Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Poetry: Why It Matters, and Who's Reading Next

It's National Poetry Month. Thank goodness, there's something to carry us through the uncertain weather of snow-rain-wind-sun ... wow, sun! Well, we're hoping for a few days of it. But while we're hoping, poetry carries that hope in a lidded basket, close enough to open and savor.

Here are some quick notes from today's immersion in the world of poets and poetry. Why immerse there, when mysteries are the focus of Kingdom Books? Well, as Gwendolyn Brooks said, "Poetry is life distilled." When grappling for the intense core of a book -- whether reading it or writing it -- poetry can be the flashlight, the pry bar, the watering spout.

A collection of poems that's been waiting for attention on my desk has been Laure Anne Bosselaar's 2007 offering, A NEW HUNGER (Ausable Press). It's so powerful that I've literally picked it up and set it down again over and over, and this evening I pushed to work my way once and for all through the entire book: its 12+ pages of opening poem "Against Again" that wrings my heart for the abandoned and abused child that Bosselaar suggests she once was, a child brought back into clear focus upon seeing a small girl on a train being ignored by a mother: "and look at her face: already courageous, defeated, / and old with it." Bosselaar writes of being delivered to a de facto orphanage by her beautiful and very much alive mother, who had no use for anything that didn't gratify and fawn over that angry, insistent, socially prominent woman. In the nunnery, the poet-child learns of her own ugliness and evil, of how unwanted she is ... so that every subsequent poem erupting in adulthood confronts the cruelty of that time. in "Man at the Museum of Modern Art" she marvels at the revelation that a stranger's presence can bring:
How horror stalks us -- as desire does,
or love. Or hunger.
In Bosselaar's presence among poets, in cities, in adulthood, there is a new answer forming, though. In the poem "Awe" she savors New York City and its mighty Hudson River, and concludes,
this ten-bucks-wave-rocker of a ride

is mine, and so is this million-windowed city,
trashed, ashed and gleaming, too busy

destroying then rebuilding herself to watch
the Hudson and me at the end of our journeys --

resilient and willing.
So it is that we rebuild out of ash, out of pain, out of torment, into life.

Hungry for more poetry, more powerful language? If you're in New England, consider visiting Dartmouth College tomorrow, April 7, for a Poetry and Prose reading presented by the English Department:
April 7, 4pm in Sanborn Library

There will be a reading by Todd Hearon and Michelle Hoover.  Reception to follow.

Todd Hearon is the author of STRANGE LAND, and is a poet, playwright, and fiction

Michelle Hoover is author of QUICKENING and teaches writing and Boston University
and Grub Street.
And if you can't get there, take a look at Hearon's surrealistic feast through his Poetry Foundation web page, and at this intriguing interview today with Hoover on the Boston Area Small Press and Poetry Scene blog.

Back to mysteries tomorrow ... but watch for more poetry this month. It's a good spring tonic.

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