Summer swan songs and September meeting

The North Shore Poets’ Forum meets on September 15, 11 a.m., in the Sohier Room of the Beverly Public Library. Ray Whittier is on tap to present a program called “Along the Way.” Afterward, attendees are invited to share an original poem. Please bring six to 10 copies for gentle critique.

The group will also try to decide the programs for the 2019 calendar year (see under Meetings and Events for dates). I hope we’ll have lots of members anxious to present a new poet they’ve discovered, perhaps, or a  favorite form, or an interesting theme, etc., so that we can all grow and learn more about the art of poetry.

We are always open to new members and visitors, so please join us if you are interested in poetry and want to share and learn. We usually finish by 1:30 or so.

As usual, I am sharing a poem by an established poet that I think somewhat apropos, and I hope you agree this fits the bill for what has been a hot, hot, wonderful summer. It is by Dick Allen, and says so much about what we love about summer.

If You Get There Before I Do

 Dick Allen (1939-2017)

 

Air out the linens, unlatch the shutters on the eastern side,
and maybe find that deck of Bicycle cards
lost near the sofa. Or maybe walk around
and look out the back windows first.
I hear the view’s magnificent: old silent pines
leading down to the lakeside, layer upon layer
of magnificent light. Should you be hungry,
I’m sorry but there’s no Chinese takeout,
only a General Store. You passed it coming in,
but you probably didn’t notice its one weary gas pump
along with all those Esso cans from decades ago.
If you’re somewhat confused, think Vermont,
that state where people are folded into the mountains
like berries in batter. . . . What I’d like when I get there
is a few hundred years to sit around and concentrate
on one thing at a time. I’d start with radiators
and work my way up to Meister Eckhart,
or why do so few people turn their lives around, so many
take small steps into what they never do,
the first weeks, the first lessons,
until they choose something other,
beginning and beginning their lives,
so never knowing what it’s like to risk
last minute failure. . . .I’d save blue for last. Klein blue,
or the blue of Crater Lake on an early June morning.
That would take decades. . . .Don’t forget
to sway the fence gate back and forth a few times
just for its creaky sound. When you swing in the tire swing
make sure your socks are off. You’ve forgotten, I expect,
the feeling of feet brushing the tops of sunflowers:
In Vermont, I once met a ski bum on a summer break
who had followed the snows for seven years and planned
on at least seven more. We’re here for the enjoyment of it, he said,
to salaam into joy. . . .I expect you’ll find
Bibles scattered everywhere, or Talmuds, or Qur’ans,
as well as little snippets of gospel music, chants,
old Advent calendars with their paper doors still open.
You might pay them some heed. Don’t be alarmed
when what’s familiar starts fading, as gradually
you lose your bearings,
your body seems to turn opaque and then transparent,
until finally it’s invisible–what old age rehearses us for
and vacations in the limbo of the Middle West.
Take it easy, take it slow. When you think I’m on my way,
the long middle passage done,
fill the pantry with cereal, curry, and blue and white boxes of macaroni, place the
checkerboard set, or chess if you insist,
out on the flat-topped stump beneath the porch’s shadow,
pour some lemonade into the tallest glass you can find in the cupboard,
then drum your fingers, practice lifting your eyebrows,
until you tell them all–the skeptics, the bigots, blind neighbors,
those damn-with-faint-praise critics on their hobbyhorses–
that I’m allowed,
and if there’s a place for me that love has kept protected,
I’ll be coming, I’ll be coming too.

 

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May poets’ meeting: Black poets confront racism

Members of the North Shore Poets’ Forum met Saturday, May 19, at the Beverly Public Library. It was my turn (Cathryn O’Hare) this time to present a program, so I chose, “Black poets confront racism in America,” featuring such poets as Fenton Johnson, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Claude McKay, Countee Cullen and Langston Hughes.

lynching2I had recently read “Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption” by Bryan Stevenson, a lawyer writing about his work to free poor and black people unjustly imprisoned and facing execution. He is co-founder of the Equal Justice Institute. He is also a founder of the new National Memorial for Peace and Justice and The Legacy Museum, which both opened in April in Mobile, Alabama. I read in news stories about the goal to bring awareness of the injustices of slavery, the tyranny of racism, and the horror of lynchings, so that one day we may all stand up for peace and justice.  To do my bit to spread the word, I decided to study more about the savagery of racism as seen through the eyes of black poets .

Here are just a few links to information:

“The sadism of white men”

“African American Protest Poetry”

“Crash Course in Poetry – Harlem Renaissance”

The Legacy Museum

The National Memorial

And, here are two poems by Langston Hughes

One way ticket 

I pick up my life, 
and take it with me, 
and I put it down in 
Chicago, Detroit, 
Buffalo, Scranton, 
any place that is 
North and East, 
and not Dixie.
I pick up my life 
and take it on the train, 
to Los Angeles, Bakersfield, 
Seattle, Oakland, Salt Lake 
any place that is 
North and West, 
and not South.
I am fed up 
with Jim Crow laws, 
people who are cruel 
and afraid, 
who lynch and run, 
who are scared of me 
and me of them
I pick up my life 
and take it away 
on a one-way ticket- 
gone up North 
gone out West 
Gone.
Daybreak In Alabama
When I get to be a composer
I’m gonna write me some music about
Daybreak in Alabama
And I’m gonna put the purtiest songs in it
Rising out of the ground like a swamp mist
And falling out of heaven like soft dew.
I’m gonna put some tall tall trees in it
And the scent of pine needles
And the smell of red clay after rain
And long red necks
And poppy colored faces
And big brown arms
And the field daisy eyes
Of black and white black white black people
And I’m gonna put white hands
And black hands and brown and yellow hands
And red clay earth hands in it
Touching everybody with kind fingers
And touching each other natural as dew
In that dawn of music when I
Get to be a composer
And write about daybreak
In Alabama.

 

 

Annual Poetry Contest Winners and Open Mic

It is my pleasure to announce the winners of the North Shore Poets Forum’s annual Naomi Cherkofsky Poetry Contest. I hope that they, their friends, family, and other poets will join our celebration of National Poetry Month, to be held this year on Saturday, April 21, 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Sohier Room, Beverly Public Library.  Please come, read your winning poems, sign up for the open mic, and enjoy some light refreshments.

The winners are:

1st: Barn Swallows Celebrating A Perfect Summer Day, by  Richard Samuel David, Byfield

 2nd:  A Momentary Escape, by Catherine Moran, Little Rock, AK 

 3rd:  The Living, by Peter McDade, Ipswich, MA

Honorable Mention: (these are not ranked)

If You Did Not Find in This Life, by Richard Samuel David, Byfield

Falling Leaves,  by Jillian String, Lynnfield

Fisherman’s Beach, Night, by Lee E. Freedman, Swampscott

At the end of my dream (Sunday 645 am), by Lee E. Freedman

Lucid Dream, by Gail C. Heney, North Andover

Disconsolation, by Shirley Rodrigues, Swampscott

Conch Shell, by Mary Miceli, Rowley

Blush, by Martha Perry, Rockport 

 

I hope you can join us! 

National Poetry Month Coming Up

The Poets’ Forum members met on St. Patrick’s Day at the Beverly Public Library and enjoyed an informative and fun program on Irish songs, rhythm and poetry, presented by Mary Micelli. She delighted us by playing the tunes on the piano and then challenged us to write lyrics to her last selection.

Next on the agenda is our Open Mic on April 21, at the Beverly Library, 11 a.m., in celebration of National Poetry Month. Winners of the Naomi Cherkofsky contest (deadline April 1 for submission; see flyer) will be invited to read first, followed by those who sign up.

Hope you come join our celebration!

 

As I often do, I am including a poem by a great poet for your enjoyment, this time, in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, one by William Butler Yeats

The Second Coming

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

 

Next meeting is on St. Patrick’s Day

Forum contest flyer

The next meeting of the North Shore Poets’ Forum is on Saturday, March 17, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mary Micelli is leading the program, entitled “Rhythm and Irish Lyrics.” Bring a pad of paper and a pencil to write words to Irish songs.

Mary anticipates the meeting will be long, so there probably won’t be time for individual poem critiques.

Please bring some food to share.

Also, please remember the Naomi Cherkofsky contest deadline, coming up on April 1. Send poems!

Naomi Cherkofsky Contest is set!

Hello friends of poetry! I am writing today to announce the 2018 annual Naomi Cherkofsky Contest, deadline April 1. We love our North Shore poets, but we welcome poets from across the state and the nation. The entry cost is $3 per poem, maximum 5 poems per entrant; the individual must be 18 years of age or older. The poet is free to choose any subject and any style, but there is a maximum of 40 lines.

We award three monetary prizes but, in the interests of spreading the wealth, a poet may only win one. They are: 1st prize ($50), 2nd prize ($30) and 3rd prize ($20). We also choose a number of honorable mentions.

Most importantly, we hope all our participants, their friends and acquaintances who enjoy poetry will join us at our annual National Poetry Month celebration, Saturday, April 21, 11 to 2 p.m., Beverly Public Library. Our winners are invited to read their poems, after which there will be an open mic for interested attendees.

So, there is plenty of time to put pen to paper or computer fonts to screens for this contest, which was funded by the wonderful, generous Naomi Cherkofsky.

May the fires of creativity keep you warm!

P.S. The poems must be original and not previously published or granted monetary prizes in other contests.

P.P.S. Please tell your poet friends!

 

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to one and all!  And Happy Winter!

As in years past, we are not meeting in January or February due to the likelihood of bad weather. We will meet next on March 17 in the Sohier Room, Beverly Public Library, from 11 a.m. until 1:30 or so. Please bring a little food to share. After the presentation, we will have time for gentle critique of one another’s poems, so if you’d like to participate, please bring six to 10 copies.

Please see the Meetings page, above tab, for the latest updates to our schedule. And, while battling cold and storms, we can all delve into the works of new writers or old to help us through.

Here’s a selection — different styles and eras

Lines: The cold earth slept below

The cold earth slept below;
         Above the cold sky shone;
                And all around,
                With a chilling sound,
From caves of ice and fields of snow
The breath of night like death did flow
                Beneath the sinking moon.
The wintry hedge was black;
         The green grass was not seen;
                The birds did rest
                On the bare thorn’s breast,
Whose roots, beside the pathway track,
Had bound their folds o’er many a crack
                Which the frost had made between.
Thine eyes glow’d in the glare
         Of the moon’s dying light;
                As a fen-fire’s beam
                On a sluggish stream
Gleams dimly—so the moon shone there,
And it yellow’d the strings of thy tangled hair,
                That shook in the wind of night.
The moon made thy lips pale, beloved;
         The wind made thy bosom chill;
                The night did shed
                On thy dear head
Its frozen dew, and thou didst lie
Where the bitter breath of the naked sky
                Might visit thee at will.
From “Snow-Bound,” 11:1-40, 116-154 – Poem by John Greenleaf Whittier

The sun that brief December day
Rose cheerless over hills of gray,
And, darkly circled, gave at noon
A sadder light than waning moon.
Slow tracing down the thickening sky
Its mute and ominous prophecy,
A portent seeming less than threat,
It sank from sight before it set.
A chill no coat, however stout,
Of homespun stuff could quite shut out,
A hard, dull bitterness of cold,
That checked, mid-vein, the circling race
Of life-blood in the sharpened face,
The coming of the snow-storm told.
The wind blew east: we heard the roar
Of Ocean on his wintry shore,
And felt the strong pulse throbbing there
Beat with low rhythm our inland air.
Meanwhile we did your nightly chores,–
Brought in the wood from out of doors,
Littered the stalls, and from the mows
Raked down the herd’s-grass for the cows;
Heard the horse whinnying for his corn;
And, sharply clashing horn on horn,
Impatient down the stanchion rows
The cattle shake their walnut bows;
While, peering from his early perch
Upon the scaffold’s pole of birch,
The cock his crested helmet bent
And down his querulous challenge sent.

Unwarmed by any sunset light
The gray day darkened into night,
A night made hoary with the swarm
And whirl-dance of the blinding storm,
As zigzag, wavering to and fro
Crossed and recrossed the wingèd snow:
And ere the early bed-time came
The white drift piled the window-frame,
And through the glass the clothes-line posts
Looked in like tall and sheeted ghosts.

….

Winter Trees
All the complicated details
of the attiring and
the disattiring are completed!
A liquid moon
moves gently among
the long branches.
Thus having prepared their buds
against a sure winter
the wise trees
stand sleeping in the cold.

 

Shoveling Snow With Buddha –
by Billy Collins

In the usual iconography of the temple or the local Wok
you would never see him doing such a thing,
tossing the dry snow over a mountain
of his bare, round shoulder,
his hair tied in a knot,
a model of concentration.

Sitting is more his speed, if that is the word
for what he does, or does not do.

Even the season is wrong for him.
In all his manifestations, is it not warm or slightly humid?
Is this not implied by his serene expression,
that smile so wide it wraps itself around the waist of the universe?

But here we are, working our way down the driveway,
one shovelful at a time.
We toss the light powder into the clear air.
We feel the cold mist on our faces.
And with every heave we disappear
and become lost to each other
in these sudden clouds of our own making,
these fountain-bursts of snow.

This is so much better than a sermon in church,
I say out loud, but Buddha keeps on shoveling.
This is the true religion, the religion of snow,
and sunlight and winter geese barking in the sky,
I say, but he is too busy to hear me.

He has thrown himself into shoveling snow
as if it were the purpose of existence,
as if the sign of a perfect life were a clear driveway
you could back the car down easily
and drive off into the vanities of the world
with a broken heater fan and a song on the radio.

All morning long we work side by side,
me with my commentary
and he inside his generous pocket of silence,
until the hour is nearly noon
and the snow is piled high all around us;
then, I hear him speak.

After this, he asks,
can we go inside and play cards?

Certainly, I reply, and I will heat some milk
and bring cups of hot chocolate to the table
while you shuffle the deck.
and our boots stand dripping by the door.

Aaah, says the Buddha, lifting his eyes
and leaning for a moment on his shovel
before he drives the thin blade again
deep into the glittering white snow.