w.s. merwin | before the flood

30 09 2007

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Poetry Dispatch No. 5 | September 10, 2005

Before the Flood by W.S. Merwin

Why did he promise me
that we would build ourselves
an ark all by ourselves
out in back of the house
on New York Avenue
in Union City New Jersey
to the singing of the streetcars
after the story
of Noah whom nobody
believed about the waters
that would rise over everything
when I told my father
I wanted us to build
an ark of our own there
in the back yard under
the kitchen could we do that
he told me that we could
I want to I said and will we
he promised me that we would
why did he promise that
I wanted us to start then
nobody will believe us
I said that we are building
an ark because the rains
are coming and that was true
nobody ever believed
we would build an ark there
nobody would believe
that the waters were coming.

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William Stanley Merwin (born September 30, 1927 in New York City) is one of the most influential American poets of the latter 20th century.

Merwin made a name for himself as an anti-war poet during the 1960′s. Later, he would evolve toward mythological themes and develop a unique prosody characterized by indirect narration and the absence of punctuation. In the 80′s and 90′s, Merwin’s interest in Buddhist philosophy and deep ecology also influenced his writing. He continues to write prolifically, though he also dedicates significant time to the restoration of rainforests in Hawaii, the state where he lives.

Merwin has received many honors, including a Pulitzer Prize and a Tanning Prize, one of the highest honors bestowed by the Academy of American Poets.

Merwin grew up in Union City, New Jersey and Scranton, Pennsylvania. He graduated from Princeton University in 1948. His father was a Presbyterian minister. ‘I started writing hymns for my father as soon as I could write at all’, Merwin has said. While at Princeton, he studied writing with John Berryman and R. P. Blackmur, to whom his fifth book, The Moving Target (1963), was later dedicated. Merwin spent a postgraduate year at Princeton studying Romance languages, an interest that would lead, eventually, to his much-admired work as a translator of Latin, Spanish, and French poetry.

poetryawards.jpgMerwin travelled in France, Spain, and England. He settled in Majorca in 1950 as a tutor to Robert Graves’s son. Graves, with his interest in mythology, would become a primary influence on young Merwin. Moving to London in 1951, Merwin made his living as a translator for several years. In America, his first book of poems won the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award for 1952, selected by W. H. Auden, who remarked in his introduction on the young poet’s technical virtuosity. That volume, A Mask for Janus, is immensely formal, neoclassical in style. For the next decade Merwin would regularly publish collections of intensely wrought, brightly imagistic poems that recalled the poetry of Wallace Stevens as well as Robert Graves and other influences. After his graduation from Princeton, Merwin has never been associated with a writing program or university. He has lived all over the world, and he now lives in Haiku, Hawaii.

migration.jpgAt a Union City (NJ) council meeting in early March 2006, historian Kathie Pontus formally requested that the city of Union City honor Merwin, who was scheduled to be in New Jersey to accept the National Book Award for his latest poetry collection (ISBN 1-55659-218-3) called Migration. Pontus asked the board that a street naming be held on April 22, 2006 for Merwin, who when contacted for the event, stated that he was “nostalgic about Union City, and moved that it remembered him, and would love to return home to receive this honor.”

In 1952 Merwin’s first book of poetry, A Mask for Janus, was published in the Yale Younger Poets Series. W. H. Auden selected the work for that distinction. Later, in 1971 Auden and Merwin would exchange harsh words in the pages of The New York Review of Books. Merwin had published a feature, On Being Awarded the Pulitzer Prize in the June 3, 1971 issue of The New York Review of Books that announced his objection to the Vietnam War and that he was donating his prize money. Auden responded in a letter entitled Saying No that appeared in the July 1, 1971 issue stating that the Pulitzer Prize jury was not a political body with any ties to the American foreign policy.

From 1956 to 1957 Merwin was also playwright-in-residence at the Poet’s Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts; he became poetry editor at The Nation in 1962. Besides being a prolific poet (he has published over fifteen volumes of his works) he is also a respected translator of Spanish, French, Italian and Latin poetry, including Dante’s Purgatorio.

foldingcliffs.jpgMerwin is probably best known for his poetry about the Vietnam War, and can be included among the canon of Vietnam War-era poets which includes such luminaries as Robert Bly, Adrienne Rich, Denise Levertov, Robert Lowell, Allen Ginsberg and Yusef Komunyakaa. In 1998, Merwin wrote Folding Cliffs: A Narrative, an ambitious novel-in-verse about Hawaiian history and legend.

Merwin’s early subjects were frequently tied to mythological or legendary themes, while many of the poems featured animals, which were treated as emblems in the manner of William Blake. A volume called The Drunk in the Furnace (1960) marked a change for Merwin, in that he began to write in a much more autobiographical way. The title-poem is about Orpheus, seen as an old drunk. ‘Where he gets his spirits / it’s a mystery’, Merwin writes; ‘But the stuff keeps him musical’. Another powerful poem of this period is ‘Odysseus’, which reworks the traditional theme in a way that plays off poems by Stevens and Graves on the same topic.

In the 1960s Merwin began to experiment boldly with metrical irregularity. His poems became much less tidy and controlled. He played with the forms of indirect narration typical of this period, a self-conscious experimentation explained in an essay called ‘On Open Form‘ (1969). The Lice (1967) and The Carrier of Ladders (1970) (which won a Pulitzer Prize) remain his most influential volumes. These poems often used legendary subjects (as in ‘The Hydra’ or ‘The Judgment of Paris’) to explore highly personal themes.

In Merwin’s later volumes, such as The Compass Flower (1977), Opening the Hand (1983), and The Rain in the Trees (1988), one sees him transforming earlier themes in fresh ways, developing an almost Zen-like indirection. His latest poems are densely imagistic, dream-like, and full of praise for the natural world. He has lived in Hawaii since the 1970s, and one sees the influence of this tropical landscape everywhere in the recent poems, though the landscape remains emblematic and personal. Migration won the 2005 National Book Award for poetry.

Poetry

  • * The First Four Books of Poems, 1975, 2000
  • * A Mask for Janus, 1952- Awarded the Yale Younger Poets Prize, 1952
  • * The Dancing Bears, 1954
  • * Green with Beasts, 1956
  • * The Drunk in the Furnace, 1960
  • * The Second Four Books of Poems, 1993
  • * The Moving Target, 1963
  • * The Lice, 1967
  • * The Carrier of Ladders, 1970- Awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, 1971
  • * Writings to an Unfinished Accompnaiment, 1973
  • * The Compass Flower, 1977
  • * Finding the Islands, 1982
  • * Opening the Hand, 1983
  • * The Rain in the Trees, 1988
  • * Selected Poems, 1988
  • * Travels, 1993
  • * The Vixen, 1996
  • * Flower & Hand, 1997
  • * The Folding Cliffs: A Narrative, 1998
  • * The River Sound, 1999
  • * The Pupil, 2001
  • * Migration: New & Selected Poems, 2005
  • * Present Company, 2005

Prose

  • * The Miner’s Pale Children, 1970
  • * Houses and Travellers, 1977
  • * Regions of Memory
  • * Unframed Originals: Recollections, 1982
  • * The Lost Uplands: Stories of Southwest France, 1992
  • * The Mays of Ventadorn, 2002
  • * The Ends of the Earth, 2004

Translations

  • * The Poem of the Cid, 1959
  • * The Satires of Persius, 1960
  • * Spanish Ballads, 1961
  • * Lazarillo de Tormes, 1962
  • * The Song of Roland, 1963
  • * Selected Translations, 1948 – 1968, 1968
  • * Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair, Poems by Pablo Neruda, 1969
  • * Products of the Perfected Civilization, Selected Writings of Chamfort, 1969
  • * Voices, Poems of Antonio Porchia, 1969, 1988, 2003
  • * Transparence of the World, Poems by Jean Follain, 1969, 2003
  • * Asian Figures, 1973
  • * Osip Mandelstam: Selected Poems (with Clarence Brown), 1974
  • * Euripedes’ Iphigeneia at Aulis (with George E. Dimock, Jr.), 1978
  • * Selected Translations, 1968-1978, 1979
  • * Four French Plays, 1985
  • * From the Spanish Morning, 1985
  • * Vertical Poetry, Poems by Roberto Juarroz, 1988
  • * Sun at Midnight, Poems by Musō Soseki (with Soiku Shigematsu), 1989
  • * Pieces of Shadow: Selected Poems of Jaime Sabines, 1996
  • * East Window: The Asian Translations, 1998
  • * Purgatorio from The Divine Comedy of Dante, 2000
  • * Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, 2005
  • * Summer Doorways: A Memoir, 2005

source

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jack kerouac | labour day

30 09 2007

 

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Labour Day

Poetry Dispatch No. 4 | September 5, 2005

ononon.jpgJack Kerouac’s novel ON THE ROAD came out on this day in 1957, the story of Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty roaring across America—the book that defined the Beat Generation. In the opening pages, Kerouac wrote: “I’d been poring over maps of the United States for months, even reading books about the pioneers and savoring names like Platte and Cimarron and so on, and on the road-map was one long red line called Route 6 that led from the tip of Cape Cod clear to Ely, Nevada, and there dipped down to Los Angeles. I’ll just stay on 6 all the way to Ely, I said to myself, and confidently started.” The book got good reviews: The September 5 New York Times review called it “the most beautifully executed utterance yet made by the generation Kerouac himself named years ago as ‘beat’.” (from: Writer’s Almanac)

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1. Scribble secret notebooks and wild type-written pages for the joy of it.
2. Be submissive to everything, open, listening.
3. Be in love with your life.
4. Something you feel will find its own form.
5. Try never to get drunk outside of your own home.
6. Blow as deep as you want to blow.
7. No time for poetry, but exactly what is.
8. Accept loss forever. (That’s a big one.)
9. No fear of shame in the dignity of your experience, language
and knowledge.
10. Compose wild, undisciplined, pure, crazier the better, coming from the
bottom.
11. You’re a genius all the time.


Jack Kerouac





mariann ritzer | relative trade

30 09 2007

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Poetry Dispatch No. 3 | August,29 2005

Relative Trade by Mariann Ritzer

This is trade day, giveaway day
and I’ll take Jennifer Kruger’s grandmother
who smells like fresh-baked oatmeal bread
and trade my gnarly, wrinkled, liver-spotted,
cabbage-smelling grandma with the babushkas
she ties tightly under her chin and mine.

I’ll grab Henry Kowalski’s father with his
sweat shirts and swear words and his slow
pitches in the backyard and give Henry
my stoic, gray-eyed, Bible-quoting father.

I’ll trade Martha Bittle’s red-lipped, light blonde
mother with painted nails, quick laughter and arms
put there for hugging and give Martha my frail,
driven-by-migraine-headaches mother who dusts
the window sills thrice weekly and eats bran muffins
with raisins on Mondays and Fridays.

I’ll take Millie Roiden’s Aunt Sassy,
who reads romance novels and whispers
the love scenes to us in a husky, steamy voice
and wears three inch heals and cracks Juicy Fruit gum
between her beautiful, straight, white teeth.
Yes, I’ll take her and give Millie
my Aunt Betsy and her five black cats
with green, glow-in-the-dark eyes who walk
and stalk her efficiency apartment
like burglars in the night.
If they won’t agree to an outright trade
I’ll play marbles and throw my winnings
in for their people.

I’ll trade even Steven and they’ll thank me grandly
for giving them my people and the marbles
and this will be one time they won’t call
me an Indian giver. This time I’ll play
for keeps and surprise the hell out of them
and when I am rich and famous because of all
the genes I acquired through that thing called
osmosis I’ll thank them publicly for playing
the game according to Hoyle and give them
each a crisp, snappy, new dollar bill
and tell them not to spend it all
in one place, like my grandpa says.

I’ll keep track of my people, once in a while,
like every month or so, just to see
how things are going, but I won’t want them back
nor will I miss them or the bran muffins
with the raisins, the tightly tied babushka,
the black, green-eyed apartment
or the preaching Bible versus

Praise Be The Lord, Amen.

crp001_t1.jpgfrom, AN EVENING ON MILDRED STREET | Cross+Roads Press | Chapbook 1 (1995)





amber coverdale sumrall | reunion

29 09 2007

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Poetry Dispatch No. 1 | August 2, 2005

Reunion
by Amber Coverdale Sumrall

In your old pickup we drive the length of the island looking for blackberries and trails that lead to the lighthouse, tell stories about our six cats, the ones we divided when I left. I took your favorites, the ones that were mine before we met. Your fifth marriage is faltering. I am falling in love for the third time since we separated. All you want to do is fish in your father’s rowboat, build a small cabin on five acres of land. Beyond right now, I don’t know what I want. Somewhere on Orcas another woman dreams of you, waits for you to enter her life.

We smoke from your well-seasoned pipe, nervous as new lovers. Those last months I refused to get high with you; we always fought afterward. I remember why I loved you and why, after ten years, I left. The reasons blend together, rise with the smoke and dissipate. You ask me to tell you why, once again. Each time the story is different, a work in progress. Days pass in one afternoon. Is there still a chance, you ask.

We smile at one another, our defenses down. No one knows us better. At the trailhead you pick purple flowers, hand them to me, suddenly shy. I trip over exposed roots as we walk, instinctively take your outstretched hand then let it go. In the lagoon a pair of herons dance for one another, lowering their long necks in courtship. Hidden behind boulders, we watch in silence until the birds lift and disappear beyond the lighthouse.

There is always a chance, I say.

litanycover.jpgfrom Litany of Wings. © Many Names Press





edgar lee masters | happy birthday mr. spoon river

26 09 2007

Poetry Dispatch No. 2 | August,23 2005

leemastersportraitneu.jpg“Life all around me here in the village:
Tragedy, comedy, valor and truth,
Courage, constancy, heroism, failure -
All in the loom, and oh what patterns!”

(‘Petit, the Poet,’ from Spoon River Anthology)

This is a good day (August 23rd) to take another look at an American masterpiece celebrating small town life.

The village, the town, the rural may be an old fashioned lifestyle to some, given the magnetism of our great cities, the scope and sameness of our suburbias, gated communities, concrete, steel, and neon landscapes peopled with strangers. It may even be a very old fashioned way to write a poem about provincial life, though narrative poetry seems as natural as gossip, and often achieves greatness because of the story within the poem we all wish to hear, and some to write. I can think of no greater book of American poetry reflecting the power and beauty of the narrative poem than Edgar Less Masters’s SPOON RIVER ANTHOLOGY.

The opening poem in SPOON RIVER introduces the people and place, and like a good short story, a well designed narrative, begins where it all ends:

The Hill
Where are Elmer, Herman, Bert, Tom, and Charley,
The weak of will, the strong of arm, the clown, the boozer, the fighter?
All, all, are sleeping on the hill.

One passed in a fever,
One was burned in a mine,
One was killed in a brawl,
One died in jail,
One fell from a bridge toiling for children and wife–
All, all are sleeping, sleeping, sleeping on the hill.

Where are Ella, Kate, Mag, Lizzie, and Edith,
The tender heart, the simple soul, the loud, the proud, the happy one?–
All, all, are sleeping on the hill.

One died in shameful child-birth,
One of a thwarted love,
One at the hands of a brute in a brothel,
One of a broken pride, in a search for a heart’s desire,
One after life in faraway London and Paris
Was brought to her little space by Ella and Kate and Mag–
All, all are sleeping, sleeping, sleeping on the hill.

Where are Uncle Isaac and Aunt Emily,
And old Towny Kincaid and Sevigne Houghton,
And Major Walker who had talked
With venerable men of the revolution?–
All, all, are sleeping on the hill.

They brought them dead sons from the war,
And daughters whom life had crushed,
And their children fatherless, crying–
All, all are sleeping, sleeping, sleeping on the hill.

Where is old Fiddler Jones
Who played with life all his ninety years,
Braving the sleet with bared breast,
Drinking, rioting, thinking neither of wife nor kin,
Nor gold, nor love, nor heaven?
Lo! he babbles of the fish-frys of long ago,
Of the horse-races long ago at Clary’s Grove,
Of what Abe Lincoln said
One time at Springfield.

Today, August 23, is the birthday of the poet Edgar Lee Masters born in Garnett, Kansas (1869). He was one of the first writers to portray the American small town as a place of terrible secrets, lies, and scandals. Masters grew up in two towns in the Illinois Corn Belt, Lewistown and Petersburg, along the Spoon River. He became a lawyer and moved to Chicago. He was a partner with Clarence Darrow. He met Carl Sandburg, who was writing for a socialist newspaper, and Masters got involved in the Chicago literary scene. He published a series of books of poems and several plays.

One day, Edgar Lee Masters’ mother came to visit, and he spent a day with her talking about all the characters he remembered from the towns where he grew up. His mother told him all the gossip that she knew about those people. He put her on the train and went back home and started writing Spoon River Anthology.

He had recently read a book of Greek poems written in the form of fictional epitaphs about famous dead men, and so he got the idea for a book of poems written in the voices of the dead in a graveyard.

spoonriver.jpgHe published Spoon River Anthology in 1915 under a pseudonym. He was worried it would have an effect on his law practice, and he was right to worry. The book was considered very scandalous at the time, but it became a best-seller. It went through 70 printings, and it allowed Masters to retire from his law practice. The people in the towns that he had grown up in were angry at him for decades. It took more than 50 years before the town where he went to high school was able to put Spoon River Anthology in the town library. (source: Writer’s Almanac)

LUCINDA MATLOCK by Edgar Lee Masters

I went to the dances at Chandlerville,
And played snap-out at Winchester
One time we changed partners,
Driving home in the moonlight of middle June,
And then I found Davis.
We were married and lived together for seventy years,
Enjoying, working, raising the twelve children,
Eight of whom we lost
Ere I had reached the age of sixty.
I spun, I wove, I kept the house, I nursed the sick,
I made the garden, and for holiday
Rambled over the fields where sang the larks,
And by Spoon River gathering many a shell,
And many a flower and medicinal weed—
Shouting to the wooded hills, singing to the green valleys.
At ninety-six I had lived enough, that is all,
And passed to a sweet repose.
What is this I hear of sorrow and weariness,
Anger, discontent and drooping hopes?
Degenerate sons and daughters,
Life is too strong for you—
It takes life to love Life.

In 1914 Masters began a series of poems about his boyhood experiences in western Illinois, published (under the pseudonym Webster Ford) in Reedy’s Mirror (St. Louis). This was the beginning of Spoon River Anthology (1915), the book that would make his reputation and become one of the most popular and widely known works in all of American literature. In “The Genesis of Spoon River” (American Mercury, Jan. 1933), Masters recalls how his interest turned to “combinations of my imagination drawn from the lives of the faithful and tender-hearted souls whom I had known in my youth about Concord, and wherever on Spoon River they existed.”

Though he would never equal the achievement or fame of Spoon River Anthology, he continued publishing poetry, novels, essays, and biographies for nearly thirty years. The amount and wide range of his production far exceeded its quality, by most accounts, and Masters’s place in twentieth-century American literature is still debated. (source: Ronald Primeau)

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Edgar Lee Masters (August 23, 1868 – March 5, 1950) was an American poet, biographer and dramatist. He is the author of Spoon River Anthology, The New Star Chamber and Other Essays, Songs and Satires, The Great Valley, The Serpent in the Wilderness An Obscure Tale, The Spleen, Mark Twain: A Portrait, Lincoln: The Man, and Illinois Poems. In all, Masters published twelve plays, twenty-one books of poetry, six novels and six biographies, including those of Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain, Vachel Lindsay, and Walt Whitman.

Edgar Lee Masters was born on August 23, 1868 to Emma J. Dexter and Hardin Wallace Masters in Garnett, Kansas, where his father had briefly moved to set up a law practice. The family soon moved back to his paternal grandparents’ farm near Petersburg in Menard County, Illinois. In 1880 they moved to Lewistown, Illinois, where he attended high school and had his first publication in the Chicago Daily News. The culture around Lewistown, in addition to the town’s cemetery at Oak Hill, and the nearby Spoon River were the inspirations for many of his works, most notably Spoon River Anthology, his most famous and acclaimed work. Spoon River was Masters’s revenge on small-town hypocrisy and narrow-mindedness. It gained a huge popularity, but shattered his position as a respectable member of establishment. Masters attended The Knox Academy from 1889-1890, a defunct preparatory program run by Knox College, but was forced to leave due to his family’s inability to finance his education.

After working in his father’s law office, he was admitted to the Illinois bar and moved to Chicago, where he established a law partnership with Kickham Scanlan in 1893. In 1898, he married Helen M. Jenkins, the daughter of a lawyer in Chicago, and had three children. During his law partnership with Clarence Darrow, from 1903 to 1908, Masters defended the poor. In 1911, he started his own law firm, despite the three years of unrest (1908-1911) due to extramarital affairs and an argument with Darrow.

Masters died March 5, 1950 and is buried in Oakland cemetery in Petersburg, Illinois. His epitaph includes his poem, “To-morrow is My Birthday” from Toward the Gulf (1918):

Good friends, let’s to the fields…
After a little walk and by your pardon,
I think I’ll sleep, there is no sweeter thing.
Nor fate more blessed than to sleep.

I am a dream out of a blessed sleep-
Let’s walk, and hear the lark.

Masters first published his early poems and essays under the pseudonym Dexter Wallace (after his mother’s maiden name and his father’s middle name) until the year 1903, when he joined the lawfirm of Clarence Darrow.

It was in 1914 when Masters truly began developing as a notable American poet, when he began submitting a series of poems (this time under the pseudonym Webster Ford) about his childhood experiences in Western Illinois, which was published in Reedy’s Mirror, a St. Louis publication. In 1915, the series was bound into a volume and re-titled Spoon River Anthology.

380px-usstamp-edgar_lee_masters.jpgThough he never matched the success of his Spoon River Anthology, Masters was a prolific writer of diverse works. He published several other volumes of poems including Book of Verses in 1898, Songs and Sonnets in 1910, The Great Valley in 1916, Song and Satires in 1916, The Open Sea in 1921, The New Spoon River in 1924, Lee in 1926, Jack Kelso in 1928, Lichee Nuts in 1930, Gettysburg, Manila, Acoma in 1930, Godbey, sequel to Jack Kelso in 1931, The Serpent in the Wilderness in 1933, Richmond in 1934, Invisible Landscapes in 1935, The Golden Fleece of California in 1936, Poems of People in 1936, The New World in 1937, More People in 1939, Illinois Poems in 1941, and Along the Illinois in 1942.

Masters was awarded the Mark Twain Silver Medal in 1936, the Poetry Society of America medal in 1941, the Academy of American Poets Fellowship in 1942, and the Shelly Memorial Award in 1944.

Books

* A Book of Verses (1898)
* Songs and Sonnets (1910)
* Spoon River Anthology (1915)
* Songs and Satires (1916)
* Fiddler Jones (1916)
* The Great Valley (1916)
* The Open Sea (1921)
* The New Spoon River (1924)
* Selected Poems (1925)
* Lee: A Dramatic Poem (1926)
* Jack Kelso: A Dramatic Poem (1928)
* Lichee Nuts (1930)
* Gettysburg, Manila, Acoma: A Dramatic Poem (1930)
* Godbey: A Dramatic Poem, sequel to Jack Kelso (1931)
* The Serpent in the Wilderness (1933)
* Richmond: A Dramatic Poem (1934)
* Invisible Landscapes (1935)
* Poems of People (1936)
* The Golden Fleece of California (1936)
* The New World (1937)
* More People (1939)
* Illinois Poems (1941)
* Along the Illinois (1942)

Plays

* Maximilian: A Play (1902, drama)
* Althea: A Play (1907, drama)
* The Trifler: A Play (1908, drama)
* Eileen: A Play (1910, drama)
* The Bread of Idleness: A Play (1910, drama)
* Dramatic Dialogues: Four Short Plays (1934, drama)

Biographies

* Lincoln: The Man (1931)
* Vachel Lindsay: A Poet in America (1935)
* Across Spoon River: An Autobiography (1936, memoir)
* Whitman (1937)
* Mark Twain: A Portrait (1938)

source





dorothy terry | toujours couture

26 09 2007

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Poetry Dispatch No. 188 | September 17, 2007

Writing Fashion

I often thought that it might be interesting to someday present a writing course based on “The Literature of Fashion.”

Which immediately leads to the examination of culture–especially ours, where fashion rules, and the times or the designers or the individual herself/himself attempts to make a statement. (For what purpose?) Just how this might be explored for the benefit of the class members, just how it might help them become better, more observant writers…well, that would be the teaching challenge. (But I think I know the way.)

With all that in mind for future reference, I have kept a file on this idea for a number of years. Certainly there would be biography to choose from (historical, celebrity, etc.) as well as fiction (novels, short stories), various magazines for study–and possibly poetry. However, given this writer’s need to focus on priorities in the time ahead, I doubt this course will ever materialize. Nevertheless, thanks to this excellent new poem by Dorothy Terry, I will keep the fashion file open and surely include a copy of “Toujours Couture” as prime source material.

This is the first publication of Dorothy Terry’s poem. Norbert Blei

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TOUJOURS COUTURE by Dorothy Terry

If they put me in the solitary ward
And tied my arms tight to my side

And cuffed my legs so I could
Never flee, I would still be free

To escape in my mindless mind
To the swollen end-of-season racks at

My favorite tres luxe clothing store
Where vain dreams hang side by side

With Dior chiffon, Chanel knit
Any end-of-season day of sales

Spring, summer, fall or winter I reach
Between discrete silk padded hangers

And slowly withdraw the sad, distressed
Out-of-season, limply hanging YOU

Who, with just a small reviving stitch
And gentle iron’s caress, will certainly

Evoke strong statement of my intent
To spend life no day older than I am today

And right away, I promise to save, preserve
And accept you, even with your slightly tainted

Fondled vintage airs, and fading
Violet shadows under arms

Your fragile beauty suspended only by a silken thread.
I am the savior who freed you yesterday

From rusty, sagging thrift shop rack
Or filthy third-world backstreet stall

Where you, like other royalty of rags
Spent final ignominious days, hanging ‘round

With tattered satin, snagged lace, limp linen
All destined for the shredding bin

Severely stained by dirty, unattended hands.
Therefore, I promise you upon every fraying seam

So lightly sewn by clever fingers which
Rose and fell so hungrily, like bees upon

A willing flower, I here and now
Do promise you eternal salvation from

A dire, bruised and slightly used hell which
Lured proud you, and all your retro ways

To Ophelia and that tiresome reparatory company
A squalled season laid out on splintered, bare barn boards

Instead I offer you and your every snap, zipper,
Bakelite button and bound seam

Salvation forever from the darkness, the stench of
Mothball smell, depressing fumes

Of murky side street Salvation store
Where at last you rested, hanging by a thread.

Therefore, I plan to wear you Wed or Dead
Lying now across my bed

I so admire the way you fell, still
Flirting still with grace and tattered charm

Despite those years of storage pall
No, never, never, never will I fling you away

Well,
Not today …

copyright Dorothy Terry September 6, 2007

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Dorothy Terry , chronicler of the Fantastical Travels of TSE, is a Chicago area poet. Her poetry has been published in The Thing about Second Chances, Polyphony Press, Chicago; InPrint, Persiflage Press, Chicago, and Zocalo, Oaxaca, Mexico., and InPrint, Newberry Library, Chicago. She was selected as an annual Newberry reader in 2004, representing Brooke Bergan’s workshop.

She also has served on the Editorial Board of a upcoming anthology by Persiflage Press, and is currently completing three books: Snapshots, a book of short form poetry; Under Mt.Alban, poems of Oaxaca, Mexico; and THE LAST TRUMPET – A poetic drama about the Great Flood of Orleans, circa 2005 A.D., including the activities of the Devil Himself as well as the famous Baron.








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