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Posts Tagged ‘Galway Kinnell’

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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Curtains At The Fitzgerald, during MPR's Talking Volumes with Keri Miller, and Guests Galway Kinnell and Josephine Dickinson, April 2007,photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.   

Curtains At The Fitzgerald, night of Galway Kinnell, Fitzgerald Theater, St. Paul, Minnesota, April 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


I pulled a Galway Kinnell book off the shelf last night while Liz was completing her take home final. We sat on the couch in dim midnight light, pecking at slippery keys. (One IBM. One Dell.) Breaking rhythm, I stopped to strum the pages of Strong Is Your Hold. The papery smell cut the air, and fused to April’s last memory:  Galway Kinnell, the color red, the Fitzgerald.

I had paged through Bones while doing research a few nights before. Galway jumped right off Natalie’s page. In the chapter, We Are Not the Poem, she writes about keeping your work fresh, and talks about seeing Galway in Ann Arbor, Michigan, when she barely knew who he was. He read his poetry; his poetry sang.

Fast forward 6 years later, to Santa Fe, New Mexico. He raced through every line. They were dead for him.

Natalie goes on to write about losing the danger in your words. About risk taking. It doesn’t matter if you’re not a poet. She is talking about writing:


It is important to remember we are not the poem. … The power is always in the act of writing. Come back to that again and again and again. Don’t get caught in the admiration for your poems. … Write good poems and let go of them. Publish them, read them, go on writing.

I remember Galway Kinnell when his wonderful Book Of Nightmares first came out. It was a Thursday afternoon in Ann Arbor. I’d never heard of him, much less could I pronounce his name. He sang those poems; they were new and exciting for him and a great accomplishment. Six years later I heard him read again at St. John’s in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He’d read that book so much in those six years that he was sick of it. He ran through the poems, put down the book, and said, “Where’s the party?” There was nothing dangerous for him in them anymore. The air was no longer electric.

It is very painful to become frozen with your poems….We constantly need new insights, visions. We don’t exist in any solid form. There is no permanent truth you can corner in a poem that will satisfy you forever. Don’t identify too strongly with your work. Stay fluid behind those black and white words. They are not you. They were a great moment going through you. A moment you were awake enough to write down and capture.

   -Natalie Goldberg, We Are Not The Poem, from Writing Down The Bones

Even the best writers sour, and spin their wheels. Don’t get attached to the work. Keep your writing fresh. Blogging is good for non-attachment. A fast-paced medium, it is here, it is gone. You don’t have time to get attached. You keep current. You keep practicing.

Back at the Fitz with my writing friend, velvet curtains to the front, circular stairs behind, I remember when Galway read. Strong Is Your Hold seemed new and fresh for him. Insomniac and Sex vibrated across the room. And in his poem for Jane Kenyon, How Could She Not, you could hear the pain in his voice. Passion and grief.


Hands Of Galway Kinnell, Chap. 5, Vol. 2, Fitzgerald Theater, St. Paul, Minnesota, April 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved

Hands of Galway Kinnell, Chap. 5, Vol. 2, on stage with Josephine Dickinson (l), and MPR’s Keri Miller (r), at the Fitzgerald Theater, St. Paul, Minnesota, April 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


The first time I heard Ode and Elegy was at a silent writing retreat in Taos, Fall 2006. Natalie read it out loud to us, each word blazing through the silence, “Wake up!” The second time was in the Log Cabin at Mabel Dodge in the December retreat. The careful attention to detail caught me clutching my throat. The poet sees in a certain way, hide-and seek between heart and mind.


Hide-and-Seek 1933

Once when we were playing
hide-and-seek and it was time
to go home, the rest gave up
on the game before it was done
and forgot I was still hiding.
I remained hidden as a matter
of honor until the moon rose.

  –from Strong Is Your Hold, Poems, by Galway Kinnell, Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006

I have come to love poetry for its beauty and starkness. Few words. Everything pared down to the bones. Chewy. Bare. Raw. I try not to hold on too tightly. We are not the poem. Don’t judge. Let pit-stained words soak through the pores. Let go.

Or clutch if you want to. But if you have to hold that tight, bolt from every cell like the hawk. Leave no jay feather unturned. No tamarack untapped.



Writers Hands, Chap. V, Vol. 1, Galway Kinnell, at the Fitzgerald Theater, St. Paul, Minnesota, April 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.  

Writer’s Hands, Chap. 5, Vol. 1,
Galway Kinnell, at the Fitzgerald,
St. Paul, Minnesota, April, 2007,
photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey.
All rights reserved.




Ode and Elegy

A thud. Shrieks. Frantic
wingbeats like a round
of soft applause.
The hawk jumps on top
of the jay knocked to the grass,
presses his wings to the ground,
digs his claws into the jay’s
back, strikes the neck
over and over, scattering
blue feathers. Then,
as easily as a green wave
in heavy seas lifts a small boat
and throws it upside down,
still afloat but keel up, so
the hawk flips the jay,
then tears at his throat.

A blue wing wrests itself free, flaps
like a flag saying i will fight you!
The hawk stuffs the wing
back down into place and
clamps it there with one foot.
Now jay and hawk stare
at each other beak to beak,
as close as Jesus and Judas at their kiss.
The hawk strikes, the jay struggles
to strike back, but his neck breaks, his eyes
shrink into beads of taxidermists’ glass.
The cere above the hawk’s beak
flushes hard yellow from exertion.

As a grape harvester trampling out
the last juices of grape, so the hawk
treads the jay’s body up and down
and down and up. He places
a foot on the throat and a foot
on the belly, flaps his wings
repositions his feet, flaps again.

He pushes off, clutching transversely
the body of the jay, which is like a coffin
made in the shape and color of the dead.

Much as in la decollage a l’americaine
of the Lafayette Escadrille, when
the pilots would gain speed only yards
above the tarmac, then haul back
on the joystick, putting their planes
into nearly vertical ascent, just so
the sharp-shinned hawk, carrying
his blue load glinting in the sunlight
low to the ground, now suddenly
climbs steeply and soars over the tops
of the Norway spruce and the tamarack.

   –from Strong Is Your Hold, Poems, by Galway Kinnell, Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006


-posted on red Ravine, Wednesday, December 12th, 2007

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

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Curve, 1993, woodblock print, from private art collection of student work, artist unknown, photo alteration © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Curve, 1993, woodcut, from private art collection of student work, artist unknown, photo alteration © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


While perusing the health and vigor of our categories last night, I had a realization: writers rarely write about sex. Our Sex category has a measly 5 posts, which leads me to wonder, why bother to have a sex category at all?

I thought about my favorite literature writers and tried to remember what they had written about sex. I did come up with a chapter in Stoner, a book assigned to us in a Natalie Goldberg Taos Intensive last year. It’s a favorite on my bookshelf now, and contains one of the most subtly erotic accounts I’ve ever read about making love.

(If you don’t know about Stoner or John Williams, read the dynamic interview, John Williams: Plain Writer by Dan Wakefield in the 10th Anniversary issue of Ploughshares.)

Some see making love and sex as two different things. And now that I think about it, so do I. But different how? I’m not sure I can answer that in an on-the-fly blog post.

I remembered last night, that about 4 years ago, I wrote a tasteful erotic piece called Lean Into The Curves, about the virtues of making love as compared to learning to ride my Honda Rebel. There is something sensual about motorcycle riding; and the instructor who wore scarlet Harley boots with flames shooting off the sides, only added fuel to the fire.

I stood up at a microphone (dressed in a crisp, white, open-collared blouse, dangling silver earrings, black Levi’s, cherry lipstick, and a black, short-cut blazer) and read the piece at a venue in Minneapolis (no longer in existence) called hotBed. The audience was full of 150 women who all laughed at the right places and cheered at the end, wildly clapping when Ella Fitzgerald’s At Last echoed through the room as I read the final lines.

The sound woman was right on cue.

It’s hard to imagine standing up and reading that same piece today. Have I lost my edge? Or are there too few places to submit that kind of work.

Most people have sex at least once in their lifetime. And it’s alive and well on family TV and in G-rated films. So why don’t writers write about sex? Or the erotic? Or making love?

I don’t have any answers. Only to say that, thank goodness, some do.

Here is a poem from Galway Kinnell called, simply – Sex. Exquisite. I heard him read it at the Fitzgerald Theater earlier this year. I’m heading to the writing table right now. Maybe I’ll get inspired.


Sex
by Galway Kinnell

On my hands are the odors
of the knockout ether
either of above the sky
where the bluebirds get blued
on their upper surfaces
or of down under the earth
where the immaculate nightcrawlers
take in tubes of red earth
and polish their insides.

-from Strong Is Your Hold, Poems, Houghton Mifflin, 2006

posted on red Ravine Tuesday, June 26th, 2007

-related to post, Forget Vonnegut – Jane Kenyon Lives On 

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In the maelstrom of energy flooding paper, press, and print about the sudden death of Kurt Vonnegut, I’ve been reading everything I can get my hands on about his life. At 3 a.m. last night, I was running around the Internet linking to articles, gobbling up details of Vonnegut’s death, birth, slow literary beginnings, and 70’s cult following.

Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore.

Ignoring the wailing Irish banshee, a screaming voice inside my head snapped, “Stop it! ! Go to bed! You haven’t read a Vonnegut book in years.”

“Okay, okay, I’m going,” I said.

Rising from my prone position on the couch, I grabbed the laptop precariously perched on my knees to keep it from crashing to the floor. And that’s when it hit me – I’d fallen prey to my own crazy Kantian schema about death, dying, and immortality.

In some odd twist of synchronicity, I wrote a post last Monday on The Uses of Sorrow – What Is It About Obituaries? Curious about the death of Molly Malone Cook, I found a long, engaging obituary in the Independent. It was overflowing with history and details of her life I didn’t know, and probably never would have cared about if she hadn’t died.

Isn’t it strange? We are drawn to write more about a person after they die, than we ever would have while they were alive. It’s part of the human condition. But amid all the writers, ex-hippies, beatniks, and bohemians bantering a slow death march around Vonnegut, I find myself wanting to say, “Enough already.”

Forget Vonnegut. Jane Kenyon lives on.

I don’t want to sound irreverent. I loved Vonnegut and read him voraciously (was it Stephen King that said adverbs are killers?) in my early college years. In 1972, Slaughterhouse-Five was the top film in Friday night screenings at McIntire Hall. We were still doing sit-ins for peace, streaking across campus, and protesting the Vietnam War (I wonder what’s changed?)

But back to living and dying.

Remember that back and forth on red Ravine last February about Donald Hall and Jane Kenyon, Valentine & Donald Hall? It inspired us to put one of Jane Kenyon’s books, Otherwise, on our list of Hungry to be Read.

Last night I went over to St. Paul with a writer friend to see Galway Kinnell and one of his protégés, Josephine Dickinson, read their poetry. (I’ll write more about these moving poets in another post.) It was one of the most inspirational nights I’ve had in months.

Galway Kinnell read a poem from his new book Strong Is Your Hold, which I immediately snapped up and brought home with me. The poem is a tribute to Jane Kenyon. You could have heard a pin drop.

If you don’t get out and listen to other living, breathing writers read their work, you’re missing out on one of the greatest pleasures of writing – listening. As evidenced by the explosion of blog world, there are 11 trillion writers out there, all wanting their voices to be heard. I hold to my strong belief that there is room for all of us. If we are generous of spirit and support other writers, we’ll be supported, too.

I teared up last night when I listened to Galway Kinnell read his poem for Jane Kenyon (1947-1995). He went to that dark place writers go, that place where angels fear to tread.

I imagined Kenyon, immortal through his words, smiling down on the silent, rapt faces that dotted the crimson velvet rows and stacked ornate balconies of the Fitzgerald Theatre. I bet she was pleased.

Losing a great writer who influenced our lives, perhaps even our livelihood, leaves a big hole. When Galway Kinnell read How Could She Not, I knew that writing about the death of Kurt Vonnegut is our way of grieving.

We know we’ll never forget Vonnegut. Because Jane Kenyon lives on.

Friday, April 13th, 2007

                           

                            ###                          

                               

How Could She Not

In Memory of Jane Kenyon, 1947-1995

The air glitters. Overfull clouds
slide across the sky. A short shower,
its parallel diagonals visible
against the firs, douses and then
refreshes the crocuses. We knew
it might happen one day this week.
Out the open door, east of us, stand
the mountains of New Hampshire.
There, too, the sun is bright,
and heaped cumuli make their shadowy
ways along the horizon. When we learn
that she died this morning, we wish
we could think: how could it not
have been today? In another room,
Kiri Te Kanawa is singing
Mozart’s Laudate Dominum
from far in the past, her voice
barely there over the swishing of scythes,
and rattlings of horse-pulled
mowing machines dragging
their cutter bar’s little reciprocating
triangles through the timothy.

This morning did she wake
in the dark, almost used up
by her year of pain? By first light
did she glimpse the world
as she had loved it, and see
that if she died now, she would
be leaving him in a day like paradise?
Near sunrise did her hold loosen a little?

Having these last days spoken
her whole heart to him, who spoke
his whole heart to her, might she not
have felt that in the silence to come
he would not feel any word
was missing? When her room filled
with daylight, how could she not
have slipped under a spell, with him
next to her, his arms around her, as they
had been, it may then have seemed,
all her life? How could she not
press her cheek to his cheek,
which presses itself to hers
from now on? How could she not
rise and go, with sunlight at the window,
and the drone, fading, deepening, hard to say,
of a single-engine plane in the distance,
coming for her, that no one else hears?

  -from Strong Is Your Hold, Poems, by Galway Kinnell, Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006

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