The Brookline Poetry Series Weblog

April 22, 2008

Mi Familia, Su Familia…

Filed under: Uncategorized — brooklinepoetry @ 5:46 pm

I just returned from a weekend in Vermont where we celebrated my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. It was a delightful affair, with relatives from all over converging. New babies, babies to come, old folk, middle-aged rest of us. Everyone got along, packed their ennui into small pouches and kept it hidden. The weather was glorious–summer-feel with hot sun, warm breezes, a bit of sweating.

I watched the sun go down over the hill behind the granite sheds on Main Street and felt maybe it wasn’t so bad coming from that town. I held my not-quite two-year-old niece in my arms, the second to be adopted from China, listened to the gleeful noise coming from inside the restaurant, and felt very, very grateful.

We all come from someplace, and most of us–poets especially–carry around a sense of disease that we spend our lives writing about and trying to understand. Once in awhile a grace note sounds. It is worth noting this rare flower.

I don’t know how this goodness will wend its way into new poems, but I am hopeful I can craft something that measures beauty equal to despair. Here’s a poem I like that may steer me toward imagining my parents before they met:

A Family History
At dusk the girl who will become my mom
must trudge through the snow, her legs
cold under skirts, a bandanna tight on her braids.
In the henhouse, a klook pecks her chapped hand
as she pulls a warm egg from under its breast.
This girl will always hate hens,
and she already knows she won't marry a farmer.
In a dim barn, my father, a boy, forks hay
under the holsteins' steaming noses.
They sway on their hooves and swat dangerous tails,
but he is thinking of snow, how it blows
across the gray pond scribbled with skate tracks,
of the small blaze on its shore, and the boys
in black coats who skate hand-in-hand
round and round, building up speed
until the leader cracks that whip
of mittens and arms, and it jerks around
fast, flinging off the last boy.
He'd be that one--flung like a spark
trailing only his scarf.
-- Julia Kasdorf
from The Sleeping Preacher
University of Pittsburgh Press



April 1, 2008

National Poetry Month

Filed under: Uncategorized — brooklinepoetry @ 7:58 pm

Okay, I know there’s a lot of mixed feeling about this–shouldn’t we acknowledge poetry 365 days a year and not just 30? But at least we have some public awareness attempted.

I spoke with a young student teacher at Milton High School this week; she’s launching a poetry unit to coincide with National Poetry Month, and reports enormous enthusiasm for the project. In fact, Milton HS has an annual poetry event where students read and perform their own work and it was the highest attended non-athletic event last year.

I speculated that there is a lot of poetry happening all the time–in schools, cafes, living rooms, and libraries all across the country. It’s just that the pop culture zeitgeist hasn’t allowed it to filter through. And maybe that’s a good thing. What would happen if Paris Hilton or another overexposed, uninspiring celeb began reciting Whitman during visits to clubs and spas? It would be attributed to her handlers, who had become temporarily insane in recommending such a move.

Maybe the better question is whether Walt Whitman would want to be read by Paris Hilton. Let’s think about this. W.W. was one of the most broad-minded individuals of the 19th century. Perhaps he would have great sympathy for someone so narrow in her world view. Perhaps he would include her recent legal woes in this stirring pronouncement:

The shapes arise!

The shape of the prisoner’s place in the court-room, and of him or her seated in the place.

The shape of the liquor-bar lean’d against by the young rum-drinker and the old rum-drinker,

The shape of the shamed and angry stairs trod by sneaking footsteps,

The shape of the sly settee, and the adulterous unwholesome couple,

The shape of the gambling-board with its devilish winnings and losings,

The shape of the step-ladder for the convicted and sentenced murderer, the murderer with haggard face and pinion’d arms,

The sheriff at hand with his deputies, the silent and white-lipp’d crowd, the dangling of the rope.

Okay, a bit of a leap, I know (she hasn’t actually killed anyone that we’re aware of, though one does wonder what happens to all those teacup dogs she carries under her arm over the years), but I could see this being addressed to a celebutante wearing out her welcome, her tiara loose and rusting.

I hope we can all celebrate poetry in our own unique ways in the coming weeks. In the meantime, see you at our Friday reading–Sue Standing and Kevin Bowen, plus our remarkable open mike.

Here’s something to keep us aware of our place in the world.

— SR

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