Celebrating Six Seasons of Reading Local in Vermont: SPRING

The News From Poems Spring

The News From Poems Spring

Spring poetry from “It could be verse”

“It could be verse” began as a monthly poetry column first published by The Chronicle of Orleans County in Barton, VT in April 2007. Each column features a poem of season and place by a Vermont writer. The purpose of both the column and this website is: to put poetry where people can find it. Another goal is to help Vermonters to “Read Local” (as a natural continuation of the “Buy Local” and “Eat Local” campaigns). Because there are so many extraordinary writers in our communities, the column serves as an opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate the diverse poetic voices in this state, our literary terroir. This website features a selection of 18 of the 50 original columns (published in The Chronicle from 2007-2011). In January 2012, the monthly poetry column became a syndicated project issued from this site, offered gratis to all Vermont newspapers to publish at their discretion.

I Went Out Walking

by Grace Paley


My poems had gotten so heavy
I went out walking in
the springtime woods and I
carried a sack a nice blue
string bag with pen clipped in-
to the netting also this
little notebook and a wider
one for long line poems my
eyeglasses a comb I thought
what if the late March wind
attacks my gray and tangled hair
just then another poet
crossed my path his backpack
already fat with poems and
a pen in his teeth
The News From Poems Mud
*It could be verse:
Help Wanted: Poet for Making Things

The Greek root of the word “poem” derives from “poiema” meaning ”something made or fashioned.” This interests me―the idea that a poet is someone who makes something new, who produced a finished product like a baker makes a baguette or a cheese maker leaves behind trays of cheese when she goes home at the end of the day.

I’ve often thought of poets as beachcombers, foragers and archaeologists who find what is already there and offer it to us.

Perhaps the job description of a poet is both to find and make poems.

I have always wanted to read a “help wanted” ad that read: “Needed: Sensitive and resilient individual to work odd hours noticing and imagining things for the discovery and production of numerous poems. Good handwriting a must. Desirable skills: patience, the ability to sit quietly, good listener, tireless reviser. Bodacious vocabulary nice, but not vital. No background check. 100k starting salary and generous benefits.”

The late poet, Grace Paley (1922-2007) held a job kind of like this, minus the lucrative part. Ms. Paley, born in Brooklyn, lived for many years in Thetford. Throughout her life she fashioned distinctive stories, essays, articles, and poems. She left behind a shelf of books.

In a poem from her collection, Fidelity, published posthumously, Paley lists tools of the job (special notebooks, writing implement, glasses) as she heads out to work on a spring day, finding and making more poems.

*column first appeared in the Barton Chronicle on April 7, 2011

I Went Out Walking” from Fidelity by Grace Paley. Copyright © 2008 by The Estate of Grace Paley. Reprinted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. www.fsgbooks.com

Mother’s Day

by Stephen Sandy


Back from the round of visits, I take
The straight-edge spade and the steel rake
And start by cutting in and slicing under
The turf, lifting the pared squares.
Heaving rectangles, triangles, odd
Clumps of green earth-skin away
To plant a tree here, add grass there;
Trundling loads in the wheelbarrow
Around back, fitting them in again,
Tucking them back (friable selvage
Of drying root-strung loam pellets,
Dribble from earthen soffits, hanging
Like bangles from Grendel’s necklace). I push
And pat, snugging them close together
As if bedding bricks up in mortar
At the spread and slap of a trowel, kneading
The roughly sifted dirt in, pulling
Sinewy taproots of dandelion,
The insidious net of bittersweet fuse
Snaking in the hush of soil to blossom;
Then the tamping down with booted feet,
Lightly springing my body, lightly
Beating the earth with an easy measure;
Connecting the hose with rusty couplings
Stiff from winter, washers brittle
Or gone all together, slobbering; then
Hosing the ground, soaking the sods that look
As if pleased to be hugging the earth again
–Heavy they lie, pressing warm dirt!―
Letting the water play over the sods,
Washing them green, sogging them in.
Now while the streams are mingling over
The mosaic of living pieces knit up
In a strange bed, clods no more aware
Of where they once were than where they are,
Indistinguishable in a week from grass
They’re bedded next to, now I watch
The new flies gather for their first rally
Of the season, swarm on the rim of the blue
Wheelbarrow. There at the hedgerow, under
The maple sprouts making ready to leaf
But still gray sticks in the ground
I watch ajuga, hosta, fiddleheads coming,
Taking tentative looks at the new world;
And hear the redwings calling and the robins;
Strange: after drear dark the strange, sweet
Business of the birds overhead once more.

The News From Poems Mud
*It could be verse:
Your other mother

In his poem ‘Autumn,’ Rilke wrote, ominously, “Whoever has no house now will not build one anymore. / Whoever is alone now will remain so for a long time.” I cringe at these sober lyrics, which predict a frigid season of halted interactions, stalled progress and long solitude. But now, having outworn fall and winter, and fumbling toward summer, Bennington poet Stephen Sandy offers a counterpoint to Rilke’s grimness with his own poem, ‘Mother’s Day.’

Though never once in 47 lines does he mentions his mother, he does instead mention: turf, trees, loam pellets, sinewy taproots of dandelion, maple sprouts making ready to leaf, and warm dirt. Call me a hippie but I think this poem is a celebration of his other mother: Earth.

As this poet goes about planting a tree, mending raw earth with sod clumps, re-coupling the hose, bending and tending, the reader is left to feel the season’s potential: that whoever does not have a house now, will build one soon, either with a tree or in a tree, and that whoever is alone now will not remain so because she will go out and buy pansies, and tuck them into the soft ground, in honor of her mother.
*column first appeared in the Barton Chronicle on May 12, 2010

Red Removed

by Linda Aldrich


The sharp-shined hawk got the cardinal yesterday―
so many feathers, each tip dipped in vermilion.
But the greater part of him, the bright pumping heart
I saw sing from the maple, is nowhere to be found.
No overstatement to say he got me through the winter,
his unabashed presence at my feeder, his color pulsing
against the darkness. One night, I chased the owl away
from him: running, waving my arms, the snow lying
in drifts behind my eyes, my legs spindly from cold.
Each day I could find his flame branded into the brittle
black of the woods, an ember longing for spring and almost
there, his song more voluptuous, his balance in the tallest
tree, more reaching and reckless. I cheered for him,
my bold, bright bird: our coming season of fulfillment.
Now this leeching absence, this handful of down.

The News From Poems Mud
*It could be verse:
Violet and Vermillion

In Studs Terkel’s book, Work I found this little synopsis about perspective:

“He drew a little something. And she said, I think of it this way, as she drew a little something. They couldn’t understand each other’s drawings, then they realized at once, together, that they were exactly the same drawing, seen from two different points of view.”

The “he” and “she” of the episode happen to be physicists and what their drawings depict is “fission.” But their sketches could have easily been pictures of “love” or “how the garage should be organized.” I treasure this little episode because it contains three perspectives: Her view, his view, and a giant expansive view capable of holding both views, maybe even all views.

I discovered poet Linda Aldrich’s poem, ‘Red Removed’ in The Best of Write Action No. 2: The Tenth Anniversary Anthology, a meaty collection with all kinds of perspectives. Featuring work by writers living in the Brattleboro vicinity, The Best Of…. is a tribute to the tenth year of Write Action, a grass roots writers organization in Brattleboro, VT. ‘Red Removed’ is one of the first poems in the book, and it enacts utter disconsolation: in the first line a hawk has seized a red bird. Linda describes a stab of sorrow for cardinal’s ruin, ‘No understatement to say he got me through the winter.’ I know this wretched feeling too: after delighting in a white-throated sparrow singing for six April mornings in a row, I met it, horribly limp, clamped in the jaws of my cat.

Linda’s beautiful language, “so many feathers, each tip dipped in vermilion” and “an ember longing for spring and almost/ there,” intensifies the trenchant ache for all things lost prematurely, before their full time.

And then I read the obituary of Violet Cowden, (1916-2011) and imagined the whole experience from another perspective.

Violet’s obituary includes her memory of watching a hawk swoop down and snatch a chicken from her family’s farm. She was, apparently, “Awestruck,” and realized, in that instant: “I want to fly like that.” Eventually she took flying lessons and became a member of the Women Airforce Service Pilots. During one of her training flights she spotted a farm below and “zoomed down sending feathers flying everywhere.” When asked to account for her actions she replied, “Sir, I bombed a chicken farm.”

Violet’s story offers a version of the same event, drawn from the opposite end. And though I don’t ache less, I accommodate another feeling too―exhilaration. As if to test my true receptivity to this perspective, I was walking by the Iowa River yesterday when I witnessed a hawk shear down into an eddy of sparrows and rise, something undeniably clamped in its talons.

*column first appeared in the Barton Chronicle in May 25, 2011

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