River Fest Poetry, and a Reading, “For My Father”

Sunbury Pennsylvania

Sunbury Pennsylvania (Photo credit: jimmywayne)

So I mentioned in my last post that I would have the honor or reading with Melanie Simms and Marjorie Maddox at the Sunbury River Festival on the 18th. This is exciting for multiple reasons. First, it’s right across the river, and I’ve been cooking up some plans with fellow poet Ann Keeler Evens to bring a revival of poetry and the arts here to this eastern part of the rust belt. And what a great opportunity this is, the first ever poetry reading at one of these local celebrations. It’s a good start.

We were invited to read by the Mr. Mark Lawrence, of local radio station WKOK, who will be interviewing us on Tuesday morning, the first time all three of us will have had the chance to be in the same room together. On Thursday a local paper will be publishing a written interview, and very shortly Emmy Award Nominee Erica Funke will be airing our phone interview on WVIA, and it’s translators as part of her Art Scene program. What an exciting moment that was to hear her voice on the line in my own home. I have listened to her program so many times, but this time it was me she was interviewing. Very exciting.

Yes, I used to be a radio announcer. I have over 14 years experience in broadcasting, so why all the titillation? Well, I suppose because this time I was the one being asked the questions, and about my favorite work, my poetry. It’s a good feeling, like the beginning of the next stage in my life.

She asked if I had a poem handy I could read on the air, so I quickly grabbed one called “For My Father.” It was inspired by a program on the History Channel about the building of Hoover Dam. They started laying concrete in the same year my father was born, just a month before the big day, and it just seemed like a perfect metaphor for my dad. I presented this to him for his birthday this year. The version I read on the air for Erica, it turns out, was an early draft, but the video I am posting here on the blog for the first time is the final version that I will also be reading Saturday at the River Festival.

A couple of brief notes for reference:

1. The copper pipes refer to the network of pipes that ran cold water through the dam to facilitate rapid cooling and hardening of the concrete. Due to the massiveness of the the construction, it is said it might have taken over a 100 years for the concrete to cool on its own. I liked the metaphoric implications.

2. “Deep as the Meade,” refers to Lake Meade which was created by the damming up of the Colorado river. It is placid and peaceful and apparently over 400 feet deep in spots.

You can read more about the tunnels, the gas, the workers, etc. right here: http://www.coolest-traveling.com/2011/07/the-history-of-the-hoover-dam/

For my Father

He was born before spring in 1933,
the year they laid concrete on Hoover Dam.
I’ll never know how he grew, slab by slab,
the cold copper veins, the gradual hardening.

What could I conceive of such beginnings?
Dark tunnels full of blood-boiling heat and poison gas,
the tense diversion of nature’s power,
rushing youth, and usefulness built on sacrifice

and solid ground. By the time I had arrived
he was tall and solid, with a deep canyon voice
he kept in reserve, as behind stone, a wall
of power—sustaining, intimidating, and resolute.

Only now do I begin to know
the vast calm beauty, deep as the Meade,
that rests behind the man, or fathom
what it takes to tame a wild thing.

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35 thoughts on “River Fest Poetry, and a Reading, “For My Father”

    • Sometimes those old cliches come to mind. . . and you try to, as Marianne Moore says, “Make it new.” I’m glad it worked for you! I’ve never been there, but Dad has, so I was hoping it would speak to him.


  1. David,
    Wow this is like two posts in one. First, Congrats on your continued success on all the activity around poetry. It’s very inspiring! I hope that things will settle out for me a bit around here and that I can start in on some stuff here in NC.
    I really enjoyed your poem, video and reading. What a wonderful tribute to your dad. There are a lot of metaphors in there and even a tribute to your mom with video that highlights her. Really well done on all fronts!




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  3. Reblogged this on The Sand County and commented:
    I like everything about this post: the story, the feelings and, of course, the poem. Since I am working on a poem right now to give to my sister for her thirtieth birthday at the end of this month, this offers me much inspiration and a great model.


  4. Oh, this is magnificent, Dave. I’m SO impressed by the originality of the metaphor you create between dam construction and your father–and the “solid[ity]” and “power” that metaphor gives the poem.

    Are you, by any chance, one of the “wild thing[s]” pictured in the last photo of the video? : -)


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    • Thank you, Andrew. I really appreciate that. I consider that high praise because I admire your work. This page of the blog may disappear for a while soon while the poem looks for a place to be published.


    • I have considered some contests, yes. But looking at the lists of them in places like PW.org just makes my head spin. So if you have any suggestions, I’m up for it. :)

      I am compiling slowly some things really just for a first chapbook. Been writing for a long time, just not submitting anywhere for years. Right now I am scouting places to find homes for individual poems, attempting to build a bio.


    • Another resource is “Creative Writers Opportunities List.” CWOL is heavy on contests, but there are lots of calls for submissions.


      You can subscribe and receive a free email regularly. I find it very useful.

      I recommend sending sets of poems (3-5) to literary journals you admire. This is the season when a lot of journals have open reading periods.

      The classifieds on PW.org are very useful, too. Sometimes I’ll see a call for submissions on a theme that inspires me to check my list of unpublished poems or write new ones!


    • Your recommendation of sending 3 to 5 to journals I admire is what I am in the process of doing now. :) Thanks. I’m making progress; I’ve already received one rejection email! :) Thanks for the added suggestions. I will look into them this week.


    • There are so many, but I a few of my favorites are Boxcar Review, Apple Valley, Fourth River, West Branch (local from Bucknell University), Ploughshares, Blackbird. . . It would be a dream of mine to get into print in the Gettysburg Review. Thank you for the encouragement!


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