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Posts Tagged ‘December (Christmas Box)’

Writers Hands VI, Josephine Dickinson, Fitzgerald Theater, St. Paul, Minnesota, April 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Writers Hands VI, Josephine Dickinson, Fitzgerald Theater, St. Paul, Minnesota, April 2007, all photos © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



Josephine Dickinson read her poetry at the Fitzgerald Theater last April, sharing the stage with her mentor, Galway Kinnell. She met Galway at a poetry reading at Morden Tower in Northumberland. She was drawn to his smile. They exchanged poems.

The first thing I saw was this lighted person. And then the smile. It’s an extraordinary smile; I don’t know of a smile that goes any wider. I think it’s related to the light. The smile and this light were combined.

Kinnell was so taken with her work, he introduced her to his editor at Houghton Mifflin. And that’s how they came to be on stage together in St. Paul, Minnesota in early Spring 2007.

After the reading, I bought Galway’s 11th book, Strong Is Your Hold. My friend Teri, a local writer and regular red Ravine reader, bought Silence Fell, Josephine’s 3rd. We stood in line and waited for the writers to sign their books.

When I wrote Ode to Galway Kinnell (We Are Not The Poem), Teri commented (Comment 6) that it was Josephine who inspired her most; she emailed two poems to me that night:


I remember more about Josephine (from that night) than Galway. How she was deaf, but became a music teacher. How she married that man that was so much older…wasn’t he about 90? How she wore the gloves and hat. How when we went up to have our books signed, she looked at us with deep gratitude. How her pace was so solid and grounded. That she was a sheep farmer. How her poetry made us all hold our breath.

Writers Hands VII - Trio, Fitzgerald Theater, St. Paul, Minnesota, April 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

The 45 poems in Silence Fell are set on Scarberry Hill, a sheep farm near Alston in northern England. When she moved there over 12 years ago, the Oxford educated poet, deaf from meningitis and childhood illnesses contracted at age 6, was in her 40’s. She fell in love with Douglas Dickinson, a local farmer with grown grandchildren, widowed and in his 80’s.

Josephine considered Douglas her muse. He still is. He died in 2004 at aged 92; she wrote Silence Fell. The book is divided into calendar months, starting with March, the beginning of a shepherd’s year. She still calls Scarberry Hill home and regularly visits the pool on the South Tyne which received Douglas Dickinson’s ashes.



December (Christmas Box)


We go feed the lambs. The wether
we were fattening for slaughter
is not there. I go look for him.
He lies apart. I stroke his head.
He stumbles to his feet. I drive
him to where the other lambs stand
and eat. He won’t look at the food,
stood with his back to them. He has
a look of profound disgust in
his eyes. We bathe the ewe’s feet. I
splash my eye. It stings. Snow swims in
shoals. We bury the lamb, go home.
We baptize him with a trickle
of water I coaxed from the stream
in a bucket. Stretched out and cold.
On the Horse Pasture, eyes open.
In the top far corner, on a
marshy piece of ground. Between the
stream and a marshy piece of ground.
With a crock of gold at each ear.
A rainbow hat to make a crock
of gold at each ear. A magic
dress for shepherding in the snow.
Gloves, striped green and blue. A velvet
and gold satin scarf. A magic
box of swords, a survival tool.
He lies apart. I stroke his head.


-from Silence Fell, poems by Josephine Dickinson, Houghton Mifflin Company, 2007



Where Were You When I Came In from the Evening Milking?


Where were you when I came in from the evening
milking?
Your chair sat empty by the fire, its cushion hollow,
And each room in the house was empty also.
Where were you?

You were not in any of the house’s rooms.
I looked carefully in each one.
And the window view each looked out upon was empty.
Where were you?

The mossy garden path stepped empty round
the corners of the house.
Thyme, ramsons, rosemary leapt in the breeze.
Where were you?

I thought I glimpsed you once in your cap, slowly
shuffling on,
face down, intent on the cobbles.
You did not see me — the light shone through and you
were gone.
Where were you?

I stood outside the house and looked in where a star
shone
from the west straight into the mirror.
I thought for a second you were standing there.
It was not you, it was the setting sun.


-from Silence Fell, poems by Josephine Dickinson, Houghton Mifflin Company, 2007



-posted on red Ravine, Wednesday, January, 9th, 2008

Read more about Josephine Dickinson in The Cumberland News article, Deafness gives poet the power of flight, 1/9/6 Josephine Dickinson

Listen to the whole Talking Volumes presentation at: MPR – Talking Volumes with Keri Miller: Two Poets Share the Stage – Galway Kinnell & Josephine Dickinson at the Fitzgerald Theater, St. Paul, Minnesota, April 12th, 2007.

Some research is from the Talking Volumes interview and excerpt, Kindred Spirits, by Sarah T. Williams (handed out the night of the reading). The full article ran in the Minneapolis StarTribune arts+entertainment section, April 2007.

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