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Susan Stinson

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February 13th, 2010

11:39 pm: Lucille Clifton
Rest in peace.

blessing the boats
by Lucille Clifton

(at St. Mary's)

may the tide
that is entering even now
the lip of our understanding
carry you out
beyond the face of fear
may you kiss
the wind then turn from it
certain that it will
love your back may you
open your eyes to water
water waving forever
and may you in your innocence
sail through this to that

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September 12th, 2009

05:55 pm: Lesley Dill
Last night, I went to see a talk and a film of an opera by artist Lesley Dill. It's the last few days of her show, I heard a voice, at the Smith College museum. I linked to images, but this work, which incorporates thread, fiber, horsehair, wire, fabric and poems, doesn't reproduce well. I found it enormously compelling in person.

The talk was in the gallery, and I was there early enough to get a seat, but they were fold-out wood and cloth stools, and I didn't have confidence in their structural integrity, so I wandered around looking at the work and reading the text of the poems, most by Emily Dickinson (although there was a mix of poetry and prose by Kafka, Neruda, and Philip Larkin, as well). Dickinson was one of the poets whose work I immersed myself in when I first started reading poetry, and so now her work brings me memories of other intense encounters with its charged language in other places and as another version of myself. It's got quite a kick. The combination of the poems, the ways the words were obscured and offered in the pieces, the tension in the figures, and the gorgeous deployment of so much tactile stuff traditionally associated with sewing, with women's work, and the willingness to evoke heightened states like ecstasy moved me a lot.

The room filled up, and I was standing at the back of the crowd when she started to talk. She invited those standing to come forward and sit, so I sat down on the floor where I was (too crowded to try to make it to the front). She had laryngitis and there were problems with the mike, so she was very hard to hear. I couldn't see her from the floor, either, but since we were in the gallery I had great views of some of the work. She answered a question I couldn't hear by talking about having a vision, I couldn't tell when or of what. The hearing problem got worse and worse as people in the back, who, like me, couldn't hear, started talking, and others turned and glared. The experience reminded me of the time I read at a burlesque performance at the femme conference, and people in the huge crowd started both talking and shhhing. amarama, listening from a balcony, told me later that it was aurally beautiful to her, an experience of a voice whose words she couldn't make out, and which didn't stop. I'm into people being able to understand the words, and that was tough, but I got some of the beauty of it half-hearing Lesley Dill.

One question I did understand was when someone asked why, since words and reading were so central to the work, the words were so difficult to read in the pieces, and most of the figures had eyes and mouths that seemed closed or nearly gone. Lesley started talking about having lived in India without being able to understand Hindi, and what an aesthetically interesting experience that was for her. Hearing her say that was another layer of texture on the gorgeous time I was having looking at her work and catching snatches of words, although the frustration of others around me was sometimes distracting.

She said she missed her pieces, missed how they felt under her fingers.

She talked about an image she'd heard of in India, of frogs being born in the heart and hopping out of a person's mouth off the tongue without having anything to do with the brain. Her work, she said, was like that sometimes.

Then, in another room with better seats, we saw the film of the opera. It started with a fat soprano singing, most beautifully, "I am afraid to have a body. I am afraid to have a soul." Lesley explicitly pointed out that the baritone sings this, too. She made the costumes, which were rich with words. Some of them had invisible ribbons that could be unrolled through openings in the cloth into very long, lyrical strips of color. Lots of Emily Dickinson, again, sung by three soloists and a chorus, incorporated into the clothing of the singers, dancers, and the string quartet, projected on a screen, and in subtitles, too. Gorgeous music. It was moving. Here's one of the poems.

The Soul has Bandaged moments -- by Emily Dickinson
The Soul has Bandaged moments --
When too appalled to stir --
She feels some ghastly Fright come up
And stop to look at her --

Salute her -- with long fingers --
Caress her freezing hair --
Sip, Goblin, from the very lips
The Lover -- hovered -- o'er --
Unworthy, that a thought so mean
Accost a Theme -- so -- fair --

The soul has moments of Escape --
When bursting all the doors --
She dances like a Bomb, abroad,
And swings upon the Hours,

As do the Bee -- delirious borne --
Long Dungeoned from his Rose --
Touch Liberty -- then know no more,
But Noon, and Paradise --

The Soul's retaken moments --
When, Felon led along,
With shackles on the plumed feet,
And staples, in the Song,

The Horror welcomes her, again,
These, are not brayed of Tongue --

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August 20th, 2009

10:46 am: Red Light Green Light
Hey! My friend Sally Bellerose had a poem in the paper yesterday. Lesléa Newman, who is currently Northampton's Poet Laureate, has been picking poems to run all year. I've got an uncredited cameo in poem, using the word "bike" in a broad sense that doesn't mean two wheels. I love this poem!

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June 21st, 2009

03:25 pm: Feast
Last night, my friends made a Midsummer's Night feast. We had mussels and chorizo in wine, homemade bread to sop up the sauce. Bluefish on turnip greens and scallions. Asparagus. Chocolate rhubarb cobbler. It was a truly generous meal, and when the things that were making a couple of us sad and lethargic made their presence felt, my friend went and got his Shakespeare, which was his grandmother's, and read Puck's speech at the end of A Midsummer Night's Dream:

If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumb'red here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend.
If you pardon, we will mend.
And, as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearned luck
Now to scape the serpent's tongue,
We will make amends ere long;
Else the Puck a liar call.
So, good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends.

Then we stood at the screen door and watched the fireflies flicker at the dark end of the yard, where they don't mow. They were many and bright, even in rain.

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03:13 pm: Ariel's Song
Full fathom five thy father lies;
              Of his bones are coral made;
    Those are pearls that were his eyes:
              Nothing of him that doth fade,
    But doth suffer a sea-change
    Into something rich and strange.
    Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell:
    Hark! now I hear them—Ding-dong, bell.

Wliliam Shakespeare


February 15th, 2009

05:48 pm: Bird/Window

  • I was going to skip dancing this morning, but my body wanted to do it, so I jumped on my trike and went downtown. I liked shaking, liked the drummers, liked rolling around on the floor and kicking my legs in the air, walking my feet up the heated pipes along the wall. Okay, maybe I really am a hippie. I was singing "The Age of Aquarious" as I pedaled away.

  • I rode to State Street Fruit to get a ticket for a poetry performance, then read about Dickens and mesmerism at the bagel place.

  • The big poetry show was at the Academy of Music. There were slam poets I enjoyed, but the deep heart of it, for me, was Richard Wilbur. I got to hear him read poems I love, including this one.

    In which he says to his daughter, who is working on a story, about writing:

    It is always a matter, my darling,
    Of life or death, as I had forgotten.

    I'm needing nerve, focus, and flexibility. There are so many ways to keep getting there: movement, poetry and community among them.

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January 16th, 2009

12:12 pm: Poem for the Inauguration
This is a poem I've just written, which I plan to read at the open poetry reading at the Yellow Sofa in Northampton Tuesday, 1/20/09. The reading starts at 6:30 pm.

Read more...Collapse )

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January 9th, 2009

10:05 am: The Price of Gleaming
A poem by Mark Doty, which I have loved for a long time, has been used in a very ugly way. He's blogged about it here.

And, this morning, Mark posted a link to a fine post about the situation in the New Yorker blog, which included links to both the poem itself and to a gorgeous, illuminating essay by Mark about the writing of it.

All this has brought me back to his work (which wasn't hard, his amazing Fire to Fire: new and selected poems is one of those books that I keep sitting on the top of my filing cabinet behind me, so that I can easily reach it if I need to read poetry that will help wake up my language and clear my mind). I think that spending time with Mark's poetry is something that creates change in this chaotic world, or at least in the reader, in me. It's a good moment for that, for sure.

A while ago, I syndicated Mark's blog on lj, so if you'd like to read his posts on your friendslist, you can add it here.

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October 15th, 2008

12:59 pm: Hayden Carruth
Poet Hayden Carruth died September 30. He was eighty-seven.

In 1970, he edited an anthology, The Voice That Is Great Within Us: American Poetry of the Twentieth Century, which was my introduction to reading poetry for pleasure when it was assigned in the first poetry workshop I ever took, my first semester in college, fall of 1979.

Here's a picture of my copy, and some poems.Read more...Collapse )

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June 19th, 2008

10:38 am: "If you think about it, it turns into words"
Thought isn't words, not for everybody, but I love work of Ruth Stone. Here's one of her poems:

Always on the Train

Well, okay, and, Thomas Lux:

Render, Render

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