Friday, November 25, 2016

The World So Sweet

Keeping it simple this year! Hope your conversations around the table were cheerful, your turkey was delicious....ditto stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, butter roll, jam, green bean casserole, cranberry velvet, fruit salad, pickles, olives, pie (marionberry, pumpkin, apple),whipped cream, etc.

Here's my offering for Poetry Friday:

Thank you for the world so sweet.
Thank you for the food we eat.
Thank you for the birds that sing,
Thank you, God, for everything.

(Well, maybe not everything. But quite a lot!)

The Poetry Friday round-up is being hosted this week by Carol at Carol's Corner.
Head over there for links to what other people have posted 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Poetry Friday: Raking the Election Leaves with Aeschylus

"So he won. The nation takes a deep breath….We are so exhausted from thinking about this election, millions of people will take up leaf-raking and garage cleaning with intense pleasure.”

Raking the Leaves

Tuesday I left the leaves for later, now
it’s Wednesday and later’s here. It’s here
like none of the pundits predicted, unless 
you mean Aeschylus, famous for his tragedies,
who told us we would know the future
when it came – until then, we should forget it.

Today the future came, banged on the door.
I didn’t answer, but it came in anyway, so
I went outside to rake leaves from the apple tree, 
remembering an oracle predicted a falling object 
would kill Aeschylus. For some reason he felt safe 
outside, but he died when an eagle flew over him 
and dropped a turtle on his head. Dropping dead 
like that, imagine. Imagine dropping dead at all.

My imagination goes all wonky when the world 
buckles and shakes. I calm myself with a rake 
and make a pile of leaves. Did I say a pile 
of something? I forget what exactly. And what 
was I saying? It's gotten hard to think. Oh, yes, 
a pile of leaves, once green, now orange and dead.   
Next up? Nothing to be done but clean the shed. 

Aeschylus  525-456 B.C.

Jama Kim Rattigan is hosting the Poetry Friday round-up today at her blog, the wonderful and delicious Alphabet Soup . Head over there to see what people have posted.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Poetry Friday: A Poem by Ekaterina Yosifova

Bulgarian journalist and poet Ekaterina Yosifova

I sorted through a big pile of random papers the other day, trying to get organized (ha!), and found a poem I tore out of a review discovered in a neighbor's free Little Library - didn't remember what review it was that I'd found it in, though I've now looked it up (Black Warrior Review, Fall/Winter 1991.) I re-read the poem and, after maybe a year or two of its being buried in one stack of papers and another, I continue to love it, so I'll share it here today. A small treasure, found, then lost, then found again. As autumn rains come down, and Novembrrrrrrrrr approaches, I begin to think of winter. So - "Beneath Winter's Roof" - what could be there? Here's what Ekaterina Yosifova found:
Beneath Winter's Roof

Let us honor the offerings,
let us cut quinces for the wine,
let us bring out memory's salty grapes.

Yes, it was wonderful,
we experienced all we could
(which wasn't so little, after all)
and pain is joy's companion.

The heart's eternal love song--
this priceless game that can rescind all verdicts.
We'd wake up ready for joy
since we were children, taught to forgive.

We tried out a scream and all kinds of silence,
all kinds of words-- the earth's big enough,
we won't weigh her down
--but we could even keep silent like old friends.

Wonderful world, where
the most important questions go unanswered,
where sweet wells don't run dry,

and the future
will be no less vast without us.

                   Ekaterina Yosifova  (translation by Lisa Sapinkopf)

Here is a link to a brief interview of the poet, who is Bulgarian. In it, she says two things that interest me. First this, about reading and writing poetry:

It doesn’t matter which readers, it doesn’t matter whose poetry – as long as it’s Poetry. It exists. Everywhere and at all times, since man (pre-literacy) felt excited by owning this peculiar sense of understanding, entering…We need it. The encounters are joyful." 

That's nice, isn't it, the feeling that poetry is a "peculiar sense of understanding" and that encountering it is "joyful"?

Later in the interview, she talks about being a young woman in Sofia in the late 60's, unable to find poetry translated from the English:  

American literature was starting to get published [in Bulgaria]; there were lines in front of the bookstores, more and more fiction was being translated, with “clarifying” forewords. But not poetry. Was it because poetry did not yield to “clarifications”?

Poetry not yielding to clarification. I like that idea.

Don't forget to vote on November 8th!!!

And don't forget right now to head over to the Poetry Friday round-up - it's being hosted by the wonderful Linda Baie over at Teacher Dance (and while you're there, you might just learn a thing or two about "stirdulation." And no, despite the sound of that word, it's not an activity baristas engage in.)

Friday, October 7, 2016

Poetry Friday: Head-to-Toe Poetry

I know there will be many posts this week about Western Washington University's wonderful Poetry Camp - attended by interested teachers, librarians and writers in the area, as well as almost 40 poets, most of them contributors to these Poetry Friday posts of ours and to the  Poetry Friday anthologies put together by Janet Wong and Sylvia Vardell.  I had the chance to meet people whose names I've seen here for years but whom I've never actually met. And I was asked by Janet and Sylvia to present a 90-minute quick-write workshop the day before Camp, when the PF poets had their own day-long meeting -  I talked about the Oulipo group and their idea that "constraints" on writing (such as wordplay and/or limiting the vowels you can use, or the syllables per line, etc.) actually free you up to be more unpredictable, to surprise yourself and thus surprise your readers. Oh, I could have played around with that all day! But we actually only ended up with 60 minutes, running behind, before the group moved on to more practical matters.  I've come home determined to play around with more constraints.

My favorite moment at Poetry Camp was seeing Sylvia Vardell walk in with poetry stockings and a poetry dress - she was all poetry, outside and in. So I thought today I would share the photo I took, and I would ask if anyone knows what poem was on her stockings. It is awkward to ask someone to stand still while you read their legs (!!) and I missed my moment to ask her. If you were smart and happened to ask Sylvia - tell us what that poem is, will you? There should be two poems, actually, because the first day Sylvia was in white stockings with text and the second day (pictured above) she was in rose pink. And what a dress - "Share Poetry" - we all loved it! Head to toe, poetry!!!!

Added note: For everyone serious about finding a pair of those stockings/tights, they are for sale on Etsy. com - click here for the link. 

Violet Nesdoly is the Poetry Friday host this week. Click here to read her post and link to the round-up.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Poetry Friday: A Change in Ownership for Seattle's Open Books

John Marshall and Christine Deavel

For today's Poetry Friday, I'm offering up a delicate poem by Christine Deavel, and a slightly more muscular one by her husband, the poet J.W. (John) Marshall:

On the path by the park's hedge
two juncos stepped out
and joined me on my walk,
a full measure
of tipping toward and away,
until we parted company.
Not ways, though.
I hope
we did not part ways.

-- Christine Deavel

Steilacoom and South

We were gods on holiday
who’d stumbled on
a local god at work. Until then
no one had been loud.
Look at that!
the boy said and we
who swam along with him
inside the Amtrak Coach did look.
A man stood in a boat as
ingenious as a button
in a button hole.
The sun threw echoes
all across the water.
Pole bent hairpin in one hand
with a net in his other he
ladled up a King from
the dazzle. Though he couldn’t hear
we sang a brief applause to him
that trailed off just how
a salmon sounds
in the bottom of an aluminum boat.
And next we passed of note
a field of stumps and tractor ruts
sign on the fence there reading
More Estates Are Coming.
Then came Portland’s string of condos
like stacks of glassy tackle boxes
and the speaker’s admonition
Don’t forget your luggage
when you leave.

       J.W. Marshall 
Until just this week, Christine and her husband John owned and operated Open Books - one of only three bookstores in the United States dedicated exclusively to poetry (the others are Grolier's in Cambridge, Mass,, and Innisfree in Boulder, Colorado.) They also lived in the bungalow above the store, so their commute was enviably short.

The Seattle poetry community depended on John and Christine not only for books but for poetry news and predictions. For 29 years they shared which new books were coming out, which new books we were going to love, which new voices we would be hearing about - and they knew their customers well enough to pull a nice bunch of books off the shelves and recommend them confidently. Tailor-made recommendations - it doesn't get better than that in a bookstore. It was Christine who handed me the marvelous Reft and Light by Ernst Jandl - she suspected I would love it and she was right. I've never read anything like it and I take it off my poetry bookshelves often, either for a quick thrill or for a day's slow studying.

I worked in bookstores for many years before I began writing and teaching, but I had the luxury of just being an employee, free to come in in the morning, enjoy the day and the customers, enjoy the arrival of new books, oversee certain areas, go home at night....and I never had to pay the bills. Perfect job. When I think about Open Books, I think about what it takes to run a bookstore the right way.  Not an easy job, not a lucrative one, but satisfying, I hope.

What's amazing is that Christine and John managed to keep their creative juices flowing. John's first book, Meaning a Cloud, won the Field Poetry Prize. And Christine's book, Woodnote, won the Washington State Book Award in 2012.

If you want to hear a bit more from these poets, there's a lovely interview of Christine with Elizabeth Austen over at Seattle's KUOW website. Ditto for the interview of John by Lisa Albers at Poets and Writers. And Nancy Guppy interviews both Christine and John for Seattle Magazine. I'm especially fond of this brief interview of Christine over at the National Book Critics Circle website - in it, I can really hear Christine speaking, in response to a slightly garrulous interviewer. AND Christine is recommending books - so I feel a bit like I've walked into Open Books and will leave with a fascinating new book in hand.

John and Christine have sold the bookstore now, and everyone who loves poetry in the Seattle area wishes the new owner, Billie Swift, the best of luck. Swift, who had a humorous profile of the Seattle literary scene published in The New Yorker, has two sets of big shoes to fill. You can read her thoughts about the prospect of doing that in this recent interview over at the Seattle Review of Books.

Today's Poetry Friday round-up is being hosted by Penny Klosterman over at  A Penny and Her Jots. Head over there to see what other people have posted!