May 2018

This month’s poem was selected by Polly Brown.

 

Beltane—May 1

       by Deborah Melone

 

Today is Beltane

Wear yellow flowers

Walk your cows between

The two bonfires

 

Leap over the flame

Garland the cattle

Leave the spirits oatcake

Drink the winy caudle

 

Dance round the maypole

Decked with shells today

Honor the union

Of Lord and Lady May

 

Strew primrose and hawthorn

At windows and doors

From the Beltane fires

Rekindle yours

                                   

Deborah Melone lives in Watertown, Massachusetts. For many years a writer and editor at a scientific consulting company, she now teaches English as a Second Language to adult students at the Watertown Public Library. She has been a member of the poetry collective Every Other Thursday since 1983, and has published in a number of magazines and journals. She has published the poetry collection Farmers’ Market and two chapbooks, Walking the Air and The Wheel of the Year.

 

April 2018

Near the Connecticut

            by Polly Brown

 

Four of us travelling in one canoe—

two small enough to fit between

 

the paddlers—down the Connecticut,

New England’s watery spine.

 

We sat on a ledge in sunshine;

then, needing to pee, I climbed

 

to a small wood. Sun-dappled shade,

blue chinks of sky, nameless

 

sparrows dipping in, weaving through:

no remembered detail explains

 

why in that moment I woke

to our life in paradise. Which means

 

it could happen

almost anywhere again.

 

Polly Brown has organized outdoor poetry events on her hillside in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, has written about war and peace at the Joiner Institute at UMass Boston, and will lead a workshop focused on two poems by Stanley Kunitz at the 2018 Massachusetts Poetry Festival. Pebble Leaf Feather Knife, her new book of poems, will be released by Cherry Grove in 2019. The two children in this poem are now busy rearing another generation of canoeists and kayakers.

 

 

                       

 

March 2018

This month’s offering is selected by Terry House, President of the Robert Creeley Foundation. Join us for Mark Doty's reading at the 2018 Creeley Foundation's annual event. Details below.  

Heaven for Stanley

          by Mark Doty

For his birthday, I gave Stanley a hyacinth bean,
an annual, so he wouldn’t have to wait for the flowers.
He said, Mark, I have just the place for it!
as if he’d spent ninety-eight years
anticipating the arrival of this particular vine.
I thought poetry a brace against time,
the hours held up for study in a voice’s cool saline,
but his allegiance is not to permanent forms.
His garden’s all furious change,
budding and rot and then the coming up again;
why prefer any single part of the round?
I don’t know that he’d change a word of it;
I think he could be forever pleased
to participate in motion. Something opens.
He writes it down. Heaven steadies
and concentrates near the lavender. He’s already there.

—Copyright 2005 by Mark Doty

Mark Doty is the Winner of the Eighteenth Annual Robert Creeley Award. He will be presented with the award and give a free public reading on Tuesday, March 20, 2018, at 7:30 in the Acton-Boxborough Regional High School auditorium.  Hope to see you there!

Mark Doty is the author of nine books of poetry, including Deep Lane (April 2015), Fire to Fire: New and Selected Poems, which won the 2008 National Book Award, and My Alexandria, for which he was the first American to receive Great Britain's T.S. Eliot Prize. He is also the author of three memoirs: the New York Times-bestselling Dog Years, Firebird, and Heaven's Coast, as well as a book about craft and criticism, The Art of Description: World Into Word. Doty has received two NEA fellowships, Guggenheim and Rockefeller Foundation Fellowships, a Lila Wallace/Readers Digest Award, and the Witter Byner Prize.

February 2018

Poem of the Month selections can now also be accessed through my website at www.susanedwardsrichmond.com.

 

The Orchard in Winter

     by Terry House

 

Storm's end quickens;

Still, wizened apples cling;

Barred owl glides

Silent as the last, slow flakes -

 

In their kitchen

The farmers scan

Nursery lists,

Plotting spring.

 

Terry House is a poet and educator living in Acton. She currently serves as President of the Robert Creeley Foundation.

January 2018

Happy New Year! Wishing our Old Frog Pond Farm community near and far a new year filled with joy and discovery. January’s poem was selected by Moira Linehan.

 

Reading

         by Betsy Sholl

 

Because the titmice at the feeder are

all silk and tufted gray, and the cardinals

beautifully paired in their marriage

of subtle and brash, I have to read

the same sentence seven times,

then finally give up and study instead

the suggestions of bright red flashing

as house finches occupy the feeder.            

On my lap an essay explaining

Dickinson's deft ironies, elusive

dashes and slants, so dense I have to stop

wanting to get to the end, the bottom

of anything, and just live in the drift

of phrase and clause, until once again

a feathered thing—a nuthatch heading down

a rutted trunk—catches my eye, and I

am torn like an old uneasy treaty,

within a single mind two tribes dwelling,

people of the book, yes, but also others

literate in seed husk, rain slant, cloud,

a thousand twittering tongues.

 

—from Late Psalm, Univ. Wisconsin Press

 

Betsy Sholl served as Poet Laureate of Maine from 2006 to 2011.  Her eighth collection of poetry, Otherwise Unseeable (University of Wisconsin), won the 2015 Maine Literary Award for poetry. She currently teaches in the MFA Program of Vermont College of Fine Arts, and lives in Portland.

December 2017

The Shortest Day of the Year

       by Wendy Mnookin

 

Our doors blocked by a blizzard

the two of us climbed from a window

into a world made new—

 

mailboxes buried, signs disappeared.

We walked on the tops of bushes, 

dug until we found our car.

 

And dug some more.

We cleared the hood,

unburdened the windshield,

 

tunneled all the way to the tires.

Then what?

The roads were closed,

 

there was nowhere to go.

Sweating inside our layers,

we let ourselves fall

 

back into drift.

We had no ambition.

For minutes, or a year,

 

it was enough to lie there,

stunned with sun, with implacable white.

Our eyes glazed.

 

The frost of our breath happened.

And then we stood, clapping

our jackets free of snow,

 

suddenly shy

to see the imprint of wings,

so slight, it’s a wonder

 

we trusted ourselves at all.

 

From The Moon Makes Its Own Plea, BOA Editions, 2008

 

Wendy Mnookin’s most recent book is Dinner with Emerson (Tiger Bark Press, 2016.) The recipient of an NEA Fellowship in Writing, Wendy has taught poetry at Emerson College and Boston College. You can find out more about her writing at wendymnookin.com.

 

 

 

November 2017

NOT AS ONE who knows the ground

          by Joan Houlihan

 

NOT AS ONE who knows the ground

but woken to a standing,

Ay rose and held as bird would hold          

for want of weather, flight.                

Far, the hard light grew.                    

The us were down in sleep.

Fire blacked away.

None would know me

colding there. Ay stood and stept

as calf that has no mother-side,

as a weak thing made, then fell

and lay in a smaller place to wait.    

Where a noise had been

Ay let a quiet in.

 

From Ay, Tupelo Press, 2014

 

Joan Houlihan is the author of five books of poetry including Shadow-feast, forthcoming from Four Way Books in 2018. Her other books are: Ay (2014), The Us (2009), The Mending Worm, winner of the 2005 Green Rose Award from New Issues Press and Hand-Held Executions: Poems & Essays (2003). She has taught at Columbia University, Emerson College and Smith College and serves on the faculty of Lesley University’s Low-Residency MFA in Creative Writing Program in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She is also Professor of Practice in Poetry at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts. Houlihan founded and directs the Colrain Poetry Manuscript Conference.

 

October 2017

Harvest

          by Charles Pratt

 

The trees, I’m told, have stood here fifty years—

Bearers still. The motherly Cortlands, fat

As their dusky apples, cookers, firm in pies.

The Macs more upright, sparer, the apples—

This year, at least—scarcer, smaller, brighter,

Flecked with little lights. And the Wageners,

Bristling with apples from a thousand spurs,

The fruit a modest russet, turning as it ripens

To scarlet, apples from a Book of Hours.

Sweetness seethes from the press, foams

In the bucket; I turn with the handle

Under the mild October sun

That brings back summer, softened. Sun-yellow

Hornets, now, mellowed from when,

In August, the mower brought their stinging

Hubbub up from underground,

Nuzzle my sticky fingers, gentle as cows,

Swoon to that foaming sweetness where they drown.

Midnight, midwinter. Under the full moon

The trees, like twisting smoke, like rocks

Whorled by tides of air,

Stand stock-still in their shadows

On the new snow, precise and mysterious

As spiders on a linen tablecloth.

Arrested, I look out, investing

Them with the patient merit

And deliberate innocence I would learn of them.

 

From From the Box Marked Some Are Missing by Charles Pratt, Volume I of the Hobblebush Granite State Poetry Series, Hobblebush Books. Book available at http://www.hobblebush.com/product-page/from-the-box-marked-some-are-missing

Charles W. Pratt taught English for more than 25 years, mostly at Phillips Exeter Academy, before he and his wife, Joan, bought a small apple orchard in Brentwood, New Hampshire, and became apple-growers. In addition to From the Box Marked Some Are Missing, he has two previous collections, In the Orchard and Still Here.

September 2017

A Cricket Has Been Calling

            by Wendy Drexler

 

As I wash my cereal bowl,

my blue coffee cup,

as I fill the feeder, a cricket

has been calling. I listen

for some inflection, an iamb,

I am, I am, any pattern or meaning,

but there is none, or nearly none—

just the scrape of wings, emphatic,

vaguely duple-time, insistent, tireless.

Or else a pause, and I think, ah then,

something is settled, for once.

But the cricket resumes,

an engine unrequited, an equation

to be solved, growing large

as a sound can grow—and I think

of the woman crying at the bus stop

this morning, and her children,

grieving for their father,

who is never coming back,

and I wish I could find a place

for that cricket to rest,

a place to rest

for everyone who calls and shakes

and has not been consoled.

 

“A Cricket Has Been Calling” is from Before There Was Before, Wendy Drexler’s new collection of poetry published in March 2017 by Iris Press, www.irisbooks.com. The poem first appeared in the journal, Common Ground.

Wendy Drexler is also the author of Western Motel (Turning Point, 2012) and the chapbook Drive-Ins, Gas Stations, the Bright Motels (Pudding House, 2007). Her first children’s book, Buzz, Ruby, and Their City Chicks, coauthored with Joan Fleiss Kaplan, was published by Ziggy Owl Press in 2016. Her poems have appeared widely in such journals as Barrow Street, Ibbetson Street, Nimrod, Prairie Schooner, Salamander, The Mid-American Review, The Hudson Review, The Worcester Review, and the Valparaiso Poetry Review; featured on Verse Daily and WBUR’s Cognoscenti; and in the anthologies Blood to Remember: American Poets on the Holocaust and Burning Bright: Passager Celebrates 21 Years.

Wendy Drexler will be reading with Susan Donnelly on Thursday, September 28, 2017, at the Cervena Barva Press Studio at The Arts for the Armory, Basement, Room B8, 191 Highland Avenue, Somerville, 7:30 p.m. For more information about readings and for poetry posts see Wendy’s website: wendydrexlerpoetry.com.

 

August 2017

Hiss, ping ping

            by Lucinda Bowen
 

Listen.

After a month of sun,
the sky holds itself close to the meadow
this morning, whispering, “sip, sip”
as a mother might minister to a child
whose face is flushed with fever.

The way the raindrops
line the spine
of each stalk and stem
makes me want to consider
the smallest small things.

I listen to the slip and drip,
watch the flower’s pink petals
fill like pitchers,
each no bigger than the pinkyslip
of a newborn’s fingernail.

This weather is but a gesture
to a field that has blossomed
despite seasons of thirst.
The morning’s mist
will only moisten, not quench.
Soon the cloudwisps will flounce off, distracted,
the sky behind them winking blue.

Even so, the stems shine green and golden
under the weight of this water
they have waited for.

I have skirted scarcity all my life
and yet I have never bloomed
as pink and pretty
as this thirsty flower.

I have never
bent grateful
as this blade of grass,
bearing the hiss, ping ping
sound of insufficient blessing
on my naked, needy back.
 

I wrote this poem early on a misty, rainy summer morning as I was walking past the orchard and the wild field next to it, near the Meditation Hut. I was struck by how the raindrops magnified every single blade of grass, each plant and flower lined in silver. And I was struck by the immense need and thirst of the field, and how meager this offering of rain would be, after so much drought.

—Lucinda Bowen

 

Included with Lucinda Bowen’s poem (above) is the note she wrote for Old Frog Pond Farm’s 2016 Plein Air Poetry Walk and chapbook, Splash!

 

Please mark your calendars for this year’s event on Sunday, September 17 at 2 p.m. at the farm. Over 20 regional poets, including Lucinda and other poets who have been featured in this blog, will read new site-specific work on the theme of Memoir. The Poetry Walk is free and open to the public. Chapbooks of the poems will also be available for purchase at the event. Hope to see you there! 

July 2017

Boating on South Lake with Elder Brother Yuan Liu

     by Wei Ying-wu (translated by Red Pine)

                       

Taking time off in the enervating heat

we drifted in a skiff along the city moat

a light wind blew open our robes

a flute echoed through the woods

thin clouds darkened the water

a fine rain cooled the lotus-scented air

rather than pour out our cares

we raised our cups to the flowers

 

"Boating on South Lake with Elder Brother Yuan Liu” is from In Such Hard Times: The Poetry of Wei Ying-wu, translated by Red Pine, and published by Copper Canyon Press (Port Townsend, 2009).

 

Wei Ying-wu (737-791) was born into an aristocratic family in decline, and served in several government posts. He fashioned a poetic style counter to the mainstream: one of profound simplicity centered in the natural world. He is considered among the finest Tang dynasty masters, in the ranks of Tu Fu, Li Pai, and Wang Wei. Few of his poems have been translated into English.

 

Red Pine is one of the finest translators of Chinese poetry into English. He was the first to translate the classical anthology Poems of the Masters. He spent four years in a Buddhist monastery in Taiwan, and produced radio programs in Taiwan and Hong Kong about his travels in China. He is the author of Zen Baggage, an account of a pilgrimage to sites associated with the beginning of Zen in China. He lives with his family in Port Townsend, Washington.

June 2017

Wet Gravel

      by Fred Marchant

                       

Stone barrow on a point overlooking the sea,

a good place to take the last labored breath.

Quartz veins, shale, slate layers, the pressed

sandstone, thin lines we read the epochs in.

Rust and gray minerals down rivers in Zion.

A bit of brown miracle dirt from Chimayo.

The rock a boy threw at my head, the one

I pitched back at him. Mickeys we called them.

Cairns you see climbers build at the summit,

and mark the trail with on Kilauea caldera.

Glacial stones that migrate under the earth,

or sit as unmoved as the Buddha, hard enough

to break tines off a backhoe. Prayer-stones

we place with care and words atop the grave.

A white pebble at the bottom of Frost’s well.

O stone, wrote Nguyễn Duy, thinking of lives

lost hear Angkor. O bloodstones of Mycenae

that we sit on while we drink from our water.

The backyard stones a child will hammer open

to find the unequivocal silence inside of things.

Wet gravel paths we turn and face each other on.

 

"Wet Gravel" is from Said Not Said, Fred Marchant's new collection of poetry published by Graywolf Press in May 2017. It is used with permission of the publisher.

 

Fred Marchant is also the author of Tipping Point, Full Moon Boat, House on Water, House in Air, and The Looking House. He has co-translated (with Nguyen Ba Chung) From a Corner of My Yard, by Tran Dang Khoa, and Con Dau Prison Songs, by Vo Que, both published in Hanoi. He is the editor of Another World Instead: The Early Poems of William Stafford, also published by Graywolf Press. An Emeritus Professor of English, Fred Marchant is the founding director of the Suffolk University Poetry Center in Boston.

 

Fred Marchant will be reading in the First and Last Word Reading Series, Thursday June 20, 2017, Somerville Armory, 191 Highland Avenue, Somerville MA, 7 p.m. He will also read at the Grolier Poetry Bookshop on June 26, 6 Plympton Street, Cambridge, MA, 7 p.m. From June 26-June 30, he will be teaching and reading in the annual writers' conference sponsored by the William Joiner Institute for the Study of War and Social Consequences at UMass Boston. Link: https://www.umb.edu/joinerinstitute/writers_workshop/workshop_schedule. For more information about readings and workshops see Fred's website: Fredmarchant.com