Pigs and Blackberries, Remembering Galway Kinnell

Galway Kinnnell, (c) Richard Brown, GalwayKinnell.com

Galway Kinnnell, © Richard Brown, GalwayKinnell.com

I don’t believe in fate, or any sort of mystical, supernatural predetermination of the universe. Sometimes great poets die just when you were becoming really familiar with their work. However, I do remember, back in October, being startled when in the week after we read “Blackberry Eating” at the Cross Keys Poetry Society, Galway Kinnell, the composer of that lovely piece of linguistic music passed away.

I had chosen “Blackberry Eating” to read at Cross Keys partly in response to our previous reading of “Blackberry Picking” by Irish poet, Seamus Heaney, who had passed on the year before.  Since I did recordings in memory of Heaney, I had decided to similarly experiment with recording a few pieces by Kinnell. It’s a fine, and humbling way to get to know a poet, by working your lips and tongue around the words he wrote, finding one’s own spoken interpretation of the work, while hoping to honor the writer as well.

I am sorry I have not shared them with you until now, though if you follow my SoundCloud stream you have already heard these. I will include my readings below, followed by links to the text of both “Blackberry Eating,” and “Saint Francis and the Sow.” The Saint Francis reading was not one I was happy with, at least not until about halfway through when the flow seemed to really smooth itself out. Considering the difficulty of translating the syntax of that piece into voice, even after listening to the poet’s own reading, I decided to let it be as I recorded it, and perhaps that mirrors somewhat the message of the poem, how beauty is found in things unexpected. In any case, the audio quality of that one is far better than the first, since it was recorded after the mic upgrade.

I will also include below a couple of readings by Kinnell, including one from the archives of the Scranton Public library (almost local for me) from 1979 in which he recites his famous poem, “The Bear,” though he seemed later in life to be less enthusiastic than his fans about that oft requested piece.

You can follow along the text on SoundCloud or on the Poetry Society of America.

Follow along on Poets.org while you listen.

Ray Bradbury and Skunk Bear on Pluto

Photo of Ray Bradbury.

Ray Bradbury. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now that I think of it, that could be a very misleading headline. As far as I know, skunks and bears, or combinations thereof have not been discovered on Pluto. And certainly Ray Bradbury has never been there himself.

But hey, there’s a lot of ice! Mountains, snow packs, and yeah, it looks to be a planet, so maybe they will redact that old dwarf planet status. In fact, it looks like it may be a double planet, since it seems to be rotating along with its moon Charon around a point in space, rather than the moon rotating around Pluto.

It looks pretty cool and the experts according to NPR and other sources seem to say that it’s more complex a place than they thought it would be, that cold distant, North-America-sized ball out there. New Horizons was launched in 2006, and what we are seeing now is just beautiful.

I am sitting down to do some writing and editing tonight, but since I don’t have a poem for the occasion, I thought I’d share “If Only We Had Been Taller,” by Ray Bradbury, via this production from NPR’s Skunk Bear.

Love Wins, We Win

The United States Supreme Court.

Every day we say, “It’s been a good day,” is a day someone was murdered somewhere in the world. Does this mean we should not celebrate the joys when they come?

In response, here is a bit from Jack Gilbert’s “A Brief for the Defense.” You can listen a somewhat muffled recording I made of the entire thing on SoundCloud last year.

The poor women
at the fountain are laughing together between
the suffering they have known and the awfulness
in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody
in the village is very sick. There is laughter
every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta,
and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay.
If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,
we lessen the importance of their deprivation.
We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world.

So the Supreme Court did some things right this week. That hasn’t always been their track record, and we have cause for celebration. Health care and the rights of all Americans to marry were supported. And while reading the #LoveWins hashtags on Twitter I came across this from Stephen Cramer, and I cannot express my joy any better than in the glory of these voices.

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Goodnight

My Old Man, looking a bit Dylan Thomas-like.

My Old Man, looking just a bit like Dylan Thomas.

I’ve been doing a little series of “best-of” posts relating to Fatherhood this week. And I’ll be posting a bit more of an original one this week. But I can’t let Fathers Day pass by without sharing this poem again.

I talked with my father tonight and our parting words were the same as they so often have been lately:

“I love you, Dad.”

“I love you too, Bud.”

Now, when I became Bud to him, I’m not certain. I noticed it a few years back. But if you knew our history, you might grasp how precious those words are to me.

I ran away from him when I was 16, moved back after I graduated high school. I won’t get into the details from so many years ago, but I felt misunderstood by him, scared of him. I didn’t realize that so many men from his generation suffered the same struggle, an inability to communicate with his son in ways that I felt I needed. When I did figure it out (He seemed much smarter to me after I turned 25), I was determined that he and I would have a good relationship whether he liked it or not.

Well, of course he liked it. We lost my mother to cancer on the Good Friday before Easter in my 18th year. I was determined not only to be the kind of father my children needed me to be, but to remember and honor him for what he tried to do, even if I misunderstood it, and he was unable to speak the words of encouragement and love I wanted to hear.

After I came out (so much turmoil and tumult I try to summarize with those few words), while he still had a hard time finding the words, especially in person, he must have gone out of his way to search the stands of the local pharmacies for the right birthday and Christmas cards to send me. The cards said things they had never said before, how proud he was of me, how much he loved me and how much joy I brought to his life. I still get choked up when I get a card from him, and I know it’s not his new lovely bride picking them out.

At my sister’s wedding, I brought my partner (at the time) with me. It was a bit weird, I admit, especially being there with my boyfriend, my three sons, my former wife, and my sister’s son and daughter. We were obviously an eclectic mix, and though there was still some strife (mostly quietly) in my extended family about the fact that I, the former ministry student and youth pastor was openly gay, and here at a family function, still it did not stop my father from showing me how much he loved me.

He was always better at showing than he was at telling. It was outdoors, by the river, 11426735_10206388428616739_2790340549363484798_oas I remember it. There was an area that I think was something of a dance floor, a reception spot maybe, after the vows were said and before the festivities began. It was a scene from a movie, or that’s how it plays in my memory. Slow motion, the crowd parts as my father walks towards us. People glance about nervously, though it’s likely that was just in my imagination.

Dad walks right past me and holds out his hand to Brian (the previous Brian, you may remember), and says, “I just wanted to welcome you to the family.” And one quiet man nodded to the other and it was done. Hugs, and on with the wedding celebration.

That to me said more than words could have said, especially coming from an old former Baptist missionary and Bible teacher like my old man. And I love him for it, and for every word of support and every smile and hug before or since.

Dad is 82 now and though he remains healthy and stubborn as ever, I worry. I’m glad that today was the last Fathers Day I will ever work (more news on that upcoming) at a job that keeps me away from family on days like that. Who knows how many more we’ll have?

Now this poem means a lot to me, knowing that Dylan Thomas wrote it for his father before his father died, and I start to get a sense of why. Keep plugging along, as strong and as ornery as you can, Raymond Bauman. I love you.

Yours, Bud

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieve it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

©1937 by Dylan Thomas

Father’s Day Pizza and Poems

David J. Bauman:

Pulling rank on Father’s Day Eve yet again, with this #TBS #ThrowBackSaturday.

Originally posted on The Dad Poet:

No, there are no commas in that title. It is not a list. Although it could be, now that I think of it. So let’s leave the ambiguity, and the possibility of multiple meaning on the table, shall we?

It was Father’s Day on Sunday here in the sunny Sometimes-United States of Americans. It was supposed to rain, but the Pizza Patio Gods were with us and we were able to sit out on the patio overlooking the beautiful West Branch of the Susquehanna, just upriver from Lock Haven University. The owner of the joint (the pizza shop, not the university), wants us to do a commercial for him because I said this: “On Father’s Day we come to Pizza City; On birthdays we come to Pizza City; On Tuesday. . . we come to Pizza City.” Now in my defense, Michelle Obama, they do have salads there, and we…

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The 400th Post, and a Poem I Wrote

David J. Bauman:

It is probably against some sort of blogger etiquette to reblog your own post, but honestly this is the Dad Poet here, and tomorrow is Dad’s Day here in the US. So I am claiming special dispensation for a series of best-of reposts.
Sue me. ;-)

Originally posted on The Dad Poet:

Three reasons why being a dad is my favorite thing ever. Three reasons why being a dad is my favorite thing ever.

Assonance, it’s good for the heart as well as the ear. And it’s hard to resist sometimes, even in the title to a post. And this post is number 400. Talk about good for the heart! It seems like I’ve been at this longer, and technically I have, but those early days of writing here were extremely sporadic, with only a handful of posts that first twelve months.

It was a difficult time to say the least, five years ago and single again after a decade of coupledom. I’d had to give up the house that I’d been helping to pay for. I missed my garden, my kitchen, my home. Hard to imagine until you do it how it is to walk away from the path that you thought was the one you would follow to old age. And this…

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Poems by Seth Jani

David J. Bauman:

Oh these three poems! What a delicious trio to find in my reader today. I’ve been reading a great deal of “Mindfulness Poetry” lately, and these from the Blue Hour are as good a place to start posting them as any. Favorite lines:

“We must substitute the perfection of the moment
For the lesser perfection of words,
Though they may be the most perfect thing
We have…”

Originally posted on The Blue Hour:

In The House Magisterial

The immense and stumbling wind
Passes through a field
Into a house where a portrait
Of Christ slides from the wall
Onto the azure floorboards.
Overhead, the loneliness of childhood
Wanders the second floor
And dances in the strange, abandoned darkness.
Love, which is as real and full of light
As an apricot on winter evenings,
Sees itself shining in a mirror
Overrun by dust.
Of what remains from the old, long-gone inhabitants
I find only withered, flaking furniture
And a dirty, jewel-encrusted star.

Old Honey

Full of longing and delicately stored
In the small earthenware jar of honey
The dragonfly has waited forty years
To steal from its chrysalis
And be spread.

Wild Pears

Describing the dawn
As precisely as equating equations
Is a task that language cannot do.
We must substitute the perfection of the moment
For the lesser perfection of words,
Though they…

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