Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Two Poems By
William Greenway


Pit Pony

There are only a few left, he says,
kept by old Welsh miners, souvenirs,
like gallstones or gold teeth, torn
from this "pit," so cold and wet
my breath comes out a soul up
into my helmet's lantern beam,
anthracite walls running, gleaming,
and the floors iron-rutted with tram tracks,
the almost pure rust that grows and waves
like orange moss in the gutters of water
that used to rise and drown.
He makes us turn all lights off, almost
a mile down. While children scream,
I try to see anything, my hand touching
my nose, my wife beside me—darkness
palpable, like a velvet sack over our heads,
even the glow of watches left behind.
This is where they were born, into
this nothing, felt first with their cold noses
for the shaggy side and warm bag of black milk,
pulled their trams for twenty years
through pitch, past birds that didn't sing,
through doors opened by five-year-olds
who sat in the cheap, complete blackness
listening for steps, a knock.
And they died down here, generation
after generation.
The last one, when it dies in the hills,
not quite blind, the mines closed forever,
will it die strangely? Will it wonder
dimly why it was exiled from the rest
of its race, from the dark flanks of the soft
mother, what these timbers are that hold up
nothing but blue? If this is the beginning
of death, this wind, these stars?

From Selected Poems (Future Cycle Press, 2014). Reprinted by permission of the poet.




Eurydice

When my wife woke from four months
of coma after a “massive” stroke,
with chances of recovery “minimal,”
and we had finally flown home
in a tiny jet around the polar horn
of Swansea, Cardiff, Reykjavik, Goose
Bay, Toronto, Cleveland, Youngstown,
I sat by her wheelchair in a class
like a kindergarten where kids of all ages
cut colored cloth, stacked blocks,
and pieced puzzles like a map
of the world. When they shook their heads
to lament how she couldn’t remember
anything or speak, I wrote
on a big pad in crayon, “Let us go
then you and I.”
After she had read it aloud,
she went on in her whispery voice
to chant, eyes closed, the rest
of the poem from memory while
the rehab staff in their green
and blue scrubs gathered around
and stood open-mouthed as something
odd and unintelligible, yet
somehow strangely familiar,
came to them from a far place,
deep and dark where she had been,
beyond the reach of light and love.

In 2008, Greenway's poem "Eurydice" appeared in the anthology After Shocks: The Poetry of Recovery for Life-Shattering Events, which featured 152 poems by 115 poets from 15 nations.

Interview with William Greenway

How did you come to write the poem "Eurydice"?

It began after my wife’s stroke and subsequent two-month coma while we were in Wales on sabbatical.

How did writing "Eurydice" affect your recovery?

All through this trauma, I wrote poems as prayer, believing, as I always have, that poetry taps into a power outside of ourselves as well as inside. Both give us strength we don’t know we have or have access to until the trauma comes along.

Can you tell us something about your process of writing that helped "Eurydice" come to life?

Because I keep a journal, I’m able to objectify my experiences enough to get past mere self-pity and sentimentality and leave a sort of vacuum of emotion to draw in the reader’s emotions. I try not to hog all the feeling, and let the reader have some.

Who are your favorite poets or poets new to you whom you'd recommend to others?

William Stafford, William Matthews, Dylan Thomas, Philip Larkin, Sharon Olds.

What are you working on now?

Whatever comes my way. My life seems to follow paths that eventually become patterns that then become the organization of a book. My latest book is titled Tripwires, about those upheavals—some good, some bad—that we never see coming, but that change our lives, and us, irrevocably.


William Greenway

Greenway's collection Everywhere at Once (2008) won the Ohioana Poetry Book of the Year Award, as did his Ascending Order (2003), both from the University of Akron Press. He has published in Poetry, American Poetry Review, Georgia Review, Southern Review, Shenandoah, and Prairie Schooner. He has won the Helen and Laura Krout Memorial Poetry Award, the Larry Levis Editors' Prize from Missouri Review, the Open Voice Poetry Award from The Writer's Voice, the State Street Press Chapbook Competition, an Ohio Arts Council Grant, and was 1994 Georgia Author of the Year. He’s Professor of English at Youngstown State University, where he has been awarded a Distinguished Professorship in Teaching and three in Scholarship.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

William Greenway featured
on Poetry Daily Today

William Greenway's poem "Entrance" is featured at Poetry Daily today. You can find it at Poetry Daily: "Entrance" by William Greenway. The link stays live forever, so if you miss it today, please view it at your leisure.

The poem comes from Greenway's recently released Selected Poems.



"Everything I love about William Greenway's poems is here in spades: the self-effacing wit, the spritely erudition, and the serious charm. Like a wry descendent of Homer who 'woke up human and Baptist in Atlanta, Georgia,' Greenway discerns in the mundane world of barbershops and flu shot lines the guises of the mythic." —Lynn Powell, poet, The Zones of Paradise


William Greenway

Greenway's collection Everywhere at Once (2008) won the Ohioana Poetry Book of the Year Award, as did his Ascending Order (2003), both from the University of Akron Press. He has published in Poetry, American Poetry Review, Georgia Review, Southern Review, Shenandoah, and Prairie Schooner. He has won the Helen and Laura Krout Memorial Poetry Award, the Larry Levis Editors' Prize from Missouri Review, the Open Voice Poetry Award from The Writer's Voice, the State Street Press Chapbook Competition, an Ohio Arts Council Grant, and was 1994 Georgia Author of the Year. He’s Professor of English at Youngstown State University, where he has been awarded a Distinguished Professorship in Teaching and three in Scholarship.

In 2008, Greenway's poem "Eurydice" appeared in the anthology After Shocks: The Poetry of Recovery for Life-Shattering Events, which featured 152 poems by 115 poets from 15 nations.

Monday, April 7, 2014

New Collection Bend to it
from Kevin Simmonds


Kevin Simmonds' new collection Bend to it was just released this Spring from Salmon Poetry. Kevin is an award-winning poet and musician who divides his time between San Francisco and Japan, and he's now at work on a theatrical collaboration with Theatre of Yugen, an experimental Japanese Noh theatre in San Francisco. Here's a sample poem from Bend to it.

Tono City, Japan
     December, 2000

Crows against snow

Beauty beaten on these anvils

A sky

Falling apart

Black anchors

Crows hawking

To god

To me

A moment's match

Pushing the light from itself

Pushing the light from its wings

Reprinted by permission of the poet.
From Bend to it (Salmon Poetry, 2014). Buy Bend to it at Salmon Poetry.

Interview with Poet Kevin Simmonds

Who are your favorite poets or poets new to you whom you'd recommend to others?
Lucille Clifton
Richard Ronan

What are you working on now?

My second collection, Bend to it , is out from Salmon Poetry, who also published my debut collection, Mad for Meat.

I'm at work on a new collection, tentatively titled Upright. At the same time, I’m processing Ota Benga, a river, a recent theatrical collaboration with Theatre of Yugen, an experimental Japanese Noh theatre here in San Francisco. I wrote the music and co-wrote the text. It was an eye-opening experience, and I won’t soon forget the challenges of creating a work that draws from Japanese and African-American musical conventions.

Finally, I just wrapped up The Nudists , a short experimental documentary about the nudity ban in San Francisco. I collaborated with designer and artist Nori Hara to create a protest pamphlet about this in 2012, shortly before it became law in February 2013. I’m hoping some film festivals will pick it up.



Kevin Simmonds is a writer and musician originally from New Orleans. His books include Mad for Meat (Salmon Poetry) and the edited works Collective Brightness: LGBTIQ Poets on Faith, Religion & Spirituality (Sibling Rivalry Press) and Ota Benga Under my Mother’s Roof (University of South Carolina). He has composed numerous musical works for voice and chamber ensemble, as well as for stage productions such as Emmett Till, a river and the Emmy Award-winning documentary HOPE: Living and Loving with HIV in Jamaica. He started the first-ever poetry workshop at Singapore’s Changi Prison and founded Tono International Arts Association, an arts presenter in northern Japan. A recipient of fellowships and commissions from Cave Canem, Creative Work Fund, Fulbright, the Pulitzer Center, San Francisco Arts Commission and the Edward Stanley Award from Prairie Schooner, he divides his time between Japan and San Francisco.

Visit Kevin Simmonds web site.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

After Shocks Poem Reprinted
in Theologian’s New Book

Noted Theologian Walter Brueggemann has used the poem “After Katrina” in his new book Reality, Grief, Hope: Three Urgent Prophetic Tasks. The poem, by Kevin Simmonds, was first published in the journal Callaloo, and was selected and published in the 2008 anthology After Shocks: The Poetry of Recovery for Life-Shattering Events .

Dr. Brueggemann’s new book presents parallel theological crises arising from two watershed historic events: the fall of Jerusalem in 587 B.C.E. and the destruction of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Both events raise questions about ideologies of “chosen-ness” held by those in power, denial that ideologies have failed, and despair when reality is faced. Dr. Brueggemann conducts a lengthy presentation of those historic ideologies, of grief and denial, and of hope as a counter to despair.

His book is available at Amazon.com Reality, Grief, Hope: Three Urgent Prophetic Tasks

Dr. Brueggemann chose “After Katrina” by Kevin Simmonds for his chapter “Grief Amid Denial” as an example of a lament that is voiced by the powerless in the face of events that they cannot control. He writes (page 84): We may pay attention to the rich legacy of contemporary laments that grieve over the failure of our “system” of well-being. Such laments arise among the excluded, powerless, and vulnerable—not the kind of people who constitute usual church voices. But these voices provide a script that we are able to echo, because such voices match and give freedom to our sadness….consider the following.

After Katrina
By Kevin Simmonds

There’s no Sabbath in this house
Just work

The black of garbage bags
yellow-cinched throats opening
to gloved hands

Black tombs along the road now
proof she knew to cherish
the passing things

even those muted before the water came
before the mold’s grotesquerie
and the wooden house choked on bones

My aunt wades through the wreckage failing
no matter how hard she tries
at letting go

I look on glad at her failing
her slow rites
fingering what she’d once been given to care for

The waistbands of her husband’s briefs
elastic as memory
the blank stare of rotted drawers

their irises of folded linen still
smelling of soap and wood
and clean hands

Daylight through the silent windows
and I’m sure now: Today is Sabbath
the work we do, prayer

I know what she releases into the garbage bags
shiny like wet skins of seals
beached on the shore of this house


Reprinted by permission of the poet.
"After Katrina" appeared in After Shocks: The Poetry of Recovery for Life-Shattering Events.

Walter Brueggemann is professor emeritus of Old Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary, Decatur, Georgia. His many other books include A Social Reading of the Old Testament, The Threat of Life, Theology of the Old Testament, Truth Speaks to Power, and The Prophetic Imagination.


Interview with Poet Kevin Simmonds, who wrote “After Katrina”

How did you come to write “After Katrina”?

I wanted to create a poem about the experience of helping my Aunt Trina as she tried to salvage things from her home after the levees broke in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Or after the bombing of those levees. Those sloppily designed levees. I knew -- in the moments of wading through the mold and mess with her -- how important that time was. Not too long thereafter she died of cancer.

How did writing “After Katrina” affect your recovery?

The subject of the poem is literally about recovering objects that are imbued with memory. Objects are talismans for memory. Having those objects and the memories surrounding them alongside the poem, something that was created and then recovered in a sense, helps me go on. My mother also lost her home. Everything in it. With this poem, I retain the essence of what was lost in the physical sense.

Can you tell us something about your process of writing that helped “After Katrina” come to life?

This poem was different and came easily compared to other poems. I often fail at this but I want each poem to be an experience of discovery. Something without agenda or predetermined direction. This poem came from my love and admiration for my aunt. If there are resonances beyond my personal history, then it's because of love and admiration.

Who are your favorite poets or poets new to you whom you'd recommend to others?
Lucille Clifton
Richard Ronan

What are you working on now?

My second collection, Bend to it , is out from Salmon Poetry, who also published my debut collection, Mad for Meat.

I'm at work on a new collection, tentatively titled Upright. At the same time, I’m processing Ota Benga, a river, a recent theatrical collaboration with Theatre of Yugen, an experimental Japanese Noh theatre here in San Francisco. I wrote the music and co-wrote the text. It was an eye-opening experience and I won’t soon forget the challenges of creating a work that draws from Japanese and African-American musical conventions.

Finally, I just wrapped up The Nudists , a short experimental documentary about the nudity ban in San Francisco. I collaborated with designer and artist Nori Hara to create a protest pamphlet about this in 2012, shortly before it became law in February 2013. I’m hoping some film festivals will pick it up.



Kevin Simmonds is a writer and musician originally from New Orleans. His books include Mad for Meat (Salmon Poetry) and the edited works Collective Brightness: LGBTIQ Poets on Faith, Religion & Spirituality (Sibling Rivalry Press) and Ota Benga Under my Mother’s Roof (University of South Carolina). He has composed numerous musical works for voice and chamber ensemble, as well as for stage productions such as Emmett Till, a river and the Emmy Award-winning documentary HOPE: Living and Loving with HIV in Jamaica. He started the first-ever poetry workshop at Singapore’s Changi Prison and founded Tono International Arts Association, an arts presenter in northern Japan. A recipient of fellowships and commissions from Cave Canem, Creative Work Fund, Fulbright, the Pulitzer Center, San Francisco Arts Commission and the Edward Stanley Award from Prairie Schooner, he divides his time between Japan and San Francisco.

Visit Kevin Simmonds web site.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

"After Katrina"
by Kevin Simmonds

There’s no Sabbath in this house
Just work

The black of garbage bags
yellow-cinched throats opening
to gloved hands

Black tombs along the road now
proof she knew to cherish
the passing things

even those muted before the water came
before the mold’s grotesquerie
and the wooden house choked on bones

My aunt wades through the wreckage failing
no matter how hard she tries
at letting go

I look on glad at her failing
her slow rites
fingering what she’d once been given to care for

The waistbands of her husband’s briefs
elastic as memory
the blank stare of rotted drawers

their irises of folded linen still
smelling of soap and wood
and clean hands

Daylight through the silent windows
and I’m sure now: Today is Sabbath
the work we do, prayer

I know what she releases into the garbage bags
shiny like wet skins of seals
beached on the shore of this house


Reprinted by permission of the poet.
"After Katrina" appeared in After Shocks: The Poetry of Recovery for Life-Shattering Events.

Interview with Poet Kevin Simmonds

How did you come to write “After Katrina”?

I wanted to create a poem about the experience of helping my Aunt Trina as she tried to salvage things from her home after the levees broke in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Or after the bombing of those levees. Those sloppily designed levees. I knew -- in the moments of wading through the mold and mess with her -- how important that time was. Not too long thereafter she died of cancer.

How did writing “After Katrina” affect your recovery?

The subject of the poem is literally about recovering objects that are imbued with memory. Objects are talismans for memory. Having those objects and the memories surrounding them alongside the poem, something that was created and then recovered in a sense, helps me go on. My mother also lost her home. Everything in it. With this poem, I retain the essence of what was lost in the physical sense.

Can you tell us something about your process of writing that helped “After Katrina” come to life?

This poem was different and came easily compared to other poems. I often fail at this but I want each poem to be an experience of discovery. Something without agenda or predetermined direction. This poem came from my love and admiration for my aunt. If there are resonances beyond my personal history, then it's because of love and admiration.

Who are your favorite poets or poets new to you whom you'd recommend to others?
Lucille Clifton
Richard Ronan

What are you working on now?

My second collection, Bend to it , is out from Salmon Poetry, who also published my debut collection, Mad for Meat.

I'm at work on a new collection, tentatively titled Upright. At the same time, I’m processing Ota Benga, a river, a recent theatrical collaboration with Theatre of Yugen, an experimental Japanese Noh theatre here in San Francisco. I wrote the music and co-wrote the text. It was an eye-opening experience and I won’t soon forget the challenges of creating a work that draws from Japanese and African-American musical conventions.

Finally, I just wrapped up The Nudists , a short experimental documentary about the nudity ban in San Francisco. I collaborated with designer and artist Nori Hara to create a protest pamphlet about this in 2012, shortly before it became law in February 2013. I’m hoping some film festivals will pick it up.



Kevin Simmonds is a writer and musician originally from New Orleans. His books include Mad for Meat (Salmon Poetry) and the edited works Collective Brightness: LGBTIQ Poets on Faith, Religion & Spirituality (Sibling Rivalry Press) and Ota Benga Under my Mother’s Roof (University of South Carolina). He has composed numerous musical works for voice and chamber ensemble, as well as for stage productions such as Emmett Till, a river and the Emmy Award-winning documentary HOPE: Living and Loving with HIV in Jamaica. He started the first-ever poetry workshop at Singapore’s Changi Prison and founded Tono International Arts Association, an arts presenter in northern Japan. A recipient of fellowships and commissions from Cave Canem, Creative Work Fund, Fulbright, the Pulitzer Center, San Francisco Arts Commission and the Edward Stanley Award from Prairie Schooner, he divides his time between Japan and San Francisco.

Visit Kevin Simmonds web site.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Susan Laugher Meyers Reads
From New Collection
This Sunday at Malaprops, Asheville

Susan Laughter Meyers will read from her new collection My Dear, Dear Stagger Grass at the Poetrio Reading Series Sunday, November 3, 3 PM at Malaprops Bookstore, 55 Haywood St., Asheville, NC. Two poems from My Dear, Dear Stagger Grass appear below. Susan will be reading with 2 other poets—Kathy Nelson and Tom Lombardo, who runs this Poetry of Recovery blog. Susan’s poem “That Year,” a deeply moving poem about the year her mother died, appeared in the anthology After Shocks: The Poetry of Recovery for Life-Shattering Events, a compilation of 152 poems by 115 poets from 15 nations.

That Year
                                —for my mother

by Susan Laughter Meyers

When the black-eyed susans begin to bloom
in the backyard, and the moonbeam coreopsis
bursts into tiny stars, I think of the year

I banished yellow from my life. It was the year
I dug up the lantana, when I didn't plant
narcissus and all the buttery bulbs

but chose white, and a little blue, for the garden
without knowing that I was readying
for two long years of her dying. The next spring

I painted our kitchen, once a lemony gloss, ecru.
I threw out from my closet all the blouses
hinting, from their hangers, of glad canaries.

Beginning that fall I dressed in a dull haze
of beige, toning myself down for the end.
I ignored the incandescence of morning, the amber

of dusk, and leaned to clouds billowed in black.
The week in November she died I loaded the trunk
of my car with flats of pansies, three sacks of bulbs.

I wanted my hands working the dirt, a dark loam
that would spring into jonquils, daffodils—bright
coronas of yellow, and yellow, and yellow.

From Keep and Give Away (University of South Carolina, 2006). First published in The Southern Review

Two poems from Susan Laughter Meyers’ new collection My Dear, Dear Stagger Grass



Banding Hummingbirds

                                            San Pedro River, Arizona

                              I, who know little of ornithology,
wear sticker number nineteen. This release,
the last of the day, is mine. Under the awning
the ornithologist at the table puts a straw to her lips
and blows, parting the feathers to check for mites.
There are mites.

                             She cradles the bird in one hand,
sexes it, names the species (Anna’s), and figures
the approximate age. Places it in a miniature sling
and weighs it, wraps the metal band around one leg.
I walk over to the designated grassy area,
both hands in my pockets.

                                         The day is raw.
When it’s time, I hold out a palm, now warm.
The assistant fits the tubes of a stethoscope
to my ears, pressing the disc against my bird.
I hear a low whir, a tiny motor running in my hand.
Up to twelve hundred beats a minute, she says.

                                         I, who know so little,
barely take a breath. My bird’s head is a knob
of red iridescence on the fleshy pad of my hand.
I am nothing but a convenient warming bench,
yet for now I am that bench. Warm.
His breast is thin—bone hollow, she says,

                             where he should be round.
His eyes are dark and still, his feet tucked
behind his body. He lies there, that tiny motor.
I don't think of years ago, my mother, my father—
those I loved who, having lain down, never rose up.
For once, I know the worth,

                             at least to me. What is unknown
is whether this bird in hand will rouse
as he did earlier, pinched between thumb
and index finger and tipped toward a feeder,
when he drank with conspicuous hunger.
You could see the tongue.

—first published in North Carolina Literary Review Online 2013 as a finalist for the 2012 James Applewhite Poetry Prize

Dear Atamasco Lily

Nothing else in the swamp rises beyond
the surprise of you
                         and your sweet repetition.

Your boldness I'd expect of the cottonmouth
sunning by the bald cypress,

your plenitude matched only
                                         by last year's
tent caterpillars, whose droppings,
when they fell,
                           ticked a steady shower.

And what of the music in your name,
hiding your poison?

You are danger, deep-throated cup
lipping the stippled light,
                           brightening the leaf mold.

               Dear red-stained lily. Rain lily.
Zephyr lily. Dear fairy lily.
                                         Wild Easter lily.
My dear, dear stagger grass.

—first published in Linebreak

Interview with Susan Laughter Meyers

How did you come to write this poem?

I was enrolled in the low-residency MFA program at Queens University of Charlotte, and one day before class several of us were talking about colors and the emotional effect they have on us. I surprised even myself by saying that I had once, for a year or more, banished yellow from my life. Cathy Smith Bowers, poet and instructor, immediately said, “Susan, there’s a poem in that,” and I knew she was right.

The back story is that I had just gone through two years of being responsible for my mother’s care before her death, and during that time yellow was simply too bright for me to invite into my life. It felt falsely cheerful to me.


Susan Laughter Meyers

How did writing this poem affect your recovery?

Once I said out loud that, during my mother’s decline, I had actually rid myself of a color—and one that I had always liked—the poem began to take shape in my mind. It was a freeing experience to put into words what had before existed as only a blur. From the moment I started writing the poem, I knew that it was a fortunate part of my grieving process. Something clicked. I had been aware all along that I had begun to grieve for my mother long before she actually died, and this poem seemed to be proof. It felt hopeful to me to know that I had moved past this difficult time of no yellow.

Can you tell us something about your process of writing that helped this poem come to life?

Turning to concrete details—as William Blake advised, “to see a world in a grain of sand.” Had I not tried to name the ordinary traces of yellow that I had banished, I wouldn’t have been able to write the poem. The habit of trying to home in close—to stick to the particulars, to the one brief moment rather than the whole scenario—kept me writing.

Who are your favorite poets or poets new to you whom you'd recommend to others?

I came to poetry mainly through Shakespeare, the Romantics—Byron, Shelley, Keats—Yeats, T. S. Eliot, James Dickey, Sylvia Path, James Wright, Elizabeth Bishop. In more recent years I’ve greatly admired the work of Li-Young Lee, Larry Levis, Jane Hirshfield, Carolyn Forché, Rita Dove, Charles Wright, Tomas Tranströmer, Seamus Heaney, Yusef Komunyakaa, among others. Poets newer to me whom I admire include two poets I’ve studied with, Carol Ann Davis and Emily Rosko; as well as Atsuro Riley, Malena Mörling, Kimberly Johnson, Traci Brimhall, Jude Nutter. And, wait, I can’t forget the three Nicks: Nick Lantz, Nick Flynn, and Nick Laird. Hard to stop naming.

What are you working on now?

Since the completion of my last book I’ve been writing poems influenced in one way or another by Sappho. Too, I've lately been obsessed with the story of my youngest aunt, my namesake, who disappeared years ago. Mostly, though, I like to write poem by poem—whatever comes my way—without aiming myself in a particular direction.

Susan Laughter Meyers, of Givhans, SC, is the author of two full poetry collections: My Dear, Dear Stagger Grass, winner of the inaugural Cider Press Review Editors Prize; and Keep and Give Away (University of South Carolina Press), winner of the inaugural SC Poetry Book Prize, the SIBA Book Award for Poetry, and the Brockman-Campbell Book Award. Her chapbook Lessons in Leaving won the Persephone Press Book Award. Her poetry has also been published in numerous journals—including The Southern Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, and Prairie Schooner—and has been selected to appear in Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, and Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry. She is the recipient of fellowships from The Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (VCCA) and the SC Academy of Authors. A long-time writing instructor, she has an MFA degree from Queens University of Charlotte. Follow Susan on her blog.

My Dear, Dear Stagger Grass is available at Amazon.com.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

3 Poems of Recovery by Carol Dine



Reconstruction

From his VA hospital bed,
the man motions to the corridor;
his jaw is crooked, wide open
like the entrance to a cave.

In the doorway the boy,
saluting his father,
imagines the white blanket
as new snow. In the yard,

they are making a snowman:
from his father’s pocket,
a piece of coal for the nose,
for the mouth,
the boy sneaks a strand
of Mother’s red yarn.


Refugee
after Andrzej Jackowski

i. A man sleeps
on a wooden plank
under a clump of date palms,
its leaves covering him
like a mother’s arms.

ii. He dreams
of rocket fire,
a river
of black oil
rising through the floor
under a single bed,
what was left
of his house.

On the sun-orange blanket,
bouquets of dried flowers,
tattered.
wife daughter son


Glove

I lost a black fleece glove,
soft, sturdy
under the back seat
on the sidewalk
on the classroom floor
better to have one glove…

I put its mate
in my lingerie drawer
beside the black satin
pear-shape
a woman sold to me,
saying
sorry.

Poems published by permission of the poet.

Interview with Carol Dine

Tell us about these poems.

The poems "Reconstruction" and "Refugee" are from my manuscript in progress, entitled Sutures: Poems of Art and War. In it, I comment on specific war images, including those by Holocaust survivor, Samuel Bak, Polish exile, Andrzej Jackowski, and British war sculptor, Michael Sandle. In these cases, my poems accompany the images. There are also sections (without images) on women as both victims and survivors of war, and art that was looted by the Nazis, never to be recovered. The manuscript is under review by publishers in the U.K.

The poem "Glove" reflects my fourth bout with breast cancer, which I have survived. Thank GOD.

Who are your favorite poets or poets new to you whom you'd recommend to others?

I’m inspired by and recommend the work of David Ferry, Carol Ann Duffy, John F. Deane, and Genine Lentine.

What are you working on now?
My next book, Orange Night, a collaboration with acclaimed artist and Holocaust survivor, Samuel Bak, will be published in April, 2014 by Pucker Art Publications and distributed by Syracuse University Press. In Orange Night, I present a dialogue on the subject of the Holocaust. I hope that the cumulative effect of Bak’s paintings and drawings and my poetic commentary transcend the artists’ individual powers and create for the reader an intimate confrontation with history.

The book of twenty-four images and accompanying poems is divided into four sections. In the first section "Orange Night", I want the reader to relive the artist’s memories of the sundered Vilna Ghetto (Lithuania), where his drawings were first displayed when he was nine years old, and from which he escaped with his mother. The second section, “Artist,” portrays the necessity of the arts for survival, redemption. In “Adonai,” I explore the question of God’s absence. In “Afterward,” I attempt to interpret the aftermath of war from the distance of time. In this final section, the reader faces a broken landscape which the artist has been, in my viewview, “cleansed with orange light.”

The book will be an important addition to studies of the Holocaust and WWII, in addition to Art History, Linguistics and Poetry. Bak’s images were be provided by Boston’s Pucker Gallery. Gallery Director, Bernard H. Pucker, enthusiastically supports this book which he calls “extraordinary.”

In addition to Orange Night, I am now working on poems for a collection entitled Resistance, persona poems on women who have resisted war, terror and abuse.




Carol Dine read from her book Van Gogh in Poems (Bitter Oleander Press, 2009) in Amsterdam at the Van Gogh Museum, and in London at the Royal Academy. In 2011, she was awarded a grant from the Money for Women/Barbara Deming Memorial fund for her manuscript Sutures: Poems on Art and War. She teaches writing at MassArt & Design, Boston, where she will give the Marjorie Hellerstein Memorial Lecture in April, 2012.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Owl's Head
By Carol Dine

On the first night after you die, we make love.
Your tongue, a sparrow in my mouth.

On the second night, you dye
the white egg of a parrot in beet juice,
scratch snowflakes into the waxy shell.

On the third night, I boil a crow’s blue egg
in vinegar; before it cools, I swallow it whole.

On the fourth night in Owl’s Head,
we lie on the shore; the tide ambles in,
wrapping us in seaweed.
We swim away
together in our green green skin.

Reprinted by permission of the poet. Appeared in the anthology After Shocks: The Poetry of Recovery for Life-Shattering Events.



Interview with Carol Dine

How did you come to write “Owl’s Head”?

The poem came to me quite awhile after my lover, Jon Liutkus, died of a heart attack at age forty.

How did writing this poem affect your recovery?

The writing put me in touch with feelings of love and sensuality I had for him, as opposed to the overwhelming feelings of loss and grief that had distanced me from my poetic voice.


Carol Dine

Can you tell us something about your process of writing that helped this poem come to life?
The setting of the poem, Owls Head, Maine, is a place Jon often visited; it reminded him of Lithuania, the land from which he and his family were exiled; he often wrote me postcards from there, describing its haunting beauty. As for the second and third stanzas, he had told me about the Lithuanian custom of dying Easter eggs. So I put us by the sea, making love, added the sensual waxing ingredients, and my poem was cooked.

Who are your favorite poets or poets new to you whom you'd recommend to others?

I’m inspired by and recommend the work of David Ferry, Carol Ann Duffy, John F. Deane, and Genine Lentine.

What are you working on now?
My book, Orange Night, collaboration with acclaimed artist and Holocaust survivor, Samuel Bak, will be published in April, 2014 by Pucker Art Publications and distributed by Syracuse University Press. I’m completing a manuscript entitled Sutures: Poems on Art and War. In it, I comment on specific war images, including those by Holocaust survivor, Samuel Bak, Polish exile, Andrzej Jackowski, and British war sculptor, Michael Sandle; in these cases, my poems accompany the images. There are also sections (without images) on women as both victims and survivors of war; and art that was looted by the Nazis, never to be recovered. The manuscript is under review by publishers in the U.K. I am now working on poems for a collection entitled Resistance, persona poems on women who have resisted war, terror and abuse.


Carol Dine read from her book Van Gogh in Poems (Bitter Oleander Press, 2009) in Amsterdam at the Van Gogh Museum, and in London at the Royal Academy. In 2011, she was awarded a grant from the Money for Women/Barbara Deming Memorial fund for her manuscript Sutures: Poems on Art and War. She teaches writing at MassArt & Design, Boston, where she will give the Marjorie Hellerstein Memorial Lecture in April, 2012.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Poems by Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda
from her eBook Gathering Light
and Her Thoughts on eBook Publishing



Do You Know About the Raintree?

Do you know about the world’s broad belt?
             They say that in Brazil at the equator
             birdsong fills the heart of the Catrimani
             River. Its bed, teeming with diamonds
             and gold, grows fat with this riot of light.

Do you know about the beehive tombs in Greece?
             Lower yourself by rope into the dark secret.
             If the rope breaks, let your eyes adjust
             to blindness. They say there is a sun
             behind your lids. Climb its ascending
             rays back to the earth’s roar.

Do you know about the rainbow fish?
             Solid black, they ruled the waters
             before earthquakes opened their coffers,
             turquoise, topaz, amethyst, jade
             plummeting into the rivers where
             the eyes of the dark fish shimmered
             as they fed on the earth’s rainbow.

Do you know about the hidden mountains?
             They say that in Tanzania and Kenya
             the mountains warred. Kilimanjaro
             and Mt. Kenya pushed their broad
             shoulders too high into sky.
             Now, whenever they nudge God’s throne,
             his angry breath shrouds their peaks.

Do you know about waters of the Grotto?
             You will find the pool off the coast
             of Italy on Capri. Lie down
             in the boat’s bottom to enter
             the cave’s mouth, then feast on
             a blue mirror that butterflies
             carry here on their wings: pieces
             of sky they gather learning to fly.

Do you know about the raintree?
             There’s a tree, invisible, with a broad
             canopy in the sky. The earth sings to it
             whenever it’s thirsty. They say
             if the song’s loud enough to rise,
             the ripest blooms will break off
             their branches and rinse earth’s
             green cathedral in firstlight and last.

Previously published in Antietam Review and reprinted in Gathering Light (SCOP Publications, Inc., College Park, MD, 1993), “Do You Know About the Raintree?” was recently featured in Terrain.org: A Journal of the Built & Natural Environments (Issue No. 21: Winter/Spring 2008: Islands and Archipelagos. The poem was subsequently selected to appear in Best of the Literary Journals.


When Birds Speak

To Shakespeare, they were not isolated objects but living creatures.         — Levi Fox, Shakespeare’s Birds

How can one ignore his chattering pies,
a lapwing close to earth, every goose
cackling, a strutting chanticleer?
They are all there in his drama:
dive dapper, pigeon, woodcock, wagtail—
and among them, such pretty talk.
Did he study birds to see how all
creatures work, how man in his folly
climbs commanding peaks? A vulture
circles, then swoops. In the shadow
of its wings, wren and robin hover
over their young. They are all there.
Swift flight: the swallow points
its wings and ascends while thrush
and jay harmonize with wind.
And the graceful swan, what metaphors
did he see in her: royal birth, music,
majestic curves of the universe?
He must have sat next to her,
away from paper and ink, with her
neck arced like a river’s bend.
He must have seen prisms in those
feathers, prisms in expanded wings.
When the birds spoke the language
of waves, they flew to him out of elm
and ash. Always a triumph: birds
on every branch and the playwright
in his haven learning to sing.

Both poems reprinted from eBook Gathering Light (Northampton House Press, 2013) by permission of the poet.

Interview with Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda about her experience publishing Gathering Light as an eBook, through publisher Northampton House Press.

What is your general feeling about the eBook market? Does it have a future for poetry?

I believe the eBook market has a future for poetry. In fact, there are quite a few reputable publishers—Copper Canyon, Graywolf, Coffee House, BOA—who are moving toward digital publishing. From what I’ve read about this transition, these presses are committed to addressing the issues that cause alarm to poets. Specifically, when the screen size of an electronic device is too small or the font size is too large, a shift will occur in the typographical arrangement of a poem with long or staggered lines. Since form is an important consideration in poetry, the visual display on an electronic device matters. As soon as publishers address these concerns, then the market will attract more poets.


What was your thought process coming to this decision? Difficult? Easy?

Initially, I was hesitant to enter the eBook market, but after discussing the matter with my publisher and editor at Northampton House Press, I decided to give it a try. Since the print version of Gathering Light is no longer available, I wanted to enter a market that would make the book accessible to a large audience. I also considered the fact that many young readers, who are technologically savvy, prefer eBooks. Storing books on a Kindle, Nook, or a Kobo e-reader is more convenient and certainly beats hauling books around in a satchel. After weighing the pros and cons, I decided this was a viable route to take to reintroduce an out-of-print book to the market.

How was it working with your publisher, Northampton House Press? Was there any vetting or acceptance process? Any editing, revision, or other editorial involvement? Or is it close to a vanity press situation, where they publish whatever is sent to them? You have published with other normal presses. How was the eBook process different?

I couldn’t have chosen a better publisher for this project than Northampton House Press. Both the poetry editor and publisher worked closely with me to ensure that the end product was a well-honed work of art. I should point out that this isn’t a vanity press. And there was an acceptance process. I was initially contacted by NHP’s poetry editor, who invited me to submit a current or out-of-print book for consideration. Gathering Light was originally published by SCOP Publications, Inc. of Maryland, which closed its doors a decade ago. The book was always a favorite of mine for its uplifting themes. Here was a chance to reintroduce the work. During the editing process, I made a few minor changes and took out one poem—a translation—which seemed obtrusive. Once the book reached the formatting stage, several of the poems were hand-coded to ensure that the line breaks and stanzaic shifts were honored. At one point I was asked to rework the lineation of four poems with long or indented lines. Although I was hesitant to do so, I soon met the challenge by readjusting the typographical arrangement of each piece. After the manuscript was converted to the e-book format, I was given the chance to proofread the entire work on an e-reader. Thanks to the meticulous oversight of the publisher, all seemed to be in order. However, I realize that issues might still exist for those who download the e-book to a smartphone.

I found the overall publishing process similar to that of working with other presses—with the exception of being asked to re-lineate a few poems to solve display issues on an e-reader. I should also point out that NHP publishes both e-books and print editions.

What was the cost?

I honestly don’t know since the press covered all costs.

Have you sold many books using eBook?

Ask me in a few months. We’re still in the early stages of seeking online reviews to promote the book. All of this is new to me, but thankfully, the press has an intern who will guide me through the process. I just “met” her online a week ago.

Are you happy you’ve taken this step?

Yes. As an older writer, I feel the need to move in the direction that the publishing business seems to be headed. Given the proliferation of writing programs in universities and the growing number of young authors entering the field each year, competition is stiff. And new books are plentiful. Having worked in the past on the editorial board of a small press, I know the challenges of publishing, promoting, and even storing print copies of books. Obviously, it’s easier to store e-books, and hopefully, they’ll remain available for a much longer period of time.


Dr. Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda served as Poet Laureate of Virginia from 2006-2008. She has published five books of poetry, co-edited two poetry anthologies and has two other manuscripts near completion. Her poems have been nominated for six Pushcart Prizes and appear in numerous magazines, including Nimrod, Prairie Schooner, Mid-American Review, Best of Literary Journals, Poet Lore, r.kv.r.y. and An Endless Skyway, an anthology of poems by U.S. State Poets Laureate. Her poems also appeared in After Shocks: The Poetry of Recovery for Life-Shattering Events.Her awards include five grants from the Virginia Commission for the Arts; a Spree First Place award; multiple awards in Pen Women competitions; a Special Merit Poem in Comstock Review’s Muriel Craft Bailey Memorial contest; a Passages North contest award; an Edgar Allan Poe first-place award; and a Resolution of Appreciation from the State Board of Education for her contributions as Poet Laureate of Virginia. In 2010-2011 she served as a Literary Arts Specialist with Claudia Emerson on a Metrorail Public Art Project, which will integrate literary works, including her own, into art installations at metro stations in Virginia. She recently received the Poetry Society of Virginia’s Ellen Anderson Reader Award for 2012.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Poems After Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera
By Carolyn Kreiter Foronda




Frida and Wet Nurse
By Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda

You do not nourish me, though you offer your breasts,
                                 A wet nurse,

while my real mother gives birth to a sister.
                                 I do my duty. I sacrifice

Your milk bitter as oleander, I call you Nana.
                                 a suckling infant at home,

I’d rather press my lips to clouds drizzling
                                 shedding tears

over a maze of leaves, engorged veins
                                 buoyant as breath.

feeding insects, giddy with song. Newly born:
                                 Wiggling, you turn from me,

a praying mantis, a monarch sucking fluid from stalks.
                                 obsidian eyes, empty.

Estranged, I refuse to knead your chest,
                                 Disheveled universe,

releasing drops into my half-opened mouth.
                                 crack open this shield.

Indian woman, why won’t you remove your mask?
                                 Reorder this life

As moon candles the stars, cradle me
                                 saturated with providence

so I can fold back time and dream my mother
                                 among splashes of rain,

nurses me, her milk—consecrated by a kiss—
                                 spilling from a holy font.


Diego and Calla Lilies
By Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda

             Kneeling on a petate mat,
The basket, deep enough,
             an Indian woman sits upright,
supports our long, firm stems.
             her unclothed frame scented.
We settle into clots of dirt.
             Is it sandalwood? Mahogany?
Like absinthe, we intoxicate
             I paint her broad shoulders:
the artist who shapes the woman’s arms
             earthy dabs of nutmeg, hyacinth
with the mastery of sun
             so she can thrive like the flowers,
so she can embrace us.
             so she can feel the florets swell.
Her hands, smelling of freesia,
             Soon, she will rise out of shadows
reach out to our trumpets blaring
             to gather bluets, yarrows.
as though she hears a mariachi horn,
             What is happiness, if not this need?
feels our desire to return to marshes,
             See how she rests—a saint—holding
watery fields, shallow pools far from
             pearls, luminous as fire?
the lover who approaches a street vendor—
             Now, maybe you understand who I am.
scissor snips ringing through the market,
             In the city, in the valleys,
fleshy tubes and arrow-shaped leaves
             I wander in search of legends
rolled into wrapping paper, sold for a few pesos,
             to begin anew. Oh, these calla lilies!
the blooms’ swanlike hearts pounding.

Both poems reprinted from The Embrace: Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo (San Francisco Bay Press, 2013) by permission of the poet.


Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda

How did you come to write “Frida and Wet Nurse” and “Diego and Calla Lilies” and the entire collection The Embrace: Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera?

As a painter, I have long been inspired by the artwork of Diego Rivera and still recall how moved I was when I viewed his paintings ten years ago in a special exhibition at El Museo del Barrio in New York City. In fact, one of the highlighted paintings, Calla Lily Vendor, inspired “Diego and Calla Lilies,” a simultaneous poem, spoken in the voice of both the artist and the calla lilies. I chose the two-voice format to broaden and enrich the interpretation of the painting, which reveals the artist’s empathy for Mexico’s indigenous people.

To deepen my understanding of Rivera and Kahlo, I devoted several years to researching their lives and subsequently traveled to Mexico City on two occasions to view Rivera’s monumental murals, Kahlo’s self-portraits, and each artist’s home and studio. In the Museo Dolores Olmedo, I saw the heartrending painting, My Nurse and I, which prompted me to create “Frida and Wet Nurse.” Here, I sought to depict Kahlo’s longing to be nursed by her own mother, who at the time was caring for a newborn sister. The painting portrays Kahlo in the arms of a wet-nurse, whose face is masked and solemn—a far cry from the devotion the infant sought.

After the research trips, the poems about this celebrated couple emerged relatively quickly. Before long, the collection gained a unified direction and centered on Rivera’s revolutionary stance and on Kahlo’s difficulties with her husband’s infidelities, her physical disability, and her inability to bear children. Despite the intricacies of their relationship, the artists remained devoted to improving the plight of the common man—a goal that remains relevant in today’s world of revolutionary uprisings.

You are also a visual artist. Can you tell us a bit about your work in that field and how it affected your work on The Embrace?

For seventeen years I studied art in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area, close to museums where I could examine the techniques of a variety of artists, ranging from Vincent van Gogh to Georgia O’Keeffe. One day in class my professor took me aside and encouraged me to test the realm of experimentation. Jackson Pollack’s non-representational art and Sam Gilliam’s abstract innovations led me to create abstract works that relied on color to speak emotionally to viewers and to move them spiritually. While searching for my artistic voice, I read several art books weekly to shore up my knowledge of other artists’ philosophies and techniques. Rivera and Kahlo were part of this study. Early on, I was drawn to Rivera’s goal to celebrate the indigenous people of Mexico, to highlight their festivals and address their hardships as laborers. I admired his innate ability to capture something as large as the history of Mexico in murals that covered the walls of buildings. I was drawn to Kahlo’s thirst for self-awareness in her portraits that capture the challenges she faced following a childhood illness and a debilitating injury in a bus accident during her adolescence.

My background as an artist equipped me with the tools to more fully understand the artistic renderings and goals of Rivera and Kahlo. As a proponent of ekphrastic poetry, I found this couple’s embrace an appealing metaphor for exploring their lives, political beliefs, and philosophies. As one who thrives on experimentation in both art and poetry, I relied on the two-voice poem and the monologue to draw readers into the book by allowing them to hear the artists telling their own stories. Other speakers include a doll, a mask, calla lilies, vines, or another symbolic object assuming an imagined life of its own in a vibrant painting.

Can you tell us something about your process of writing that helped this collection come to life?

Perhaps the most compelling moment for me was when I settled on the monologue form as a unifying element of the manuscript. I can’t count the number of times I felt as if Diego and Frida were actually speaking through me. Whenever I sat down to write, I transformed myself into another entity to lend credibility to the writing. By immersing myself in Diego’s autobiography and Frida’s letters, I familiarized myself with their voices and sought to reenact vital moments in their lives in much the same way an actor would dramatize a role in a movie or on stage.

Every month or so, I would organize and reorganize the poems that I’d written to date. In time, I started noticing thematic consistencies in the collection. A structure emerged. The poems fell into two sections—the first centering on Diego’s strengths as an artist and his weaknesses as a husband and the other focusing on Frida’s psychological burdens and indisputable gifts as a painter whose unique vision would stand the test of time. The collection solidified when the monologues and dual-voice poems brought to life these world-renowned artists, who shared the mutual goal of social justice for all.

Who are your favorite poets or poets new to you whom you'd recommend to others?

First, let me mention Julie Kane, a poet, whose work I’ve recently read and admire. Julie is Louisiana’s current poet laureate. Her book, Rhythm & Booze, was selected by Maxine Kumin as a 2003 winner in the National Poetry Series. Her poems are light-hearted, yet offer a glimpse into the undercurrents of life in various Louisiana cities. What I admire most is her grasp of formal poetry and her ability to bring it alive in some of the most illuminating villanelles I’ve read in contemporary poetry.

A younger poet, whose work deserves a close look is Dean Rader, author of Works & Days, recipient of the 2010 T.S. Eliot Prize. As one who welcomes experimentation in our genre, I delighted in reading a book, which opened my eyes to new possibilities in form and structure. I applaud Rader’s work for its innovation, its craftmanship, and vision.

One of my all-time favorite poets is Ai, a former professor of mine, whose masterful dramatic monologues led me to explore the form. I could never tire of reading her books, which allow the reader to enter the lives of an array of figures, ranging from Elvis Presley to Alfred Hitchcock. I feel fortunate to have benefited from her guidance.

What are you working on now?

I’m currently working with several other poets on collaborative projects. Joyce Brinkman, a well-regarded Indiana poet and former poet laureate of the state, sparked my interest in the kasen renga, a linked verse form originating in Japan. Thus far, we’ve produced several rengas in collaboration with poets from Japan, Germany and Mexico, who have translated our poems into their native languages. We’re hoping a book will emerge from our efforts.

I’ve also collaborated recently with other state poets laureate on a renga project, led by Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg of Kansas. During a recent gathering of current and former state poets laureate in New Hampshire, Caryn launched this effort.

Simultaneously, I’m working on poems that center on the intricate role nature plays in my life. As a resident of eastern Virginia, the year 2011 stunned us with the residual effects of an earthquake, a tornado, and a hurricane—natural disasters that have sparked poems exploring the environmental consequences.

Dr. Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda served as Poet Laureate of Virginia from 2006-2008. She has published five books of poetry, co-edited two poetry anthologies and has two other manuscripts near completion. Her poems have been nominated for six Pushcart Prizes and appear in numerous magazines, including Nimrod, Prairie Schooner, Mid-American Review, Best of Literary Journals, Poet Lore, and An Endless Skyway, an anthology of poems by U.S. State Poets Laureate. Her awards include five grants from the Virginia Commission for the Arts; a Spree First Place award; multiple awards in Pen Women competitions; a Special Merit Poem in Comstock Review’s Muriel Craft Bailey Memorial contest; a Passages North contest award; an Edgar Allan Poe first-place award; and a Resolution of Appreciation from the State Board of Education for her contributions as Poet Laureate of Virginia. In 2010-2011 she served as a Literary Arts Specialist with Claudia Emerson on a Metrorail Public Art Project, which will integrate literary works, including her own, into art installations at metro stations in Virginia. She recently received the Poetry Society of Virginia’s Ellen Anderson Reader Award for 2012.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Mother
by Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda


I fear night
               until I find
                           moon.
After dark, she scoops me
               up into her
                           brightness
where I wander
               among spirits
                           let loose
from the heavens: my mother,
               thirty years
                           dead,
visits me often.
               Sometimes I see her
                           running free
through luminous fields.
               Once from a cloud’s
                           savannah
she tamed a thunderbolt’s
               whiplike snap
                           at my feet.
Tonight moon dips
               into Sagrada Familia,
                           Notre Dame,
into all of the world’s churches.
               Mother alights in the sanctum
                           of my heart.
Here, she teaches me
               about stone’s durability,
                           what it means
to outlast illness,
               how to take
                           the years
I’ve been given and to fling
               them into air
                           so they multiply,
so they ring through darkness.
               I gather up
                           her words,
then retreat to my study.
               In the picture of us
                           on the wall,
I am a child, kneeling
               at her feet,
                           listening.

Reprinted by permission of the poet from After Shocks: The Poetry of Recovery for Life-Shattering Events

Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda served as Poet Laureate of the Commonwealth of Virginia from 2006-2008. She holds a B.A. from Mary Washington College, now the University of Mary Washington, and a M.Ed., M.A. and a Ph.D. from George Mason University, where she received the institution’s first doctorate. In 2007 both universities gave her the Alumna of the Year Award. She has published six books of poetry and co-edited two poetry anthologies. Her poems have been nominated for six Pushcart Prizes and appear throughout the United States and abroad in magazines, such as Nimrod, Prairie Schooner, Mid-American Review, Hispanic Culture Review, El Quetzal, Best of Literary Journals, Poet Lore, and An Endless Skyway, an anthology of poems by U.S. State Poets Laureate. Her numerous awards include five grants from the Virginia Commission for the Arts; a Spree First Place award; multiple awards in Pen Women competitions; a Special Merit Poem in Comstock Review’s Muriel Craft Bailey Memorial contest; a Passages North contest award; an Edgar Allan Poe first-place award; a Virginia Cultural Laureate Award; and a Resolution of Appreciation from the State Board of Education for her contributions as Poet Laureate of Virginia. She currently serves as a Literary Arts Specialist on a Metrorail Public Art Project, which will integrate poems, including her own, into art installations at metro stations in Northern Virginia. Carolyn is an accomplished visual artist, whose works have been widely displayed. As an adjunct faculty member, she teaches art-inspired poetry workshops for the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.



Interview with Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda

How did you come to write the poem “Mother”?

I had long sought to write a tribute to my mother for the wisdom she imparted during her brief lifetime. I also wanted to acknowledge the role she played in saving my life when I was close to death from an illness as a teen. Vigilant, she had remained by my side until I healed. The poem emerged thirty years after she died while I was writing Death Comes Riding, a book which explores my spiritual growth. “Mother” appears in the book’s initial section, entitled “Lifelines,” as an expression of gratitude to a family member who nourished my love of knowledge and encouraged me at an early age to develop my poetic talents. Just as I had risen out of my body in a near-death experience while seriously ill, my mother returned to me often after she died, usually in dreams so real I couldn’t ignore her guidance and advice. One night remains vivid in memory. I awoke suddenly from a deep sleep, and there she stood at the foot of the bed, not as a ghostly presence, but as a protector, a guardian angel, a teacher who would continue to bring answers to questions my overactive mind explored in dreams. Although my mother passed away at the relatively young age of 59, her years on earth were filled with brilliant observations on how to live one’s life productively and wisely. As I see it, I willed her back, so I could return to childhood and kneel “at her feet, listening”—as the poem’s closing lines state.

How did writing this poem affect your recovery?

Poetry for me is therapy. I find solace in writing and exploring what haunts or taunts me. Solutions to problems appear unexpectedly while I’m in the zone. As one who loses herself completely in the creative process, I often stumble upon insights I’d never discover if I relied only on analytical thinking.

The lesson the poem taught me is to dig deeper and seek an inner strength. That’s how I outlasted illness, and that’s how I’ve chosen to live my life since. My mother taught me “about stone’s durability . . . / how to take/ the years/ I’ve been given and to fling/ them into air/ so they multiply,/ so they ring through darkness.”

Can you tell us something about your process of writing that helped this poem come to life?

Although “Mother” emerged relatively quickly, I relied on revision to enhance the musicality and to arrange the poem on the page to suggest the wandering of “spirits/ let loose/ from the heavens.” I initially titled the poem, “Wisdom,” then “Mother Returns from the Dead,” and finally settled on the more succinct and apt title of “Mother.” I also altered the imagery significantly. In earlier drafts, I alluded to Van Gogh’s colors, even to an African savanna before settling on a depiction of the world’s churches, where my mother’s everlasting spirit “alights in the sanctum of my heart.” I strove for unification by referring to the ethereal “moon,” a female image tied intricately to both “brightness” and “light,” which, in turn, relate to the knowledge I acquired from my mother. Finally, I selected the symbolic “stone” to suggest durability. As is my common practice, I revise with the intent of chiseling a poem to perfection.

Who are your favorite poets or poets new to you whom you'd recommend to others?

First, let me mention Julie Kane, a poet, whose work I’ve recently read and admire. Julie is Louisiana’s current poet laureate. Her book, Rhythm & Booze, was selected by Maxine Kumin as a 2003 winner in the National Poetry Series. Her poems are light-hearted, yet offer a glimpse into the undercurrents of life in various Louisiana cities. What I admire most is her grasp of formal poetry and her ability to bring it alive in some of the most illuminating villanelles I’ve read in contemporary poetry.

A younger poet, whose work deserves a close look is Dean Rader, author of Works & Days, recipient of the 2010 T.S. Eliot Prize. As one who welcomes experimentation in our genre, I delighted in reading a book, which opened my eyes to new possibilities in form and structure. I applaud Rader’s work for its innovation, its craftmanship, and vision.

One of my all-time favorite poets is Ai, a former professor of mine, whose masterful dramatic monologues led me to explore the form. I could never tire of reading her books, which allow the reader to enter the lives of an array of figures, ranging from Elvis Presley to Alfred Hitchcock. I feel fortunate to have benefited from her guidance.

What are you working on now?

I’m currently working with several other poets on collaborative projects. Joyce Brinkman, a well-regarded Indiana poet and former poet laureate of the state, sparked my interest in the kasen renga, a linked verse form originating in Japan. Thus far, we’ve produced several rengas in collaboration with poets from Japan, Germany and Mexico, who have translated our poems into their native languages. We’re hoping a book will emerge from our efforts.

I’ve also collaborated recently with other state poets laureate on a renga project, led by Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg of Kansas. During a recent gathering of current and former state poets laureate in New Hampshire, Caryn launched this effort.

Simultaneously, I’m working on poems that center on the intricate role nature plays in my life. As a resident of eastern Virginia, the year 2011 stunned us with the residual effects of an earthquake, a tornado, and a hurricane—natural disasters that have sparked poems exploring the environmental consequences.

I work best when I’m engaged in several projects simultaneously. Thankfully, I’m able to move effortlessly from one project to the other and find the change of focus refreshing.

Friday, June 28, 2013

A Poem for My Daughter
by Anthony Abbott

Our God our help in ages past
Our hope for years to come.
Our shelter from the stormy blast
And our eternal home.

                                                  Isaac Watts

1.

How young we were then, my darling, how little
we knew, you and I, when you slipped into
that final sleep so quietly—no time
for words, no words we knew to say.

At the service we sang Isaac Watts.
I mouthed the rhymes dry eyed as always.
I wore a suit and stood up straight. You
followed me everywhere, down the yellow
brick road, Dorothy to my Tin Woodsman.
I wanted a heart. I feared tears would turn
me to rust. You slept in the field of poppies
your breath in my ear. You were the lamb
in the basket grown leggy and wild.
You followed me to school, I saw you
in the eyes of the girls. I fell, down, down
the hill. You tumbled after, laughing.

2.

Suddenly you’re forty-five. Oh my dear,
how you would love it here now. Women
at forty-five just coming into the sweet
beauty of their primes. Not like the days
when they were old at thirty. God, you would
dazzle them now, the way you’d walk into
a room all smiles and wisdom like the grey
heron standing in the pond, wings furled,
ready to take off. Beauty is always
almost gone, says Hopkins.. Maybe so.
You left with yours intact and brought it back
transformed. I didn’t know that until you
came to me with everything God taught you
all those years—a thousand ages like
an evening gone—and here you are to teach
me what I need to know.

3.

Muse, angel, companion of these later
years, now I know that, bidden or unbidden,
you were with me all along, even when
I thought you had surely gone, like sun
at four o’clock on winter afternoons.
I know your guises now—the eye
of the stranger in the street, asking why,
the woman with the green shawl looking
back over her shoulder. And yes, I see
you, too, in the blue waters of the lake
and the small purple flowers that grow wild
on the bank in the rocks among the day lilies.

I stop here now and wait for your touch.

How did you come to write “A Poem for My Daughter”?

My daughter died when she was just short of her fourth birthday in 1967. I began writing poems for her in the 1970s. I wrote “The Girl in the Yellow Raincoat” to celebrate her college years. In a previous posting on this blog (see Tuesday, November 6, 2012), “The Man Who Speaks to His Daughter on Her 40th Birthday” was part of a series of poems I have written—in 5 year intervals—celebrating her life as it might have been. This one above, “A Poem for My Daughter,” marks her 45th birthday in 2008, and I have already written one to celebrate her 50th this year, and it is out for publication right now.


Anthony Abbott


How did writing this poem affect your recovery?

This poem and the others I have written in her memory have kept her alive in my imagination, which is critically important to me. Recovery is in part the result of turning something painful into something that heals. The writing of these poems has been a central part of the healing process.

Can you tell us something about your process of writing that helped this poem come to life?

I think I have already alluded to the process of consciously celebrating her life in poetry every five years. So I being to think quite consciously of what she might have been like at 40, 45, or 50. That conscious imagining is central to the whole process of creating the poems, but the poems also must come in and of themselves. I can’t know everything in advance or there is no surprise. No surprise no emotions. So the whole last scene in the poem is pure imagination, pure surprise, pure joy of having her appear.

Who are your favorite poets or poets new to you whom you’d recommend to others?

Poets I have worked with in recent years who have meant a great deal to me include Jane Kenyon (absolutely essential), James Wright, Maxine Kumin, Sharon Olds, Mary Oliver, William Carlos Williams, and Walt Whitman.

What are you working on now? I published two books in 2011—If Words Could Save Us, a book of poems with accompanying CD, and an anthology I edited, What Writers Do, which celebrates the writers who have been part of the Lenoir Rhyne University Visiting Writers Series. I am very busy teaching and doing readings from these two books this year.


Anthony S. Abbott is Professor Emeritus of English at Davidson College. He is the author of two novels, including the Novellow Award winning Leaving Maggie Hope. He has written six volumes of poetry, the most recent of which is If Words Could Save Us (Lorimer Press, 2011). He is the 2012 winner of the Rose Post Creative Nonfiction Award of the North Carolina Writers Network.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Poet Barbara G.S. Hagerty
Reading May 30
At Piccolo Spoleto

On Thursday, May 30, poet Barbara G. S. Hagerty will be reading at the Piccolo Spoleto Sundown Poetry Series at 6:30 PM in the Dock Street Theatre Courtyard, located at 135 Church St., Charleston, SC. It’s free and open to the public. A reception and book signing for Barbara will follow at the Martin Gallery, 18 Broad St.

Bassist Anthony del Porto, of the bluegrass band Southern Flavor, will accompany her reading.

Barbara’s reading is but one of 10 that will go on during the festival as part of the Piccolo Spoleto Sundown Poetry series. All readings at 6:30 PM in the Dock Street Theater address above. Find out more about the festival readings, now through June 7, at Piccolo Spoleto. Poccolo Spoleto.

Barbara’s poem “Visiting Virginia P.” appeared in After Shocks: The Poetry of Recovery for Life-Shattering Events, an anthology of 152 poems by 115 poets from 15 nations. The poem is reprinted below, followed by an interview with Barbara.

Visiting Virginia P.

By Barbara G.S. Hagerty

We grow hollyhocks, paint glistening tomatoes,
watch how light fractures a glass of water,
look up words in the middle of the night.
Our bones and narrows rearranged,
we gave birth seven times between us.
Once we followed Berryman,
we were blond disciples
of his cauliflower syntax, his gothic architecture
and small houses, the ruined porch,
the bridge, the truss, the ice,
the freefall into madness.
Nothing could save us
from the gravitational pull of alcohol
until we washed up at AA
among the molded plastic orange chairs,
meetings, coffee, smoke—those were the days
when chain smoking was encouraged
as an antidote to worse things—
among the old timers who spoke in slogans
One Day at a Time, First Things First, Easy Does It.
I thought I’d landed on a planet full of ashtrays
run by an editorial committee of the Reader’s Digest.
Today you recalled I once said Pray
for the unknown help that’s already on its way
.
Now I meet your son, for the first time, he’s 18, grown well
and sturdy, like someone whose boughs we could climb into.

Interview With Barbara G.S. Hagerty

How did you come to write “Visiting Virginia P.”?

Chronological time is somewhat collapsed in “Visiting Virginia P.” Although I'd attended various 12-step meetings with Virginia in the late 70's and early 80's, and kept in touch with her after I had moved away, I did not meet her son until he was 18. In those intervening years, Virginia and I had, via both effort and grace, grown generally happier, healthier, and wiser--and had both become mothers. When I met her son, he struck me as whole and wholesome, traits attributable at least in part to healthy mothering. Tall, strong, towering over both of us, he brought to mind the qualities of a tree: sturdy, substantial, grounded in the earth, rooted in the real world. So the triggering event and the original experience it alludes to are separated in time by more than 25 years. Which is one of the bewitching things about poetry: all memory and all experience are available to the poet, always and in abundance.


Barbara G.S. Hagerty

How did writing this poem affect your recovery?

It didn't directly, as it was written so many years after the process of recovery began. But I would like to answer the question more broadly, to say that the act of writing is, for me, always salubrious in some way, always revelatory. I think of the pen as an epistemological tool, akin to an archeologist's probe or chisel. Writing helps excavate the layers and uncover the hidden strata, to see ways--often extraordinarily unexpected-- in which absolutely everything is interconnected. And, you know how the sages say you can't step in the same river twice? Similarly, no two days of excavating are ever alike--the finds are always different, even when you are probing similar territory.

Can you tell us something about your process of writing that helped this poem come to life?

My poetry-making mind is omnivorous; that's the case, I think, with most poets. A phrase, a sound, a mood, an image, a sensory impression, a conundrum, a curiosity--almost anything can get me started. In this instance, the experience of meeting the young man elicited a flood of associations and memories. That John Berryman would appear in the poem just seemed organic and natural. Again, I marvel that imagery like "planet full of ashtrays," which must have been incubating somewhere in my mind for a long time, just seemed to emerge from the shadows when the poem demanded to be written.

Who are your favorite poets or poets new to you whom you'd recommend to others?

Rhett Iseman Trull (The Real Warnings); Allen Peterson (All the Lavish in Common); Sandra Beasley (I Was the Jukebox); and Lisa Fay Coultey (In the Carnival of Breathing) are four poets I admire whose work is fairly new to me. I also admire the poetry of Gilbert Allen, Paul Guest, Lucia Perillo, D. Nurkse, Spencer Reece, Dan Albergotti, Susan Meyers, and Carol Ann Davis, among many others. The work of Larry Levis is important to me, and I recently read the remarkable Letters to a Stranger by Thomas James (who died in 1974 at the age of 27). Not to mention Li-Young Lee, Pablo Neruda, Yehuda Amichai, and Czeslaw Milosz....so many favorites! Recent prose works on poetry that I have read include Close Calls with Nonsense (Stephen Burt) and Real Sofistikashun: Essays on Poetry and Craft (Tony Hoagland). Finally, the one prose work I would take with me to that proverbial desert island is A Joseph Campbell Companion (edited by poet Diane Osbon). Essential!

What are you working on now?

I have just completed a new manuscript entitled Twinzilla; as the title suggests, it explores the duality of the self. I am tuning this manuscript up at the moment, as well as working on other individual poems in various stages of dishabille.

Barbara G.S. Hagerty is author of The Guest House and Motherfish (both from Finishing Line Press, in 2009 and 2012, respectively). She was awarded the Fellowship in Poetry from the South Carolina Arts Commission in 2010. She was also awarded a fellowship at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Her work, both poetry and prose, has appeared widely. She lives in her native Charleston, SC, where she co-coordinates The Piccolo Spoleto Sundown Poetry Series (with Susan Meyers) and serves on the board of The Poetry Society of South Carolina. She has also worked as a magazine writer, journalist, photographer, curator, and teacher of poetry and creative non-fiction. She holds an MA in Creative Writing from The Johns Hopkins University's Writing Seminars.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

"Last Surviving Hymn to Hathor"
by Nehassaiu deGannes

Who leads us, moon-drunk, into clover
and sweeps the starch rectangle of the blank half
of the bed? You love him? You love him not?
Lolling on the dark howl’s tambourine.
Honey, can’t find true love ‘cuz yuh too afraid to die.
The train is in the cattle yard again,
clattering up and down the lonely tracks.

Gourd of lullabies and rich dark earth,
what makes us cough, plump the pillow, rise
to take a piss, catch the distance lowing in our ears—
Is that Ella all glissando?
What floods our hearts with thunder?
The train is in the cattle yard again, clattering
up and down the lonely tracks.

Look how her tail’s a metronome. Her eyes are bells
of iron. Those daddy-long-leg lashes flint and there are sparks
of hammered iron flying ‘bout the room. She’s crying
Why, when a man gets too close with a bunch of cow-slip
orchids growing from his fist, you cock your head, go very still—
wonder what he plans on doing with his other fist?

You’re hiding in the cattle yard again.

Pull a ream of paper from the white shelf of sleep
“blankness + me = possibility unchained;”
and drown the tinkling cowbells in the toilet’s oceanic hiss.
But our conductor drop kicks her orchestra again.
She’s lounging on your moon-white pillow.
Fool, love won’t find you. Can’t find you.
Her bassoon now quaking all the orchids in the room.

Why not lay your head down on her chamois lap?
She’s scattering an entire confluence for you
of what is done and gone and lost for good
Life’s a dung-hill and you plant your seeds in thati
of what’s to come is yours and can be yours to trust
Not in punishment but in sanctified pleasure. Cross over.
Cross over.
The train is in the cattle yard again.



Interview With Nehassaiu deGannes

How did you come to write The Last Surviving Hymn to Hathor?

“Last Surviving Hymn To Hathor” began as a failed sonnet. I became enthralled with the notion of writing little songs devoted to human failure, and while the sonnet form did not prove conducive to this particular meditation on failed love or the failure to love, the blues motif did. In the same way that traditional blues weave together the sacred and profane, this poem wanted to inhabit both the mythic and mundane. Here an earthy mythic voice whispers in the ear of a woman who tells herself she has awakened simply because she needs to take a piss. Nothing else. She’s ‘content’ and in control inside her protective shell of distrust and ambivalence, a shell that is a hard-earned armor, the result of childhood and adult sexual traumas. Yet something is gnawing at her. Tickling at her. Crooning in her ear. The truth that to truly survive we must relearn how to be vulnerable, to cross the tracks from victim to wholeness with all the risks that that entails, to trust, to break, to sing ourselves into wholeness---all of this was in the poem’s first seed, it’s first impulse, but it took several revisions to find it’s form and its meditation.




How did writing this poem affect your recovery?

I remember reading, while I was still an undergraduate, Alice Walkers’ IN SEARCH OF OUR MOTHERS’ GARDENS, in which she speaks of writing the books she needs to read. My poem is indeed a poem I need to read. I am both the distrusting ambivalent woman and the fairy-godmother-goddess-cow (as in Hathor/ as in the cow that jumped over the moon). I am the one in need of the message and the one in which the message resides. Writing this poem helped me give voice to a slowly-dawning realization that to stay on this side of the hard-bitten tracks wasn’t going to be enough.

Can you tell us something about your process of writing that helped this poem come to life?

I rewrite and rewrite and rewrite, often allowing weeks and months between revisions. I listen and listen and listen, for as one of my first teachers, Sonia Sanchez, told me, “Listen to the poem. Always listen to the poem. It will tell you what it needs.” With this poem, I may also have employed a strategy that Rita Dove shared at a Cave Canem summer retreat: “Tear the poem in half length-wise. That will often reveal the dross.”

Who are your favorite poets or poets new to you whom you’d recommend to others?

Right now, four of my favorite poets are Tracy K. Smith, Aracelis Girmay, Natasha Tretheway and Ross Gay. Some of my perennial favorites include Gerard Manley Hopkins, Kamau Brathwaite, Aimé Cesaire, and Lorna Goodison.

What are you working on now?

I am an actress and writer and am currently making my debut at the Stratford International Shakespeare Festival in Canada, playing "Lady Capulet" in Romeo & Juliet, directed by Tim Carroll of the UK's Old Globe and Factory Theatres, and "Anne of Austria, Queen of France" in The Three Musketeers, directed by Miles Potter. I will also be appearing in The Merchant of Venice, directed by Festival Artistic Director, Antoni Cimolino. It will be a robust eight months.

Of the many projects I've collaborated on this past year, last Spring I played Diana Sands, opposite Broadway veteran actor and choreographer Hope Clarke, in a two-person play about Ms Sands' life and art. Diana was a brilliant African American actress, activist and pioneer, who passed away in 1973 at the age of 39, thus for many of us her work is little known or forgotten. She originated leading roles in Broadway productions of Hansberry's and Baldwin's plays, played Shaw’s “St. Joan” at Lincoln Center and was the first in a color-blind lead on Broadway, starring in THE OWL AND THE PUSSYCAT opposite Alan Alda, as well as many many other stage and film credits.

Whether acting or writing, my work lays claim to several cross-cultural literary and theatrical legacies: British, American, Caribbean and Canadian, classical and contemporary. I constantly claim the right to play roles both written for and those not written expressly for black women, and fortunately I have had several opportunities to do just that. Thus, learning about Ms Sands and embodying her legacy was a profound experience.
Nehassaiu deGannes is a theatre artist & poet. Winner of the 2011 Center For Book Arts Letterpress Chapbook Award, the 2010 Inaugural Cave Canem Fellowship to the Vermont Studio Center, and several grants and awards to develop her one-woman show, Door of No Return, excerpts of which are featured in The Museum on Site’s book A Thousand Ships: A Ritual of Rembrance. Her poetry has appeared in Callaloo, Poem Memoir Story, American Poetry Review, Caribbean Writer, Painted Bride Quarterly, Tuesday: An Art Project, TORCH, Encyclopedia Project, After Shocks: The Poetry of Recovery Anthology, The ARAVA Review and the Cave Canem Anthology XII. Recent acting credits include: "Kate" in Good People (Hampton Theatre); “Cordelia” in King Lear with Frankie Faison and Andre Braugher (Luna Stage); “Carmen” to Amy Irving’s “Madame Irma” (Red Bull Theatre); “The Nurse,” in Tony Walton’s production of EQUUS opposite Alec Baldwin (Guild Hall); the world premiere of The Tallest Building In The World (Luna Stage); “Betty,” A Song For My Father by David Budbill (Oldcastle Theatre), poet & mover in the national tour of Rigidigidim De Bamba De: Ruptured Calypso with Cynthia Oliver’s COCo Dance Theatre; and “Roberta Charles,” Room For Cream (Theatre of The Two-Headed Calf & LaMAMA ETC). Nehassaiu holds an MFA from Brown University and is a graduate of Trinity Rep Conservatory. She has taught poetry at The Rhode Island School of Design and Brown University, and was a part-time Assistant Professor of Theatre at Rhode Island College (2007-12). Visit her web site at Nehassaiu's web site.