Monthly Archives: May 2016

Nan Meneely Au Courant

hc-nancy-meneely-jpg-20160524Nancy Fitz-Hugh Meneely Honors Her Father’s Sacrifice As A Doctor In WWII
Hartford Courant, May 29, 2016

This month’s featured poet, Nancy Fitz-Hugh Meneely, is the author of “Letter from Italy: 1944,” which is the source of an oratorio by the same title with music by Sarah Meneely-Kyder, itself the subject of a PBS Emmy-nominated documentary narrated by Meryl Streep. The oratorio will be performed by the Hartford Symphony Orchestra in 2017. The poems in  Meneely’s book tell the harrowing story of Dr. John Meneely, the author’s father, whose involvement in World War II as a doctor in the 10th Mountain Division continued into his personal war against what we now know as post traumatic stress disorder. What follows is a selection from the book: two poems and an entry from John Meneely’s Italian diary. After many years with the Federal Emergency Management Agency,  Meneely now devotes her time to writing and social service projects such as A Better Chance. She lives in Essex.

—Rennie McQuilkin, CT Poet Laureate

Letter from Italy, 1945

Tonight beneath the slide
of moonlight on the mountain’s
eastern flank, the snow
is veined with trails of those
I’ve pulled to camp. The cold
is fastened around my thighs,
the whole of winter’s weight
suspended from it as I try
to get the last one home.
He took a round below the ribs,
a belly wound I cannot staunch.
Slowly he leaves his life behind us
beading in the frozen air,
a story tailing off, the storyteller
gone to sleep.

Last week we passed Cecina,
ruined in the war. From back
behind a house returned to earth
and stone, a sudden cheerful dog
appeared, improbable.
We broke to encircle him,
soldiers exposed
at the side of the road,
hunkering, our faces buried
in his grimy scruff,
murmuring fragments
of letters home, wanting
to weep at the warmth.

My Lieutenant, Bill, said:
“Most of us hate the snow
and all of us hate the sound
of shells, the godawful softness
of flesh, the things we’ve forgotten
about ourselves, the enemy.
Look at us, John, sucking
at hatred for strength
and dying for something to love.”
He smiled at me,
the gift he always gave.

When I lean over my soldier
to dress his wound,
he is aware of everything,
the pump and heat of his blood,
the length of himself on the snow,
how small I am between him
and the brilliant Alpine sky.

I would like to ride the fall
of light into rooms
in the village below,
to sleep as the villagers sleep,
glossy with moonlight, not sick
with the feel of its thin
indifference in me.


A man is wracked with weeping somewhere near,
keening from behind a closet door,
and John’s the only man who’s living here.

He fights the clutch of memory and fear,
my husband, wins his own twice-daily war.
But now I find him weeping somewhere near

though he has never cried where I could hear.
He’s holding boots I haven’t seen before
on him, the only man who’s living here.

He tells the story, strangled by thick tears:
he bushwhacks hard along the island shore
to sweep for men in wreckage somewhere near.

In brush beside the shingle, boots appear,
inside them someone’s ankles, nothing more.
My John’s the only man who’s living here.

He finds the severed body, lifts it clear
of wet black tangle on the ocean floor.
A man is wracked with weeping somewhere near
and he’s the only man who’s living, here.

I was sitting upstairs in my room when we began to hear a machine gun up the valley fire. At first we thought it was a counterattack. Then whistles began to blow, and suddenly my sergeant came screaming up the stairs and began to hug me and howl that all hostilities had ceased in all of Italy. The town was wild by that time. But even in the confusion, I noticed with wonder that not a soldier was participating. Both my sergeants were looking out over the water and saying nothing. I think it was the gravest moment in any of our lives. I went up to my room. It was a dazed, confused feeling. The main thing that kept clawing at me was that we were safe and that in the last week people like Bill Floyd had been killed. I stood there for a long time before I realized that my face and shirtfront were soaked and that I was shaking with tears; for the first time in many years, I was crying, hard, like a damned baby I thought. I looked out the window and thought, Bill, Bill, why aren’t you here to see this day? I looked down and my sergeant was sitting on the steps with his head in his hands, crying, too. I went to bed and fell into a dead sleep.

Copyright © 2013 by Nancy Fitz-Hugh Meneely
CT Poet Laureate Rennie McQuilkin selects work for CT Poet’s Corner by invitation.
Copyright © 2016, Hartford Courant


Announcing the Old Saybrook Poet Laureate: Patricia Horn O’Brien

IMG_0685The Guilford Poets Guild is please to announce that member Patricia Horn O’Brien has been selected as the Old Saybrook Poet Laureate.

Pat is a long-time member of the Guilford Poetry Guild and co-founder of CT River Poets. She initiated the Florence Griswold Museum poetry series, has been a judge for Acton Library’s annual poetry contest, and facilitated a number of poetry workshops. Her work has been published in CT River Review, Embers, Pulp SmithFairfield County Magazine, Poet Lore, Caduceus, Freshwater, Native West Press, Red Fox Review and CT Review. Pat has won several prizes, among them, from the Trumbull Arts Counsel, Embers, the Acton Public Library, and the National Federation of State Poetry Societies. Her first book of poetry, When Less Than Perfect is Enough, is now in its second printing.

Poets to Share Poems Inspired by Art Exhibit

hanging out

Hanging Out by Betsey Piner

As featured in the May 12, 2016 Guilford Courier:

Poetry night at the Art Show is a combined creative event of the Guilford Poets Guild and the Madison Art Society. It will occur on Thursday, May 26 in the community room of the Scranton Memorial Library, 801 Boston Post Road, Madison. The evening will begin at 6:30 p.m. This event is held in conjunction with the Madison Art Society’s 41st annual juried exhibition.

The poets of the guild write poems inspired by the artworks on display and read Screen Shot 2016-05-13 at 10.37.21 AMthem while the audience views the piece of art. The poems range from humorous to serious and are read with great feeling when presented by their authors. Artists whose work has been selected by poets have likened the poetry reading to winning an award. Last year, Betsey Piner’s painting Hanging Out, of laundry on a clothesline inspired the poem written by Jane Muir entitled Not Counting.
The public is invited to attend.

Painting and Poetry

PoetsAllPlan to come to the Painting and Poetry program at the Florence Griswold Museum, Sunday, May 22 at 2 p.m. The reading by members of CT River Poets and Guilford Poets Guild will be enhanced by musical interludes provided by the clarinet duo of David Cohen and Alan Kennedy. The program will be followed by a light reception and duets by David Cohen on clarinet and Mary Volk at the piano.  The program is free and included in the cost of admission to the museum.  For further information please call the museum at 860-434-5542 or consult