It could be verse: Burt Porter

It could be verse: Life after smackdown

I marvel at how the reed canary grass—taller than a man on a tractor—has been flattened in the field behind the house by something as simple as snow. Last summer the nibblesome sheep couldn’t east it fast enough, and the John Deere, then the borrowed Kubota couldn’t hinder it; it bristled through late autumn storms. But winter, the ultimate smackdown, took it back to the mat, or mud rather. Glover poet Burt Porter reports on what’s left, the look of the landscape after winter’s recession in his poem, ‘April First,’ from his book A Spiral Wind. In this two- stanza poem (“stanza” is the Italian word for “room”), Mr. Porter describes his finding in rhyming lines of iambic. “Iamb” is the Latin word for “foot,” and if you read this poem aloud, you’ll find the rhythm of its syllables nearly matches your own heel-toe, heel-toe (soft-hard) footsteps. Imagine Mr. Porter, who also plays the fiddle, whittling a tune to these lyrics of leaving the room of “the dank bleared ground” and promenading into a field of dandelions “like twenty thousand suns”!

April First                    by Burt Porter

Now as we watch the snow retreat

We estimate how many feet

Of brown and flattened April field

By melting snow has been revealed.

Dank, bleared ground, long in the dark

Beneath the drifts still bears the mark

Of tons of deep packed trodden snow—

So on this land the marks still show

Of massive glaciers, long ago.

 

Soon on this field the dandelions

Will glow like twenty thousand suns

And in a world of green and gold

We will forget the winter’s cold,

As in this world of gold and green

With blossoms like a May-day queen

We frolic in the time between

The last and next Pleistocene.

 

*column first appeared in the Barton Chronicle on April 15, 2009 and is reprinted with permission.

Julia Shipley is one of three newspaper columnists in the United States writing about poetry. Her column, It could be verse has appeared monthly in the Barton Chronicle for five years, showcasing the poetry of more than 50 Vermont writers. In May she will present, ”The News from Poems,” a talk on Contemporary Vermont Poetry as part of the Osher Life Long Learning Institute lecture series in Newport, Vt. Her own poems have appeared in Hunger Mountain, Gihon River Review,  Bloodroot, Rivendell and elsewhere. Her chapbook Herd was published by Sheltering Pines Press. For more information please go to: www.writingonthefarm.com

 

Note: Burt Porter will be featured in Vermont Humanities Council‘s event Making Poetry Memorable Through Music, hosted by The Kellogg-Hubbard Libary, Montpelier Alive, and Vermont History Museum on Tuesday, April 12th at 2 p.m. at the Vermont History Museum on State Street, Montpelier.

This program is a part of POETRY Alive! 2011, a joint presentation of The Kellogg-Hubbard Library and Montpelier Alive that is supported in part by the Vermont Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

It could be verse: Phyllis Larrabee

It could be verse: Yes, you too can go home and write them

Once, a woman in the audience at a poetry reading stood up and said to the poet William Stafford, “Why, these poems are so simple anybody could have written them!” To which Mr. Stafford gently replied, “Yes, but these are my poems, and so when you go home, you can write your own poems.” I love this anecdote because it dismantles the idea that poetry is only written by “Poets,” who are different than other people. As Stafford explains: yes, you too can go home and write them.

Phyllis Larrabee who lives in Woodbury has been writing down beautiful observations, descriptions and reflections since she moved to Vermont over 30 years ago. In her book, Shoveler on the Roof, the poem “Dusk Ride” is composed of details noticed on a summer evening, driving home from the store: the cattle, the grass, and the pink clouds distinguish this evening from all other evenings. Notice how she put her words down in a neat column—like an accounting column—this is how her senses were spent.

Dusk Ride        by Phyllis Larrabee

Black cattle munch

on lush grass

green

 

where the skies give up

their light

 

polishing the hills copper

before pink clouds

before night.

 

And I notice

driving to the store

for fish, cucumbers

and bread

 

then returning home

along the quiet road

groceries tucked in

the cooler, in the car

 

I notice

a pear sliver of moon

appear like a ghost to the

tune of the radio’s “Blue Moon,”

 

Now I’m no longer alone.

*column first appeared in The Barton Chronicle on April 18, 2007

Julia Shipley is one of three newspaper columnists in the United States. Her column, It could be verse has appeared monthly in the Barton Chronicle for five years, showcasing the poetry of more than 50 Vermont writers. In May she will present, “The News from Poems,” a talk on Contemporary Vermont Poetry as part of the Osher Life Long Learning Institute lecture series in Newport, Vt. Her own poems have appeared in Hunger Mountain, Gihon River Review,  Bloodroot, Rivendell and elsewhere. Her chapbook Herd was published by Sheltering Pines Press. For more information please go to: www.writingonthefarm.com