Friday, July 21, 2017

Poem for the Weekend: Jody Gladding


Jody Gladding lives in Vermont and teaches in the MFA in Writing Program at Vermont College of Fine Art. She has also translated almost thirty works from French. More biographical information here.

Blue Willow

by Jody Gladding

A pond will deepen toward the center like a plate
we traced its shallow rim my mother steering
my inner tube past the rushes where I looked
for Moses we said it was a trip around the world
in China we wove through curtains of willow
that tickled our necks let's do that again
and we'd double back idle there lifting
our heads to the green rain
swallows met over us later I dreamed
of flying with them we had all the time
in the world we had the world
how could those trees be weeping?

Friday, July 14, 2017

Poem for the Weekend: Charles Wright


Charles Wright was named United States Poet Laureate in 2014. Born in Tennessee, he's an Army veteran, a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and a winner of the National Book Award. A more comprehensive biography can be found here.


Sitting at Night on the Front Porch

by Charles Wright

I’m here, on the dark porch, restyled in my mother’s chair.
10:45 and no moon.
Below the house, car lights
Swing down, on the canyon floor, to the sea.


In this they resemble us,
Dropping like match flames through the great void
Under our feet.
In this they resemble her, burning and disappearing.


Everyone’s gone
And I’m here, sizing the dark, saving my mother’s seat.

 

Friday, July 7, 2017

Poem for the Weekend: Susan Mitchell

                                               
 
"Right now in America we are witnessing a paradigm shift in poetry, and while I think this is happening for all the reasons I have just mentioned, there is still another, maybe the most important reason: the poet's assertion of innerness, of mind, of psyche at a time when innerness is threatened by nearly all aspects of contemporary American lifestyle. Innerness refuses to be a sound byte on television. Innerness refuses to speak up at a huge poetry festival. Innerness demands that the reader slow down, take the time, pay attention. Innerness demands that the reader's attentiveness be equal to the attentiveness of the poet and the attentiveness of the poem." --Susan Mitchell

More about this acclaimed poet here.

The Dead

by Susan Mitchell

At night the dead come down to the river to drink.
They unburden themselves of their fears,
their worries for us. They take out the old photographs
They pat the lines in our hands and tell
our futures, which are cracked and yellow. Some
dead find their way to our houses. They go up to the
attics. They read the letters they sent us. insatiable
for signs of their love. They tell each other stories.
They make so much noise they wake us as they did
when we were children and they stayed up drinking
all night in the kitchen.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

The Suggestion of Color



I saw one of those quizzes on social media the other day, where you’re led through a series of seemingly innocuous questions until something is revealed about your true nature. This one had to do with color and how you see it. There was a square of a cool gray and the first question asked: What color do you see: gray, blue or green? And I immediately thought that I might have chosen gray, but now that blue and green had been suggested to me, those hues were apparent in the sample. It wasn’t green enough to be called green though, and certainly not blue enough to be blue, but now the gray was infused with these more lively tints and couldn’t really be seen as mere “gray” either. The fact that choices were offered had made me unsure of my perception.
 
It occurred to me that writing is an exercise in the offering of choices, in the suggestion of new or nuanced ways to view the world. Isn’t that what we’re doing by inhabiting a fictional world or the mind of a character, especially one who may see blue where we see gray?
 
Recently, I was inspired by an article about paint colors in a home decorating magazine. We’ve all wondered about the people who come up with the inventive names—because, certainly, there’s a quintessential human element in these names and their visceral modifiers, obscure historical references, and strange evocativeness. In fact, here’s an amusing article about what happened when a non-human tried to name paint colors. To me, color can infuse an entire setting, such as the endless green of a forest or the far-reaching blue of an ocean. It can be an intense character feature—a rancher’s dust-covered figure, a red-faced curmudgeon. It can set the mood for a story, such as all the feelings yellow brings to mind. Thinking this way inspired several stories in a collection I’m still working one; some of the stories take a color title: “Resonant Blue,” “Cadmium.”
 
Some people are born color blind, or can only see limited color. We’ve all seen the viral videos of a color blind person looking through special glasses that allow him or her to see color for the first time. How strange that must be, we think, a whole new world.
 
In Chekhov’s story, “Gusev,” a soldier returns from service, dying from an illness. He dies at sea and is tossed into the ocean. The men who remain on the ship watch stoically, Gusev’s body passes schools of fish and a large shark, and Chekhov’s narration then turns very inclusively omniscient:
 
“And up above just then, on the side where the sun goes down, clouds are massing; one cloud resembles a triumphal arch, another a lion, a third a pair of scissors . . . A broad green shaft comes from behind the clouds and stretches to the very middle of the sky; shortly afterwards a violet shaft lies next to it, then a golden one, then a pink one . . . The sky turns a soft lilac. Seeing this magnificent, enchanting sky, the ocean frowns at first, but soon itself takes on such a tender, joyful, passionate colors as human tongue can hardly name.”
 
Gusev’s experience, such as it is, the ultimate, unknown perception—death—is relayed with colors and strange sights. Imagine, Chekhov seems to be suggesting, imagine the unimaginable. Surely there are colors we’ve never seen, colors we’d hardly know how to describe. As writers, this is a quest we embark on joyfully, time and again, hoping to bring at least a few along with us.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Poem for the Weekend: Tracy K. Smith

 
Tracy K. Smith is our newest Poet Laureate of the United States. She's the author of three books of poetry and a memoir, and is the director of Princeton University's creative writing department. Here's an NPR article about her, with a link to hear her read one of her poems.
 

I Don't Miss It

by Tracy K. Smith


But sometimes I forget where I am,
Imagine myself inside that life again.

Recalcitrant mornings. Sun perhaps,
Or more likely colorless light

Filtering its way through shapeless cloud.

And when I begin to believe I haven't left,
The rest comes back. Our couch. My smoke

Climbing the walls while the hours fall.
Straining against the noise of traffic, music,

Anything alive, to catch your key in the door.
And that scamper of feeling in my chest,

As if the day, the night, wherever it is
I am by then, has been only a whir

Of something other than waiting.

We hear so much about what love feels like.
Right now, today, with the rain outside,

And leaves that want as much as I do to believe
In May, in seasons that come when called,

It's impossible not to want
To walk into the next room and let you

Run your hands down the sides of my legs,
Knowing perfectly well what they know.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Poem for the Weekend: Alice Oswald

 
Last night, one of the most lucrative awards in poetry was announced in Toronto. The Griffin Poetry Prize is awarded to two poets--one Canadian and one international--and this year, the prize went to Jordan Abel and Alice Oswald, who lives in Devon, England. This poem is the first in her award-winning collection, Falling Awake. News story about her win here.

A Short Story of Falling

by Alice Oswald

It is the story of the falling rain
to turn into a leaf and fall again

it is the secret of a summer shower
to steal the light and hide it in a flower

and every flower a tiny tributary
that from the ground flows green and momentary

is one of water’s wishes and this tale
hangs in a seed-head smaller than my thumbnail

if only I a passerby could pass
as clear as water through a plume of grass

to find the sunlight hidden at the tip
turning to seed a kind of lifting rain drip

then I might know like water how to balance
the weight of hope against the light of patience

water which is so raw so earthy-strong
and lurks in cast-iron tanks and leaks along

drawn under gravity towards my tongue
to cool and fill the pipe-work of this song

which is the story of the falling rain
that rises to the light and falls again

Friday, June 2, 2017

Poem for the Weekend: Robley Wilson


Robley Wilson writes poems, short stories and novels and has worked as a writing teacher and editor. He lives in Florida. Here is a link to a short podcast that discusses this poem.


I Wish in the City of Your Heart

I wish in the city of your heart 
you would let me be the street 
where you walk when you are most 
yourself. I imagine the houses: 
It has been raining, but the rain 
is done and the children kept home 
have begun opening their doors. 
"As soon as we express something, we devalue it strangely. We believe ourselves to have dived down into the depths of the abyss, and when we once again reach the surface, the drops of water on our pale fingertips no longer resemble the ocean from which they came...Nevertheless, the treasure shimmers in the darkness unchanged." ---Franz Kafka