Category Archives: Poetry

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.

 

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And the winners are…

I apologize for not posting these sooner.  Life got away from me a bit. But, I am happy to announce the winners of the 2017 Naomi Cherkofsky contest. If possible, join us at the Open Mic, Beverly Public Library, April 22, 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

  1. Otto Laske, Gloucester, Mass, for the poem “July Garden.”
  2. Jennifer Revill, Middleton, Mass, for the poem “Seven Turkeys.”
  3. Richard Samuel Davis, Byfield, Mass., for the poem “Magic Act.”

Honorable mentions, which were not ranked so are simply listed wily nily:

  1. Mark Hudson, Evanston, Ill, for the poem “Ostrich Eggs.”
  2. Linda Werner, Marblehead, Mass., for the poem “For Closure.”
  3. Sandra Thaxter, Newburyport, Mass., for the poem “Geronimo’s Bones.”
  4. Martha Perry, Rockport, Mass., for the poem “Allahu Akbar.”
  5. Jennifer Revill, Middleton, Mass., for the poem, “The Note We Found in Grandma’s Purse.”

 

Thank you to all who entered poems. It was a very good group and a tough competition. Congratulations to those who won!

Remember the Contest!

I do hope that many of you are writing your poems and planning which ones you will submit to the North Shore Poets’ Forum annual Naomi Cherkofsky Contest. The deadline is March 15 — less than two months! See rules under the tab “Poetry Contests” above.

The winners are invited to read their poems, and a few more, during our annual celebration  of National Poetry Month, this year to be held on April 22 at the Beverlly Public Library be, 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Light refreshments will be served.

The Forum has been hosting this contest for, I don’t know, maybe 25 years. Naomi was one of the original members of the Forum who had a wonderful spirit and was generous in her encouragement of fellow poets, particularly the less confident (me!).

So, please sharpen your pencils and join us for a wonderful celebration of poetry.

To conclude this post, I am including a poem that I hope you will enjoy.

A Ritual to Read to Each Other

If you don’t know the kind of person I am
and I don’t know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.
For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
sending with shouts the horrible errors of  childhood
storming out to play through the broken dike.
And as elephants parade holding each elephant’s tail,
but if one wanders the circus won’t find the park,
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.
And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should  consider—
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.
For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to  sleep;
the signals we give — yes or no, or maybe —
should be clear:  the darkness around us is deep.

 

NS Poets’ Forum Meets Saturday!

HI folks,

The new season at the North Shore Poets’ Forum gets started on Saturday, Sept. 17, at 11 a.m., in the Sohier Room of the Beverly Public Library, Essex Street, Beverly. Our eminent founder, Jeanette Maes, will present a program about the renowned poet Donald Hall. He is an elder statesman of poetry, at this point in his life, but still active. We look forward to Jeanette’s presentation.

Fall beckons, and next month will be filled with cooler air and traditional tales of ghostly spirits. Maryanne Anderson will present a program entitled “Hauntings,” on Oct. 22.

Please see Meetings and Events tab for our plans for the following months.

End of summer now, so I will leave you with some end of summer poems.

End of Summer

 

STANLEY KUNITZ

An agitation of the air,
A perturbation of the light
Admonished me the unloved year
Would turn on its hinge that night.

I stood in the disenchanted field
Amid the stubble and the stones,
Amazed, while a small worm lisped to me
The song of my marrow-bones.

Blue poured into summer blue,
A hawk broke from his cloudless tower,
The roof of the silo blazed, and I knew
That part of my life was over.

Already the iron door of the north
Clangs open: birds, leaves, snows
Order their populations forth,
And a cruel wind blows.

 

 

XXXIX (from Last Poems)

A.E. Housman

When summer’s end is nighing
And skies at evening cloud,
I muse on change and fortune
And all the feats I vowed
When I was young and proud.

The weathercock at sunset
Would lose the slanted ray,
And I would climb the beacon
That looked to Wales away
And saw the last of day.

From hill and cloud and heaven
The hues of evening died;
Night welled through lane and hollow
And hushed the countryside,
But I had youth and pride.

And I with earth and nightfall
In converse high would stand,
Late, till the west was ashen
And darkness hard at hand,
And the eye lost the land.

The year might age, and cloudy
The lessening day might close,
But air of other summers
Breathed from beyond the snows,
And I had hope of those.

They came and were and are not
And come no more anew;
And all the years and seasons
That ever can ensue
Must now be worse and few.

So here’s an end of roaming
On eves when autumn nighs:
The ear too fondly listens
For summer’s parting sighs,
And then the heart replies.

 

Come to the Open Mic!

driveby marsh and river_artsy
A pretty spring day…surely inspirational!

***Note: I am a goof! I meant Saturday, April 18. Sorry!

Please join us for an Open Mic in celebration of National Poetry Month, also know as April or, per T.S. Eliot, the cruelest month. The event is Saturday, April 16, at the Beverly Public Library, from 11 a.m. to about 1 p.m. Light refreshments will be available. Most importantly, bring your poems, and if you are too shy to share your own originals, bring some poems by a poet you admire.

There will be a sign-up sheet when you arrive. You will be asked to read up to three poems, or up to 10 minutes, whichever is longer. Once everyone who signed up has read, we will start from the beginning again!

I hope to see you there!

 

Meeting on Saturday

 

The next meeting of the North Shore Poets’ Forum is Saturday, March 21, 11 a.m. to 1ish, at the Beverly Public Library, Program Room. It is the first full day of Spring, the Vernal Equinox having officially begun the evening of March 20. So, with any luck but bad, it should be a lovely day.

The program will be led by Jeanette Maes, who will pay tribute to two poets who died recently: Philip Levine and Rod McKuen.

Save the Date

Although we did not have the annual Naomi Cherkofsky contest, we will still have a poetry reading on April 18 with an Open Mic. Please invite your poet friends to join us in our celebration of National Poetry Month.

To get you in a poetic frame of mind, here’s a little number from Seamus Heaney, who also died recently and whose birthplace, Ireland, and its patron saint, St. Patrick, are brought to mind this time of year:

Digging

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.
Under my window, a clean rasping sound.
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging. I look down

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging.

The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked,
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

By God, the old man could handle a spade.
Just like his old man.

My grandfather cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner’s bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, going down and down
For the good turf. Digging.
The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.
Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.

 

A summer goodbye

Diane's party 7 outing 1 outing 2 outing 3 outing 4 outing 5 outing 6 outing 7 outing 8 outing 9

Goodbye Diane

The North Shore Poets’ Forum gathered this past June to wish a fond farewell to Diane Giardi, a wonderful poet and terrific person, with such a good heart and generous spirit. We will miss her.

Of course, we will keep in touch. She has moved to New York, not the ends of the earth. And, email is just a click away. We hope, as she states in her thank you note, that she will be able to come and visit sometimes.

From Diane:
“Thank you everyone for such a wonderful send-off yesterday, with the delicious meal
at Captain Carlos on the sunny deck and hill top poetry reading and photo shoot looking
over the harbor.  It was all great and I’ll miss such a wonderful group and your poems
and individuality.  Thanks Cathryn for planning this and I’ll keep in touch with maybe
a summer visit.  Enjoy the rest of the summer. ” -Diane
I’ve finally gathered the photos that members sent to me. I have no idea why WordPress presents them so oddly. But, enjoy!