Monday, January 26, 2009

Galway Kinnell Birthday Reading

What
A poetical celebration of Galway Kinnell’s birth, life and poetry.

When
Monday, February 2, 2009 at 7:00 PM

Where
Barnes & Noble Bookseller
3311 Tittabawassee Rd.
Saginaw , MI 48603
phone 989.790.9214

Who should come
Join us if you love poetry or are curious as to what poetry is all about. Join us if you'd like to talk to people whose hearts and minds are more open than closed. Join us if you can agree or disagree with someone's opinion respectfully. Bring a book if you can. It’s OK if it’s from your library. Note: Galway Kinnell will not be joining our group.

Why
Find out what poems sound like out loud. Listen in on the group and then find a place where you can jump in and read something yourself. Great fun for the whole family. If you have specialized knowledge regarding our poet, do not hesitate to regale us with your story. Don't expect to leave our event with a definitive understanding of the poet or the poems but please do seek to experience and communicate the joys of poetry with others. Join in our informal discussion of poems we know and love and poems we are only just discovering. Better readers make better writers. Visit with our group where everyone's poetry is valued if not appreciated. If you have a smile to share be sure to bring it; otherwise be prepared to leave with one on your face and in your heart. If you're too far away to join us, create your own Birthdays of Poets Reader’s Workshop. Speak up now and forever share your peace. Tell (bring!) a friend.

How to find the organizer(s)
We are in the Poetry section, near the window that affords a view of Tittabawassee Road. The staff at Barnes & Noble will put up a sign that says 'This space reserved for The River Junction Poets at 7 p.m.' We'll be getting a few folding chairs to add around the coffee table there.

Details

Kinnell, Galway (1927- ), was born in Providence, Rhode island, and studied at Princeton and the University of Rochester. He served in the United States Navy and then visited Paris on a Fulbright Fellowship. Returning to the United States, he worked for the Congress on Racial Equality and then travelled widely in the Middle East and Europe. He has taught at several colleges and universities, including California, Pittsburgh, and New York. The poems of his first volume, What a Kingdom It Was (1960), were informed by a traditional Christian sensibility. However, while retaining a sacramental dimension, his later work burrows fiercely into the self away from traditional sources of religious authority or even conventional notions of personality. 'If you could keep going deeper and deeper', he has said, 'you'd finally not be a person ... you'd be a blade of grass or ultimately perhaps a stone. And if a stone could read poetry would speak for it.'

The poems issuing from this conviction may be found in such collections as Flower Herding on Mount Monadnock (1964), Body Rags (1968), The Book of Nightmares (1971), and Mortal Acts, Mortal Words (1980). Short, chanting lines, a simple, declarative syntax, emphatic rhythms, bleak imagery, and insistent repetition: all are used here to generate the sense of the poet as shaman who throws off the 'sticky infusions' of speech and becomes one with the natural world, sharing in the primal experiences of birth and death. Walking Down the Stairs (1978) is a useful selection of interviews with Kinnell; he has also published a number of translations.

From The Oxford Companion to Twentieth-century Poetry in English. Ed. Ian Hamilton. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994. Copyright © 1994 by Oxford University Press.

From http://www.english.uiuc.edu/maps/poets/g_l/kinnell/life.htm accessed 1/26/09.


1 
In late winter
I sometimes glimpse bits of steam

coming up from

some fault in the old snow

and bend close and see it is lung-colored

and put down my nose

and know

the chilly, enduring odor of bear.


2
I take a wolf's rib and whittle

it sharp at both ends
and coil it up

and freeze it in blubber and place it out
on the fairway of the bears.


And when it has vanished

I move out on the bear tracks,
roaming in circles

until I come to the first, tentative, dark

splash on the earth.


Excerpted from http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/19851 accessed 1/26/09


In Galway Kinnell's poem "The Bear," a hunter stalks the bear to its death, falls asleep exhausted, dreams he becomes the bear, and then awakens somehow changed into a creature half-bear, half-man. The poem's strength and its problems hinge upon the hunter persona Kinnell adopts, attempting to fuse the consciousness of a modern man with that of a primitive Eskimo. This persona means that the poet must move through the technical realism of hunting to its metaphysical implications without spoiling one or the other, as he tries to illustrate man's sacred bond with nature by the simple, brutal hunting of the bear. Given the distance from Kinnell's ordinary experience, it may be helpful first to examine the literary contexts of the poem—its sources and analogues—in order to see how the poet resolves these conflicts between meaning and realism.

Speaking of the origins of "The Bear" in an interview, Kinnell said,

I guess I had just read Cummings' poem on Olaf, who says, "there is some shit I will not eat." It struck me that that rather implies that some of our diet, if not all, is shit. And then I remembered this bear story, how the bear's shit was infused with blood, so that the hunter by eating the bear's excrement was actually nourished by what the bear's wound infused into it.

Kinnell's poem transcends this excremental level, but it is worth looking at the transformation-what he got from the Cummings' poem and the bear story, and how he used it to fashion the poetic world of "The Bear."

Excerpted from http://www.english.uiuc.edu/maps/poets/g_l/kinnell/bear.htm accessed 1/26/09.




All best and see you Monday,
Andrew Christ

Legal stuff
Your e-mail address will not be sold or used by me for any purpose other than to promote these special events and the
Birthdays of Poets Blog. If you prefer to not receive these messages, reply to this e-mail address (riverjunctionpoets at gmail dot com) and include the word ‘unsubscribe’ in the text of your message.

Parting Thoughts
Research indicates that better readers make better writers. Maybe this is why, in the Poet's Market, editors of literary magazines often recommend poets read more poetry. Are you not aware? You are a cultural event, and so is everyone else. Celebrate your humanity at Saginaw’s Birthdays of Poets Reader’s Workshop. May God continue to bless us mightily one and all. Be sure to thank a veteran for his/her service. Remember: only you can improve the audience for poetry. Please read, discuss and share responsibly. And vote.



"It is our goal to appreciate and improve our talents, to share our own work and to communicate the joys of poetry with others. Everyone's poetry is valued."
River Junction Poets Mission Statement

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Recommended Reading: One Poet's Notes

In case you missed it, Edward Byrne of the Valparaiso Poetry Review has recently posted, at his One Poet's Notes blog, about
As far as I'm concerned, Mr. Byrne is swinging for the fence and batting 1000. Take a few minutes to take in these essays. You'll be glad you did.



"It is our goal to appreciate and improve our talents, to share our own work and to communicate the joys of poetry with others. Everyone's poetry is valued."
River Junction Poets Mission Statement

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Dorianne Laux Birthday Reading

What

A poetical celebration of Dorianne Laux’s birth, life and poetry.

When
Monday, January 19
th, 2009 at 7:00 PM

Where
Barnes & Noble Bookseller
3311 Tittabawassee Rd.
Saginaw , MI 48603
phone 989.790.9214

Who should come
Join us if you love poetry or are curious as to what poetry is all about. Join us if you'd like to talk to people whose hearts and minds are more open than closed. Join us if you can agree or disagree with someone's opinion respectfully. Bring a book if you can. It’s OK if it’s from your library. Note: Dorianne Laux will not be joining our group.

Why
Find out what poems sound like out loud. Listen in on the group and then find a place where you can jump in and read something yourself. Great fun for the whole family. If you have specialized knowledge regarding our poet, do not hesitate to regale us with your story. Don't expect to leave our event with a definitive understanding of the poet or the poems but please do seek to experience and communicate the joys of poetry with others. Join us as we talk about the craftsmanship of poems, the effect(s) of the poems and how those effects are achieved. Better readers make better writers. Visit with our group as we read poems we know and love and poems we are just discovering. Everyone's poetry is valued if not appreciated. If you have a smile to share be sure to bring it; otherwise be prepared to leave with one on your face and in your heart. If you're too far away to join us, create your own Birthdays of Poets Reader’s Workshop. Speak up now and forever share your peace. Tell (bring!) a friend.

How to find the organizer(s)
We are in the Poetry section, near the window that affords a view of Tittabawassee Road. The staff at Barnes & Noble will put up a sign that says 'This space reserved for The River Junction Poets at 7 p.m.' We'll be getting a few folding chairs to add around the coffee table there.

Details
For this installment of the Read Write Poem Poet Interview, I [Dana Guthrie Martin] interviewed Dorianne Laux via e-mail. I had the pleasure of meeting Laux the summer of 2006 when she was teaching at The Tomales Bay Workshops Writers’ Conference.

A finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, Laux’s fourth book of poems, Facts About the Moon (W.W. Norton), is the recipient of the Oregon Book Award, chosen by Ai. It was also short-listed for the 2006 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize for the most outstanding book of poems published in the United States and chosen by the Kansas City Star as a noteworthy book of 2005.

Laux is also author of three collections of poetry from BOA Editions, Awake (1990) introduced by Philip Levine, recently reprinted by Eastern Washington University Press, What We Carry (1994) and Smoke (2000). Superman: The Chapbook was released by Red Dragonfly Press in January 2008.

Co-author of The Poet’s Companion, she’s the recipient of two Best American Poetry Prizes, a Best American Erotic Poems Prize, a Pushcart Prize, two fellowships from The National Endowment for the Arts and a Guggenheim Fellowship. Her work has appeared in the Best of the American Poetry Review, The Norton Anthology of Contemporary Poetry and Best of the Net, and she’s a frequent contributor to magazines as various as the New York Quarterly, Orion, Ms. Magazine and online journals.

Laux has waited tables and written poems in San Diego, Los Angeles, Berkeley and Petaluma, Calif., and as far north as Juneau, Alaska. For the last 13 years, she has taught at the University of Oregon in Eugene and since 2004, as core faculty at Pacific University’s Low Residency MFA Program. Her summers are spent teaching poetry workshops in the beauty of Esalen in Big Sur, Tomales Bay, Aspen, Spoleto, Italy and Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. In fall of 2008, she and her husband, poet Joseph Millar, will move to Raleigh, where she will join the faculty at North Carolina State University as a Poet-in-Residence.

* * *

You have called yourself, in part, a poet of personal witness. Can you explain what that means?

There seems to be a general discomfort right now with the personal, the private, the confessional and the narrative. Of course, poets have been writing poems of personal disclosure since the beginning of poetry. And since the beginning, people have suffered through great historic upheavals, war, geologic disasters, famine, and enjoyed great times of renaissance, scientific discovery, political change, explosions of art, culture, philosophy.

We know some of what happened. We keep records, diaries, logs, news reports, pictographs, paintings, photographs. But it’s poetry that informs us of what we felt while those times and events rained down, and it’s poetry that recalls us to our selves. It’s our emotions that are in danger of being left out, and it is poetry that accounts for, is responsible to, the human element.

I’ve been re-reading a favorite book of poetry with a student in the Pacific MFA Program. The book is called The Moon Reflected Fire, by Doug Anderson. He was a medic during the Vietnam war and the first section of the book recalls that experience in vivid narrative poems that introduce us to the narrator as well as to the men and women he worked with and for and the Vietnamese people we were making war against. The next section is filled with short, lyric persona poems about Goya struggling to create art during the Inquisition. The third section contains poems in the voices of minor characters from the Odyssey and the Iliad, the voices we didn’t hear in the first telling. The final section returns to the narrative, poems about recovery, from the war, alcohol and drugs, damaged relationships, those broken by the war.

The poems are gripping, wrenching. One of the most arresting and heartbreaking lines is when Doug Anderson, the soldier, the medic, asks a wounded soldier slipping in and out of consciousness: Hey, what’s your mother’s maiden name? He’s trying to keep the man tied to the world though memory.

That seems to me what poems do. They call out to us, not by just any name, but by our particular name, and keep us tied to the world by accessing our memories. Poems keep us conscious of the importance of our individual lives. There are many ways to do this, and combinations of ways to do this, but personal witness of a singular life, seen clearly and with the concomitant well-chosen particulars, is one of the most powerful ways to do this.

When we write a poem of personal witness, a poem about an ordinary day, an ordinary life, seen through the lens of what Whitman called “the amplitude of time,” we’re struggling to find the importance of the individual who is stranded in the swirling universe, a figure standing up against the backdrop of eternity. I think of the fisherman’s prayer: Dear Lord, be good to me / the sea is so wide / and my boat is so small.

You realized you were meant to write poetry after hearing a poem by Pablo Neruda. Some poets have that feeling when they first start writing but aren’t able to sustain it, at least not all the time. Have you been able to sustain that sense of being meant to write ever since you started writing, or have you ever had times when you felt poetry left you?

I don’t think we ever get back the energy of our youth, the idealism and innocence of that time. But with that loss come certain gains: experience, patience, a sense of wholeness. Once we’ve begun the journey of a reading and writing life, we begin to see certain familiar themes, ideas, language, returning again and again, in our own work and the work of others, and we can sometimes tire of it.

But there is nothing like finding a new love at an old age. Poetry will go underground for a time, but will also pop up when I least expect it, fresh and new again, and more importantly, when I seem to most need it. Poetry saved me early on, and it continues to save me, just at longer intervals.

I also look around at the poets of the generation before mine, now in their 70s, 80s, 90s — Stanley Kunitz just died at 102 and was writing the best poems of his life. Adrienne Rich and Philip Levine, Jack Gilbert, Ruth Stone. All poets who still have something mighty to say and are saying it with power. These poets inspire me and help me to see again, to feel a life sometimes buried by habituation and stagnation.

And younger poets coming up all the time who give us all a fresh way of looking at the world. I’m moving soon to North Carolina after living on the West Coast most my life. It’s a big move for a 56-year-old woman, and I welcome the adventure of it. I know it will shake me out of certain mental ruts, enliven my art.

I also have a stint this summer at VCCA. I haven’t been to a writer’s retreat in a few years now and just knowing I’m going there has motivated me. Looking forward to a time when I can be quiet and alone with my inner life. I think many times when we think we’ve lost poetry, it is a matter of lack of solitude, lack of support. Poetry is always there, waiting to be unearthed. To be necessary again.

I’ve spoken to people who think we have too many poets and aspiring poets in this country, and not enough ways to sustain those poets — or enough readers to read their work. Others have a different view, seeing this as one of the most vibrant times for American poetry. What are your feelings about the state of poetry today and its future?

I think a bit of both visions are true. Everyone seems to want to be a poet, though I think this has been the case for a good long time. At some point in a life something happens that is just so incomprehensible and emotionally powerful that it seems the only way to process it is through poetry.

If you went out on the street and asked people if they had ever written a poem, I think most would say yes, at least one. If you asked if they had ever painted a portrait or composed a musical score or sculpted a bust or thrown a pot you’d get fewer yeses. Poetry is the art of the people. Anyone can write a poem. And that’s a two-edged sword.

On the other hand, there can never be enough poetry. It would be like asking a drunk if he’s had enough wine. What’s too much? And how will we find the next Whitman or Dickinson, the next Neruda or Akmatova? One could be living right now, hidden away in an ordinary house on an ordinary street in the middle of America. A young Etheridge Knight in Corinth, Miss., or a Gwendolyn Brooks in Topeka, Kan. That’s the kind of democracy that makes way for genius.

It also makes way for mediocrity, but you take the good with the bad. So yes, this is a vibrant time for poetry simply because so many people are interested in reading and writing it. And no, we don’t have enough support for all these people, but there is also more support for poetry now than there has ever been in the past.

The expectation here is a bit skewed as well. Most of us don’t enter this practice with material gains in mind. The university system has helped to create this expectation of fortune and career, as though poems were a commodity. A good book to read to disabuse oneself of this mindset is Lewis Hyde’s The Gift, which has just been reissued on Vintage Books. When it first came out in 1983, the subtitle of the book was Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property. That’s been changed to Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World.

Lewis Hyde* uses anthropology, economics, psychology, art and fairy tales to examine the role gifts have played and continue to play in our emotional and spiritual life, and describes how poetry is the one art that resists commodification and holds tribes of people together.

You’ve talked about being drawn to, and about writing, poetry with some blood in it. Can you describe what that means, both in terms of your own work and the work you are most drawn to?

Yes, blood. In other words, poems that possess a heart beat, the blood pumping, flowing through the veins. Poems with energy and drive, force and counterforce. Poems speaking with directness in the telling, where the reader can feel the human need from which the poem emerged. Hot-blooded poems. Which doesn’t preclude quietude. But a weighted silence, in which you can hear someone breathing. Poems with tension, velocity and vigor.

We get born from salt water into blood, we suffer injustices and loss. Sometimes unfathomable injustice, unbearable loss. And we die. Sometimes quickly, quietly, sometimes slowly, painfully. Always alone. I want a poetry that acknowledges this. I want to be broken into, like a house. I want to have everything stolen from me but my life and I want to wake up grateful for being spared.

I want poetry that tells the truth with compassion. I see so many poems of which anyone could say: There is absolutely nothing wrong with this poem. Or this poem is interesting. Or this poem is so smart. What does that mean? Smart? Was Neruda a smart poet? Or this is so well-crafted. I’m looking for poems that leave me speechless. Breathless. Slayed. My spell check says there’s no such word as slayed. And this is what I mean. I’m less interested in the right way than the only way.

When I read a Sharon Olds poem I think, this is the only way she could have written this. She’s our D.H. Lawrence. When I read a Philip Levine poem I think, this is a poem that has some sweat on it, some muscle and bone in it. Lucille Clifton, daring to tell us what we don’t want to hear, with power and anger. Yes. These are my heroes, not because they have mad line-breaking skills, but because over and over they are trying to say something important about what it is to be human.

Gerald Stern. Talk about energy, force, drive. He’s our Whitman. He cannot be contained! You can’t coolly appreciate Stern. C.K. Williams, his forward momentum, his brooding vision. Adrienne Rich at her fiercest and most direct, Ruth Stone beating out the singular loss of her husband over and over again, struggling, at 93, to get to the heart of it.

Galway Kinnell’s rawness, riskiness and originality in a poem like “The Bear.” Jack Gilbert, a poet of great compression, bearing the weight of his loneliness, his bleakly romantic vision. Stanley Kunitz, the pressure of that early cruelty, injustice and grief forging a poetry of compassion and tenderness. When you read these poets you don’t say, Gee, isn’t this a great line break, you say, Jesus!

And craft is important to all these poets, but it’s not why they sat down to write or why I have to sit down to read them. Craft is important, a skill to be learned, but it’s not the beginning and end of the story. I want the muddled middle to be filled with the gristle of living. Sexton and Plath. Yes. And I expect no less from myself. That doesn’t mean I don’t write poems that fall far short of my own expectations. Every poem I write falls short in some important way. But I go on trying to write the one that won’t. I want blood.

* * *

  1. You can find Lewis Hyde’s The Gift at www.lewishyde.com/pub/gift.html.

This interview was conducted by Dana Guthrie Martin and is online at http://readwritepoem.org/2008/03/14/poet-interview-dorianne-laux/ accessed 1/17/09.

The following three poems are from Smoke, 2000 BOA Editions.

HOW IT WILL HAPPEN, WHEN 

There you are, exhausted from another night of crying,
curled up on the couch, the floor, at the foot of the bed,

anywhere you fall you fall down crying, half amazed
at what the body is capable of, not believing you can cry

anymore. And there they are: his socks, his shirt, your
underwear, and your winter gloves, all in a loose pile

next to the bathroom door, and you fall down again.
Someday, years from now, things will be different:

the house clean for once, everything in its place, windows
shining, sun coming in easily now, skimming across

the thin glaze of wax on the wood floor. You’ll be peeling
an orange or watching a bird leap from the edge of the rooftop

next door, noticing how, for instance, her body is trapped
in the air, only a moment before gathering the will to fly

into the ruff at her wings, and then doing it: flying.
You’ll be reading, and for a moment you’ll see a word

you don’t recognize, a simple words like cup or gate or wisp
and you’ll ponder like a child discovering language.

Cup, you’ll say over and over until it begins to make sense,
and that’s when you’ll say it, for the first time, out loud: He’s dead.

He’s not coming back, and it will be the first time you believe it.



ABSCHIED SYMPHONY

Someone I love is dying, which is why,
when I turn the key in the ignition
and the radio comes on, sudden and loud,
something by Haydn, a diminishing fugue,
then backed the car out of the parking space
in the underground garage, maneuvering through
the dimly lit tunnels, under low ceilings,
following yellow arrows stenciled at intervals
on grey cement walls and I think of him,
moving slowly through the last
hard day’s of his life, I won't
turn it off, and I can't stop crying.
When I arrive at the tollgate I have to make
myself stop thinking as I dig in my pockets
for the last of my coins, turn to the attendant,
indifferent in his blue smock, his white hair
curling like smoke around his weathered neck,
and say, Thank you, like an idiot, and drive
into the blinding midday light.
Everything is hideously symbolic:
the Chevron truck, its underbelly
spattered with road grit and the sweat
of last night’s rain, the Dumpster
behind the flower shop, sprung lid
pressed down on the dead wedding bouquets—
even the smell of something simple, coffee
drifting from the open door of a café;
and my eyes glaze over, ache in their sockets.
For months now all I’ve wanted is the blessing
of inattention, to move carefully from room to room
in my small house, numb with forgetfulness.
To eat a bowl of cereal and not image him,
drawn thin and pale, unable to swallow.
How not to imagine the tumors
ripening beneath his skin, flesh
I have kissed, stroked with my fingertips,
pressed my belly and breasts against, some nights
so hard I thought I could enter him, open
his back at the spine like a door or a curtain
and slip in like a small fish between his ribs,
nudge the coral of his brain with my lips,
brushing over the blue coils of his bowels
with the fluted silk of my tail.
Death is not romantic. He is dying. That fact
is start and one-dimensional, a black note
on an empty staff. My feet are cold,
but not as cold as his, and I hate this music
that floods the cramped insides
of my car, my head, slowing the world down
with its lurid majesty, transforming
everything I see into stained memorials
to life—even the old Ford ahead of me,
its battered rear end thinned to scallops of rust,
pumping grim shrouds of exhaust
into the shimmering air—even the tenacious
nasturtiums clinging to a fence, stem and bloom
of the insignificant, music spooling
from their open faces, spilling upward, past
the last rim of the blue and into the back pool
of another galaxy. As if all that emptiness
were a place of benevolence, a destination,
a peace we could rise to.

LAST WORDS
For Al

His voice, toward the end, was a soft coal breaking
open in the little stove of his heart. One day
he just let go and the birds stopped singing.

Then the other deaths came on, as if by permission—
beloved teacher, cousin, a lover slipped from my life
the way a rope slithers from your grip, the ocean
folding over it, your fingers stripped of flesh. A deck

of cards worn smooth at a kitchen table, the jack
of spades laid down at last, his face thumbed to threads.
An ashtray full of pebbles on the window ledge, wave-beaten,
gathered at day’s end from a beach your mind has never left,

then a starling climbs the pine outside—
the cat’s black paw, the past shattered, the stones
rolled the their favorite-hidden places. Even the poets

I had taken to my soul: Levis, Matthews, Levertov—
the books of poetry, lost or stolen, left on airport benches,
shabby trade paperbacks of my childhood, the box
misplaced, the one suitcase that mattered crushed

to nothing in the belly of a train. I took a rubbing
of the carved wings and lilies from a headstone
outside Philadelphia, frosted gin bottles
stationed like soldiers on her grave:

The Best Blues Singer in the World
Will Never Stop Singing.

How many losses does it take to stop a heart,
to lay waste to the vocabularies of desire?
Each one came rushing through the rooms he left.
Mouths open. Last words flown up into the trees.



Four poems from http://www.poetrymagazine.com/archives/2001/April01/laux.htm accessed 1/17/09.


Expect more at the
Birthdays of Poets Blog. Go now.

All best and see you Monday,
Andrew Christ

Legal stuff
Your e-mail address will not be sold or used by me for any purpose other than to promote these special events and the
Birthdays of Poets Blog. If you prefer to not receive these messages, reply to this e-mail address and include the word ‘unsubscribe’ in the text of your message.

Parting Thoughts
Research indicates that better readers make better writers. Maybe this is why, in the
Poet's Market, editors of literary magazines often recommend poets read more poetry. Are you not aware? You are a cultural event, and so is everyone else. Celebrate your humanity at Saginaw’s Birthdays of Poets Reader’s Workshop. May God continue to bless us mightily one and all. Be sure to thank a veteran for his/her service. Remember: only you can improve the audience for poetry. Please read, discuss and share responsibly. And vote.




"It is our goal to appreciate and improve our talents, to share our own work and to communicate the joys of poetry with others. Everyone's poetry is valued."
River Junction Poets Mission Statement

Friday, January 16, 2009

So Long, Farewell and Other Thoughts

Lately I've been reading Ron Paul's The Revolution. I don't know much about Mr. Paul other than that he serves the United States as an elected official and that, once upon a time, he was a Presidential candidate running toward the 2008 election. I do know that what I've read in his book so far makes sense.

Last night President Bush gave his Farewell Address. On several TV stations, at 8 p.m. New York time, regular programming was interrupted so Bush could say good-bye. Of what I heard, I remember he made a comment about the fact that, since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, there have been no more terrorist attacks on American soil (or any other American targets). I don't know if he said it explicitly or not but the implication is that the money spent on Homeland Security, airport security improvement, etc has been money well spent. Frankly, I would rather have watched the first 15 minutes of "My Name Is Earl".

Before I go on, let me just quickly say that the easy thing for us to do is to judge Mr. Bush's efforts as President as inadequate or worse, and I understand that I risk sounding naive by not addressing here some of the things Bush Jr. has done while in office that are easy to feel outrage over. Suffice it to say that I expect to see Bush Administration officials working at AIG, Citigroup and other companies that benefit from the bailout $ after President-elect Obama is sworn in next week.

One of the things in Mr. Paul's book that caught my attention was his quotes of Mr. Bush's attitude regarding U.S. foreign policy before Bush was elected* President in 2000. Mr. Bush, in various speeches, voiced the traditional noninterventionist attitude toward U.S. foreign policy.

Begin quote:
In a debate with Vice President Al Gore the following year [2000], Bush said: "I'm not so sure the role of the United States is to go around the world and say, 'This is the way it's got to be.' . . . I think one way for us to end up being viewed as 'the ugly American' is for us to go around the world saying, 'We do it this way; so should you.'"

Bush also rejected nation building. "Somalia started off as a humanitarian mission and changed into a nation-building mission," he said. "And that's where the mission went wrong. The mission was changed. And as a result, our nation paid a price. And so I don't think our troops ought to be used for what's called 'nation building.'" He added, "I think what we need to do is to convince the people who live in the lands [themselves] to build the nations. Maybe I'm missing something here - we're going to have a kind of a 'nation-building corps' from America?"

Finally, when discussing other countries' perception of the United States, Bush said: "If we're an arrogant nation, they'll resent us. If we're a humble nation, but strong, they'll welcome us. Our nation stands alone right now in the world in terms of power, and that's why we've got to be humble." We should be "proud and confident [in] our values, but humble in how we treat nations that are figuring out how to chart their own course." The Revolution, p.11-12
End quote.

Clearly, Bush's project of installing democracy in Iraq runs counter to his previous statements regarding U.S. foreign policy. What Mr. Bush thinks about that, what he feels about that, I don't pretend to know. He might ask me to respect the fact that he made tough choices. We all make tough choices every day when we decide how much credence to put in our leaders' words. I'm sure Bush is a man who is, like any of us, fallible and susceptible. Likewise Bush's Vice President Dick Cheney. The Washington Post's four-part Pulitzer Prize-winning series on the Vice President is available online.

Another book I've been reading lately is No Time To Lose by Pema Chodron. Ms. Chodron provides a running commentary here on a Buddhist text titled The Way of the Bodhisattva and attributed to Shantideva who lived sometime during the 8th century. About Ms. Chodron I know even less than I know about Mr. Paul. Her text, however, has become one of my favorite books of all time. A particular passage I want to share with you here:

[Shantideva]
4.41
When I pledged myself to free from their affliction
Beings who abide in every region,
Stretching to the limits of the sky,
I myself was subject to the same afflictions.

4.42
Thus I did not have the measure of my strength -
To speak like this was clear insanity.
More reason, then, for never drawing back,
Abandoning the fight against defiled confusion.

[Chodron]
This is what distinguishes a mature bodhisattva, such as Shantideva, from bodhisattvas-in-training. When he says that taking the bodhisattva vow was clear insanity, he's not expressing feelings of despondency or inadequacy. He's saying it as an incentive to get busy, to do whatever it takes to live his life as attentively and wakefully as possible. Instead of indulging in guilt and other variations on the theme of failure, he spurs himself on.

The next time you are feeling hopeless because you can't make a dent in your confusion, you can encourage yourself with Shantideva's words: More reason, then, for never drawing back.

Every courageous gesture we make, whether or not we think it's successful, definitely imprints our mind in a positive way. The slightest willingness to interrupt our old habits predisposes us to greater bravery, greater strength, and greater empathy for others. No matter how trapped we feel, we can always be of benefit. How? By interrupting our defeatist story lines and working intelligently and wisely with our kleshas.

4.43
This shall be my all-consuming passion:
Filled with rancor I will wage my war!
Though this emotion seems to be defiled,
It halts defilement and shall not be spurned.

In verse 43, this emotion is anger. Although it is usually seen as a problem, Shantideva takes a homeopathic approach and vows to use anger to cure anger. Rousing his passionate enthusiasm for the task, he proceeds with all-consuming warriorship and joy.

4.44
Better if I perish in the fire,
Better that my head be severed from my body
Than ever I should serve or reverence
My mortal foes, defiled emotions.

As the years go by, I understand this kind of passionate determination and confidence more and more. The choice is mine. I can spend my life strengthening my kleshas or I can weaken them. I can continue to be their slave; or, realizing they're not solid, I can simply accept them as my own powerful yet ineffable energy. It's increasingly clear which choice leads to further pain and which one leads to relaxation and delight.
[end quote]

I believe that the only time we fight for what we love is when we work to improve ourselves. Whatever his faults, Mr. Bush is a human being who suffers when he makes bad choices. He has a conscience. If he has the desire to continue growing, I am not going to hold his sins against him. Certainly, I am not going to ruin my days thinking about how much better the world would be had Bush and Cheney never been leaders of the free world.

As much as I would like to, I am not going to elaborate on the benefits of daily reflecting on Shantideva's teachings as they apply to one's life right now. I do have a few comments though. Shantideva talks a lot about bodhichitta. Raised in a Chritian (Catholic) tradition, I associate bodhichitta with divine grace. Shantideva also talks about the struggle to stop one's negative emotions (i.e., kleshas) from having power over one's life (i.e., over one's choices). This I associate with the Muslim's notion of jihad (with a little j). Shantideva also talks about taking the bodhisattva vow. I associate this with Judaism because the vow is to always be of help to anyone and everyone. The connection is in the so-called "Jewish guilt". For a Jew to deliberately withhold aid is the worst type of sin a Jew can commit.

As much as I love the notions of self-improvement and world peace, I am going to talk now instead about poetry. Specifically, I want to say that I believe that one's poetry benefits in quality when one refuses the easy way. In poetry, the easy way is often the lazy way. It is easy to overlook or to ignore the shadow of a houseplant as the day goes by. Paying attention can be difficult. We expect ourselves to focus on the livelihood of the ego, and the ego doesn't care about ephemeral beauty. "The old law says work for food." -William Stafford. Paying attention to anything outside our typical workday requires a generosity of spirit if you will in order for the thing to have any meaning to us. If there is nothing new under the sun, what can a creative spirit do except to rearrange what we already know and have and love and so forth. It becomes more a matter of how we regard seemingly insignificant things. For example:

Moss-Gathering
by Theodore Roethke

To loosen with all ten fingers held wide and limber
And lift up a patch, dark-green, the kind for lining cemetery baskets,
Thick and cushiony, like an old-fashioned doormat,
The crumbling small hollow sticks on the underside mixed with roots,
And wintergreen berries and leaves still stuck to the top,—
That was moss-gathering.
But something always went out of me when I dug loose those carpets
Of green, or plunged to my elbows in the spongy yellowish moss of the marshes:
And afterwards I always felt mean, jogging back over the logging road,
As if I had broken the natural order of things in that swampland;
Disturbed some rhythm, old and of vast importance,
By pulling off flesh from the living planet;
As if I had committed, against the whole scheme of life, a desecration.

If a poet can arrange the representations of things in such a way as to trigger connections in the reader's mind that might not otherwise be made, perhaps the poem can provide some service to the reader.
The poem might help the reader access an emotion perhaps, or arrive at a clearer understanding of a historical event.

I don't think Bush needs forgiveness for what he did or didn't do while in office. Cheney I don't know about. Maybe one day we will have a film like Breach but instead of being about Robert Hanssen and his selling state secrets to the Soviets it will be about Dick Cheney and what his role was in the 9/11 attacks. Whether we ever have such a movie or not, we need to look forward and see how can our participation help to improve our communities, our culture, our opportunities and oursevles.


Remember: only you can improve the audience for poetry. Please read, discuss and share responsibly. And vote.




"It is our goal to appreciate and improve our talents, to share our own work and to communicate the joys of poetry with others. Everyone's poetry is valued."
River Junction Poets Mission Statement

Saturday, January 10, 2009

My Favorite Poem Midland

In October of 2008, the first My Favorite Poem event was held in Midland, Michigan where I live. The event was sponsored by the Grace A. Dow Memorial Library and by the Poetry Society of Michigan. I owe many thanks to library employees Virginia McKane and Ron Suszek for enabling the library's sponsorship. Held in the Library Lounge, the event featured 16 Midland residents reading their favorite poems, introducing themselves and saying what it is about the poems that they like. Fortunately I had help from a few other Midland residents in organizing this event. John Palen, David and Jeannie Dellar, and Larry and Cheryl Levy all helped in one way or another. The following is a slightly revised version of the flier I used in my search for readers to participate:

Yes! I love the idea and want to read a poem at the My Favorite Poem Midland event.

I understand that

  • the event will take place from 7 to 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, October 23rd, 2008 at the Library Lounge at 1710 West Saint Andrews Road.

  • the poem I read must be published in a book and must not be a poem I or a friend or relative of mine wrote.

  • I may recite the poem from memory or read it from a page.

  • I am expected to speak about the poem after I read it.

  • I am expected to tell something about why I like the poem as much as I do.

  • I may tell how I found the poem.

  • I am expected to tell something about myself, such as how long I've lived in Midland or where I work, etc.

  • I am expected to speak from memory about the poem and not read from prepared notes.

  • I may try to tell what the poem means to me.

  • I may tell a story from my life that relates to the poem.

  • I am not expected to provide a critique of the poem.

  • I have six (6) minutes to talk about and then read the poem a second time.

  • If it is a longer poem, I will choose a portion of it to read.

  • I may talk for four (4) minutes and read for the remaining minute.

  • I may talk and read for a total of less than five (5) minutes if I desire to do so.

  • If the poem is in a language other than English, I will read it first in the non-English language and then I will read or have someone read a translation of it in English.

  • My selection is due no later than the end of September 2008. Earlier is better.

  • Following the event, light refreshments will be served in the Library Lounge and attendees and participants will have the opportunity to relax and mingle.

----------detach here--------retain top portion--------complete bottom portion and return-------------

The title of the poem I will read is ___________________________________________.

The poem I will read was written by _________________________________________.

My name is ____________________________________________________________.

My address ____________________________________________________________.

My phone number _______________________________________________________.

Return completed bottom portion no later than September 30, 2008 to:

My Favorite Poem Midland Event

P.O. Box

Midland, MI 48641


The other side of the flier had the invitation to attend:

YOU ARE INVITED!

WHO: THE MIDLAND COMMUNITY

WHAT: “MY FAVORITE POEM” EVENT.

MIDLANDERS READ THEIR FAVORITE POEMS.

WHEN: THURSDAY, OCTOBER 23, 2008 AT 7 P.M.

WHERE: LIBRARY LOUNGE, 1710 W. ST. ANDREWS

WHY: CELEBRATE OUR APPRECIATION OF POETRY

FOR MORE INFORMATION AND/OR TO PARTICIPATE, CONTACT:

ANDY CHRIST, [home phone number]

LARRY LEVY, [home phone number]

WATCH EXAMPLES ONLINE AT

WWW.FAVORITEPOEM.ORG

SPONSORED BY THE GRACE A. DOW MEMORIAL LIBRARY AND THE POETRY SOCIETY OF MICHIGAN


It was roughly 80 minutes from the time we started to the time we finished reading. Then there were the refreshments and mingling.

It turns out that Midland has a user-friendly public-access television station. Appropriately, it is called Midland Community Television. Dave Dellar was kind enough to check out from MCTV a video camera, a shotgun microphone, etc and record the My Favorite Poem event. With some direction from the MCTV staff, I then edited the footage into a cablecast-ready production format. The video was shown on the public-access channel provided by Charter Cable and the City of Midland to the residents of Midland who subscribe to cable through the Charter Cable company. Subsequently, the staff at MCTV guided me in using the nonlinear editing software available at MCTV to transform the production recording into digital files which could then be edited further and stored as medium-quality streaming Quicktime movie files. Some of the 16 readers now appear in their respective video segments at YouTube, and here I embed some of those YouTube files into this post:












DVD copies that include all 16 readers can be ordered directly from MCTV by calling (989) 837-3474.

In November of 2008, Robert Pinsky was in Saginaw to receive the Theodore Roethke Prize for his book of poems, Gulf Music. I was especially glad to have Midland's Favorite Poem production edited and to have a DVD copy to give to Mr. Pinsky at the dinner that was held in his honor immediately prior to the award ceremony. He told me the Favorite Poem Project is dear to his heart. The picture to the right shows Pinsky and me after the award ceremony when he is signing my copy of Gulf Music. Many thanks to Wilma Romatz for taking this picture.

Remember: only you can improve the audience for poetry. Please read, discuss and share responsibly. And vote.

"It is our goal to appreciate and improve our talents, to share our own work and to communicate the joys of poetry with others. Everyone's poetry is valued."
River Junction Poets Mission Statement

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Recommended Reading: Education by Poetry

Robert Frost gave a talk he called "Education by Poetry" to students at Amherst College. He subsequently revised the talk which was then published, in February 1931, in the Amherst Graduates' Quarterly. In the talk, he refers extensively to metaphor. I often misremember the title of the essay as "Education by Metaphor". My favorite part of this essay is:

All metaphor breaks down somewhere. That is the beauty of it. It is touch and go with the metaphor, and until you have lived with it long enough you don’t know when it is going. You don’t know how much you can get out of it and when it will cease to yield. It is a very living thing. It is as life itself.

Each of us is capable of inventing metaphorical relationships of our own. Is a tree in summertime a piece of broccoli for a giant? If you think a tree is such a food, you could find words to express that. And so on.

Toward the end of his essay, Frost talks about four beliefs. It is much more difficult to invent a belief than it is to invent a metaphor. Careful use of metaphor; i.e., careful use of language, will help us to better understand our beliefs. As one seeks to better understand one's beliefs, one begins to see the importance of one's own attitude toward each thing held in one's thoughts. Does language serve me? Do I serve ideas I didn't invent?

During his career, Frost saw the rise of New Criticism. I often wonder what Frost thought of their insistence on the preeminence of the text and their deliberate turning away from any significance the biography of the poet might have. I don't know that he had any interest in it one way or another.

And when the so-called Confessional Poets began doing their thing, what did Frost make of that?

Into this soup of thoughts I'd like to throw the notion of intuition. In particular, the sense of what's possible. Each of us has a sense of what's possible. This sense grows as we continue growing. We have a sense of what's possible not only for our own lives but for the communities in which we participate. Our sense of what's possible will tell us when the community is enervated, just as someone familiar with metaphor will be able to tell when the metaphor breaks down.

I suspect, however, that a community participant who senses that the possibilities for her community are somehow limited is somehow unable to use language sufficiently well to share with others in her community her concerns and ideas regarding the future of the community. And if she is unable to communicate intelligently regarding such matters with people in her community, what will she be able to say about those limited possibilities to anyone outside her community? And so her anxiety grows.

I started out with the idea of recommending Frost's essay to readers. And I do make that recommendation. But now I want to bring in another line of thinking. Recently I listened to arguments by Ken Robinson for creativity in education. "What if," Mr. Robinson asks, "we regard creativity in education as highly as we regard literacy?" His remarks have been recorded and posted at YouTube.



The video runs about 8min 20sec. I thought it was easy to listen to.

So where am I going with all this? I am saying that it seems to me that the activity of meeting informally to read and discuss poems is a profoundly healthy and liberating activity. I will develop reasons and arguments for this but my sense of what's possible tells me there is an abundance of rich possibilities here. To organize such informal occasions around the birthdays of poets is to simply find one way of organizing.

Remember: only you can improve the audience for poetry. Please read, discuss and share responsibly. And vote.


"It is our goal to appreciate and improve our talents, to share our own work and to communicate the joys of poetry with others. Everyone's poetry is valued."
River Junction Poets Mission Statement

Friday, January 02, 2009

Nabina Das in Kritya

I agree with Nabina Das that writing about poetry is difficult. I also think it's a great challenge. As one ages, one's understanding of the possibilities poetry offers grows. What one says about poetry can reveal more about oneself than it does about poetry - depending on who one's reader is. Ms. Das has done some nice work in writing about poetry in her essay 'Poetry as Observation: from Notes to Lyrical Creations' (Kritya poetry journal). Here is an excerpt:

It is tough writing about poetry. Our understanding about poetry is diverse and always evolving. From ancient theories of Bhartrihari's "Sabdatattva" to Derrida's "differance" in spoken and inscribed language, poetry has shown possibilities that we are still exploring. As our observations about the world around us gets stratified, condensed and co-opted, our poetry grows like vines over old or new structures, whether as part of our conscious landscaping or willful neglect.

What can we do in the name of poetry? Very simple things, almost un-esoteric and rather commonplace until it turns into a rhythm guiding us deeper inside our own selves and making us see the external world as a magnanimous companion to our variegated existence. Here's a list I once made about what we could or I could do in the name of poetry:

She goes on and comments on poetry written by Rabindranath Tagore and Kay Ryan. Read the full article.

Nabina blogs at The River Underground.

Remember: only you can improve the audience for poetry. Please read, discuss and share responsibly. And vote.


"It is our goal to appreciate and improve our talents, to share our own work and to communicate the joys of poetry with others. Everyone's poetry is valued."
River Junction Poets Mission Statement


Thursday, January 01, 2009

W.D. Snodgrass Birthday Reading

What

A poetical celebration of W.D. Snodgrass’s birth, life and poetry.

When
Monday, January 5
th, 2009 at 7:00 PM

Where
Barnes & Noble Bookseller
3311 Tittabawassee Rd.
Saginaw , MI 48603
phone 989.790.9214

Who should come
Join us if you love poetry or are curious as to what poetry is all about. Join us if you'd like to talk to people whose hearts and minds are more open than closed. Join us if you can agree or disagree with someone's opinion respectfully. Bring a book if you can. It’s OK if it’s from your library. Note: W.D. Snodgrass will not be joining our group.

Why
Find out what poems sound like out loud. Listen in on the group and then find a place where you can jump in and read something yourself. Great fun for the whole family. If you have specialized knowledge regarding our poet, do not hesitate to regale us with your story. Don't expect to leave our event with a definitive understanding of the poet or the poems but please do seek to experience and communicate the joys of poetry with others. Join us as we talk about the craftsmanship of poems, the effect(s) of the poems and how those effects are achieved. Better readers make better writers. Visit with our group as we read poems we know and love and poems we are just discovering. Everyone's poetry is valued if not appreciated. If you have a smile to share be sure to bring it; otherwise be prepared to leave with one on your face and in your heart. If you're too far away to join us, create your own Birthdays of Poets Reader’s Workshop. Speak up now and forever share your peace. Tell (bring!) a friend.

How to find the organizer(s)
We are in the Poetry section, near the window that affords a view of Tittabawassee Road. The staff at Barnes & Noble will put up a sign that says 'This space reserved for The River Junction Poets at 7 p.m.' We'll be getting a few folding chairs to add around the coffee table there.

Details
The Mouse by W.D. Snodgrass


I remember one evening – we were small –
Playing outdoors, we found a mouse,
A dusty little gray one, lying
By the side steps. Afraid he might be dead,
We carried him all around the house
On a piece of tinfoil, Crying.

Ridiculous children; we could bawl
Our eyes out about nothing. Still,
How much violence had we seen?
They teach you – quick – you have to be well-bred
In all events. We can't all win.
Don't whine to get your will.

We live with some things, after all,
Bitterer than dying, cold as hate:
The old insatiable loves,
That vague desire that keeps watch overhead,
Polite, wakeful as a cat,
To tease us with our lives;

That pats at you, wants to see you crawl
Some, then picks you back alive;
That needs you just a little hurt.
The mind goes blank, then the eyes. Weak with dread,
In shock, the breath comes short;
We go about our lives.

And then the little animal
Plays out; the dulled heart year by year
Turns from its own needs, forgets its grief.
Asthmatic, timid, twenty-five, unwed –
The day we left you by your grave,
I wouldn't spare one tear.


This poem is from Selected Poems 1957-1987

from http://www.uncp.edu/home/canada/work/canam/page3.htm accessed 12/30/08



In the poem The Mouse, Snodgrass uses imagery to relate a death of a loved one to a dead mouse he found as a child. He also uses free verse (the form of writing he went to after losing his daughter in a divorce). The first stanza he begins telling the reader about the mouse laying there by the steps. He describes the mouse as a "dusty little gray one." Snodgrass uses the word dusty to put the image of death in the reader's mind. They knew the mouse was dead but Snodgrass says "Afraid he might be dead.." talking about denial that we go through as one of the steps of accepting death. At the end of this stanza he explains to the reader how they put the mouse on a piece of tinfoil and walked around the house with it. This clearly relates how we have a funeral with carrying the body to the cemetery. In the second stanza he discusses how when we are children we cry about everything. We cry when we don't get our own way and when we are hurting. He tells the reader not to whine to get your own way. In the third and fourth stanzas he tells us how we get through the bad times and go about our lives as normal. The world doesn't stop for death or broken hearts. In the last stanza he tells us how after time goes by we tend to forget our pain and not cry about it as much.

From
http://www.uncp.edu/home/canada/work/canam/page4.htm accessed 12/30/08



William De Witt Snodgrass was born in Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania, on January 5, 1926. He attended Geneva College and then served in the United States Navy until 1946. He then attended the State University of Iowa, where he earned his M.F.A. in 1953. His early work was compared to the work of Robert Lowell and Randall Jarrell, both of which were his teachers.

His first collection of poetry, Heart's Needle, was published in 1959 and received the Pulitzer Prize in 1960. Since then, he has published numerous books of poetry, including Not for Specialists: New and Selected Poems (BOA Editions, 2006); The Führer Bunker: The Complete Cycle (1995); Each in His Season (1993); Selected Poems, 1957-1987; The Führer Bunker: A Cycle of Poems in Progress (1977), which was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry and produced by Wynn Handman for The American Place Theatre; and After Experience (1968).

Excerpted from http://www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/15 accessed 12/30/08.

Confessional poetry is the poetry of the personal or "I." This style of writing emerged in the late 1950s and early 1960s and is associated with poets such as Robert Lowell, Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, and W.D. Snodgrass. Lowell's book Life Studies was a highly personal account of his life and familial ties, and had a significant impact on American poetry. Plath and Sexton were both students of Lowell and noted that his work influenced their own writing.

The confessional poetry of the mid-twentieth century dealt with subject matter that previously had not been openly discussed in American poetry. Private experiences with and feelings about death, trauma, depression and relationships were addressed in this type of poetry, often in an autobiographical manner. Sexton in particular was interested in the psychological aspect of poetry, having started writing at the suggestion of her therapist.

The confessional poets were not merely recording their emotions on paper; craft and construction were extremely important to their work. While their treatment of the poetic self may have been groundbreaking and shocking to some readers, these poets maintained a high level of craftsmanship through their careful attention to and use of prosody.

Excerpted from http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/5650 accessed 12/30/08.



Elena Ceauçescu's Bed by W.D. Snodgrass, 2006 Not for Specialists: New & Selected Poems

Making ourselves at home in that broad bed
Elena left, we slept snug as the mouse
That, burrowing in guest room blankets, fed
Her brood last winter in our summer house.

What bed, through all our lives long, had we known
If not the tyrant's? How many had been driven
Homeless and hungering while I had my own
Bed, my own room? How many have been given

Lives at hard labor while our markets rose
And we had all we asked for in the lands
Of milk and honey? Where could you find those
Who hunted, once, that hill where my house stands?

There'll be just one bed, too soon, for us all.
What empire's hacked out by the meek, the kind?
The lioness kills; the lion feasts; the small
Bury their noses in what's left behind.

From http://www.cstone.net/~poems/twoposno.htm accessed 12/30/08



The combination of the traditional and the confessional in Snodgrass's writing prompts Thomas Lask of the New York Times to write, "In Heart's Needle, . . . Snodgrass spoke in a distinctive voice. It was one that was jaunty and assertive on the surface but somber and hurt beneath. . . . It is one of the few books that successfully bridged the directness of contemporary free verse with the demands of the academy." Peter Porter echoes this opinion when he writes in London Magazine: "Snodgrass is a virtuoso, not just of versification but of his feelings. He sends them round the loops of self analysis with the same skill he uses to corset them into his poetry." The impact of Snodgrass's self-analytical approach is clearly felt in Stanley Moss's statement in the New Republic that the poet "has found a place for emotions felt, but previously left without words and out of consciousness. He has identified himself with exquisite suffering and guilt and with all those who barely manage to exist on the edge of life."

Excerpted from http://www.poetryfoundation.org/archive/poet.html?id=6402 accessed 12/30/08.

--------------

The following is an excerpt from Magda Goebbels (30 April 1945) by W. D. Snodgrass

This is the Doctor who has brought

Your needle with your special shot

To quiet you; you won’t get caught

Off guard or unprepared.

I am your nurse who’ll comfort you;

I nursed you, fed you till you grew

Too big to feed; now you’re all through

Fretting or feeling scared.

Excerpted from http://www.poetryfoundation.org/archive/poem.html?id=171521 accessed 12/30/08.



This diversity is apparent in Snodgrass's third volume of original poetry, The Fuehrer Bunker, which uses dramatic monologues to recreate what was said by the men and women who shared Hitler's bunker from April 1 to May 1, 1945. "In these poems," writes Gertrude M. White in Odyssey: A Journal of the Humanities, "we are overhearing people talking to themselves, each character speaking in a verse form expressive of his or her personality, revealing who and what they are with a dramatic power that carries conviction almost against our will." Robert Peters, writing in the American Book Review, believes that the volume is "a rare example of ambitious, on-going verse sculpture. . . . It will be around for a long time to inspire writers who've come to realize the sad limitations of the locked-in, private, first lesson, obsessional poem."

However, the subject matter of the poems troubles critic Laurence Goldstein, who fears that the writer's choice of subject overwhelms the artistry of the writing. Goldstein, writing for the
Southern Review, believes that writing about Nazism in the way that Snodgrass does in The Fuehrer Bunker violates the poetic aesthetic. "When a poet as skilled in sweet rhetoric as Snodgrass," Goldstein declares, "who can charm and disarm his audience at will, presents twenty-two dramatic monologues spoken by the most despised Nazis, nothing less than ultimate questions about the enterprise of contemporary poetry loom before us." "Is there a shameless sensationalism involved in trying to change belief on that dreadful subject?" the critic asks. "Shouldn't the poet pass by the Medusa head of that modern horror lest he petrify, or worse entertain, himself and his readers by staring at vipers?" The Fuehrer Bunker, which was first published as a work in progress in 1977, was finally released as a completed cycle of poems in 1995. Critics who reviewed the revised edition recognized its power, but their conclusions differed from Goldstein's fears. Frank Allen writes in Library Journal that "to hear these voices imaginatively re-created is purgative," while Booklist contributor Elizabeth Gunderson calls it "an astonishing work that lets us see with clarity the fall of the Third Reich—and wonder."

Excerpted from http://www.poetryfoundation.org/archive/poet.html?id=6402 accessed 12/30/08.



The Poet Ridiculed by Hysterical Academics by W. D. Snodgrass


Is it, then, your opinion

Women are putty in your hands?

Is this the face to launch upon

A thousand one night stands?


First, please, would you be so kind

As to define your contribution

To modern verse, the Western mind

And human institutions?


Where, where is the long, flowing hair,

The velvet suit, the broad bow tie;

Where is the other-worldly air,

Where the abstracted eye?


Describe the influence on your verse

Of Oscar Mudwarp’s mighty line,

The theories of Susan Schmersch

Or the spondee’s decline.


You’ve labored to present us with

This mouse-sized volume; shall this equal

The epic glories of Joe Smith?

He’s just brought out a sequel.



Where are the beard, the bongo drums,

Tattered T-shirt and grubby sandals,

As who, released from Iowa, comes

To tell of wondrous scandals?


Have you subversive, out of date,

Or controversial ideas?

And can you really pull your weight

Among such minds as these?


Ah, what avails the tenure race,

Ah, what the Ph.D.,

When all departments have a place

For nincompoops like thee?



W.D. Snodgrass, “The Poet Ridiculed by Hysterical Academics” from Selected Poems, 1957-1987 (New York: Soho Press, 1987). Copyright © 1987 by W.D. Snodgrass. Reprinted with the permission of the author.
from http://www.poetryfoundation.org/archive/poem.html?id=171520 accessed 12/30/08.



The following is excerpted from Pacemaker by W. D. Snodgrass:


I thought I'd always favor rubato

Or syncopation, scorning fixed rhythms;

Thought my old heartthrobs could stand up to stress;

Believed one's bloodpump should skip a few beats

If it fell into company with sleek young women;

Believed my own bruit could beat with the best.


Wrong again, Snodgrass! This new gold gadget,

Snug as the watch on my wife's warm wrist,

Drives my pulsetempo near twice its old pace—

Go, nonstop startwatch! Go, clockwork rabbit,

Keeping this lame old dog synchronized,

Steady, sparked up, still in the race.

Source: Poetry (October 2002).


from http://www.poetryfoundation.org/archive/poem.html?id=30891 accessed 12/30/08



Parting Thoughts
Research indicates that better readers make better writers. Maybe this is why, in the
Poet's Market, editors of literary magazines often recommend poets read more poetry. Are you not aware? You are a cultural event, and so is everyone else. Celebrate your humanity at Saginaw’s Birthdays of Poets Reader’s Workshop. May God continue to bless us mightily one and all. Be sure to thank a veteran for his/her service. Remember: only you can improve the audience for poetry. Please read, discuss and share responsibly. And vote.


"It is our goal to appreciate and improve our talents, to share our own work and to communicate the joys of poetry with others. Everyone's poetry is valued."
River Junction Poets Mission Statement