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Summer

 

Here is a timely poem by Paul Laurence Dunbar, a black American poet who lived from 1872 to 1906.  He died far too young, but left some lovely poetry.

 

A Summer’s Night

The night is dewy as a maiden’s mouth,

The skies are bright as are a maiden’s eyes,

Soft as a maiden’s breath the wind that flies

Up from the perfumed bosom of the South.

Like sentinels, the pines stand in the park;

And hither hastening, like rakes that roam,

With lamps to light their wayward footsteps home,

The fireflies come stagg’ring down the dark.

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A mixed blessing: social media in 2018

(That’s my cat Fiona online.) I’ve been thinking about the pros and cons of social media, some of which generate more attention than others.
Obvious pros: keeping in touch with, or reconnecting to, faraway friends and relatives; advertising your business and inviting people to social or business-related events; up to date photos of people you care about; stress relievers like jokes, cartoons, and of course, animal videos. The immediacy of a topical joke, meme or news story with video is undeniable. Obvious cons: an opportunity for bad/immature people to bully, insult, and stalk others, and to misrepresent themselves anonymously. Hate speech and indefensible doctrines can be spread. The anonymity brings out incivility or worse in many, especially about politics. People use social media to brag, distort the reality of their lives, and as a substitute for real life friendship, meetups, dates, or simply getting out of the house. There is an insidious feeling of being “connected” which is very different from actually talking to and listening to other humans. Social media can be an addiction and a time waster for sure.
I have my own Facebook page, and have one to advertise and give information about my business, Moon Pie Press. I’ve chosen not to also do Instagram, Twitter or other options, because email, a website, two Facebook pages and a blog seem like plenty of online engagement to me. That brings me to this rather dark poem by the always-provocative and honest Sherman Alexie. If you’re not familiar with his poetry, novels and recent memoir, I highly recommend all his writing.

THE FACEBOOK SONNET

Welcome to the endless high-school
Reunion. Welcome to past friends
And lovers, however kind or cruel.
Let’s undervalue and unmend.

The present. Why can’t we pretend
Every stage of life is the same?
Let’s exhume, resume, and extend
Childhood. Let’s play all the games

That occupy the young. Let fame
And shame intertwine. Let one’s search
For God become public domain.
Let church.com become our church.

Let’s sign up, sign in, and confess
Here at the altar of loneliness.

copyright 2011 by Sherman Alexie (from The New Yorker)

Solstice is here

December 21st is the winter solstice in Maine. I find it heartening that the shortest, darkest day of the year has arrived and we turn the corner toward more light.

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I’m still disappointed about what happened to Garrison Keillor. I think NPR was too hasty in firing him, killing The Writer’s Almanac and erasing the online archives of the program going back years. This means that people who worked on the program lost their jobs. All the poets whose work was in the archives lose out, too. Of course I take this somewhat personally since I am proud to say that 25 poems by Moon Pie Press poets were featured on the program, including eight of my own. The Writer’s Almanac was a great boon to my little poetry press. But it also popularized poetry for many people who heard it on the radio, in podcasts or read it in their email or the anthologies that grew out of the show. I am sorry to see the show die.

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I can recommend other ways to have poetry delivered to your email box on a regular basis. Ted Kooser has a column called American Life in Poetry that you can have emailed to you. He tends to favor accessible narrative poems. There is also Poetry Daily. Poem-A-Day is from the Academy of American Poets. Poem of the Day is from the Poetry Foundation. And Rattle magazine will send you a poem each day. I recommend that you sign up for at least one of these so you can get a daily dose of poetry. In these troubling, chaotic times full of fake and disturbing news, poetry is a solace and a reminder to slow down.

The Hatred of Poetry

I just read a thought-provoking little book by Ben Lerner called The Hatred of Poetry (2016), an extended essay in which he ponders why poetry arouses such negative emotions in many people. If so many people disdain it and it has no relevance, why do so many people go on writing it and performing it? No art has been denounced as often as poetry. Lerner correctly notes that if you are foolish enough to admit to most people that you write poetry (or in my case, publish other people’s poetry, too) you are often met with hostility or at least rolled eyes. Lerner’s book does not answer all the questions raised, but he offers some theories and examines the history of poetry attacks, beginning with Plato’s famous hatred of poetry. One central idea he espouses is that at the heart of every good or terrible poem there is a noble failure, the attempt to launch the experience of an individual into the wider world across time. One of the strengths of the book is that it mentions and leads you to other articles and books featuring attacks and defenses of poetry. I recommend this book if you DO read and like some kinds of poetry, or if you think you hate it or have no connection to it and would like to examine those beliefs. He starts his essay with the famous short Marianne Moore poem, “Poetry.”  I will end this brief commentary with the poem.

I, too, dislike it.
Reading it, however, with a perfect
contempt for it, one discovers in
it, after all, a place for the genuine.

Turning to a new season

red salamander
Fall affects people in differing ways. Some feel dread as the days get shorter and the temperatures drop. They worry about darkness, snow and cold when they are months away. Others, like me, love fall the best. Yep, I like all the cliched autumn things: apple picking, country fairs, turning leaves, mums and pumpkins, crisp nights, Halloween, fewer tourists in Maine….almost all of it, except pumpkin spice flavored beer and coffee. I think it’s the loveliest time to live in New England.

Here is a short, powerful poem by Denise Levertov that I have liked for a long time.

Living

The fire in leaf and grass
so green it seems
each summer the last summer.

The wind blowing, the leaves
shivering in the sun,
each day the last day.

A red salamander
so cold and so
easy to catch, dreamily

moves his delicate feet
and long tail. I hold
my hand open for him to go.

Each minute the last minute.

Potholes and snirt

April is a trying time in Maine. There are piles of snirt (snow and dirt – really ugly) still lying around. The potholes are outrageous and some of them threaten to snap
the axle on my Mini Cooper. Here is a very topical poem by my friend John McVeigh of Portland, Maine, a lawyer and accomplished poet. His Moon Pie Press poetry collection is called Burning Chairs.

Frost Heaves

Under the fields and forests, peaceful giants sleep.
The land rises and falls with their breaths.
But, imprisoned under paved roads, they are restless.
A toe wriggles a crack, a bent knee humps up a ridge,
A heaving chest lifts up an entire slab.
Mile-long giants lie under every back road,
Cracking them along straightaways, cracking them just around curves,
Surprising oblivious speeders into wheel alignments
And front end work, reminders that we are not gods.

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The Little Boys

For the season

McVeigh, John P.

Mar 28 at 6:17 PM

ToMoon Pie Press

Message body

Frost Heaves

Under the fields and forests, peaceful giants sleep.

The land rises and falls with their breaths,

But, imprisoned under paved roads, they are restless.

A toe wriggles a crack, a bent knee humps up a ridge,

A heaving chest lifts up an entire slab.

Mile-long giants lie under every back road,

Cracking them along straightaways, cracking them just around curves,

Surprising oblivious speedsters into wheel alignments

And front end work, reminders that we are not gods.

John P. McVeigh
207.791.3000 Tel
jmcveigh@preti.com
Bio | Twitter | preti.com

PretiFlaherty
One City Center
P.O. Box 9546
Portland, ME 04112-9546

This E-Mail may contain information that is privileged, confidential and / or exempt from discovery or disclosure under applicable law. Unintended transmission shall not constitute waiver of the attorney-client or any other privilege. If you are not the intended recipient of this communication, and have received it in error, please do not distribute it and notify me immediately by E-mail at jmcveigh@preti.com or via telephone at 207.791.3000 and delete the original message. Unless expressly stated in this e-mail, nothing in this message or any attachment should be construed as a digital or electronic signature or as a legal opinion.

So fresh and so clean.

“Spring” in Maine takes its time

The calendar tells us it’s spring, but in Maine we still have a lot of snow lying around. Some snowdrops and crocus have made a brave appearance. As the earth awakens, here is a poem that is not about spring. Spring poems will follow in the coming weeks.

THE SCIENCES SING A LULLABY

PHYSICS SAYS: go to sleep. Of course
you’re tired. Every atom in you
has been dancing the shimmy in silver shoes
nonstop from mitosis to now.
Quit tapping your feet. They’ll dance
inside themselves without you. Go to sleep.

GEOLOGY SAYS: it will be all right. Slow inch
by inch America is giving itself
to the ocean. Go to sleep. Let darkness
lap at your sides. Give darkness an inch.
You aren’t alone. All of the continents used to be
one body. You aren’t alone. Go to sleep.

ASTRONOMY SAYS: the sun will rise tomorrow.
ZOOLOGY SAYS: on rainbow-fish and lithe gazelle.
PSYCHOLOGY SAYS: but first it has to be night, so
BIOLOGY SAYS: the body-clocks are stopped all over town and
HISTORY SAYS: here are the blankets, layer on layer, down and down.

Albert Goldbarth