The bells are ringing…

The image “https://i1.wp.com/lisaburks.typepad.com/photos/uncategorized/2008/02/02/gene_kelly_dancing.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.I love Gene Kelly. I have absolutely everything he’s ever done on VHS, even the really obscure stuff, some where he doesn’t dance, is only the host/narrator, like the video of a production of “Swan Lake”. Did you know he was in an animated musical version of “Jack and the Beanstalk”? Not great, but if it’s got Gene Kelly in it, it can’t be all bad. I miss movie musicals. “Happy Feet” made me very happy.

This has nothing to do with anything — the poem below reminded me of this song (“For Me & My Gal”), so it’s been in my head ever since.

Musicals make me happy. And, in a graceless segue that is perfectly indicative of my 3 years of tap dance lessons in my 20’s, writing makes me happy — and I’ve actually been able to write this week — I’m 18 lines in to a new poem!

I’ve never been especially prolific, so when I do write, usually I’ve been mulling lines and images in my head for some time, so my rough drafts are not all that rough and don’t require heavy revision. So far that seems to be the case with the new one. Which is ideal. I have plenty of time to think, even if sleep-deprivation makes my thinking muddy, but not so much time to write.

So, even though it’s cold & snizzly out, it’s a good day.

Having an infant in the house means we’re running on Baby Standard Time. Sure, patterns, perhaps semblances of a schedule, emerge, but it’s all provisional, subject to change at any moment. That’s why only now am I posting a Valentine’s poem. That’s my excuse, anyway. From Stefanie Marlis’ collection, rife (Sarabande, 1998):

Bells

What if we saw our hearts as if for the first time–
one sitting like a Buddha,
another, shuffling like a man without a home.
Compassion means the heart’s desire, bright or bitter, counts twice–
like a king in checkers. Like a lover’s words
when he touches certain scars;
all these years later the wound’s doubly fierce, doubly
healed, and the morning is a rosy glove
pulled onto your whole body.
You hear the bells from the seminary,
and for as long as they ring, your heart is without a wish.

–Stefanie Marlis

Ode to Rejection.

Thanks everyone for all your good wishes. Any prize in any year is a tremendous event to me, but this prize, this year, well, let’s just say the timing is impeccable.

***

I admire this poem to no end. Haven’t we all lived this, in some fashion? And doesn’t it just capture how absurd the process can be? I found it in Jack Myers’ The Portable Poetry Workshop; the poem is by Philip Dacey, from How I Escaped from the Labyrinth and Other Poems (Carnegie Mellon, 1977):

(There are some indented lines that WordPress refuses to accommodate — sorry!)

Form Rejection Letter


We are sorry we cannot use the enclosed.
We are returning it to you.
We do not mean to imply anything by this.
We would prefer not to be pinned down about this matter.
But we are not keeping — cannot, will not keep —
what you have sent us.
We did receive it, though, and our returning it to you
is a sign of that.
It was not that we minded your sending it to us
unasked.
That is happening all the time, they
come when we least expect them,
when we forget we have needed or might yet need them,
and we send them back
It is not that we minded.
At another time, there is no telling,
But this time, it does not suit our present needs.

We wish to make it clear it was not easy receiving it.
It came so encumbered.
And we are busy here.
We did not feel
we could take it on.
We know it would not have ended there.
It would have led to this, and that.
We know about these things.
It is why we are here.
We wait for it. We recognize it when it comes.
Regretfully, this form letter does not allow us to
elaborate why we send it back.
It is not that we minded.

We hope this does not discourage you. But we would
not want to encourage you falsely.
It requires delicate handling, at this end.
If we had offered it to you,
perhaps you would understand.
But, of course, we did not.
You cannot know what your offering it meant to us.
And we cannot tell you:
There is a form we must adhere to.
It is better for everyone that we use this form.

As to what you do in the future,
we hope we have given you signs,
that you have read them,
that you have not misread them.
We wish we could be more helpful.
But we are busy.
We are busy returning so much.
We cannot keep it.
It all comes so encumbered.
And there is no one here to help.
Our enterprise is a small one.
We are thinking of expanding.
We hope you will send something.

— Philip Dacey

Good days are very, very good.

The happy counterpoint of a few posts back... sweet Aidan.
The happy counterpoint to a few posts back... sweet Aidan.

And a sweet week it is! Not only are my mum and sister visiting, and not only did I bake a splendiferous second cake today, but great poetry news abounds:

  • I’m one of the lucky recipients of a 2008 Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Prize! This is a wonderfully generous fund, and I’m in great company — other winners this year include Rhett Iseman Trull (editor of Cave Wall, see below), Brian Brodeur, Ann Hudson, and Alison Pelegrin.
  • Existere has accepted a poem for their spring issue, hooray!
  • You can now get your subscriptions to Cave Wall through their website! I mention this now because not only is it a great journal, but I have 2 poems in the Winter/Spring 2009 issue, coming soon.

“Sleep” is still on my list of Unfulfilled Dreams, but you won’t hear me complaining…

Chocolate Cake, Take 2
Chocolate Cake, Take 2

Milestones.

Happy Birthday to me -- I'm 3, I'm 3!
Happy Birthday to me -- I'm 3, I'm 3!

Vincent turned three on Saturday, so I baked him a cake.  From scratch.  You’ll note I have not posted a picture of said cake.  Oh, it tasted quite wonderful, actually, chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, and Vincent adored it.  Which was a big relief, because it looked like crap.  I wish I was joking.

Because I find it mildly embarrassing how truly awful that cake looked, and because such things feel like a challenge from the universe (“En garde!”), I have resolved to bake another cake today.  My sister, whose birthday was also this weekend, is arriving with my mum for a visit some time this morning, so another birthday cake seems in order.

This has nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that the first cake is completely gone.

Can you dig it?
Can you dig it?

Collected Poets Series, Feb. Edition.

The next installment of the Collected Poets Series is this Thursday, at 7:30 pm.  This month we’re so pleased to present Diane Lockward and Mary Clare Powell.

Diane Lockward

Diane Lockward is the author of What Feeds Us (Wind Publications, 2006), which was awarded the Quentin R. Howard Poetry Prize. She is also the author of Eve’s Red Dress (Wind Publications, 2003), and a chapbook, Against Perfection (Poets Forum Press, 1998). Her poems have been published in several anthologies, including Poetry Daily: 366 Poems from the World’s Most Popular Poetry Website and Garrison Keillor’s Good Poems for Hard Times. Her poems have appeared in such journals as the Harvard Review, Spoon River Poetry Review, and Prairie Schooner. Her work has been nominated for several Pushcart Prizes, featured on Poetry Daily and Verse Daily, and read by Garrison Keillor on NPR’s The Writer’s Almanac. She is the recipient of a 2003 Poetry Fellowship from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. A former high school English teacher, Diane now works as a poet-in-the-schools.

Mary Clare Powell

Dr. Mary Clare Powell is a professor at

Lesley University, formerly Director of the Creative Arts in Learning Division, now adjunct professor who teaches poetry to teachers across the country. She has published several books, including This Way Daybreak Comes: Women’s Values and the Future, The Widow, Arts, Education and Social Change (editor). She is also author of several books of poetry, including Things Owls Ate, Academic Scat, and In the Living Room. She lives in Greenfield, MA where she works on the Franklin County Arts and Culture Partnership, and is on the Board of the Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter School in South Hadley. She writes articles on integrated arts in education, and poetry.

You can read poems by our featured poets or get more information about the Collected Poets Series at our website.



For the Squirrels:

A Fable, by Karin Gottshall

There was a girl who set out with a tiger
on a long journey. She’d never before left her home

but he came to her with his startled eyes
and she left the dishes drying on the wooden rack,

the linens folded in the closet, left her flowered
dresses and the complicated song of fear

to travel with him among rocks, in meadows of wild iris.
They walked through the deep pastures and slept

in the wind, on soft grasses. They walked
and walked, and in the end that’s all they had —

they weren’t magical beings, they couldn’t know
each others’ hearts. Through the loops and arteries

of their clean bodies slid their secret sorrows,
and in no place in this world could they lay them down —

they loved the sight too much: the snow
and clear streams, the leaping birds.