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

 

Dead Poets Night at Savoy

The Savoy Theater is closed this week for Spring Break, and so we’ve got the night of Wednesday, April 6th for ourselves. We’ll have a screening of this 1989 movie, followed with our own night of poetic recitation.  Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Cash snack and wine bar is available. Hopefully afterwards a few of us could jaunt over to Langdon Street Cafe, and catch the last bit of their poetry open mic.

I recently rewatched the movie in anticipation of this event, and found myself more moved by it than when I originally viewed it as a teenager so many years ago. Back then, I was a freshman in high school, the same age as Ethan Hawke’s character in the film. And while I spent much of my time not trying to stand out, I didn’t connect with the prep school atmosphere and politics. Besides, how could Robin Williams be anything other than Popeye, or Mork from Ork? It was a stretch that took the whole movie to get over.

Watching it again brought back a nostalgia for my cadre of fellow writers that I had no idea would exist when I was a 15-year-old. I hadn’t met them yet, nor had I bared my soul in our Tuesday afternoon writing group meetings, nor had I discovered that I COULD write, that it was allowed. That I actually wanted so very badly to do this.

We wrote essays about our lives, short stories about imaginary revolutionaries and their lovers, poems about dreams and disappointments. We kept journals, read and discussed books. We were given permission to write whatever we needed to. There was one published author amongst us: Erica, who had published a story in Merlin’s Pen when we were twelve and in the sixth grade.  The rest of us tried very hard and managed to get published in The Dial, our high school literary journal. A few of us sat on the editorial board.

Those four years of rigorous writing established a practice that I keep to this day–(almost) daily writings, writing without fear, but with determination and humor. At 15, I could not fathom that at 34, I would have a wide network of writers (poets especially), that I would be actively publishing and loving it. I have deep gratitude for the teachers that have nurtured and steered my talents. Thanks to Ms. Lewis, who when asked, agreed to be our advisor without batting an eyelash (though she did sometimes ask for more wholesome material from us, we loved her). Thanks also to Ms. Olson, who gave us a great framework for critique, when it came to reading the work of our peers.

This movie is a tribute to teachers. I know now that they all want us to be the best we can be. To be our true selves. But they are also handicapped as we all are by not knowing how our lives will play out. They inspire and hope for the best.

The second part of the evening is meant to remember that poetry is an “aural art”, as Baron Wormser put it the other night. The tradition of poetry was passed from person to person, memorized and recited. They were incantations, psalms, songs and prayers and riddles that one could call upon whenever needed. Everyone is encouraged to come prepared with some memorized material. But not to fear! We will have some books available and participants my read from printed text. That what the boys in the movie did, besides. There are no rules, except to stand up and be a part of the ongoing tradition of poetic recitation.

The Savoy CineClub is on the downstairs level and not wheelchair accessible. This program is part of POETRY Alive! 2011, a joint presentation of the Kellogg-Hubbard Library and Montpelier Alive and is supported in part by the Vermont Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities.