This week and next we will take you to a virtual poetry reading. By that we mean you will get to hear an introduction to the poems in the poet’s own voice. Think of Florence Fogelin standing before you giving you a glimpse into the moment that inspired her to write and the doors that opened before she built the spare and beautiful structure that is today’s poem, “Housekeeping.”
Split, Croatia, just before the breakup of the former Yugoslavia, was a sad place, oppressive with heat, time, and history. When the young woman of the poem stepped out, I thought of my mother who, in another poem, I have described as lamenting that she had lived her whole life in the town she was born in.
In the kingdom of Illyria —
call it Aspalathos, Dalmatia, Yugoslavia, Croatia —
men with dusty feet are hefting blocks
already hewn to size, some with partial inscriptions.
Such are the uses of the past: upkeep.
Historians remain: jailed and jailers
living in the heavy, August-heat-drenched walls
of Diocletian’s Palace.
Today’s familiar chore
is rearranging unmatched stones, matching them
to this year’s purpose:
bits of Rome, Byzantium, last year’s pig sty,
the cell of a medieval monk freshly pocked with bullet-holes.
A young woman steps, with a basket on her hip,
from a Roman garrison
to hang out baby clothes with red plastic clothespins,
looks at tourists passing,
and pushes a damp curl beneath her braid.
from Press 53 Open Awards Anthology 2013, reprinted with permission of the author.
Florence Fogelin’s first published poem appeared in Negative Capability in 1986 on the recommendation of Pultizer Price-winning poet Richard Eberhart. Subsequent poems have appeared in magazines and journals including Poet Lore, the Cumberland Poetry Review, Birchsong: Poetry Centered in Vermont, and (forthcoming) The Florida Review. Three poems were recently included in the Press 53 Open Awards Anthology 2013. Her chapbook, Facing the Light, was published in 2001 by Pittsburgh-based Redgreene Press.
A graduate of Duke University with master’s degrees from Yale University and Claremont Graduate School, she has written and edited publications in the news bureaus of Yale and Dartmouth College. She lives in Vermont and spends portions of each year in New York City, Italy, and a small lake in New Hampshire. Married to a professor of philosophy, she has three adult sons.