Archive for June, 2010

David Mason (born 1954) of Colorado Springs, Colo., will become the seventh poet laureate of Colorado. He will be appointed to the post at the State Capitol in Denver on July 1.

Mason is a professor at Colorado College and co-directs the Creative Writing program. He has published six books including News from the Village by Red Hen Press in 2010; Ludlow by Red Hen Press in 2010; Arrivals by Story Line Press in 2004; The Poetry of Life and the Life of Poetry by Story Line Press in 2000; The Country I Remember by Story Line Press in 1996; and The Buried Houses by Story Line Press in 1991.

Colorado was the second state in the nation to appoint a poet laureate. Alice Polk Hill was appointed in 1919 and served until she died in 1921. Nellie Burget Miller served 1923-1952; Margaret Clyde Robertson served 1952-1954; Milford E. Shields served 1954-1975; and Thomas Hornsby Ferril served 1979-1988. Mary Crow has served 14 years, from 1996-2010.

Fathers and Sons

Some things, they say,
one should not write about. I tried
to help my father comprehend
the toilet, how one needs
to undo one’s belt, to slide
one’s trousers down and sit,
but he stubbornly stood
and would not bend his knees.
I tried again
to bend him toward the seat,

and then I laughed
at the absurdity. Fathers and sons.
How he had wiped my bottom
half a century ago, and how
I would repay the favor
if he would only sit.

Don’t you–
he gripped me, trembling, searching for my eyes.
Don’t you–but the word
was lost to him. Somewhere
a man of dignity would not be laughed at.
He could not see
it was the crazy dance
that made me laugh,
trying to make him sit
when he wanted to stand.
David Mason

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Poem of the day, June 28 2010


There was never a sound beside the wood but one,
And that was my long scythe whispering to the ground.
What was it it whispered? I knew not well myself;
Perhaps it was something about the heat of the sun,
Something, perhaps, about the lack of sound—
And that was why it whispered and did not speak.
It was no dream of the gift of idle hours,
Or easy gold at the hand of fay or elf:
Anything more than the truth would have seemed too weak
To the earnest love that laid the swale in rows,
Not without feeble-pointed spikes of flowers
(Pale orchises), and scared a bright green snake.
The fact is the sweetest dream that labor knows.
My long scythe whispered and left the hay to make.

by Robert Frost (1874-1963)

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Jorie Graham won the Pulitzer in 1996 for her book The Dream of the Unified Field. The following is an excerpt about Graham from the book Women Poets on Mentorship Efforts and Affections, edited by Arielle Greenberg and Rachel Zucker and published in 2008:
Katie Ford on Jorie Graham
One of my teachers, Jorie Graham, told us all — her first students at Harvard after leaving the Iowa Writers’ Workshop — that writing poems would help us go through something we might otherwise choose to go around. To go through something, however, is not what the mind wants to do. And so the decision to write poems is the decision, she taught us, to live inside one’s difficulties, to inhabit them, to trespass against the solitudes they wish to keep.
When I first took her poetry course at Harvard, I was a stray from Harvard Divinity School, where I was enrolled in a master’s program in theology among Buddhist nuns, protestants, agnostics, Jewish Unitarians, questioners, academics, Catholic contemplatives, and many others. . . .
When I began seriously writing poetry, in the fall of 1999, I couldn’t abandon my theology courses altogether — but I began to see all of my studies as serving my poetry. . . . At that time, I was reading Julian of Norwich, a medieval mystic who lived in a small brick cell attached to St. Julian’s Church in England in the era of Chaucer. Julian was a recluse, but she was expected to speak to visitors who sought her out. Her cell didn’t have any windows, so she spoke through a slight gap in the bricks — maybe two or three were missing— having to pitch her voice up and out without even seeing her visitor’s eyes. What moved me about Julian’s story wasn’t her revelations or visions but the structure of her cell: The walls of the cell. The bricks of the wall. The gap in the bricks. The stark fact that there was only one way her voice could get out, a slight gap in the bricks to speak through — an image, for me, of what it is to speak as a poet.
Because it is slight, the space that allows only the most exacting words through. This was the narrow way I wanted: I wanted to find the language that would speak accurately, compellingly, lastingly. Jorie taught us how to move through that eye of the needle, how to pitch our subject matter through that gap, that way, with no knowledge of who, if anyone, is on the other side.
by Jorie Graham (born 1950)
Into whose ear the deeds are spoken. The only
listener. So I believed
he would remember everything, the murmuring trees,
the sunshine’s zealotry, its deep
unevenness. For history
is the opposite
of the eye
for whom, for instance, six million bodies in portions
of hundreds and
the flowerpots broken by a sudden wind stand as
equivalent. What more
is there
than fact? I’ll give ten thousand dollars to the man
who proves the holocaust really
occurred said the exhausted solitude
in San Francisco
in 1980. Far in the woods
in a faded photograph
in 1942 the man with his own
genitalia in his mouth and hundreds of
slow holes
a pitchfork has opened
over his face
grows beautiful. The ferns and deepwood
lilies catch
the eye. Three men in ragged uniforms
with guns keep laughing
nervously. They share the day
with him. A bluebird
sings. The feathers of the shade touch every inch
of skin — the hand holding down the delicate gun,
the hands holding down the delicate
hips. And the sky
is visible between the men, between
the trees, a blue spirit
anything. Late in the story, in northern Italy,
a man cuts down some trees for winter
fuel. We read this in the evening
news. Watching the fire burn late
one night, watching it change and change, a hand grenade,
lodged in the pulp the young tree
grew around, explodes, blinding the man, killing
his wife. Now who
will tell the children
fairytales? The ones where simple
crumbs over the forest
floor endure
to help us home?

Other Pulitzer finalist in1996 were Charles Wright for his book Chickamauga and Donald Justice for his book of New and Selected Poems.

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The Legend

In memory of Jay Kashiwamura

In Chicago, it is snowing softly
and a man has just done his wash for the week.
He steps into the twilight of early evening,
carrying a wrinkled shopping bag
full of neatly folded clothes,
and, for a moment, enjoys
the feel of warm laundry and crinkled paper,
flannellike against his gloveless hands.
There’s a Rembrandt glow on his face,
a triangle of orange in the hollow of his cheek
as a last flash of sunset
blazes the storefronts and lit windows of the street.

He is Asian, Thai or Vietnamese,
and very skinny, dressed as one of the poor
in rumpled suit pants and a plaid mackinaw,
dingy and too large.
He negotiates the slick of ice
on the sidewalk by his car,
opens the Fairlane’s back door,
leans to place the laundry in,
and turns, for an instant,
toward the flurry of footsteps
and cries of pedestrians
as a boy — that’s all he was —
backs from the corner package store
shooting a pistol, firing it,
once, at the dumbfounded man
who falls forward,
grabbing at his chest.

A few sounds escape from his mouth,
a babbling no one understands
as people surround him
bewildered at his speech.
The noises he makes are nothing to them.
The boy has gone, lost
in the light array of foot traffic
dappling the snow with fresh prints.

Tonight, I read about Descartes’
grand courage to doubt everything
except his own miraculous existence
and I feel so distinct
from the wounded man lying on the concrete
I am ashamed

Let the night sky cover him as he dies.
Let the weaver girl cross the bridge of heaven
and take up his cold hands.
by Garrett Hongo (born 1951)

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White Night

A far-off time arises in my memory,
The house in Petersburg Quarters,
A humble daughter of the modest gentry,
Born in Kursk, you’re here taking courses.

You are cute, — you have many admirers.
This white night, it is only us two,
Sprawling out on your windowsill, tireless,
From your skyscraper, observing the view.

Streetlamps, like gaseous butterflies,
Trembled from morning’s first chills
And the words I whispered in quiet sighs
Resembled slumbering hills.

By some chance, we were caught here together,
By one mystery, in timid fidelity,
As the landscape beyond the Neva, —
Lands of Petersburg stretching unendingly.

In those distant, impregnable thickets,
On this vernal and pale white night,
The nightingales’ thunderous singing
Awoke all the woodlands in sight.

A frenzied chirping of pure emotion
From a little, soaring songster
Evoked both, passion and commotion,
From the depths of mesmerized forests.

The night, like a barefooted wanderer,
Moved there slowly in a leisurely walk
And behind it, from the windowsill, rambling,
Ran the trail of an overheard talk.

Within an earshot of our conversations,
In fenced enclosures of the garden,
The apple and the berry trees, with patience,
Put on the sunlight’s glowing garments.

And trees, like phantoms, seeming white,
By the roadside, stood in a line,
To pay their dues to the receding white night
That has witnessed so much in its time.
by Boris Pasternak (1890-1960)
translated by Andrey Kneller

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Adjectives of Order

That summer, she had a student who was obsessed
with the order of adjectives. A soldier in the South
Vietnamese army, he had been taken prisoner when

Saigon fell. He wanted to know why the order
could not be altered. The sweltering city streets shook
with rockets and helicopters. The city sweltering

streets. On the dusty brown field of the chalkboard,
she wrote: The mother took warm homemade bread
from the oven
. City is essential to streets as homemade

is essential to bread. He copied this down, but
he wanted to know if his brothers were lost before
older, if he worked security at a twenty-story modern

downtown bank or downtown twenty-story modern.
When he first arrived, he did not know enough English
to order a sandwich. He asked her to explain each part

of Lovely big rectangular old red English Catholic
leather Bible
. Evaluation before size. Age before color.
Nationality before religion. Time before length. Adding

and, one could determine if two adjectives were equal.
After Saigon fell, he had survived nine long years
of torture. Nine and long. He knew no other way to say this.
by Alexandra Teague

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