Friday, April 25, 2014

Poetry reading at Huntingdon Valley Library starring Lynn Levin

Poet Lynn Levin was really pleased at the turnout for the poetry reading. It was held in Anna's Corner, a cozy nook of the Huntingdon Valley Library. Read about Anna's Corner here.

Lynn read poems from Miss Plastique. I really admire how she writes fearlessly about sex.

One of her poems, - a sestina called Idylls of Mayfield -  which repeated certain words, was about the Leave it to Beaver family:  Wally, the Beave, Eddie Haskill, who was always complimenting Mrs. Cleaver and making her smile, and Ward, the man of the family.

What a great poem that was!

Jane Barrett, Linda's mom, said that one of her great-grandchildren, is a baby named Ward.

June and Ward Cleaver Leave it to Beaver 1958.JPG

When Lynn was in Tuscany, she visited the shrine of Beata Bonizzella or Saint Paula (d. 1368.) Beata, who hasn't quite made sainthood, is buried in a glass coffin, a la Lenin.

Only, Beata don't look so good. Apparently too much oxygen is eating away her mortal flesh.

At the reading, I purchased Lynn's second book of poetry "Imaginarium" and of course she inscribed it.

Imaginarium - with a title like that you know the book's gotta be good! - has a bio of Lynn: Born in Saint Louis, she received an MFA in writing from Vermont College.

Wouldn't be surprised if she eventually taught poetry there. Currently she teaches at University of Pennsylvania and Drexel.

Lynn was the 1999 Poet Laureate of Bucks County.

Loonfeather Press is one of her publishers. 

I believe I asked Loonfeather to publish a book of mine and they booed me off the stage.

Lynn has a new book coming out in May published by 2LeafPress.

"Birds on the Kiswar Tree" is a translation from the Spanish of a collection of poems by Peruvian poet Odi Gonzales.
Here's library director Sharon Moreland-Sender who introduced the program called "Poetry and Music Cabaret."

Dig that shiny black plastic podium!

Who wants to go first, asked Lynn. 

I was the first reader. Since I do not take "selfies" I'll use this one. I wore the same shirt. It has a stain on it which I washed out this morning.

My two new poems appear at the end. I wrote them at 6 pm, while eating my delicious stir-fry.

Linda Barrett went next. She read a poem about a Jewess who had forsaken her faith to become a prophetess. Now, she's banging on her father's temple doors - with bloody hands - asking forgiveness and to be let inside. Her followers are hurling stones at her.

Brenda read some excellent poems. She teaches Creative Writing at Penn State Abington.

At group's end, she shouted out some beautiful stanzas of a poem

Who wrote that? I asked.

Brenda did. 

Debra, also a former student, read one poem about her mother, who died several years ago. She also read a poem that Lynn Levin remembered from the class Debra took years ago.

It was about a black cowboy from Lake Charles, Louisana, that she rode next to on an airplane. She felt sad when he was swept away by his daughters and grandchildren after retrieving their luggage.

She left us wondering - which is great! - when she said they exchanged contact information.

Her then-poetry teacher Deborah Fries advised her to write a short story about the experience rathan a poem.

But, hey, the poem worked!

I invited Debra to our Writing Group at the Giant and really hope she comes. She's semi-retired now.

My writing group told me that my poem on the Superbowl should also be a short story. It got accepted into Ray's Road Review and will be published in the summer.

Take that, Loonfeather!

Paula looked absolutely spectacular wearing Emily-Dickinson white. One of her poems was about doing that universal thing of looking through a crooked window on a walk and wishing the owner would invite her in. The aroma of a baking pie smacked her in the face and she wanted in!

I'm going to rectify this blurry image of Susan by showing her in our poetry class

Susan wrote poetry in college many years ago. She'd read Siddartha - can you remember the author my aged friends?

And composed a poem with lines like "Let me penetrate into your mind" and "Dive into an ocean green."

Stunning poem!

When Lynn was thanking us for coming, none of us wanted to leave.

We asked her questions.

She hasn't been writing of late, working, instead, on teaching and in publishing her next book.

She writes in a spare bedroom. "It's a mess," she said, to huge sighs of relief. The floor is scattered with folders of poems by her students, the easier to find them.

Here's my upstairs office. TV tables make wonderful holders for things like my paper cutter.

I blog in the living room.

See my judicious use of TV trays?

Lynn writes her poems in longhand and then types them on her word processor and edits them over and over.

"Sometimes I'll show a poem to a trusted friend," she said.

"Time" is the best editor, she said.

What sounds great at the time may or may not sound so good with the passing of a day or a month or a year.

She may think to herself

- It sounds "goofy"

- This needs more lines

- I'm always tweaking

She may get an idea in the middle of the night and goes into her office to capture the thought before it fades.

I told Lynn I have a copy of the Louise Gluck poem "October" on my blog, complete with her handwritten corrections.

 Because I purchased Imaginarium, I was entitled to choose a book of poetry Lynn had brought with her.

I particularly like manic-depressive poets who have not killed themselves.

I had to choose between Lowell and John Berryman's The Dream Songs.

Berryman jumped to his death off a bridge.

Read one of his Dreamsongs here.
Life, friends, is boring. We must not say so.   
After all, the sky flashes, the great sea yearns,   
we ourselves flash and yearn,
and moreover my mother told me as a boy   
(repeatingly) ‘Ever to confess you’re bored   
means you have no.......
Today is my sister Donna's 65th birthday. I'm the leader in aging and memory-loss in my family. Donna is giving herself a party tomro afternoon, not knowing that her daughters - Melissa and Nikki - have planned a party and invited lots of out of town guests.

To my Sister Donna on her Sixty-Fifth Birthday

I stopped sulking about your birth
when you were in Miss Patterson’s
kindergarten class, my athletic little sister
who could run faster than me
ride a bike earlier and
was Uncle Donny's favorite.

You came out of the school and into my
arms. “I’m lost,” you sobbed on that very first day.
“I couldn’t find my way out.”

In that moment, I saw you
frightened and shaking,
your tears
teaching me how I really
loved you.

And supported you through
your long hard life that
almost killed you
but spiritual woman that
you are, your relationship
to our silent Creator
kept you strong.

So here you are at
sixty-five, still beautiful
with your long dark hair
eyes shining like
your black granite countertop
beloved by your daughters
and grandchildren
and Daddy and David
gone too early to
the Other Side.

You and I know
we are only here
for a little while
Party, make merry,
let the red wine flow,
and watch every
cardinal as it sits
atop the branch
waiting to
take its leave.


At  Lynn's poetry workshop, I said I would borrow a line from a poem that appeared in Ploughshares.

"I Like to Live with Hermits" by Nicholas Samaras.  

I chose the line "Let me practice in silence."

So at 6:30 pm, while finishing my stir-fry, I came up with the following:

Let me practice silence
with You
Let me lie here lit up
in the morning light.
Eyes closed
I hear children’s voices
walking to the bus stop
accompanied by the
wild hilarious chirping
of the winter-weary birds
celebrating the
coming of spring

Eyes open
I concentrate
on the nothingness
of my thoughts
ten years ago,
my mind ran like a wild mustang  
with unbidden thoughts
from my manic-depression
A mind that cannot keep still

Now I relish the quietude
as I nap with boyfriend Scott
the two of us
entwined together
like two halves of the moon
the true definition of
and of mystery.

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