Ekphrastic May: Summertime

Members of the Guilford Poets Guild are writing ekphrastic poems this month, poetry inspired by artwork hanging in their home.

by Evelyn Atreya

summertime –
the sweetness
of indecision

About this Art: In 1987 in a garden in Suzhou, China I came upon a local artist painting on silk swatches. I purchased this small piece and stuck it between the pages of a book to protect it on my journey. I completely forgot about it. More than two decades later, it tumbled out of the book I was preparing to donate to the library. I feel in love with it all over again and immediately brought it to be framed. I have treasured it ever since.

Poet Evelyn Atreya

In celebration of National Poetry Month, members of the Guilford Poets Guild were invited to share their thoughts about poetry and the life of a poet. Here’s what GPG president and poet Evelyn Atreya had to say:

Do you remember the first poem you ever wrote?
No, but I know that it was my English homework that I wrote in my high school Chemistry class that met right before English. My English teacher praised the poem and read it to the class. Positive feedback is pretty powerful!

What else do you write besides poetry? Do you have other creative pursuits?
I’m big on To-Do Lists that keep me organized so I have time to write poetry. I find just living is a creative pursuit whether it is cooking, gardening or playing Tai Chi.

How long have you been a member of the Guilford Poets Guild and what’s that like?
Ten years of sharing

What inspires your writing today?
The natural world and our relationship to it.

Who are you favorite poets and authors?
Jane Kenyon, Mark Doty, Mary Oliver, Rumi (translated by Coleman Barks), and Buson to name just a few

What book are you currently reading? (poetry or not)
The Essential Haiku, Robert Hass
Chances Are… , Richard Russo

Poem in Your Pocket Day is celebrated during National Poetry Month in April. What’s your favorite poem to carry about or share with others?
“The Summer Day,” Mary Oliver.

Any last words?
Mary Oliver’s question at the end of “The Summer Day” inspires me each morning as I pull up my window shades to ask myself: So what are you going to do with this wild and precious day?


THE SUMMER DAY
Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean—
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down—
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?


Evelyn Atreya lives in Guilford where she is a member and past president of the Guilford Poets Guild. She is a member of the Connecticut Poetry Society and attends its Greater New Haven Chapter workshops. Her poems have appeared in Caduceus, Long River Run, San Diego Poetry Annual, Plainsongs, Connecticut River Review, and in a chapbook, Olives, Now and Then, honoring Donald Hall on his 83rd birthday. Her first book, Regarding Rock, was published by Grayson Books in November 2015. Evelyn also is involved in the Guilford community as an active member of both the Guilford Rotary Club and the Leete’s Island Garden Club.

Featured Poet: Evelyn Atreya

Evelyn Atreya lives in Guilford where she is a member and past president of the Guilford Poets Guild. She is a member of the Connecticut Poetry Society and attends its Greater New Haven Chapter workshops. Her poems have appeared in Caduceus, Long River Run, San Diego Poetry Annual, Plainsongs, Connecticut River Review, and in a chapbook, Olives, Now and Then, honoring Donald Hall on his 83rd birthday. Her first book, Regarding Rock, was published by Grayson Books in November 2015. Evelyn also is involved in the Guilford community as an active member of both the Guilford Rotary Club and the Leete’s Island Garden Club.


Summer Sunday Memory

In the January cold,
wearing layers of protection
boots, hat, and gloves
as I scraped my windshield,
I imagined a lazy beach day:
wearing just my bathing suit,
I walk barefoot in the sand,
jump into the cool, salty water,
then sit in my beach chair
to soak up the sun
and read on my Kindle.

But, today, on this July Sunday
it is smoldering hot.
Without flipflops, the sand
burns the soles of my feet.
There is no cooling off
in the water because a bloom
of jellyfish is drifting by.
The beach is crowded with umbrellas
that offer spots of comforting shade,
but sitting and relaxing is impossible
because of pesky horseflies.

I know next winter,
I will daydream again about my ideal
summer Sunday beach day
completely forgetting
these discomforts and irritations.
Strangely, in summer
I never find myself
daydreaming of winter.


Sound Choices

This summer afternoon
gulls and terns soar
over the rippling tide
with relaxed assurance
that hunger will be satisfied.
Each repeatedly dives
to catch a glimmering bite.

Then I see one young tern,
wings frenetically beating,
hover like a helicopter
just above the water.
With a silvery fish in its beak
and another swimming below,
it must choose one.

I understand, I think to myself.
I, too, wild with desire
have faced impossible choices.


Locked Out

He shuffles to the front porch
and sits silently staring into space.
I ask for the key to the shed.
He shakes his head, not knowing.

A dumpster sits in the driveway
overflowing with the old and used.
Emptying the shed is the final
preparation for Dad’s move.

Sitting there, Dad reminds me
of that padlocked old, green shed,
both weathered with signs
of fading, flaking and rust spots.

Both hold mysteries locked in.
I’m locked out of both.


Coming Clean

This morning a teenager
arrives at the coffee shop
wearing a breezy summer dress
and heavy-duty combat boots.

I’m reminded of the snowy
egret’s radiant white plumes,
spindly legs and feet tucked
into enormous yellow galoshes.

Perhaps both, wading into life’s
murky waters, seek protection
so they come out clean,
even if they muck-up.