alice d’alessio | questions for henry

22 12 2008

kiss

Poetry Dispatch No. 261 | December 19, 2008


Editor’s Note: The real payoff in teaching—and in publishing the work of others, should you be also engaged—is the satisfaction of seeing a student, a friend, (eventually a fellow-writer’s work) come back to you in other publications, literary mags, books…accomplishments, accolades galore. (“I remember her/him when…”), Not that you can in anyway lay claim to another’s success or talent, but only that “you were there” in some way to witness the beginning, the development, and perhaps in some small way gave a little nudge.

Sometimes the attention happens suddenly. More often, years pass. Either way, the journey is a lifetime—which both (I hesitate to use the word ‘teacher’ as well as ‘student’) realize though may not express because anyone seriously treading the writer’s path knows it is filled with potholes, wrong turns, dead ends, economic insecurity, considerable failure. No guarantees.

Real writers know the commitment is to the word alone—for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health… And one (teacher/friend) never forgets the other (student/friend/teacher). The writer/teacher wants to see the friend/former student succeed on his or her own terms. Find her voice. Let it be heard.

blessingAll this by way of mentioning a friend, former ‘student’, a poet whose book, A BLESSING OF TREES, Cross+Roads Press, published in 2004.

All this by way of mentioning my joy in discovering a beautiful new poem of Alice’s in the current issue of the little magazine, FREE LUNCH, edited and published by poet Ron Offen.

FREE LUNCH has published some of the best poets in America and abroad. Editor/publisher, Ron Offen, sets the acceptance bar quite high. I wouldn’t say he’s a strict traditionalist, but he honors form, music, substance. You had better know what the hell you’re doing, and not waste his time just stringing together lines of plain prose and making it ‘look’ like poetry. (Their ain’t no ‘free lunch’ for you, friend, at Ron Offen’s poetry restaurant)

This is a great little mag to support, by the way. Single issues, such as this one that Alice is in (FREE LUNCH #40) cost $5 . Paid subscriptions (three issues) are $12. It’s a good way to stay in touch with some of the best work that’s out there. If money in these poor economic times is a problem–you might suggest your local library subscribe to it—for the sake of writers, all lovers of poetry in the community.

freelunchFREE LUNCH
P.O. Box 717
Glenview, IL 60025-0717

Here’s

Alice’s new poem—only the first stanza, and the first three lines of the last stanza. I’m holding back on the last 8 lines in the hope you’ll send a small Christmas gift to a good little poetry magazine that remains dedicated to celebrating the human spirit all year long, for many years now. No small thing. $5 will get you this issue, #40. $12, three issues.

Thank you all…Alice especially for “questioning Henry”…for following the true path. –Norbert Blei

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QUESTIONS FOR HENRY

My greatest skill has been to want little. –Henry David Thoreau

by
Alice D’Alessio

How little, Henry?
Didn’t you hanker for a haunch
of venison, and a pint
with the local lads? A fierce game
of bowls on the lawn,
pummeling the backs of the winning team?
A ride on that newfangled train,
racing at 30 miles per hour,
with the wind
licking your cheeks, ruffling your whiskers?

Or, how about
a warm and breathing body
next to yours?

…(continued in FREE LUNCH





alice d’alessio | three poems

28 01 2008

Poetry Dispatch No. 208 | January 28, 2008

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Three Poems by Alice D’Alessio

norb3neu.jpg When people question why I devote so much personal time and energy to projects such as Poetry Dispatch, the answer seems very clear to me: because too many fine writers never receive the attention they deserve. Alice D’Alessio, another case in point. She’s as good the best poets on the American scene today, yet she’s barely known in her own state of Wisconsin, where she can write circles around many of the highly touted poets-in-universities who know how the game is played, appear regularly in all the ‘important’ literary journals, receive all the grants, get paid to read their work at other universities, and inevitably find their way to major presses, small and large. Why Alice’s work has not appeared in the hallowed POETRY magazine after all these years…well, go ask the literary entrepreneurs who run that enterprise.

blessing.gifShe has published only two beautiful books to date (and I do mean beautiful in design and content)…both books limited editions, and both books out of print. The first, SOMEBODY LIVED HERE ONCE is long gone. The second, A BLESSING OF TREES, which my press published (500 copies) four years ago is also long gone, but occasionally a copy surfaces, one way or another I get my hands on it, and when I do, I ‘offer’ it (at a collector’s/negotiable price) to a list I keep of people looking for specific back copies of CR+Press works. I’ll be happy to add your name to the list, if you are interested.

Alice’s poems are highly crafted works of art shaped by a deep love for language, ‘the’ exact word to capture precisely the moment she wants us to share. If you have ever held the tiniest bird in your hand, felt…well, that’s what many of Alice’s poems are like. Norbert Blei

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Somebody Lived Here Once and woke to bird songs by Alice D’Alessio

The first chirp comes at 4 a.m. in May
after a night of barred owl
coyote howl, and yes,
the whippoorwill.

We don’t know who he was
or what he did—his tiny cabin
just big enough for
rusty wood stove and a bed.

Outside, the pump and somewhere,
no doubt, tho’ long gone now
an outhouse, weathered—its rank fragrance
mellowing into earth.

Once in the woods
I stumbled on foundations
of long-gone buildings, up the hill,
under the gloom of oak
and basswood trees,
buried in honeysuckle, blackberry
wild geranium. Close by
the barn—gray, hand-hewn timbers
rough notched at ends, to fit
and stand for decades—now tumbled in
on bales of wire. old tires
and rusted wash tubs. It’s 30 years
that we have owned this place
and yes it keeps its secrets.
Who planted the apple trees?
Who plowed the field, where
corrugations underfoot, hidden
beneath the goldenrod,
attest his dreams?

And did he count the fireflies on a summer night?

from SOMEBODY LIVED HERE ONCE, The Valley Poems; privately printed, 20 copies, Madison WI, 1997

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Saving the Forest by Alice D’Alessio

On my desk, a hawk’s skull
thin as parchment
rests in its pottery cradle beside
the ivory clenched talons;
acorns and fluted walnuts
sleep in an oak-leaf nest
their tasks undone.

Gleanings from the forest,
they whisper of soft rain, wild wind,
their fiber woven from millennia of adaptations-
spring’s wanton surge and autumn ripening.
I keep them close at hand.

If I store them
in stoppered urns
hand-painted with Druid symbols

If I take them out when the moon
silvers the birch,
rub my fingers on their sacred skin,
turn slowly around three times
chanting the dove’s slow plaint,

will the stealthy ones cease their invasion?
Will the earth cool, the rains come?

Will this be enough?

blessing.giffrom A BLESSING OF TREES, Cross+Roads Press, 2004

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Something for the Journey by Alice D’Alessio

Suppose, for instance,
this is the last morning. You never know.
You wake to find a wet snow
has sneaked in after midnight
wrapping the branches
with an airy gauze, spangled with diamonds
so that every snarly twig and tendril
is an epiphany of white
etched against the purplish-blue
of an undecided sky.

And you want to be sure to seize it,
store it in scented linens,
in carved and gilded coffers
along with last May’s poppies,
August sunlight spilling its motes and spores
among the pines and sandstone cliffs,
and a copy of your only perfect poem.

Because we must take something with us,
like the pharaohs.

blessing.giffrom A BLESSING OF TREES, Cross+Roads Press, 2004

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Editor’s Note: Check www.poetrydispatch.wordpress.com for an archived edition of this dispatch in the next few days. Please send others there as well to experience some of the best writing to be found anywhere on the net.








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