To see her today is to think she was born to the life of poetry and not-for-profit administration.  The executive director of Poets House, in New York City, Lee Briccetti is the embodiment of understated, understanding power.  She has led Poets House for 24 years—years of thin and thick, years of the Annual Poetry Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge (with stops for readings by the stars in poetry’s firmament), years of various spaces for the organization, until finally she guided the process of building it a stunning home that fairly bursts with readings, books, the public and poets at work.  It is almost impossible to believe that before those years began, the “County Planning” life happened.  But then again, nothing is impossible for this extraordinary woman and supremely gifted poet.

 

County Planning

The Thirty-year Flood predicted
by Army Corps of Engineers flattened
over Main Street past the diner
where old-timers would have

gathered if water hadn’t
erased roads. Ooze of motor oil
in the sopping fields—March milk sky—
barns pumped

dirty water my first day, first
real job. This was Oz:
I walked drenched second-growth,
made myself by looking, wrote

land-use surveys. Once a buck
—antlers in velvet—charged
& I fell back laughing, I lived
on that laugh, trekked to Agway where the Delaware

smacked through cleared land
& every few weeks a cop stopped
to ask was I stealing
cinder blocks.

Dream Street agribusiness swallowed
dairies whole; even my splintered
rooming house, decrepit raft
of feed & manure,

sold. I wouldn’t last:
in orange flood-singe
that fall, they had me drive
every county road to map out-buildings

—lost
I used lostness (thought so)—
reversed miles for thousands of
butterflies dimming

on a dirt road—
way the hell—
Cat Hollow or Stone Ridge—
where the farmer with a rifle

wanted me scared: Only Jehovah’s Witnesses
get this far, he hissed. Winter affixed
its grey metal lid.
The woman’s body

dumped up-county
instructed me.

Reprinted with the poet’s permission.

 

 

Lee

Lee Briccetti’s book of poems, Day Mark, was released from Four Way Books in 2005. She has won poetry fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts as well as the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. Recent essays have appeared in Jean Valentine: This-World Company (University of Michigan Press, 2012) and Blueprints: Bringing Poetry into Communities (University of Utah Press, 2011). She is the long-time director of Poets House in Lower Manhattan, a national poetry library, free and open to everyone.