CPS & Maxine Kumin: A Report.

from left to right: Sydney, Kim Rogers, Lea Banks, & Maxine. Photo taken by the inestimable Jacqueline Guimont.

Last year, when we had Galway Kinnell for a CPS reading, we had to turn people away at the door. This year for Maxine Kumin, we thought ahead, and instead of having the reading at Mocha Maya’s, they co-sponsored the event with us and we hosted it at the Shelburne-Buckland Community Center, which has seating for 125 people. We filled every seat, but didn’t turn away a single soul.

What a reading!  Sydney did his thing, but even he knew that Maxine was the Big Event everyone was waiting for, and didn’t read long.

Anyone who thinks Maxine Kumin is a boring nature poet has not been paying attention.  She may be small and fragile-looking, but her political poems have spines of steel.  There is nothing in this world more startling than hearing Maxine Kumin say the word “fuck”.  Twice.  And I happen to love her poems about her farm, and dogs, and horses.  “Jack”, in particular, is so very affecting, who could dismiss it as a mere “nature poem”?

It was an honestly grand evening.  Some folks traveled from pretty far afield to be there;  I think we all agree it was more than worth it.

Collected Poets Series, Extra Ed.

This Sunday, May 24th, at 7:30 p.m., the former Poet Laureate of the United States and Pulitzer Prizewinner Maxine Kumin, and award winning poet Sydney Lea will read from their work at the Shelburne-Buckland Community Center, 53 Main Street, Shelburne Falls, MA. This extraordinary event is sponsored by the Collected Poets Series and Mocha Maya’s.

Maxine Kumin‘s 16th poetry collection, Still To Mow, published by W. W. Norton in 2007, has just come out in paperback. Norton has also published Jack and Other New Poems and earlier collections, including Selected Poems 1960-1990. Kumin is the author of a memoir about a nearly fatal carriage-driving accident, Inside the Halo and Beyond: Anatomy of a Recovery, and Always Beginning: Essays on a Life in Poetry. Her awards include the Pulitzer and Ruth Lilly Poetry Prizes, the Poet’s Prize, the Aiken Taylor Award, the 2005 Harvard Arts Medal, the Robert Frost Medal in 2006, the 2008 Paterson Prize and the 2009 Paterson award for distinguished achievement. In 1981-2, Maxine Kumin served as Poet Laureate of the United States. She and her husband live on a horse farm in Warner, New Hampshire.

Sydney Lea is the author of eight collections of poetry, most recently Ghost Pain (Sarabande, 2005); his prior volume, Pursuit of a Wound (U. of Illinois, 2000) was a Pulitzer finalist, and the one before that, To the Bone, shared the 1998 Poets’ Prize. Recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim, Rockefeller and Fulbright Foundations, he has also published two books of naturalist nonfiction and a novel. Sydney Lea was founder and editor of New England Review. He has taught at Yale, Wesleyan, Middlebury, Dartmouth, and at several European institutions. His work across four genres has appeared in sixty anthologies, and his periodical credits include the major national quarterlies, the New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, The New Republic, the New York Times, Sports Illustrated and many others. Lea has been involved in several large conservation projects, including a 360,000 acre project in Maine and an effort to restore freshwater fish habitat in Vermont. He is also longtime vice-president of Central Vermont Adult Basic Education, a forty-year-old literacy and essential skills endeavor. He lives in northern Vermont with his wife, lawyer and mediator Robin Barone. They have five grown children. He currently teaches at Dartmouth.

The Lure of Poetry Journals.

https://i1.wp.com/www.ecu.edu/english/tcr/25-4/TRPcover.JPGFinancial necessity has taken a ginormous bite out of my book budget, but one of the best ways to keep up, and still support the poetry community, is through subscriptions.  They’re inexpensive, and give me yet another reason to love my mail carrier.  For less than your monthly phone bill you can subscribe to at least 4 literary journals.  My subscriptions consist of all poetry journals, because, and I apologize to my fiction-writing friends — I will buy any issue you appear in, I promise! — I don’t read much short fiction, however optimistically I begin.  And I hate waste.  Hence my meager funds are devoted to my heart’s insatiable desire for poems:

To that list I will periodically add more journals, including American Poetry Journal, which just accepted 2 poems, hooray!  Any recommendations?

Pain~I do not think it means what you think it means.

https://i1.wp.com/school.discoveryeducation.com/clipart/images/scalpel.gifI was idly flipping through the latest issue of Parents when I came upon this:

For decades, doctors believed that babies didn’t feel pain, based on flawed studies showing that sleeping infants didn’t respond to light pinpricks. In fact, until the 1980s, many newborns who had heart surgery received no pain medication — they were only given paralytic drugs that forced them to lie completely still, though fully aware, as their chests were opened.

To which I say, WHAT??! Why is it that we need studies to tell us what should be perfectly, staggeringly obvious? As late as the 1980s!! We’re not talking the dark ages here. An appalling reminder that you can’t take anything for granted — it would never have even occurred to me that my baby wouldn’t receive anesthesia for surgery. He would now, but just 20 years ago…!

I was expecting innocuous articles on sharing and finger foods, and instead I’ll be forever haunted by the image of a baby strapped to an operating table, paralyzed, eyes open in horror, as his chest is cracked open.

But I can’t end a post with that, it’s just too awful, so here’s a poem from Lisa Russ Spaar’s collection, Satin Cash, that captures something of how I’m feeling right now:

You, with Gold Leaf

I grow impatient with spirit as alibi
despite each night, ecclesiastical,

more and more sky, the costal trees
in fierce defrayal,

fretting with kohl branches
the edges of the parking lot.

I stand by my car,
night a translucent, colostrum blue

of goodbye, & cocklebur Venus
reveals to me the truth

of your body as light source,
burning by mercy inside me still.

Further adventures with eczema.

I took Aidan, now nearly 4 1/2 months old, to the dermatologist today, and he was duly impressed by the baby’s poor scaly state. It’s really awful. He’s not sleeping more than 2 hours together, he’s so uncomfortable. And he looks dreadful. Except for those brightly serious blue eyes of his — when you look in those eyes you cease to notice all the scabby patches in which they’re set.

We now have a game plan, a course of action, and the tools with which to proceed. Which includes a shower cap. I’ll try to post a picture soon, because you haven’t lived until you’ve seen a baby lounging in a shower cap.

He already looks better tonight. But I hold out not an iota of hope for a good night’s sleep.

Last night’s reading was fantastic. Standing room only. Kerry, a former blues singer, read with a formidable confidence, and even treated us to a snatch of song. Joseph interspersed serious and affecting poems with hilarious entertainers like “Throne”, about sharing a bathroom with a woman.

Then Genie took the microphone and shifted the tone again — my favorite poem of hers dealt with her fall from a window as a youngster — she was saved by the belt of her robe! And finally, Dorianne. When she read the title poem from her collection, Facts about the Moon, the room was riveted.

And we sold every copy of that book, too. In fact, we sold a lot of books last night for the poets (poets bring the books, we handle the sales) — which makes me very happy. We don’t have the funds to pay our readers yet, so it’s nice to be able to make them money in that capacity at least.

The following poem is from Kerry’s chapbook, From a Burning Building, published by March Street Press — dealing with motherhood, a disastrous marriage, it’s one little firebomb of a book!

To One Six Month Old,
Then Another

You are now expected to know what I mean,
and do not need to answer in plain English.
Understand, it’s time for you to speak. Our bodies
barely disentangled, we will throw our hearts
into call and answer. Not thinking of a future
where your love of me becomes a skin
you will shed and grow again one thousand times.
I will follow you, hunting wildly for traces.
I will lead, leaving my own markings for when
you cry out, as you will, and singing softly,
I come back to carry you along.