius. As a rule of thumb, the more ambiguous — the more interpretations available to the poem — then the better it must be. And while that sort of writing may be candy to the critic and academic, the precipitous decline in modern poetry’s audience suggests that the average reader has better ways to spend their time (rather than sort out a poet’s “meaning”). “Make it plain”, a reader might say, and the modern poet hears: “Dumb it down”. But that’s not at all what the reader is saying.

Greatness in literature has nothing to do with how “difficult” it is.

And perhaps the most remarkable 20th century writer of Plain Poems was Charles Bukowski:

we had goldfish and they circled around and around
in the bowl on the table near the heavy drapes
covering the picture window and
my mother, always smiling, wanting us all
to be happy, told me, ‘be happy Henry!’
and she was right: it’s better to be happy if you
can
but my father continued to beat her and me several times a week while
raging inside his 6-foot-two frame because he couldn’t
understand what was attacking him from within.

my mother, poor fish,
wanting to be happy, beaten two or three times a
week, telling me to be happy: ‘Henry, smile!
why don’t you ever smile?’

and then she would smile, to show me how, and it was the
saddest smile I ever saw

one day the goldfish died, all five of them,
they floated on the water, on their sides, their
eyes still open,
and when my father got home he threw them to the cat
there on the kitchen floor and we watched as my mother
smiled

Charles-BukowskiIn the process of writing this post, I read through about two dozen poems by Bukowski, and if he ever wrote a simile, I haven’t yet found it. I would judge Bukowski’s favorite rhetorical device to be the analogy. In the poem above, for instance, Bukowski is essentially drawing an analogy between the goldfish and the suffering experienced by himself and mother. Even then, Bukowski’s use of analogy is sparing and far from obvious. A reader may read a Bukowski poem, read a scenario which he or she has never experienced, and yet feel a commonality because the subject is nevertheless analogous to his or her own experiences. This, I think, is at the root of Bukowski’s genius — his ability to provide a context for experiences that make them recognizable and universal. In the poem Bluebird, Bukowski is again essentially drawing an analogy between his suppressed empathy and compassion and a symbolic bluebird he keeps locked in his heart.

The Figurative Poem

By this, I mean poems that use figurative language but are otherwise (or mostly) plain in their meaning. In other words, I would consider calling a Figurative Poem a ‘Plain Poem’ that uses figurative language. Figurative Poems, as I use the term, probably represent the vast majority of poetry. Nearly all of free verse is of the figurative kind. Shakespeare’s Sonnets are all figurative poems. They are by far and away the most popular and have therefore accumulated an ocean of bad examples. The term figurative (or figurative language) refers to rhetorical figure (a figure understood as any rhetorical linguistic device). A linguistic device most commonly includes, for example the simile — the favorite rhetorical figure of twentieth and twenty-first century poetry. As soon as you see a simile, you know you’re dealing with figurative poetry. Additionally, and unfortunately, it’s nearly always a sign of second or third rate poetry — almost without fail (the exceptions prove the rule, perhaps).

I know I’ve mentioned the following passage before, but I’m offering more of it because it first got me thinking about this subject (many years ago):

“Shakespeare’s style, as everyone knows, is metaphorical to excess. His imagination is always active, but he seldom pauses to indulge it by lengthened description. I shall hereafter have occasion to direct your observation to the sobriety with which he preserves imagination in its proper station, as only the minister and interpreter of thought; but what I wish now to say is, that in him the two powers operate simultaneously. He goes on thinking vigorously, while his imagination scatters her inexhaustible treasures like flowers on the current of his meditations, His constant aim is the expression of facts, passions ,or opinions; and his intellect is constantly occupied in the investigation of such; but the mind acts with ease in its lofty vocation, and the beautiful and the grand rise up voluntarily to do him homage. he never indeed consents to express those poetical ideas by themselves; but he shows that he felt their import and their legitimate use, by wedding them to the thoughts in which they originated. The truths which he taught, received magnificence and amenity from the illustrative forms; and the poetical images were elevated into a higher sphere of associations by the dignity of the principles which they were applied to adorn. Something like this is always the true function of the imagination in poetry, and dramatic poetry in particular; and it is also the test which tries the presence of the faculty; metaphor indicates its strength, and simile its weakness. Nothing can be more different from this, or farther inferior to it, than the style of the poet who turns aside in search of description, and indulges in simile preferably to the brevity of metaphor, to whom perhaps a poetical picture originally suggested itself as the decoration of a striking thought, but who allowed himself to be captivated by the beauty of the suggested image, till he forgot the thought which had given it birth, and on its connexion with which its highest excellence depended. Such was Fletcher, whose style is poor in metaphor. [The New Shakespeare Society Publications, Series VIII Miscellanies Nos. 1-4 A Letter on Shakespeare’s Authorship of the drama entitled THE TWO NOBLE KINSMEN, by William Spalding p. 16-17]

This was published in 1876, so the language is Victorian and convoluted, and Spalding didn’t quite have the tools to express his ideas. That was to come nearly three quarters of a century later with Wolfgang Clemens and The Development of Shakespeare’s Imagery. Clemens showed how Shakespeare essentially absorbs the simile into a metaphorical language — the idea that Spalding is trying to express. (My dictionary calls metaphor a compressed simile, which is a good way to think about it.) For example, Clemens shows how in Shakespeare’s earliest poetry he hadn’t yet absorbed the simile:

The particles “as” and “like” not only make the image stand out from the text and isolate it in a certain way; they also show that the object to be compared and the comparison are felt as being something different and separate, that image and object are not yet viewed as an identity, but that the act of comparing intervenes. It would be false to exaggerate the importance of such a fact, because in Shakespeare’s let plays we also find many comparisons introduced with “like” or “as”. Nevertheless the frequency of such comparisons with “as” and “like” in Titus Andronicus is noteworthy, and this loose form of connection corresponds entirely to the real nature of these image4s. If we take, for example, passages such as these:

…then fresh tears
Stood on her cheeks, as doth the honey-dew
Upon a gather’d lily almost wither’d.

…that kiss is comfortless
As frozen water to a starved snake.

we see that these images are simply added on to the main sentence afterwards, dove-tailed into the context, appended to what has already been said as flourish and decoration. They occurred to Shakespeare as an afterthought, as “illustration”, as “example”, but they were not there from the very beginning as simultaneous poetic conce3ption of subject and image. [The Development of Shakespeare’s Imagery p. 22-23]

Compare this to The Winter’s Tale:

Later, in the same scene, Camillo asks him to be “cured of this diseased opinion” (I.ii. 297) and retorts to Leontes’ false assumption of his “infected” wife “who does infect her?” (I.ii. 307). The disease-imagery links up with the notion of taint and stinging things. Shortly after Camillo’s question Leontes speaks the following words which also contain dramatic irony:

Leon. Make that thy question, and go rot!
Dost think I am so muddy, so unsettled,
To appoint myself in this vexation, sully
the purity and whiteness of my sheets,
Which to preserve is sleep, which being spotted
Is goads, thorns, nettles, tails of wasps, (I.ii 325)

In the next scene this collocation of disease, of stinging and poison becomes more obvious. Note the following by Leontes:

There may be in the cup,
A spider steep’d, and one may drink, depart,
And yet partake no venom, for his knowledge
Is not infected: but if one present
The abhorr’d ingredient to his eye, make known
How he hath drunk, he cracks his gorge, his sides
With violent hefts. I have drunk, and seen the spider (II. i 39)

The dramatic and structural significance of this image should be noted. For it is the first time Leontes builds up a full image, all the more striking as Leontes’ hasty diction does not usually allow of the elaboration of images. The directness and realism with which this image; of the spider in the cup is presented and the way Leontes turns it into a personal experience, expressed by the laconic ending “I have drunk, and seen the spider”, bring home to us the brutal and naked force of Leontes self-deceiving obsession… [p. 196-197]

shakespeareMost importantly, notice that Shakespeare never uses “as” or “like” in these two passages. The similes have been organically absorbed into the character’s “personal experience”, not tacked on as in Titus. It’s this difference that Spalding was trying to express almost a hundred years earlier. Shakespeare, in the course of his poetic development, learned to speak through metaphor rather than by the elaboration of similes (John Fletcher, not so much). It’s in this sense that Spalding delineated the difference between Shakespeare and Fletcher’s verse:

“Something like this is always the true function of the imagination in poetry, and dramatic poetry in particular; and it is also the test which tries the presence of the faculty; metaphor indicates its strength, and simile its weakness.”

  • A very simple example from Shakespeare: “He draweth out the thread of his verbosity finer than the staple of his argument.” In earlier days Shakespeare might have written: “He draweth out his argument like a spinner who draweth out his thread & etc.

The same criticism applies to all poets since Shakespeare, including the poetry of our current poet Laureate, Charles Wright (2014-). On a whim, and at random, I looked up his poetry at Poetry Foundation. The first to come up was Archeology. And what do we find?

The older we get, the deeper we dig into our childhoods,
Hoping to find the radiant cell
That washed us, and caused our lives
…………………………….to glow in the dark like clock hands
Endlessly turning toward the future,
Tomorrow, day after tomorrow, the day after that,
………………………………………all golden, all in good time.

Just as with Shakespeare’s earlier efforts, or Fletcher, Wright tacks on the simile, “appended to what has already been said as flourish and decoration”. Like will appear twice more in this short poem:

Gaze far out at the lake in sunflame,
Expecting our father at any moment, like Charon, to appear
Back out of the light from the other side,
…..low-gunwaled and loaded down with our slippery dreams.

Rather than compress the comparison of his father to Charon in the language of metaphor, Wright interrupts the narrative (amateurishly in my opinion) with the announcement of the simile, and then a little later:

Other incidents flicker like foxfire in the black

Nevertheless, at the poem’s conclusion, Wright demonstrates that he can write metaphorically (compress simile):

Sunlight flaps its enormous wings and lifts off from the back
….yard
The wind rattles its raw throat,
…………………………………but I still can’t go deep enough.

And if you ask me (and in terms of technique) this ‘compression’ of simile in the language of metaphor is the better way to write poetry (though there are obviously exceptions). Loading ones verse with similes strikes me too often as a kind of poetic shorthand — roughly equivalent to inserting a thee and a thou just because that’s what poetry is supposed to do — and frequently the simile adds little to the narrative. It’s more poetic flourish than necessity. Wright’s poem is an example of figurative poetry, though not a good one. Wright tells us what it’s about: “[digging] into our childhoods…” (so that it’s cousin to the plain poem) then uses the rhetorical figures of simile, metaphor, verbal metaphor, adjectival metaphor, etc…

But there are also beautiful examples of figurative poems that work. The Love Song of J. Afred Prufrock, by T.S. Eliot, begins:

Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question …
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.

ts eliotThe poem begins with the famous simile “Like a patient etherized upon a table”. “Muttering retreats” is both an adjectival metaphor and personification. “Like a tedious argument” is another simile describing the way streets “follow” — itself a verbal metaphor. And why do I like these similes, and not Wright’s? Because Eliots are wholly original. When before has an evening been compared to a patient “etherized upon a table”, as opposed to an evening boater to Charon? (I don’t hold a high opinion of Greek mythology’s appearance in modern poetry. It’s often plugged into a poem when having to do the work oneself would be much more difficult.) When has the layout of a city’s streets been compared to “a tedious argument”. Eliot’s simile’s are not only fresh, they add a subtext to the poem. Why the choice of etherized? What does this say about the narrator? Why compare streets to a tedious argument? — And how does this play into the narrator’s own avoidance of complications and explanations later in the poem?

The Silken Tent, by Robert Frost, is not only one sentence but is comprised, but for the first two words, of a single simile! The sonnet is the simile:

She is as in a field a silken tent
At midday when the sunny summer breeze
Has dried the dew and all its ropes relent,
So that in guys it gently sways at ease,
And its supporting central cedar pole,
That is its pinnacle to heavenward
And signifies the sureness of the soul,
Seems to owe naught to any single cord,
But strictly held by none, is loosely bound
By countless silken ties of love and thought
To every thing on earth the compass round,
And only by one’s going slightly taut
In the capriciousness of summer air
Is of the slightlest bondage made aware.

She is like a silken tent, says Frost, and from there the sonnet elaborates. Shakespeare’s famous Sonnet 116 would also fall into the category of the Figurative Poem:

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no; it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests, and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
··If this be error and upon me proved,
··I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

The whole of the poem is an example of personification, in which Love is endowed with personality, intent, and conviction. The figure itself is called prosopopia: “(Rhet.) A figure of speech in which an inanimate object or abstract idea is represented as animated, or endowed with personality…” Shakespeare was extremely adept at using this figure (a common one during his era); and his skill, above and beyond that of his contemporaries, was surely attributable to his dramatic genius. In essence, the inanimate became characters. Take a look, for example, at the following brief passage from King John, at the way Shakespeare so beautifully personifies grief:

“Grief fills the room up of my absent child,
Lies in his bed, walks up and down with me,
Puts on his pretty look, repeats his words,
Remembers me of his gracious parts,
Stuffs out his vacant garments with his form”

And this also reminds me of Richard Wilbur’s extraordinary poem Love Calls Us to the Things of This World, wherein the morning breezes are, in a sense, animated and endowed with the personality of angels. One might justifiably dispute whether this is really personification (since Wilbur never attributes the angel-like behavior to the breezes, but rather distinguishes the angels and air by saying that the “morning air is all awash with angels”) — perhaps more accurate to call the angel-like behavior of the breezes a poetic conceit (in the sense of an extended metaphor that nearly governs the whole poem).

Love Calls Us to the Things of This World
Richard Wilbur

The eyes open to a cry of pulleys,
And spirited from sleep, the astounded soul
Hangs for a moment bodiless and simple
As false dawn.
··············Outside the open window
The morning air is all awash with angels.

···Some are in bed-sheets, some are in blouses,
Some are in smocks: but truly there they are.
Now they are rising together in calm swells
Of halcyon feeling, filling whatever they wear
With the deep joy of their impersonal breathing;

···Now they are flying in place, conveying
The terrible speed of their omnipresence, moving
And staying like white water; and now of a sudden
They swoon down into so rapt a quiet
That nobody seems to be there.
·······································The soul shrinks

From all that it is about to remember,
From the punctual rape of every blessèd day,
And cries,
··············“Oh, let there be nothing on earth but laundry,
Nothing but rosy hands in the rising steam
And clear dances done in the sight of heaven.”

Yet, as the sun acknowledges
With a warm look the world’s hunks and colors,
The soul descends once more in bitter love
To accept the waking body, saying now
In a changed voice as the man yawns and rises,
“Bring them down from their ruddy gallows;
Let there be clean linen for the backs of thieves;
Let lovers go fresh and sweet to be undone,
And the heaviest nuns walk in a pure floating
Of dark habits,
··············keeping their difficult balance.”

richard-wilburThe poem, as I read it, comes very near to being what I would consider a Metaphoric Poem. I’d say it falls in the far spectrum of figurative poems, but still a Figurative Poem, because the poetic conceit of the angels is framed by the reality of eyes opening “to a cry of pulleys”. The conceit is framed by the reality of the “morning air” at the beginning and the thieves, lovers, and nuns at the close. It’s is brought ‘down from its ruddy gallows’, back into the difficult balance of the real world.

  • The conceit is itself considered a trope. The Longman Dictionary of Poetic Terms writes that “In general usage, most poets and critics use the term to indicate, as Coleridge proposed, any language that aspires toward the state of metaphor.”

The Metaphoric Poem

I’m trying to coin a new term and I’ve sweat over it. As far as I know, this type of poem hasn’t really been given a name. It’s not just poetry that uses metaphor, or a conceit, but a poem that, in its entirety, is a metaphor for something else. So, I settled on Metaphoric rather than Metaphorical. I’ve checked all my poetry dictionaries. I’ve Googled the term. I checked my Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry, and the term “Metaphoric Poetry” isn’t used in any specific way. So, I’m claiming it to mean something very specific. As I judge it, a poem may be metaphorical simply by using metaphor, but what distinguishes the Metaphoric Poem is that the poet doesn’t, or only in the most oblique way, give the reader any indication that the poem is really about something other than its apparent subject.

To me, the metaphoric poem is the pinnacle of poetic accomplishment. The poem can have the appearance of a Plain Poem or a Figurative Poem, but is really, in its entirety, a beautifully modulated, extended metaphor on what can be an altogether different subject. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that, in fact, Robert Frost more or less invented and perfected this kind of poetry, though it’s tempting to go back in history, point to other poems, and say that this or that poem was never really about X, but about Y. We have become somewhat accustomed to this way of reading and critiquing poetry, but I’d assert that this way of thinking about poetry is really a very late development. For instance, I had a reader write the following after my post on Ann Bradstreet’s poem, Before the Birth of One of Her Children:

“…when Bradstreet writes about the dangers of childbirth in Before the Birth of One of Her Children, this could also be read as the dangers women face when publishing their work”

That’s reading Bradstreet’s poem as a Metaphoric Poem. My response was that this is probably anachronistic. Bradstreet was a contemporary of John Donne and near contemporary of Shakespeare. There’s no evidence (that I’ve ever found) that poets wrote or thought this way prior to the 20th century. In every poem that I’m aware of, the conceit, or metaphor, or analogy, is framed as a poetic construction within the poem. The reader is always made aware of the poet’s “misdirection”. In all of John Donne’s poems, for example, there’s no confusion as to what the poem is about (setting aside the usual interpretive challenges). He famously constructs elaborate conceits, but we always know that he knows that we know what the conceit is really about.

Not so with Robert Frost.

For years he was accused of being “a simple, farmer poet”. The accusation, as accusations usually do, revealed more about the critics. In short, despite considering Frost a 19th century hold-over, it was in fact the critics who were behaving like 19th century readers — reading all poems as Plain Poems or Figurative Poems. The day that readers and critics realized that Frost might have been fooling them all (all along) can actually be dated very precisely. While it’s not the birth of Metaphoric Poetry, it might be the birth of it’s broader awareness. It happened at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, in 1959, on the evening of Frost’s 85th birthday. It happened when, to the shock and consternation of all those gathered, Lionel Trilling called Frost a “terrifying poet”. (Trilling, embarrassed by his own comment and worried that he’d insulted Frost, reportedly left the gathering early.)

Trilling opened the world’s eyes to the possibility that yes, all along, they’d been reading Frost with outdated expectations. As Frost said himself, as if to drive home the point that he wasn’t just writing about “nature”: “I am not a nature poet. There is almost always a person in my poems.”

Even when there isn’t.

As a nice essay at FrostFriends.Org puts it:

“Frost uses nature as metaphor. He observes something in nature and says this is like that. He leads you to make a connection, but never forces it on the reader. Read on a literal level, Frost’s poems always make perfect sense. His facts are correct, especially in botanical and biological terms. But he is not trying to tell nature stories nor animal stories. He is always using these metaphorically implying an analogy to some human concern.” [Frost and Nature ~ March 7 2015]

But then Frost had already been telling the world as much. In The Cambridge Companion to Robert Frost, Judith Ostler begins her contribution entitled “Frost’s Poetry of Metaphor” with the following paragraph, quoting Frost at the outset:

“‘Metaphor is the whole of poetry.’ ‘Poetry is simply made of metaphor… Every poem is a new metaphor inside or it is nothing.’ Such are the burdens Robert Frost placed upon metaphor, and on himself as a poet. He went even further in his claiming that metaphor is the whole of thinking, and that, therefore, to be educated by poetry — note: by poetry — is to be taught to think.” [p. 155]

 Why did it take so long for readers to realize that Frost had been ‘fooling’ them? He was cagey in life, and cagey in his poetry.

A Drumlin Woodchuck

One thing has a shelving bank,
Another a rotting plank,
To give it cozier skies
And make up for its lack of size.

My own strategic retreat
Is where two rocks almost meet,
And still more secure and snug,
A two-door burrow I dug.

Robert-Frost-TFWith those in mind at my back
I can sit forth exposed to attack
As one who shrewdly pretends
That he and the world are friends.

All we who prefer to live
Have a little whistle we give,
And flash, at the least alarm
We dive down under the farm.

We allow some time for guile
And don’t come out for a while
Either to eat or drink.
We take occasion to think.

And if after the hunt goes past
And the double-barreled blast
(Like war and pestilence
And the loss of common sense),

If I can with confidence say
That still for another day,
Or even another year,
I will be there for you, my dear,

It will be because, though small
As measured against the All,
I have been so instinctively thorough
About my crevice and burrow.

I hesitate to call this a Metaphoric poem, as the narrator gives away the game (if the joke wasn’t already painfully obvious) with a wink and a nod to “my dear”. You could read it as Frost’s commentary on his own art and persona with a sly pun on Thoreau in the closing rhyme of thorough/burrow. To read quite a good essay on the significance of the pun, visit Two Woodchucks,or Frost and Thoreau on the Art of the Burrow by Fritz Oehlschlaeger.

“Further suggestion that the woodchuck be seen as a poet figure can be found in the somewhat submerged tension between the poem’s playfulness and the seriousness of the matter at hand. The woodchuck’s jocularity nearly causes us to forget that his survival is at stake. While the burrow provides him a wonderful possibility for fanciful comparison to his counterpart at Walden, it also serves the mundane but equally important purpose of saving him from the hunters.” [p. 5]

And there’s more at stake than that. Who are the hunters? Could they be his critics? Think of Frost’s uncanny poem this way: The burrow as his poetry and the two entrances are two ways (among many more we suspect) to enter therein — a “two-door burrow”. As soon as you try to catch Frost by hunting down one crevice, he’s out the other. While pestilence and war rage, and notably “the loss of common sense”, Frost remains cagey enough not to be cornered. He won’t be caught up one side or t’other.

There are a good many of his poems that are ‘two-door burrows’. The most famous example might be “Stopping by Woods” and its many interpretations. At the two extremes are notions of the poem as a simple and beautiful lyric on the one hand and a suicide poem on the other. It may have seemed that Frost grew impatient with readers trying to identify the meaning of the poem, as if they all tried to come in at the same door, but he’d also never say what a poem wasn’t. Frost, in the end, always wanted to keep his burrow a “two-door” burrow

“Mending Wall” and “Birches” can both be read as Metaphoric Poems and I’ve offered a reading of Birches and Mending Wall suggesting how (though my interpretations may or may not reflect Frost’s thinking). The trick in Metaphoric Poetry is in knowing how to be understood or how not too be too obscure. The poet writes to be understood (unless you’re a John Ashbery).

WE make ourselves a place apart
··Behind light words that tease and flout,
But oh, the agitated heart
··Till someone find us really out.

’Tis pity if the case require
··(Or so we say) that in the end
We speak the literal to inspire
··The understanding of a friend.

But so with all, from babes that play
··At hide-and-seek to God afar,
So all who hide too well away
··Must speak and tell us where they are.

‘Revelation’ is from Frost’s first book of poetry and reveals him, early on, searching out the balance between hiding “too well away” and having to “speak the literal to inspire”. Frost, much later in life, addresses this same question in the Metaphoric Poem For Once Then Something. In it, Frost cannily addresses the accusation that his poetry is shallow by using the very device, the Metaphoric Poem, that his critics stubbornly and shallowly misread. It’s an elaborately constructed tour-de-force, and perhaps a little too much so, not being among his better known or understood.

But now that I’ve made the argument that Frost was the first to deliberately write Metaphoric Poetry, there is a genre of poetry that anticipates Frost by several centuries (in some cases) — the nursery rhyme. Many of these poems mean something entirely other than their ostensible meaning. They were written in a time when speaking freely, and too freely, could be a life and death matter. “I Had a Little Nut Tree”, for instance, is speculated to be about the visit of Joanna of Castile to the court of Henry VII, though I happen to disagree with that 19th century assertion. “Little Boy Blue” is said to parody the life of Cardinal Wolsey. “Hey Diddle Diddle, The Cat and the Fiddle”, is thought to originate with Queen Elizabeth. The cat is Queen Elizabeth, who was known to greatly enjoy dancing to the fiddle at Whitehall Palace (throughout her reign). The moon is said to represent the Earl of Walsingham (who she skipped over, choosing to remain unmarried) and the dog was the Earl of Leicester (jeered in the poem as a laughing dog) because he “skulked at the Queen’s flirtatious behavior”, asking to leave the Court for France [Origins of Rhymes, Songs and Sayings, p. 157-159]. Nursery rhymes could be seen as related to the fable and apologue (being symbolic, metaphorical and archetypal in nature). The notion that Frost was the first to write metaphorically is not what I’d assert; but I think he was the first to make the poem the metaphor, as it were.

So, the next time you write or read a poem, these three categories might give you another way to approach it.

And that’s that.

up in Vermont: March 7 2015

Vermont Poetry Newsletter June 1 2009

[The Vermont Poetry Newsletter is not issued by me but by Ron Lewis, by whose permission I post this.]

Vermont Poetry Newsletter

Your Poetry & Spoken Word Gateway in the Green Mountain State

June 1, 2009

  1. Newsletter Editor’s Note/Notes to Otter Creek Poets
  2. Writing Assignments/Suggestions/Exercises/Prompts
  3. New England Review (NER) In Trouble
  4. Meetinghouse, NH Readings
  5. Burlington Writer’s Group
  6. Poetry Types
  7. Resources: Books on Writing
  8. Interview With Ravi Shankar
  9. Donald Hall
  10. Book Review: The Story of William Carlos Williams & Emily Dickinson
  11. Sky Meadow Writing Retreat
  12. Book King Reading
  13. Did You Know? Derek Walcott Resigns
  14. Ponderings – Ving, Vang, Vong
  15. Poetry Quote (Carl Sandburg)
  16. US Poets Laureate List
  17. Failbetter Poem
  18. Linebreak Poem
  19. Copper Canyon Press Poem
  20. American Life in Poetry Poems (3)
  21. Vermont Poet Laureates
  22. Contact Info for Publisher of VPN: Ron Lewis
  23. Vermont Literary Journals
  24. Vermont State Poetry Society
  25. Year-Round Poetry Workshops in Vermont
  26. Other Poetry Workshops in Vermont
  27. Year-Round Poetry Writing Centers in Vermont
  28. Poetry Event Calendar

Divider

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.

Divider

1.)

Dear Friends of Poetry:

For the Otter Creek Poets only – directions to our annual Potluck and Poetry Feast at Deanna Shapiro’s on June 4th.  12:00-1:00 Potluck, 1:00-3:00 Poetry:

From Route 7 south: Proceed north on Route 7 from Middlebury. Go through two traffic lights in Vergennes. See Ferrisburgh Grange Hall on left. See Rokeby Museum on right. Make the next right turn after Rokeby Museum which is Robinson Road. Go up hill to top. Road bears left. We are the first and only driveway on the right. 628 Robinson Rd. Come up driveway to house.

From Route 7 north:  Proceed south on Route 7 from Burlington, through Shelburne and Charlotte to Ferrisburgh. See Dakin Farm on right. See Starry Night Cafe on right. Make first left after Starry Night Cafe onto Robinson Rd which is directly across Route 7 from Greenbush Rd. Proceed up hill as directed above.

In both directions on Route 7 there are green signs that announce Robinson Road/Greenbush Road.  The precise address is 628 Robinson Road, Ferrisburgh.

It’s pot luck at 12:00 noon and poetry at 1:00 as usual. Looking forward to welcoming you. Deanna

As usual, bring about 20 copies of a poem to have critiqued (we had 16 poets at the last meeting), and enough of whatever food item you’re bringing to also meet about 20 hungry poets!

For the rest of you, the reading last Friday at the Book King in Rutland was very cozy.  6 of us took turns reading from our own poetry.  The theme was “Spring” or “Signs of Spring.”  Readings are to take place on the last Friday of every month, which means to next reading is on June 26th at 6:00 p.m.  The theme, suggested by the poets themselves, which is a 180º shift from the first reading, is “Poems That Make You Cut Your Wrists.”  That’s right, poems that make you cringe, jump off a bridge, yell for help.  Should be a lot of fun!  Let’s hope we all leave in one piece!

Until next time!

Ron Lewis
VPN Publisher
247-5913

Divider

2.)

THIS WEEK’S WRITING ASSIGNMENT/SUGGESTION/EXERCISE:

What do your poems keep praised for?  When someone points their finger at you, and says “that’s the thing,” what is “that thing” about you and your writing to which they are alluding?  Whatever “that” is, do more of it.  Load your next poem with “that thing.”  Lay it on thick.

LAST WEEK’S WRITING ASSIGNMENT/SUGGESTION/EXERCISE:

See Vermont Poetry Newsletter May 18 2009

(All Assignments are products of David Weinstock unless otherwise indicated)

Divider

3.)

NEW ENGLAND REVIEW:

Literary journal vies to stay afloat. College cuts could cripple publication

By KATHRYN FLAGG
Addison Independent
Thursday, May 28, 2009

MIDDLEBURY — Mention the “New England Review” on Middlebury College’s campus, and most students might not know that title refers to the quarterly publication housed in book-lined offices on the edge of the campus.
But mention NER in conversation with literary aficionados, and you’ll likely learn that the college-affiliated magazine is among the most prestigious literary journals in the country.

But now the publication — which after 31 years is an august old-timer in the world of such magazines — is on the chopping block. In the latest round of budget cuts handed down by Middlebury College administrators, college President Ronald D. Liebowitz gave the magazine two and a half years to eliminate its operating deficit, or the college will cut ties with the nationally renowned publication.

The budget ultimatum was one of several announced this month, part of the college’s effort to trim $20 million from its spending plan. In the original budget recommendation, the committee in charge of compiling these cuts recommended that the college end its relationship with NER and wind down the magazine’s operations at the end of June.

Editor Stephen Donadio and Managing Editor Carolyn Kuebler are optimistic about the magazine’s prospects — the two-and-a-half-years extension on the initial recommendation buys them time to raise funds for the magazine.

But the recommendation nonetheless comes as a blow to the magazine, which can’t survive on the cost of subscriptions alone.

“My sense is that the determination was that the “New England Review” was not considered central to what is sometimes called the ‘core mission’ of the college,” Donadio said, referencing the Budget Oversight Committee’s initial recommendation regarding the journal.

And, some Middlebury faculty argue, things like the journal could be viewed as secondary to the school’s primary focus on undergraduate education.

“In a time where every institution is facing crisis economics, priorities have to be laid out transparently — I think all of us in the Middlebury community have faced up to that reality for the most part,” one faculty member wrote in an online discussion of the cuts at Inside Higher Ed.

Donadio and Kuebler counter that argument by citing the journal’s longstanding ties to Middlebury faculty, alumni, and programs like the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. Donadio said a journal like NER can’t be perceived as a “house organ,” and so the journal has never actively promoted the work of Middlebury faculty or alumni. But over the journal’s tenure, NER has published the work of more than 30 members of the faculty, several alumni, and many writers associated with the prestigious writers’ conference. In recent years, the magazine has also brought on two students every semester to intern behind the scenes.

The journal is also ranked nationally among the best literary journals, and NER writers have recently won or been chosen as the finalists for the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award.

According to Kuebler, the journal receives around 4,500 submissions annually, and publishes 2 percent of the poetry submissions it receives and less than 1 percent of the prose submissions.

The college’s “core mission” aside, Donadio said journals like NER provide a way to sustain and encourage these writers — and provide a way for universities to support intellectual and cultural vitality.

“It’s really the role of journals of this sort to keep alive certain possibilities of intellectual community, to keep open a range of literary options that would simply die if they weren’t supported in some way,” he said. “It’s a matter of choice and priorities with respect to what you think a vibrant culture needs to survive and to flourish.”

That sort of support often needs to be subsidized, he went on, offering classical music as another example of an art that might die out without the support of nonprofits, philanthropists and academic institutions.

But the magazine has, to this point, relied on support from the college to stay afloat. NER’s “deficit” doesn’t mean the magazine overspent its budget, Donadio said — far from it. In fact, he went on, NER scrupulously came in under budget for years.

Simply put, the revenue brought in by subscriptions doesn’t cover the magazine’s spending, which includes payroll, small subsidies for readers who cull through literary submissions, and the cost of printing. NER prints 1,500 copies of each issue. Of those, around 800 are sent out to subscribers, 450 head to bookstores, and roughly 100 are purchased as single issues.

That’s far from uncommon among small magazines — both literary journals and more commercial publications alike.

“There is not a single literary magazine that could survive without support,” Donadio said.
What’s more, he said, the publications that critics often cite as the ones literary magazines should emulate, in order to be more financially viable, lose millions of dollars a year. Those include publications like “The Atlantic,” “The New Yorker,” and “Harper’s.”

“These are magazines that are thought of as appropriate models. People point to them and say, ‘Look at them, they make their own way. They’re really OK.’ In fact, they’re not,” Donadio said. “I think that’s true, generally speaking, of magazines committed to offering significant intellectual content.”

Despite the cuts, Donadio and Kuebler are hopeful — in large part because the college has agreed to help the magazine raise funds over the next two and a half years. Kuebler said that ideally, NER would build up an endowment over that period to fund its endeavors in the years ahead. The upside of the budget recommendations, she continued, is that the magazine will emerge more financially robust in the end.
Ultimately, Kuebler said that the magazine’s long relationship with the college has been taken for granted — both by the publication and by the school.

“I think this has come to a point where we’re really going to redefine what we mean to the college, and vice versa,” Kuebler said.

In the meantime, Donadio said he wasn’t surprised that news about the magazine’s precarious fate had kicked up a flurry of chatter among literary types online and off. Discussion about the magazine was featured last week on Web sites like Inside Higher Ed and a Los Angeles Times blog, and the Addison Independent was copied more than 10 letters to Liebowitz from concerned NER supporters. Donadio said the magazine’s staff played no part in the letter-writing campaign.

“People who are surviving as serious writers are intensely aware of the need for publications of this sort,” Donadio said. “When it looks like one of them — and one of the most prominent and prestigious — may cease to exist, they see that as an ominous indication that what they do may cease to exist. There’s a passionate interest in this. … Journals like NER make possible the creation of new literature in a way that nothing else can.”

What’s more, he said, many writers recognize that there may be nowhere else to publish their work, should magazines like NER go under — particularly in an age when publishing houses aren’t willing to invest in projects that won’t achieve success with mass audiences.

That’s where journals, albeit subsidized ones, step in: NER strives to foster intellectually rigorous poetry, fiction and nonfiction that might not find a home in more commercial publications.

“Cultures can make choices to do without these things, but they are coarsened and made shallower as a consequence,” Donadio said. “It’s possible to obliterate everything that isn’t in effect intended for a mass audience, on the assumption that anything worth having should be able to demonstrate its value by paying for itself. If everyone believed that, colleges and universities, as well as libraries and museums, would have disappeared from the face of the Earth long ago.”

Divider

4.)

  • I usually don’t promote poetry events happening outside Vermont, but I find the following exceptional, and within an easy drive outside our state’s boundaries.

2009 Meetinghouse Readings
Canaan, NH
Canaan Meeting House
Phone: 603.523.9650
Canaan Street & Roberts Road

Thursday, July 9, 2009
7:30 pm Pamela Harrison and Tracy Winn Canaan Meeting House (Canaan Street & Roberts Road)
Author Reading & Book Signing
 Canaan, NH

Thursday, July 16, 2009
7:30 pm Robert Pinsky and Elinor Lipman Canaan Meeting House (Canaan Street & Roberts Road)
Author Reading & Book Signing
 Canaan, NH

Thursday, July 23, 2009
7:30 pm W.E. Butts and Paul Tremblay Canaan Meeting House (Canaan Street & Roberts Road)
Author Reading & Book Signing 
Canaan, NH

Thursday, July 30, 2009
7:30 pm April Ossmann and Ha Jin Canaan Meeting House (Canaan Street & Roberts Road)
Author Reading & Book Signing 
Canaan, NH

Divider

5.)

  • A note from the Burlington Writer’s Group:

Hey fellow writers –

Just wanted to let you know –

BWG meets on Tuesday evenings from 7-9 PM and has a new home at the Unitarian Church in their little white house off of Clark St., 2nd floor. We’d like to let people know and also invite anyone interested to join us whenever folks are in town or as often as they’d like.

The Burlington Writer’s Group is a free drop-in group. We decide on a prompt and write for 20 minutes, followed by a go-around reading. We can usually get in two writes depending on group size. All genres and experience levels are welcome and there really are no rules other than don’t interrupt folks while they are writing. We don’t really do much critiquing though some spontaneous reactions occur! Mainly it’s good practice to just show up and write for 40 minutes and share the writing if so inclined…

Maybe we’ll see you there?

Best,
Cynthia Hennard

Divider

6.)

POETRY TYPES

by Cella Bella

Let me start off by saying I think all poetry is beautiful, no matter how simple or complex. I wanted to post this to share the many types of poetry and to give some insight on some of the many types of poetry you may see on P&Q. I must say, free verse is always wonderful but, you might be surprised how challenging and unique formed poetry can be. Happy writing.

Poetry TypesTypes:

1. Villanelle
The villanelle, in my opinion, is one of the more difficult styles of poetry. A villanelle consists of 19 lines, including five tercets and a quatrain at the end. Each tercet is made up of three lines. The rhyme scheme for each tercet is aba. (the first and last have the same end rhyme, which just means the last word in each line rhymes) The concluding quatrain consists of four lines. The rhyme scheme is abab. Now, this is where it gets tricky. Two lines are repeated throughout the entire poem. -The first line of the last stanza is repeated as the last line in the second and fourth stanzas and also as the second-to-last line of the ending quatrain. -The third line of the first stanza is repeated as the last line of the third and fifth stanza and as the last line in the ending quatrain…

Divider

7.)

  • A couple of great resources, according to some Otter Creek Poets, are:

BECOMING A WRITER
By Dorothea Brande

THE ARTIST’S WAY
By Julia Cameron

Divider

8.)

  • Here is an interesting interview of Ravi Shankar – the poet, not the fellow who plays the sitar!  Ravi is the poetry faculty member for the 30th Annual University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast Writers’ Conference, which takes place July 19-25.  If interested in this conference, go to http://www.usm.maine.edu/stonecoast_wc

Riding the Boat
Ram Devineni interviews Ravi Shankar
 editor of the Internet magazine Drunken Boat

…on editing the Drunkenboat.com, ethnopoetics, and deconstructing hypertext poetry.

This piece is 3,700 words or about eight printed pages long.

Riding the BoatObviously, the title ‘Drunken Boat’ comes from the famous Rimbaud poem. Why did you select that title?
I have a bipartite response to that question, the first reason being that Rimbaud, in his work and in his life, was perhaps the first truly modern poet. What Beat doesn’t have Rimbaud memorized when he states ‘the poet makes himself into a seer by a long, prodigious and rational disordering of all the senses. Every form of love, of suffering, of madness; he searches himself, he consumes all the poisons, and keeps only their quintessence’?
    I personally am more interested in Rimbaud the synesthete who, with all the hubris and wild inventiveness of a narcissistic genius, exclaims, ‘I created the colors of the vowels! A black, E white, I red, O blue, U green — I made rules for the form and movement of each consonant, and with instinctive rhythms, I flattered myself that I created a poetic language accessible, someday, to all the senses.’
    Isn’t that the primal goal of each poet, to look out at the landscape she finds herself in, and like Adam in Eden, provide each thing its necessary name? [Click on Image to read more.]

Divider

9.)

Intimacy and Solitude
By PETER STEVENSON

THE NEW YORK TIME BOOK REVIEW
Published: November 7, 2008

New York Times“In childhood nothing happened.” So Donald Hall writes in his enchanting memoir, and what’s admirable about that sentence is not just the pleasure in coming across such a cheeky volley in the opening pages of an account of a life in our post-Freudian age, but the choice Hall made not to insert a comma between “childhood” and “nothing.” A comma — “In childhood, nothing happened” — would have insisted on a dramatic pause that the reader would be expected to applaud politely, nodding at the poet’s foreshadowing that clearly something did happen and it must have been simply stupendous, and here we go. But Hall means what he says, repeating the phrase “Nothing happened” twice, like a chorus or incantation, on the following page. [Click on Image to Read More.]

Divider

10.)

THIS WEEK’S REVIEW (2)

NY Times 2 Reviews1) A RIVER OF WORDS
The Story of William Carlos Williams
By Jen Bryant. Illustrated by Melissa Sweet
Unpaged. Eerdmans Books for Young Readers. $17. (Ages 7 and up)

2) MY LETTER TO THE WORLD
And Other Poems
By Emily Dickinson. Illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault
Unpaged. KCP Poetry/Kids Can Press. Cloth, $17.95; paper, $9.95. (Ages 10 and up)

When I was 8 or 9 I copied a poem from a library book in loopy cursive and taped it to the wall over my bed. I was enchanted by Robert Frost’s catchy claim that he was “one of the children told” that “blowing dust” was “really gold.” But the real nugget for me was “the Golden Gate.” Frost and I were both born in San Francisco. And he, too, I learned with delight, had lived in Vermont, loved apple trees and bendy birches. [Click on Image to Read More.]

Divider

11.)

Writing & Oneness:
Creativity and Deep Discovery Through Two Transformative Practices

June 5-7, 2009
Sky Meadow Retreat
Northeast Kingdom, VT
Cost: $350, includes tuition, food, lodging
To register: Send a non-refundable $50 check to:
Michelle Demers
382 Northview Court
Williston, VT  05495

Come and experience a weekend of creativity and deep discovery in the silence and natural surroundings of Sky Meadow Retreat.  You’ll have a chance to see how the practices of writing and Oneness Blessing can work together to deepen and complement each other and create transformations.  You will be introduced to both practices, then have many opportunities to experience each one and see how each works to deepen each experience.  The weekend promises to be devoted to writing, transformation, and deep listening in an atmosphere of kindness, openness, and non-judgment.  No experience is necessary in writing or Oneness Blessing.

For more information on Oneness Blessing (Deeksha):
www.onenessvermont.com

For more information on Writiing Practice:
www.firstthoughtswriting.com

Divider

12.)

Poetry Readings Resume at The Book King, Center Street, Rutland

The Book King is returning to having public poetry readings, to be held on the last Friday of each month, at 6:00 p.m.  The next reading will be on June 26th.  There will be flyers at the Book King counter.

Please contact me if you’d like to read.  The theme is:

“POEMS THAT MAKE YOU WANT TO SLIT YOUR WRISTS”

Poets and listeners will be checked at the door for sharp implements.

Divider

13.)

Did You Know?

Ugly fight for top Oxford poetry post divides British academia, raises issues of race, gender

RAPHAEL G. SATTER | Associated Press Writer
May 26, 2009

Ugly FightLONDON — A fight over who gets to be Oxford University’s top poet has set Britain’s      pens racing — and weakened the careers of two well-known wordsmiths.

St. Lucia-born Derek Walcott pulled out of the race for Oxford’s Professor of Poetry after letters were distributed highlighting sexual harassment allegations made against him at Harvard and Boston Universities in the 1980s and 1990s.

His rival, Ruth Padel, resigned from the prestigious post Monday after admitting she sent e-mails to journalists publicizing the claims.

Some commentators called the move poetic justice, but others say the controversy uncovered the racially and sexually charged undercurrents still coursing through the uppermost reaches of academia. [Click on Image to Read More.]

Divider

14.)

“Ponderings”

Ving, Vang, Vong. Or, the Pleasures of a New Vocabulary.
By VERLYN KLINKENBORG
Published: April 9, 2008

Ving Vang VongLately I’ve been thinking about the word “vang.” It is a sailing term, and if you look it up in the glossary of Royce’s “Sailing Illustrated,” you find that it refers to a line to prevent “the peak of a gaff from falling off leeward.” That is how it goes when you’re learning a new technical vocabulary. The language seems self-enclosed at first, each new definition an opaque cluster of words that themselves need defining. I was taught, during vocabulary in grade school, to try using a new word in a sentence. “There is a vang.” “Can someone show me the vang?” Those are my best efforts so far.

Part of the trouble is that I have never seen a vang. But it’s also that “vang” doesn’t sound like a noun to me. It sounds like the past tense of “ving,” which sounds like something you might do to a “vong.” And those are words with no meaning — nautical or otherwise. [Click on Image to Read More.]

Divider

15.)

Poetry is the achievement of the synthesis of hyacinths and biscuits…

Poetry Quote by Carl Sandburg

Divider

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.

Divider

17.)

Lorenzo After Driving Drunk
By Mark Neely

FailBetter - Lorenzo

Divider

18.)

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

At Ruann’s, Having Tea with the Future
BY SALLY MOLINI

Sally Molini’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in LIT, Beloit Poetry Journal, elimae, and 32 Poems, among other journals, and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She is co-editor for Cerise Press, an online international magazine and lives in Nebraska.

LineBreak - Having Tea

Divider

19.)

Copper Canyon - Love

Divider

20.)

American Life in Poetry: Column 217

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

American literature is rich with poems about the passage of time, and the inevitability of change, and how these affect us. Here is a poem by Kevin Griffith, who lives in Ohio, in which the years accelerate by their passing.

American Life Col 217

American Life in Poetry: Column 218

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


Here is one of my favorite mother-daughter poems, by Marie Howe, who lives in New York City and who has a charming little girl.

American Life Col 218

American Life in Poetry: Column 219

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

As we all know, getting older isn’t hard to do. Time continues on. In this poem, Deborah Warren of Massachusetts asks us to think about the life lived between our past and present selves, as indicated in the marginal comments of an old book. There’s something beautiful about books allowing us to talk to who we once were, and this poem captures this beauty.

American Life Col 219

Divider

21.)

VERMONT POET LAUREATES

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

Divider

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: vtpoet@gmail.com

Divider

23.)

VERMONT LITERARY JOURNALS

1) The Queen City Review

Burlington College’s  The Queen City Review is a yearly journal of art and literature and accepts the work of new and established writers and artists in the areas of poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction, memoir, photography, and fine art, as well as essays and criticism on all aspects of the aforementioned. They seek to publish high quality work that ranges broadly in topic and genre.

The Queen City Review can be purchased by 2-year subscription or individually.  The price of one issue is $8 plus shipping charges ($1) for a total of $9.  Subscriptions can be purchased for #$14 plus shipping charges $2) and includes the Fall 2008 and upcoming 2009 issues.  They accept cash, check, and credit cards.  You can mail your payment to them or by calling (802) 862-9616 ext. 234 to place your order over the phone.  If mailing your payment, mail details to:

ATTN: Heidi Berkowitz
Burlington College
95 North Avenue
Burlington, VT  05401

2) Bloodroot

Bloodroot is a nonprofit literary magazine dedicated to publishing diverse voices through the adventure of poetry, short fiction, and creative nonfiction.  Their aim is to provide a platform for the free-spirited emerging and established writer.

The price of a single issue is $8.

Editor, “Do” Roberts
Bloodroot Literary Magazine
PO Box 322
Thetford Center, VT  05075
(802) 785-4916
email: bloodroot@wildblue.net

3) New England Review

A publication of Middlebury College, a high quality literary magazine that continues to uphold its reputation for publishing extraordinary, enduring work.  NER has been publishing now for over 30 years.

Cost: $8 for a single issue
$30 for a single year (4 issues)
$50 for two years (8 issues)

New England Review
Attn: Orders
Middlebury College
Middlebury, VT 05753

NEReview@middlebury.edu
(800) 450-9571

4) Willard & Maple

A Literary and Fine Art Magazine of Champlain College, Burlington.

Willard & Maple
163 South Willard Street
Freeman 302, Box 34
Burlington, VT  05401

email: willardandmaple@champlain.edu

5) Burlington Poetry Journal

The Burlington Poetry Journal is a new nonprofit publication interested in creating a means for provoking opinions, ideas, and thoughtful responses for poets in the Greater Burlington area. While there are numerous outlets for writers to gather and share privately in Vermont, there is no publication that brings together poetry of all styles and writers of all ages for the enjoyment of the general public. It is our hope that this journal will inspire writers to share their work with others who may be unaware of their talent, and for those who have never considered themselves writers to try their hand at poetry. We invite you to submit your work and share with others your thoughts and abilities with the Burlington community. The work you share will produce a dialogue as writers become aware of each other and begin to expose themselves and others to new poetry. The eclectic nature of the Burlington Poetry Journal will serve to stimulate its readers and authors.

Divider

24.)

STATE POETRY SOCIETY
Poetry Society of Vermont

The Poetry Society of Vermont, founded in 1947, is an association of poets and supporters who join in promoting an interest in poetry through meetings, workshops, readings, contests, and contributions to the society’s chapbook. Anyone may join the society including high school and college students and non-residents of Vermont. We welcome both writers and appreciative readers.

In September 2007, The Poetry Society of Vermont will celebrated its 60th Anniversary.

Membership in PSOV

Benefits:

  • 2 luncheon/ workshops a year where a professional poet critiques your poems
  • one hands- on writing workshop and reading under the direction of a professional poet
  • the opportunity to enter contests judged by professional poets and to win awards
  • fellowship with appreciative readers and writers of poetry
  • opportunity for publication in the PSOV chapbook, The Mountain Troubadour

How to join:

  • mail dues of $20.00 to Membership Chairman, P.O. Box 1215, Waitsfield, VT 05673
  • include your name, mailing address, telephone, and e-mail address for Membership List
  • memberships are renewed by January 1 of each year

The PSOV has 2 current books available for sale:

1) The Mountain Troubadour – 2008 – Curl up with 44 pages of interesting, award-winning poetry from a wonderful group of poets.  This book is only $8 (+$1 to mail).  To get yourself a copy, call or write to Betty Gaechter, 134 Hitzel Terrace, Rutland, VT 05701, 773-8679.  This little booklet may be just the thing to get you involved with the PSOV for a lifetime of friendships.

2) Brighten the Barn – 60th Anniversary Anthology – 1947-2007 – An Anthology of Poems by Members of the Poetry Society of Vermont.  99 pages of quality poetry; that’s a lot of beautiful poetry for only $12.  If you get it through me (Ron Lewis), it’s only $12.  If you want it shipped to you, the PSOV wants an extra amount to cover tax and shipping ($0.72 + $3.00).  This book retails for $15, but a reduced price is now in play to unload the few remaining copies.

Divider

25.)

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. Poetry Workshops on Monday mornings (9:30-12:30 I believe)- Jim Fowler’s sessions continue, with periodic break for a few weeks between sessions.  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.

BERLIN

The Wayside Poets, who share their poetry publicly from time to time, have been meeting irregularly for the past 25 years.  They used to be called The Academy Street Poets.  Membership is by invitation only.  They meet now at the Wayside Restaurant & Bakery in Berlin.  Members include Diane Swan, Sherry Olson, Carol Henrikson and Sarah Hooker.  You can contact them through Sherry Olson at: solsonvt@aol.com or 454-8026.

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

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.

NORWICH

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

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.

Divider

26.)

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

The Writer’s Center
58 Main Street, White River Junction, Vermont

Instructor: April Ossmann (author of Anxious Music, Four Way Books, 2007, writing, editing and publishing consultant, and former Executive Director of Alice James Books)

Info: (802)333-9597 or aprilossmann@hotmail.com and http://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.

Divider

27.)

YEAR-ROUND POETRY WRITING CENTERS IN VERMONT

BURLINGTON

The Burlington Writer’s Group (BWG) meets on Tuesday evenings from 7-9 PM and has a new home at the Unitarian Church in the church’s little white house off of Clark St., 2nd floor. They’d like to let people know and also invite anyone interested to join them whenever folks are in town or as often as they’d like.

The Burlington Writer’s Group is a free drop-in group. They decide on a prompt and write for 20 minutes, followed by a go-around reading. They can usually get in two writes depending on group size. All genres and experience levels are welcome and there really are no rules other than demonstrating courtest while people are writing (don’t interrupt).  They don’t do much critiquing though some spontaneous reactions occur. Mainly it’s good practice to just show up and write for 40 minutes and share the writing, if so inclined…

SPRINGFIELD

A Writer’s Group has started to meet at the Springfield Town Library on the fourth Monday of each month, from 7 to 8 pm.  For more information, call 885-3108.

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 http://www.womenwritingVT.com/ or contact Sarah Bartlett at either 899-3772 or sarah@womenwritingvt.com.

Divider

28.)

POETRY EVENT CALENDAR

Poetry EventBelow 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.

Mon, Jun 1: Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, 8:00 p.m.  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.  For info, 635-2727.

Thu, Jun 4: Otter Creek Poets Annual Potluck and Poetry.  The best-known poetry critique workshop in the state.  Operating weekly for the past 12 years under the directorship of David Weinstock.  Members only, meeting at the home of Deanna Shapiro (directions above).

Thu, Jun 4: Howe Library, Mayer Room, Hanover, NH, 7:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.  Author Reading & Book Signing: April Ossmann.  April reads from Anxious Music.  For info, (603) 643-4120, Ellen.Lynch@TheHowe.org.

Wed, Jun 10: Vermont Humanities Council, 11 Loomis Street, Montpelier, 5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.  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 spring poems. Participants are invited to either read the poems in advance or upon arriving. Refreshments served. RSVPs are encouraged at 802.262.2626 x307. Walk-ins welcome.

Thu, Jun 11: Ilsley Library, 75 Main Street, Middlebury, 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. Otter Creek Poets.  The best-known poetry critique workshop in the state.  Operating weekly for the past 12 years under the directorship of David Weinstock.

Thu, Jun 11: Parima, 185 Pearl Street, Burlington, 8:45 p.m. -10:00 p.m.  Poetry Jam.  This is a continuing series, happening on alternate Thursdays.

Sat, Jun 13: Village Square Booksellers, 32 The Square, Bellows Falls, In the Café, 2:00p.m. – 4:00 p.m.  Open Mic River Voices Poetry Reading on the second Saturday of each month.  The session is open mic, with individuals reading their own poetry or poems from their favorite poet.  Listeners are welcome to attend.  Light refreshments are served.  To reserve a place at the table, e-mail vsbooks@sover.net or call (802) 463-9404.

Thu, Jun 18: Ilsley Library, 75 Main Street, Middlebury, 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. Otter Creek Poets.  The best-known poetry critique workshop in the state.  Operating weekly for the past 12 years under the directorship of David Weinstock.

Sat, Jun 20, 7:00: Ball and Chain Cafe at the Briggs Carriage Bookstore, 16 Park St., Brandon, 7:00 p.m.  Poetry/Music Performance.  David Cavanagh reads poems from his new book, Falling Body (Salmon Poetry, Ireland), interspersed, entangled with and accompanied by the music of Blackbird (Bob DeMarco and Rachel Clark).

Thu, Jun 25: Parima, 185 Pearl Street, Burlington, 8:45 p.m. -10:00 p.m.  Poetry Jam.  This is a continuing series, happening on alternate Thursdays.

Thu, Jun 25: Ilsley Library, 75 Main Street, Middlebury, 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. Otter Creek Poets.  The best-known poetry critique workshop in the state.  Operating weekly for the past 12 years under the directorship of David Weinstock.

Thu, Jul 2: Ilsley Library, 75 Main Street, Middlebury, 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. Otter Creek Poets.  The best-known poetry critique workshop in the state.  Operating weekly for the past 12 years under the directorship of David Weinstock.

Thu, Jul 9: Ilsley Library, 75 Main Street, Middlebury, 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. Otter Creek Poets.  The best-known poetry critique workshop in the state.  Operating weekly for the past 12 years under the directorship of David Weinstock.

Thu, Jul 9: Parima, 185 Pearl Street, Burlington, 8:45 p.m. -10:00 p.m.  Poetry Jam.  This is a continuing series, happening on alternate Thursdays.

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.

Sat, Jul 11: Village Square Booksellers, 32 The Square, Bellows Falls, In the Café, 2:00p.m. – 4:00 p.m.  Open Mic River Voices Poetry Reading on the second Saturday of each month.  The session is open mic, with individuals reading their own poetry or poems from their favorite poet.  Listeners are welcome to attend.  Light refreshments are served.  To reserve a place at the table, e-mail vsbooks@sover.net or call (802) 463-9404.

Thu, Jul 16: Ilsley Library, 75 Main Street, Middlebury, 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. Otter Creek Poets.  The best-known poetry critique workshop in the state.  Operating weekly for the past 12 years under the directorship of David Weinstock.

Thu, Jul 23: Ilsley Library, 75 Main Street, Middlebury, 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. Otter Creek Poets.  The best-known poetry critique workshop in the state.  Operating weekly for the past 12 years under the directorship of David Weinstock.

Wed, Jul 22: The Norwich Bookstore, 291 Main Street, 7:00.  Pamela Harrison.  Norwich resident Pamela Harrison is a “Must-Hear.”  This time it is to celebrate the publication of her new poetry collection. Out of Silence is an unsentimental portrait of her parents that mines a rich story from her family experiences.  Info, 649-1114.

Thu, Jul 23: Parima, 185 Pearl Street, Burlington, 8:45 p.m. -10:00 p.m.  Poetry Jam.  This is a continuing series, happening on alternate Thursdays.

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.

Thu, Jul 30: Ilsley Library, 75 Main Street, Middlebury, 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. Otter Creek Poets.  The best-known poetry critique workshop in the state.  Operating weekly for the past 12 years under the directorship of David Weinstock.

Sat, Aug 8: Village Square Booksellers, 32 The Square, Bellows Falls, In the Café, 2:00p.m. – 4:00 p.m.  Open Mic River Voices Poetry Reading on the second Saturday of each month.  The session is open mic, with individuals reading their own poetry or poems from their favorite poet.  Listeners are welcome to attend.  Light refreshments are served.  To reserve a place at the table, e-mail vsbooks@sover.net or call (802) 463-9404.

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.

Sat, Sep 12: Village Square Booksellers, 32 The Square, Bellows Falls, In the Café, 2:00p.m. – 4:00 p.m.  Open Mic River Voices Poetry Reading on the second Saturday of each month.  The session is open mic, with individuals reading their own poetry or poems from their favorite poet.  Listeners are welcome to attend.  Light refreshments are served.  To reserve a place at the table, e-mail vsbooks@sover.net or call (802) 463-9404.

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.

Sat, Oct 10: Village Square Booksellers, 32 The Square, Bellows Falls, In the Café, 2:00p.m. – 4:00 p.m.  Open Mic River Voices Poetry Reading on the second Saturday of each month.  The session is open mic, with individuals reading their own poetry or poems from their favorite poet.  Listeners are welcome to attend.  Light refreshments are served.  To reserve a place at the table, e-mail vsbooks@sover.net or call (802) 463-9404.

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.

Sat, Nov 14: Village Square Booksellers, 32 The Square, Bellows Falls, In the Café, 2:00p.m. – 4:00 p.m.  Open Mic River Voices Poetry Reading on the second Saturday of each month.  The session is open mic, with individuals reading their own poetry or poems from their favorite poet.  Listeners are welcome to attend.  Light refreshments are served.  To reserve a place at the table, e-mail vsbooks@sover.net or call (802) 463-9404.

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.

Sat, Dec 12: Village Square Booksellers, 32 The Square, Bellows Falls, In the Café, 2:00p.m. – 4:00 p.m.  Open Mic River Voices Poetry Reading on the second Saturday of each month.  The session is open mic, with individuals reading their own poetry or poems from their favorite poet.  Listeners are welcome to attend.  Light refreshments are served.  To reserve a place at the table, e-mail vsbooks@sover.net or call (802) 463-9404.

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.

our finitude as human beings
is encompassed by the infinity of language
—Hans-Georg Gadamer

Your fellow Poet,

Ron Lewis