Poetry Month Then and Now

English: Signature of Shel Silverstein.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last night Rebecca, George, Magda and a small group of library patrons celebrated National Poetry Month by gathering in the reading room at the Osterhout Free Library for Wilkes-Barre’s first Third Friday Art Walk of the season.  Patrons stopped in, some to watch and listen between checking out the historic photographs and paintings on the wall, and some to spend a little time reading with us. The majority of the poems were from books of children’s poetry. We had everything from A. A. Milne and Shel Silverstein to Robert Lois Stevenson and Sherman Alexi.

Next month we’ll be celebrating the release of the new Word Fountain literary magazine, which has been on hiatus for the last two years. Recently some other new library employees agreed to join me in editing a relaunch. The submission deadline was April 1st, and we had no idea how many submissions we would get. Thanks to Duotrope adding us to their database, and promotion through the library and sites like NEPA Scene and Poets of NEPA, we were overwhelmed by the response! So if you submitted and haven’t heard from us yet, we’re down to making the difficult, last-minute decisions, so you’ll hear from us soon.

line art drawing of catbird.

The Catbird (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Before going back to finish up Word Fountain though, I’ll be taking this week off to spend time with one of my best friends in the world, as fellow poet and member of the original triumvirate who led the old GayFatherhood.com website, Vincent Creelan comes to visit from Northern Ireland. We’ll be trekking through the woods, looking for birds and geologic rock formations, drinking wine and reading poems together. So, I know I’ll return back to you refreshed for next week.

And while gathering things like binoculars and field guides today, as I do a bit of house-cleaning in preparation for Vince’s arrival, I thought of a poem about birds that I wish I had shared with the group at the library last night. By this point in my life I could probably recite this poem by memory, but here is a video of me reading the poem in King Street Park, Northumberland as my family was celebrating National Poetry Month about this time four years ago. We don’t always gather in local parks with sidewalk chalk, poetry books and a guitar, but when we do, we certainly get the neighborhood’s attention. Then again, they probably just think, ‘Oh, it’s that weird Bauman family again. They’re always doing stuff like that. Bunch of hippies.’

The Kitty-Cat Bird

The Kitty-Cat Bird, he sat on a Fence.
Said the Wren, your Song isn’t worth 10 cents.
You’re a Fake, you’re a Fraud, you’re a Hor-rid Pretense!
–Said the Wren to the Kitty-Cat Bird.

You’ve too many Tunes, and none of them Good:
I wish you would act like a bird really should,
Or stay by yourself down deep in the wood,
–Said the Wren to the Kitty-Kat Bird.

You Mew like a Cat, you grate like a Jay:
You squeak like a Mouse that’s lost in the Hay,
I wouldn’t be You for even a day,
–Said the Wren to the Kitty-Cat Bird.

The Kitty-Cat Bird, he moped and he cried.
Then a real cat came with a Mouth so Wide,
That the Kitty-Cat Bird just hopped inside;
–Did the Kitty –the Kitty-Cat Bird.

You’d better not laugh; and don’t say “Pooh!”
Until you have thought this Sad Tale through;
Be sure that whatever you are is you
–Or you’ll end like the Kitty-Cat Bird.

Theodore Roethke

Keeping the Sabbath with Emily Dickinson, 236

Dolichonyx oryzivorus

Emily Dickinson’s “Chorister,” the Bobolink (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Good Sunday to you. And if I haven’t said it already, happy National Poetry Month from the Northeast of these United (sort of) States.

At last the April snows appear to be over here. It’s sunny, but with that brisk chill that somehow returns me to childhood, not for any particular memory or event, but the emotion associated with tactile memory. The taste on the breeze, of cool moisture on a spring morning, the warmth of sun contrasting with cold air on my skin.

I sat on my back steps in my bathrobe, waiting for my coffee to be ready. Through my pantry window I had seen Mamma Robin again, and it made me think of a new poem by my friend Joel. So I had to go out and see her in person, her rufus breast puffed out, the feathers on her head peaking up just a bit; she was not going to be intimidated by my presence, and soon seemed to accept my company as another fact of the morning. This was the first time this year I had noticed actual dew drops sparkling in the grass, dew drops, not frost.

A american robin bird

American Robin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It always comes back around, doesn’t it? If you wait out the winter, keep going, sometimes pushing through snow, hibernating when you can. It always comes back around. There were other birds in nearby yards, the House Sparrow landing on the eves of the house next door, the coo of a Mourning Dove, but sadly no Bobolink. Ah, Miss Emily. We do what we can with what we have. I nodded good morning to Mamma Robin and returned inside for my coffee.

I found this video this morning, and the date for its creation is the last day of February of this year. From the stark beauty of the bare trees, and the patches of remaining snow in the shade, as well as those winding roads, it feels like home in the hills of Central Pennsylvania. I even remember being a crazy youngster, walking in my bare feet in the cold woods like this.

The memory of what YouTube used to be to some of us. Yeah, that’s probably part of the nostalgia I feel in watching this simple video. Back when it was a group of creative upstarts with microphones and cheap cameras, back before it became corporate-tube. Yeah, some of you might remember. It’s lovely to find something like this is still being done.

I was once a believer in deity, but I have come to be a believer in people instead. I think it makes more sense, and is certainly no more dangerous. But I confess, I’ve always loved this poem by Emily Dickinson, number 236 as it is cataloged. Though she did not entitle her pieces, we generally find them easier to sort through by their first lines. If a touch of glossary helps: *Sexton  *Surplice.

Some keep the Sabbath going to Church – (236)

By Emily Dickinson

Some keep the Sabbath going to Church –
I keep it, staying at Home –
With a Bobolink for a Chorister –
And an Orchard, for a Dome –

Some keep the Sabbath in Surplice –
I, just wear my Wings –
And instead of tolling the Bell, for Church,
Our little Sexton – sings.

God preaches, a noted Clergyman –
And the sermon is never long,
So instead of getting to Heaven, at last –
I’m going, all along.

From The Poems of Emily Dickinson, Edited by R.W. Franklin (Harvard University press, 1999)

Saturday Songs, and Poems in the Park

You and your crazyIt’s rare that I actually take a Saturday off, and so waking up slowly, coffee in hand I found myself reviewing some old videos, wondering why I’ve let some of them survive, when the recording quality was so bad. But sometimes it’s just the beauty of a live moment captured, not posed for, that really moves me.

Recently at the Cross Keys Poetry’s Art in the Garden (which ended up inside the library due to Thunderstorms), the theme was related to cats, and so for my contribution to the evening I recited Theodore Roethke’s “The Kitty Cat Bird,” a poem I did not yet know by heart back in 2012 when this poem was recorded.

This morning I stumbled across this video from three years ago. We might have been a bit flat, but this was my crazy family with chalk and guitar celebrating a Saturday of National Poetry month in the local park on King Street, across from the library, before I worked there. In many ways it was not unlike a normal day on the porch or anywhere with our crew. We  weren’t planned or poised; we were just enjoying ourselves on a sunny day in April. So here we are, without makeup and off key, but happy.

The poem in chalk was a bit from Dr. Seuss, “Oh the Places You’ll Go.”

Rufus Wainwright Sings Sonnet 20, Happy Birthday to the Bard

Rufus Wainwright en un concierto en Madrid en ...

Rufus Wainwright , Madrid ,2010. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Not only is it St. George’s Day today, and the night before Poem-in-your Pocket Day, but it is also the birthday of William Shakespeare. Well, it may not be the exact day, but it’s pretty close since he was apparently baptized on the 2 6th of April. Willy would be 450 years old today, but you probably already know that since the internet and airwaves have been full of Shakespeare quotes all day.

So in honor of the Bard we bring you a sonnet, only fourteen lines so it’s the perfect size to take with you on PIYP Day tomorrow. This one was sent to me by a good friend today and I thought it might be a unique way for us to celebrate here on the blog. I’m not sure if I’ve had any of Rufus’s music on the Dad Poet before, but I definitely should in the future.

You’ll find the text below this video of Rufus Wainwright who put the sonnet to music. According to my friend Jody he did about 10 of these for an opera company in Germany but only recorded a small handful of them. She was lucky enough to hear him play all of them at Carnegie Hall two years back, just Rufus, the piano and William Shakespeare set to music. Would love to have been there myself.

Happy St. George Day; Happy William Shakespeare Day and Poem-in-your-pocket Eve!

SONNET 20

A woman’s face with Nature’s own hand painted
Hast thou, the master-mistress of my passion;
A woman’s gentle heart, but not acquainted
With shifting change, as is false women’s fashion;
An eye more bright than theirs, less false in rolling,
Gilding the object whereupon it gazeth;
A man in hue, all hues in his controlling,
Much steals men’s eyes and women’s souls amazeth.
And for a woman wert thou first created;
Till Nature, as she wrought thee, fell a-doting,
And by addition me of thee defeated,
By adding one thing to my purpose nothing.
But since she prick’d thee out for women’s pleasure,
Mine be thy love and thy love’s use their treasure.

–William Shakespeare

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Flashback Friday, Matthew MacFadyen Does Poems

matthew_macfadyen

Matthew Macfadyen (Photo credit: mundo Floser)

I know, the recent trend is Throwback Thursday, but as a poet, I just cannot do it. Too many other meanings to “throwback.” When I was a kid dad took us fishing, and the fish that were too small got thrown back. I cannot help associate throwbacks with things that are not worth keeping, things that must be tossed away as insufficient. Sorry, that’s how my mind works, despite the latest lingo.

I prefer to Flashback, old-fashioned as that sounds in the oh-so-hip world of the interwebs. Be happy that I don’t Flashdance. That would be a disaster, though it would probably be a viral sensation: Poet/Blogger Flashdances to Yeats! Now, that’s an idea. . .

Anyway, yesterday it was a delightful discovery to me to find a video of Samuel West performing a Tom Vaughan poem called “Proposal.” Click back and check it out. It’s only a minute and it’s a treat. Hopefully I’ll be able to find them on CD somewhere. If anyone sees the source on Amazon or Ebay or such, please let me know in the comments.

Mr. West got me thinking of these little clips I shared a couple of years back of Matthew MacFadyen dramatizing poems. And let’s face it, Matthew MacFadyen is not a Throwback. He’s what we call in technical fishing terminology a Keeper. There are more to this series, but the only ones I can find on YouTube are the following three, a heartbreakingly beautiful reading of Yeats, an uplifting interpretation of a Shakespeare sonnet, and a fun portrayal of a William Carlos Williams piece.

Enjoy!

 

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