Sunday, May 31, 2009

Dream Altitude: Beckian Fritz Goldberg

Strange, unsettling poem from a strange, unsettling -- and riveting -- book: "Retro Lullaby" from Never Be the Horse by Beckian Fritz Goldberg. (And it's a poem-match for this photograph! Sometimes the perfect poem just flutters to your finger like a lovesick homing pigeon.)

Here's an excerpt from "Retro Lullaby":

After all, my sister said I was a strange child, an
My mother said if they talked idly in February
of going somewhere in June, I'd wake in June,
my suitcase packed.

Terrible she said to have a child who never forgot a thing.

But now, of course, I've slipped
my mind forever in some infeasible way, flown

stiff as a toy in my dream altitude and I remember
wondering even in my elation if I'd drop
suddenly and if I did

I don't remember. But if I did, I'd say,
It's ok, you can be my angel. You can be
my human kite.

I relish the simile, "stiff as a toy in my dream altitude." Dream altitude! Later in the poem, Beckian Fritz Goldberg comes to the conclusion that "... childhood stinks big in our lives as death." In this case, the smell is of "moist hay," a scent that brings back the past, that inflates her "postcard of a little stranger," so that "her stupid white hands will come up like two / white pages from the bottom of a lake ...." It's magic the way a simple fragrance can transport us to the past, give us back our lace-trimmed ankle socks and braids.

One of my favorite pieces from the collection is the title poem, "Never Be the Horse," in which a mysterious horse is crossing the ocean, standing in a hull, trying "to dream on the smell of damp oatseed." The full line the title comes from is "Never be the horse God talks to." I love the final two lines: "Months later, a rock rose and then low furzy branches. / Then in each ankle a bell clapped for the mud."

How can you resist a book that contains poems with titles like "With a Ravenous Spike," "Flowering Adam," and "The Tongue of the Sphinx?"

Never Be the Horse won the 1998 Akron Poetry Prize and was published by The University of Akron Press in 1999. The photograph of the Renwal doll was taken 5/23/09 in my yard.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Fall into the Iris

I almost did yesterday, when I leaned forward, crouching on tiptoe, to take a photograph of the tiger-striped heart of this blossom. Lovely iris vertigo.

The photograph was taken yesterday, one house uphill from mine. Click on the image to enlarge. Go on. Feel free to tumble inside.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Two Flowers, One Plant

Earlier this evening, as I walked past these twin dandelions in my front yard, unbidden labels floated into my meandering brain: Mind and Soul. As I walked on, other pairs arrived: Dream and Reality, Past and Present, Premonition and Memory, even Poetry and Photography. When I thought more about it, I realized it was possible to switch the two, reading the floral symbols in the opposite way. Why not ethereal Soul on the left and bright gold Mind on the right? Or -- think about it -- Reality and Dream (sigh!), Present and Past (sigh!), Memory and Premonition. Photography and Poetry could work. And rather than the original Past and Present, doesn’t the seed-bearing version of Past also begin to look like the Future? That results in Past and Future merged on the left and Present solo on the right. Off go my untethered thoughts, like dandelion seeds clinging to their flimsy silk umbrellas …

Monday, May 18, 2009

Glowing Opossum

Okay. He is a bit startling, but this preserved opossum at the Trailside Museum commanded full attention the day I did the Poetry and Wildflowers walk at Ward Pound Ridge Reservation. (Hey, as a nocturnal creature, daytime is not his best time.) Back in 1610, promotional literature for the Jamestown, Virginia colony included the first written reference to the opossum: "There are ... Apossouns, in shape like to pigges." This was the spelling used to replicate the sound of the Virginia Algonquian word for the opossum.

Historical information was found in The American Heritage Dictonary of the English Language, Third Edition.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Literary Wildflower Walk This Saturday!

This Saturday, May 9th, come take a poetry and wildflower walk with me at the Luquer-Marble Wildflower Garden in Ward Pound Ridge Reservation in Cross River, New York. At stops along the way, you will hear poems that mirror or speak to the natural setting. Selected poems include works by Mary Oliver, Charles Wright, Louise Gluck, Emily Dickinson, Tomas Transtromer, Linda Pastan, and many others. If you're inspired, share a quote or brief poem of your choice that reflects the season. We'll meet at the Trailside Museum at 1:00 PM. A couple of days ago the primroses were on the cusp of opening, Jacob's ladder and spring beauty were in full bloom, and the Jack-in-the-pulpit and trillium were perfection. (The photograph above is of a Jack-in-the-pulpit found there, with lungwort in the background.)

For additional information, click here:
Poetry and Wildflowers Literary Walk

The program is free to the public, although there is a parking fee to enter the reservation. We'll go rain or shine! The walk is easy, with benches along the way.

Here is a spring excerpt from my poem, "Kisses," originally published in The Bitter Oleander, then in Teaching Bones to Fly, my first full-length collection:

The kiss unfurls feathery green
along each branch,
sets to beating the pale hearts of apples
still hidden in blossoms.
Between our lips:
an orchard in a white dream of fruit.

The Poetry and Wildflowers event is sponsored by Friends of Trailside and Ward Pound Ridge Reservation with additional funding by Poets & Writers, Inc. using public funds from the NYS Council on the Arts, a state agency.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Author's Prayer: Ilya Kaminsky

One of my favorite Mother's Day activities was attending -- with both of my daughters -- Ilya Kaminsky's reading at the Katonah Poetry Series in 2006. We sat near the front in the Katonah Village Library, mesmerized by this young man's beautiful and powerful poetry and charmed by his generous spirit.

Ilya has given me permission to post "Author's Prayer," the moving opening poem from his collection, Dancing in Odessa, winner of the Tupelo Press Dorset Prize. I first read this piece on the Born Magazine Web site, a fortuitous discovery itself. Born is an "experimental venue marrying literary arts and interactive media. Original projects are brought to life every three months through creative collaboration between writers and artists." If you'd like to experience Ilya Kaminsky's collaboration with artist John Bolster, click here: "Author's Prayer."

Meanwhile, here are his radiant words:

Author's Prayer

If I speak for the dead, I must leave
this animal of my body,

I must write the same poem over and over,
for an empty page is the white flag of their surrender.

If I speak for them, I must walk on the edge
of myself, I must live as a blind man

who runs through rooms without
touching the furniture.

Yes, I live. I can cross the streets asking "What year is it?"
I can dance in my sleep and laugh

in front of the mirror.
Even sleep is a prayer, Lord,

I will praise your madness, and
in a language not mine, speak

of music that wakes us, music
in which we move. For whatever I say

is a kind of petition, and the darkest
days must I praise.

-- Ilya Kaminsky

After discovering this Web site while wandering the Web -- leap to leap -- I was determined to find a way to collaborate on a project myself. This resulted in a wonderful adventure with artist/designer Rick Mullarky and experimental composer Kala Pierson. I'll do a separate post on this experience. (Coming to this blog SOON!) The sunset photo was taken over the weekend in Patterson, NY.

And speaking of Mother's Day weekend, do come to my Poetry and Wildflowers literary ramble at Ward Pound Ridge Reservation this Saturday afternoon. Merely scroll down or click here for details:
Poetry and Wildflowers

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Forsythia Glow

Winter-scarred but pollen-dusted, he marches into forsythia light. Petals caress his shoulders like quivering fingertips.

At least that's how I see it, thanks to my neighbor's lush front yard bushes. They were aglow on Thursday.

For a bit more forsythia gold, visit my flash fiction piece on Wigleaf:

"One-Handed Prayer"

And here's a final yellow note from Theodore Roethke, poet extraordinaire:

Deep in their roots,
All flowers keep the light.

-- Theodore Roethke

The Roethke quote is from page 319, The Harper Book of Quotations, edited by Robert I. Fitzhenry, HarperPerennial, 1993. The photo was taken 4/30/09, in my neighbor's yard.