Thanksgiving Poetry Encore: Ginger Andrews

November 24, 2011 by  
Filed under Poetry

Anything that one is drawn to say about Ginger Andrews is a going to be a mere piece of the picture. Yes, she cleans houses with her sisters for a living. Yes, she has lived on the trailer side of town while doing for the people in the houses on the hill. Yes, she’s published two collection of poems and won the Nicholas Roerich prize for An Honest Answer. Yes, one Amazon write-up about her says she holds the record for the most poems read on Garrison Keillor’s  The Writers Almanac.

All true, but to accept the the sum of those parts as a whole is like totaling a summer season by describing a week of warm days. This is a woman who does for others the way most people brush their teeth—automatically and with a sense that they aren’t living right if they don’t. She’s someone who takes in a seriously ailing nephew because it cheers her to know it cheers him to be at her house. Someone who worries about her husband’s bad back while she has shingles. And who can have the flu and wonder if she’s shirking her duty to be at the church service.

Andrews is just plain good—without being just anything. And in the poem she has sent us, she reminds us that angels turn up unannounced and what looks like hell may be a reminder to be thankful for your own corner of heaven. We give thanks for her in advance of the holiday when we know she, in her great goodness and capacity for gratitude, will be giving enough thanks for all of us.

THANKSGIVING

Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing
some people have entertained angels without knowing it.
-Hebrews 13:2

If the almost perfectly fluted edge
of your homemade pumpkin pie’s crust burns
even though you carefully crinkled aluminum foil around it
as soon as you noticed it was browning way too fast,
for goodness sake don’t cry. Just cut it off.
Swirl Cool Whip around where the crust was.
Nobody really cares. They will eat it.
Life will go on, trust me. The truth is
there’s always someone with a sadder story.

If your father hasn’t had both of his legs amputated,
if he isn’t lying on a pee-stained mattress;
doesn’t have bed sores, a diaper rash, a shriveling liver,
a bad heart and cataracts; if your sister
isn’t burnt black from neck to groin
from radiation, if chemo
doesn’t have her full of phlegm and bile, trust me,
these are your good times.

The trick is keeping busy, cleaning house, cooking, opening
your door to strangers, entertaining all possible angels.

Poetry Friday: Claire Bateman Considers Our Confusions with Courage

September 16, 2011 by  
Filed under Health, Poetry, The Arts


Every once in a while poetry serendipity happens. You read a quotation you like. You research the author. You find gold. That’s what happened to us this week when a daily meditation feed brought a lovely thought from Claire Bateman. Imagine our delight when she turned out to be not just a poet, but a clear and clarion voice and a courageous woman on the page. She graciously has given us permission to bring two extraordinary poems to you. Prepare to be moved and awed.


 

Extrospection

Because of everything we desire & therefore project,
& everything we dread & therefore hallucinate;

because of what used to be present, but is present no longer,
though everyone yet navigates around it,
& what is not present now, but might one day become so,
though it already exerts gravity,
casting shadows that shoulder other shadows aside—

because of this crowd, one might assume
there wouldn’t be much room left
for anything else at all;

but if you herded onto the drive-in movie screen of the sky
everyone’s phantasms, figments, eidolons, mirages, & chimera,

together, they would form merely
a kind of languidly teeming smudge right there above the horizon,
not precisely at two o’clock, but just a little to the left,
depending on where you stand.

Leap

__________________________________

Consider the formal requirements of the braid.
The hair must be imagined as not only non-unitary, but tripartite as well;
the strands must be pre-visualized as twisted & interlaced: over, under,
around, between, in an unbroken pattern;
the problem of securing the tip must be foreseen & overcome by
conceptualizing a flexible filament that loops around itself.
To conceive of all of this, one must have already mastered the theories of
unravelling & release; binding & protection; predestination & free will;
wave action; narrative resolution, & the rupture of the trance state.
The distance between absolute braidlessness & the first braid was
astronomical compared to the scarcely noticeable gap between the
simple braid & the double braid; the herringbone braid; the warhorse’s
mane plaited with tiny bells; braided tiaras with feathers & floating
tourmalines; cornrows; ply-splitting; brocading; the bobbin; the shuttle;
the cotton gin; Bob Marley; the polynomial; DNA; modal jazz
harmonics; & the thirteen simultaneous plotlines of General Hospital.

  Both poems from Leap by Claire Bateman

Claire Bateman’s collections are Coronology (Etruscan, 2010);  The Bicycle Slow Race (Wesleyan, 1991); Friction (Eighth Mountain, 1998); At the Funeral of the Ether (Ninety-Six Press, 1998); Clumsy (New Issues Poetry & Prose, 2003); and  Leap (New Issues, 2005). She has received the New Millennium Poetry Prize as well as grants and fellowships from the NEA, the Tennessee Arts Commission, and the Surdna Foundation.  She lives in Greenville, SC, and is the poetry editor of the St. Katherine Review.

Poetry Friday: A Tribute to One ‘Mighty Woman’ as Written by Another

September 9, 2011 by  
Filed under Poetry

Photo: Pascal Nuovo (Wikimedia)

After the events of 9/11 our nation experienced a rebirth of patriotism and a new embrace of the symbols of democracy. One such symbol, the Statue of Liberty, gave us deep comfort as she stood stolid and strong at the entrance to the harbor of a majestic, wounded and grieving city. She was seen as protector and mother both.

The Statue of Liberty was conceived not as a mother figure, but as a symbol of a worldwide embrace of leadership by citizen consent. It was only after Emma Lazarus died that her poem (which had been the only one read at the Statue’s dedication) was installed at the Lady’s base, redefining her forever as a mother figure welcoming and embracing all who sought solace on our shores.

What better poem for this Friday than The New Colossus? What better way for Women’s Voices to say women are indeed mighty and, further. the keepers of compassion and meaning in both good and terrible times?

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

— Emma Lazarus, 1883

Poetry Friday: You Were There

September 2, 2011 by  
Filed under Poetry, The Arts


We feel privileged to open WVFC’s discussion of the legacy of September 11 with this contribution from Karol Nielsen, who has graced our Poetry Friday before and spoke to us in July about her new book,
Black Elephants (Bison Books, 2011), a memoir of travel, adventure, love, war, and dreams. Nielsen has contributed to Smith Magazine’s The Moment anthology (Harper Perennial, 2012) and many publications, including the New York Times, New York Newsday, Jane’s Intelligence Review, Guernica, Lumina, and Epiphany before she became nonfiction editor of the latter award-winning magazine. Excerpts from her memoir were selected as Notable Essays in The Best American Essays. Her poetry collection, coming out as a chapbook, Red, Blue (Finishing Line Press, 2012), was a finalist for the Colorado Prize for Poetry. She teaches memoir writing at New York University.

 

 

 

 

 

 


YOU WERE THERE

You were there keeping guard,
perched outside the firehouse,
cherry walls around you,
chin resting on open palm,
elbow on bent knee, watching
over me, my street, my city.

When I woke, you were there,
black smoke, a cloud before dawn,
forcing me out of bed, fleeing
down the fire escape, you fighting
yellow sparks shooting along
my roof, fireworks on display.

When my sister spotted flames,
flaring like orange tongues
licking air, mouth wide open,
fearing my father’s flight had hit—
leaving craters in our giant pillars
downtown—you were there.

When I passed Latino women
hugging in tears, a blond man
waving SOS, a mosque
abandoned, Eleanor Roosevelt
sitting quietly along the path
to the pier, you were there.

When I sat down, sanctuary on a
weathered bench, boathouses
holding their own in the Hudson,
Canada geese lapping carefree,
periwinkle sky preening above,
Palisades yawning, a morning stretch,

you were there. Like you were
when Mary Jo ran to her bus,
beneath debris falling like meteorites,
dense gray smoke choking heavens,
dust billowing like volcano ash,
coating all, itching bare skin.

When Maria dashed away from
crumbling columns, sprinting
and speed walking home,
uptown, thinking how unreal,
how much like Godzilla,
crushing our City, Ground Zero,

you were there. When my father
landed safe in Detroit, unharmed,
after witnessing a jet jam into
one of those tall, tall towers,
flames spewing by his window,
wondering what had gone down,

you were there. Like you were
at the marathon, when we ran
for you, below doves, white wings
soaring above, past Latino bands,
Hasidim wearing black robes,
Harlem ladies cheering,

“You go girl, go.” When we
limped, lead legs, to the finish,
knowing how you had saved
this city, are still saving,
healing our membrane, wounded,
making us whole, you were there.

Poetry Friday: For Women’s Equality Day, a Thunder-Storm

August 26, 2011 by  
Filed under Poetry

Every so often, it feels appropriate for our Poetry Friday to receive a visitation from the fearless Emily Dickinson. Perhaps National Poetry Month is beginning, as in 2009; perhaps, as last year and today, Women’s Equality Day evokes the woman who was “straightway dangerous,” who demanded to be admitted to the presidential convention. And this week, on Women’s Equality Day and on the East Coast, Hurricane Irene coming just days after the earthquake, Dickinson’s  sense of the natural world’s emotional relevance has rarely felt more on point.

 

A Thunder-Storm

The wind begun to rock the grass
With threatening tunes and low, —
He flung a menace at the earth,
A menace at the sky.

The leaves unhooked themselves from trees
And started all abroad;
The dust did scoop itself like hands
And throw away the road.

The wagons quickened on the streets,
The thunder hurried slow;
The lightning showed a yellow beak,
And then a livid claw.

The birds put up the bars to nests,
The cattle fled to barns;
There came one drop of giant rain,
And then, as if the hands

That held the dams had parted hold,
The waters wrecked the sky,
But overlooked my father’s house,
Just quartering a tree.

Poetry Friday: Ruth Stone – Poet, Survivor and National Treasure

August 19, 2011 by  
Filed under Poetry

We hesitated when writing “national treasure,” because the term is such a cliché, but in the case of Ruth Stone at 96, there is no better way to describe her economically. Books can and should be written of Stone’s life and how after the death of her beloved husband, Walter, she became a nomadic mother and poet, going from college to college to teach poetry and earn a living.  Finally, at age 74, she gained tenure and a modicum of security at  New York State’s SUNY-Binghamton campus.

She’s won too many awards to enumerate, including two Guggenheim Fellowships. About Stone’s work, Galway Kinnell has written: “Her poems startle us over and over with their shapeliness, their humor, their youthfulness, their wild aptness, their strangeness, their sudden familiarity, the authority of their insights, the moral gulps they prompt, their fierce exactness of language and memory.”

Here on a blessed Poetry Friday we offer you Ruth Stone in film and radio portraits. She is still beautiful, ever powerful and one of the great gifts to American poetry. Listen here to her National Public Radio portrait, watch below. Sit back and be inspired and awed.

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Poetry Friday: Kimberly LaRocca’s World

August 12, 2011 by  
Filed under Poetry

Mother of four sons and grandmother of one, Kimberly LaRocca knows all about challenges. Although she became a mother at age 17, LaRocca didn’t allow her situation to define her, or let her fall into societal stereotypes. She graduated with her high school class and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree. Now author of the new book of poems Black Girl’s Poetry for the World, LaRocca wrote WVFC that “Most of the poems in my book are about love and life and I also write inspirational poems.” We cheer the inspiration she represents.

 

While celebrating self-determination and human pride, A Black Girl’s Poetry for the World also presents insightful poems exploring all aspects of the human experience. From lost loves, strained relationships and the difficulty of forgiveness to raw anger and intense sexual desire, LaRocca tells it like it is and literally bares her soul in her poetry. “I find writing and poetry cathartic and empowering,” adds LaRocca. “I understand my style may be subject to literary criticism, but I also believe others will find valuable meaning to which they can relate. Poetry is beautiful because no one can deny your words, thoughts, dreams, and fears.”


 

 My World

Sometime ago

I lost myself.

Don’t know how long it’s been.

Forgot who I was inside,

What treasures lied within.

 

I gave so much to others

And put their needs before mine.

This thought had become commonplace.

It’s how I lived my life.

 

My eyes are open now,

Remembering who I was.

Picked up where I had left off,

Just the way a record does.

 

Now it’s time for me to grow,

Time for me to shine,

Concentrating on what I’m meant to do,

My world finally mine.

Poetry Friday: Happy Birthday, Sara Teasdale

August 5, 2011 by  
Filed under Poetry, The Arts

A Poet Eluded by Happiness

Stalked by illness (she wasn’t able to start school until age 9 because of her infirmities), plagued by depression, deeply loved by her friend Vachel Lindsay — the poet who preceded her in suicide by two years Sara Teasdale was born on Aug. 8, 1884.

She was as prolific as she was tortured, publishing first at age 23 and going on to win the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1918 for her volume of collected poems titled Love Songs. Would that her talent or the public’s admiration could have saved her. Here is a view of her world view and a tribute to her 78 years after her death.

 

Advice to a Girl

 

No one worth possessing

Can be quite possessed;

Lay that on your heart,

My young angry dear;

This truth, this hard and precious stone,

Lay it on your hot cheek,

Let it hide your tear.

Hold it like a crystal

When you are alone

And gaze in the depths of the icy stone.

Long, look long and you will be blessed:

No one worth possessing

Can be quite possessed.

 

 

 

I Have Loved Hours At Sea

 

I have loved hours at sea, gray cities,

The fragile secret of a flower,

Music, the making of a poem

That gave me heaven for an hour;

 

First stars above a snowy hill,

Voices of people kindly and wise,

And the great look of love, long hidden,

Found at last in meeting eyes.

 

I have loved much and been loved deeply —

Oh when my spirit’s fire burns low,

Leave me the darkness and the stillness,

I shall be tired and glad to go.

 

Poetry Friday: The Secret to Appreciating Poetry — Seeing and Hearing

July 29, 2011 by  
Filed under Poetry, The Arts

Watch and listen to Linda Pastan and you’ll understand.

You are not alone if you have said, “I don’t understand poetry,” or “I can’t get into poetry,” or “I wish I liked to read poetry.”

In truth, the tradition from which modern poetry arises is the spoken tradition.  One where meter was a guide to memory as troubadours traveled the countryside telling tales in verse.

It is still true today that the greatest pleasure in poetry comes when you hear it.  And if you are not about to read poems aloud to yourself, there is no better time to engage in listening and seeing poets than now.

YouTube is a treasure chest of poets reading their own work.  We can think of no better place to start our summer offerings from that site than with Linda Pastan’s reading at the Dodge Poetry Festival just after she celebrated her 55th wedding anniversary.  This is a confident poet reading two poems that speak of innocence, maturity and competence.  It is a gift from the poetry gods and a joy to behold.

Enjoy.

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Poetry Friday: A Midsummer Week’s Dream – The Poetry Workshop

July 22, 2011 by  
Filed under Poetry

Perhaps it is a friend of yours. Perhaps it is you. That woman who looks out of a rain-streaked window and sees not mud, but a metaphor. An observer in the supermarket who when walking by the kiwis thinks of tennis balls gone wrong. The grandmother watching her grandchildren play video games and recalling the first time she saw television.

Maybe, just maybe, you or a friend of yours (or both of you) should consider a poetry workshop.

Every summer I find myself involved in a Summer Writers Conference. For 12 summers now, my work has been mostly behind the scenes, but, for four summers when we were starting out, I attended one of the several poetry workshops that were offered.

No two experiences were alike and no two teachers taught the same way, but all were more than worthwhile and each contributed to my confidence and growth. More than anything, I came away from each having made friends whose secret or not-so-secret dreams and concerns came to light in verse.

This summer, for the first time in six years, I’m back in the classroom. I’m not studying poetry this time, but I often do study the poetry students during the hours when all the conference participants get together. They’re easy to spot. They smile a great deal, they stick together and they adore the poets who are their teachers. They are envied.

The poets. Let’s talk about them.

Billy Collins, Tom Lux, Derek Walcott and Mark Doty. All are teaching or have taught at this Conference and all are stars in poetry’s firmament. Each can be described as generous to his students. Yet, it’s the women teachers who might be of more interest to us today.

What I particularly wish is that you had had or will have the chance to study with someone you can truly identify with– someone like these women poet-teachers who have guided so many students in the gorgeous agony of making poems. It is no coincidence that these women are all just about the same age as the readers of Women’s Voices. Now is the perfect time of life to have the understanding that we owe guidelines or lines of poetry to those who are still trying to decode melancholy and joy.

On this Poetry Friday, it’s a pleasure to give you a glimpse of each by quoting a bit of her work. Enjoy (and think about joining in the conversation of poets someday soon).

 

Carol Muske-Dukes (whom we have recently brought to the WVFC stage.)

Here’s how we were counted:   

firstborn, nay-sayers,

veterans, slow-payers,

seditionists, convicts,

half-breeds, has-beens,

the nearly defined dead,

all the disenfranchised live.

From “Census,” by Carol Muske-Dukes

Marie Howe

Immense, entirely itself,
it wore that yard like a dress,

From “The Copper Beech,” by Marie Howe

Susan Kinsolving

Birds hush. A dense calm weights the air. Across
the steamy lawn, shadows darken. Branches
undulate with an ominous grace. Clouds
converge into friction
.

From “Summer Storm,” by Susan Kinsolving

Julie Sheehan

I hate you truly. Truly I do.

Everything about me hates everything about you.

The flick of my wrist hates you.

The way I hold my pencil hates you

From “The Story About The Hate,” by Julie Sheehan.

Laura Baudo Sillerman is an adviser to the Stony Brook University Southampton Writers Conference and The Southampton Review.

Poetry Friday: Anne Bronte’s Summer Memory

July 15, 2011 by  
Filed under Poetry

Anne Brontë, sister of Charlotte Brontë and Emily Brontë, was born in Thornton, Yorkshire. She was the youngest of six children of Patrick and Maria Brontë, and educated largely at home. After the death of her mother in 1821, and two other children, Maria (d. 1825) and Elizabeth (d. 1825), Anne was left with her sisters and brother to the care of their father. Other members of the family were Elizabeth Branwell, a Calvinist aunt, and the family servant, Tabitha Aycroyd, who knew many folk-tales. The girls’ most effective education was at the Haworth parsonage, in which Mr. Brontë settled the year before his wife’s death. They read the Bible, Homer, Virgil, Shakespeare, Milton, Byron, Scott, and many others, and examined articles from Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, Fraser’s Magazine, and The Edinburgh Review. Best known for her novels Agnes Grey (1847) and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1848),  Anne also wrote and published hundreds of poems, many of which celebrate the seasons, like the meditation below on English summer.

Memory
Brightly  the sun of summer shone
Green fields and waving woods upon,
And soft winds wandered by;
Above, a sky of purest blue,
Around, bright flowers of loveliest hue,
Allured the gazer’s eye.

But what were all these charms to me,
When one sweet breath of memory
Came gently wafting by?
I closed my eyes against the day,
And called my willing soul away,
From earth, and air, and sky;

That I might simply fancy there
One little flower–a primrose fair,
Just opening into sight;
As in the days of infancy,
An opening primrose seemed to me
A source of strange delight.

Sweet Memory! ever smile on me;
Nature’s chief beauties spring from thee;
Oh, still thy tribute bring
Still make the golden crocus shine
Among the flowers the most divine,
The glory of the spring.

Still in the wallflower’s fragrance dwell;
And hover round the slight bluebell,
My childhood’s darling flower.
Smile on the little daisy still,
The buttercup’s bright goblet fill
With all thy former power.

For ever hang thy dreamy spell
Round mountain star and heather bell,
And do not pass away
From sparkling frost, or wreathed snow,
And whisper when the wild winds blow,
Or rippling waters play.

Is childhood, then, so all divine?
Or Memory, is the glory thine,
That haloes thus the past?
Not ALL divine; its pangs of grief
(Although, perchance, their stay be brief)
Are bitter while they last.

Nor is the glory all thine own,
For on our earliest joys alone
That holy light is cast.
With such a ray, no spell of thine
Can make our later pleasures shine,
Though long ago they passed.

 

 

“Memory” is reprinted from Poems By Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell. Charlotte, Anne, and Emily Bronte. Philadelphia: Lea and Blanchard, 1848.

Poetry Friday — An Unheard Voice

July 8, 2011 by  
Filed under Poetry

Elena Kras with her mother.

 

The Amazing Elena Kras

Though completely deaf, Elena Kras speaks and “hears” without sign language. She is a recognized poet, author and journalist in Russian and Ukrainian and self taught in English, a necessity since she and her family moved to the United States 10 years ago.

She now writes both poems and novels in her adopted language.

She courageously sought us out as a vehicle for bringing her to a wider audience. The pleasure is all ours. Here is a new, beautiful and powerful voice in poetry from a woman whose understanding knows no bounds.

 

 

O R G A N I S T


If I always sleep

at the time of its calling,

If my heart goes on,

being thrown into the bend,

How would my hands

fall, like night is falling,

At this dead organ,

wishing for the music to end?

 


This is just the sounds

that make my lips thinner,

That dry up my soul,

distorting the Fate’s list…

I will answer for

being an unrepentant sinner,

Who still dares to bother

your hollow echo,

Liszt…

 


I didn’t hear you playing,

I’ve only been a jester,

Every pain is too aching,

this road of yours – too long…

Even if I have found

my ever-undying Esther,

I’m forgetting about

the places where I belong…

 

 

Reprinted with permission of the poet, Elena Kras, 2011.

Poetry Friday: ‘Twin Cities’ Re-visited – More From Carol Muske-Dukes’ New Collection

July 1, 2011 by  
Filed under Poetry

As promised, here is another poem from “Twin Cities,” the incomparable collection and fireworks display from Carol Muske-Dukes. Poet laureate of California, Carol is also co-editor of Crossing State Lines, a renga that is actually a laser into the patriot place in the hearts of 54 American poets. She works in virtually every genre, including razor sharp political essays because she is a woman of conscience who knows art is the perfect embodiment of that enigmatic word “cleave.” In her hands, writing allows us both to cling to Truth (the one with the capital “T”) and to cut through all the other stuff that so fogs the view of It.

 

This generous artist has lent her voice to our mission many times before, always with grace and intelligence. Today is no exception and one look at the poem that follows will show you she has maintained her standards for the exceptional.

 

 

TWIN CITIES

 

It was the river that made them two—

The mills on one side,

The cathedral on the other.

 

We watched its swift currents:

If we stared long enough, maybe

It would stop cold and let us

 

Skate across to the other side.

It never froze in place—though

I once knew a kid, a wild funny

 

Girl, who built a raft from branches

(Which promptly sank a few feet out

From the elbow bend off Dayton’s Bluff),

 

Who made it seem easy to believe.

We’d tried to break into Carver’s Cave,

Where bootleggers hid their hot stash

 

Years after the Dakota drew their snakes

And bears on the rock walls and canoed

Inside the caverns. We knew these were

 

Other openings in the cliffs, mirroring

Those same rock faces on the other shore—

And below them the caves, the subterranean

 

Pathways underlying the talk and commerce,

The big-shot churches; undermining the false

Maidenliness of the convent school from which

 

My friend was eventually expelled for being

Too smart and standing up for her own smartness.

Too late, I salute you, Katy McNally, I think

 

That the river returned then to two-sidedness—

An overhung history of bottle-flash and drift.

I see you still: laughing as the lashed sticks

 

Sank beneath you, laughing as you did

That morning when the river lifted

Its spring shoulders, shrugging off

 

The winter ice, that thin brittle mirage—

Making you believe

We were all in this together

 

 

Reprinted with permission from the author. From Twin Cities. Penguin Books
(Penguin Poets), Copyright Carol Muske-Dukes 2011, New York, NY.

Poetry Friday: A Triumph of the Soul

June 17, 2011 by  
Filed under Poetry

Carol Muske-Dukes has produced yet another collection of ground-breaking poetry. While we relish the idea of writing exultations and appreciations of this astounding work, we must step aside for you to hear the words of those who speak from higher positions of genuine authority and understanding. Here are the praises of three who reside in poetry’s pantheon followed by just one of the gorgeous and fearsome poems in Twin Cities. We will offer another next week, but we wouldn’t be surprised if you couldn’t wait and bought the book today.

“’I come from Twin Cities,’ says the speaker in Carol Muske-Dukes bold new book, and though she means the double metropolis of the Midwest, she is also of two minds, of desire and reason, the inner and the outer, the two coasts of a nation. This voice veers from intimacy to an almost invulnerable shoot-from-the-hip dazzle, and it makes Twin Cities urgent, high-energy and all-the-way alive.”

— Mark Doty

“Invokes comparisons with the very best poetry now being written in the English-speaking world (with its) vibrant intensity, authentic insight, and uncanny power of describing what is at the border between the visual and the visionary.”

— Harold Bloom

“Muske-Dukes’ fast-moving poems reach deep slow truths, and their unique speed of perception both thrills, intoxicates and reminds us exactly how scary we are as we accelerate into our un-postponabale appointment with the present.”

— Jorie Graham

 

TWO COASTS

 

I own them both.

Sometimes I wake up

In somebody else’s night.

Somebody else’s day.

 

I enjoy entering the lives

Of no one I know. You

Learn to live in transit,

Both trigger and safety.

 

I’ve been on the run since

He stopped drawing breath.

You want to be with me?

Boarding pass is my answer.

 

So every democracy of one’s life

Has a little tyrant time. Perpetual

Motion, within my own shadow—

Away from me. I pledge allegiance

 

To it: Beauty, beauty. Skyscraper

Caverns, the gold riprap of heels

On pavement, silver Chrysler head-

Dress, jeweled fan of Korean fruits.

 

Times dropped like a straphanger on

The tracks. Then jet streams, operatic:

Desert-by-the-sea, back-lot, blue jaca-

Randa boulevards. A house afloat on

 

Earth, many houses rippling like the

Screen coming down in the screening

Room of someone I call Pal. O my pal

Is a vampire, sky-high on Sunset Blvd.,

 

Showing his choppers. Come to me,

Bloodlust, better yet good coffee on

Either side of the country. Blue ambassador,

I believe in myself. Like a law book studied in

Solitary: I want to be in as much as I want out.

Reprinted with permission from the author. From Twin Cities. Penguin Books (Penguin Poets), Copyright Carol Muske-Dukes 2011, New York, NY.

 

 

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Poetry Friday: Edith Wharton

June 3, 2011 by  
Filed under Poetry

If you had been in Manhattan last night, you could have time traveled to one of New York City’s most elegant and most constraining eras in the company of one of this city’s greatest minds—that of Edith Wharton.  The occasion was the last evening of the Center for Fiction’s series called “Chapter and Verse,” a wonderful program that shone a spotlight on writers who excelled in both fiction and poetry.

Susan Kinsolving, herself a brilliant poet and teacher (and friend of Women’s Voices for Change) is the mind behind this series.  She presented fascinating biographies of each of the evenings’ subjects and through intensively researched narration took the audience on journeys to actually meet them.  She also found performers to animate the work of each author with their acting skills.  Last night Swoosie Kurtz read from House of Mirth and Wharton’s poems.  She embodied the formidable Ms. Wharton and breathed a life into her writing that held the audience silent and rapt.

Edith Wharton was born Edith Jones into a prominent and proper Manhattan family.  Such stature did the family enjoy that they were forever immortalized in the phrase “keeping up with the Joneses.”

There was no keeping up with Edith Jones Wharton who lived and loved as she wrote — with confidence and full understanding of the human need to find a freedom of expression beyond what society allowed.  She was the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction (in 1921 for The Age of Innocence).

It is a pleasure to give our Poetry Friday stage to Edith Wharton this week.  Clearly she hoped for the immortality that art can provide.  She undoubtedly  deserved it.

Survival

WHEN you and I, like all things kind or cruel,
The garnered days and light evasive hours,
Are gone again to be a part of flowers
And tears and tides, in life’s divine renewal,

If some grey eve to certain eyes should wear
A deeper radiance than mere light can give,
Some silent page abruptly flush and live,
May it not be that you and I are there?