Summer News from GPG Poets

Guilford Poets Guild member and Guilford’s Poet Laureate Gordy Whiteman was recently featured in the Hartford Courants Poets Corner.

“The thing about poetry,” Whiteman says, is that it gets “the whole novel, the whole history, biography, love story on one page, and I get the answers I didn’t even know I was looking for.” He says poetry helps him think things out and that he often finds himself mentally conversing with a poet as he reads a poem. “You want a five-star evening? Read a book of poetry.”

Click here to read the full article.


The body of a young woman is found brutally beaten in the woods behind the Medad Stone Tavern, and the murder weapon turns out to be the walking stick of 73-year-old Ashley Hamilton Reynolds. “Squire,” as he is fondly known around his hometown, is the scion of one of Guilford’s oldest and most reputable families. He claims his walking stick had gone missing a few days before the murder. But how can this be proved? And, if he is innocent, who is the real killer?

Find out in the new book by GPG member Juliana Harris, MURDER AT THE TAVERN: A GUILFORD MYSTERY. ($15) Click here to order from Julie.

Juliana is also participating in the AARP Superstar 2020 Contest. Check out her entry here, then check back on August 6 to see if she makes it to the Finals! Good luck Julie!


Poet Gwen Gunn says “I am in the process of writing the dialogue to an operatic musical by Hillarie Clark Moore, based on the award-winning romantic novel Tregaron’s Daughter by Madeleine Brent.


Guild member Jen Payne recently published the first issue of MANIFEST (zine), part artist book, part poetry chapbook. It’s a hold-in-your-hands art installation featuring her writing, mixed-media collage work, photography, quotes, and bits and pieces of whatnot that rise to the surface as she meditates on a theme. Layered with colors, textures, and meanings, each issue is handmade then color-copied, embellished, and intricately folded. The result is a thought-full, tactile journey with nooks and crannies for you to discover along the way. Click here to read more about Manifest (zine) and the first issue, DIVINE INTERVENTION, available for $5.00.


Poet Sharon Olson reports that she read recently as one of two featured readers for Poetry Center San José’s Well-RED reading series (June 9), and her poem “That Day” was featured on Verse Daily (July 12).


GPG Poet Nan Meneely’s new book, SIMPLE ABSENCE, has been nominated for the National Book Award. Click here to purchase a copy from Amazon.

One of poetry’s dreams is amplitude, the book of poems that gives a sense of life’s fullness, even as it depicts the losses. Nancy Meneely’s SIMPLE ABSENCE speaks eloquently to that dream, the range of poems honoring and testifying to a host of situations—public and private. Each poem deftly enacts the drama of trammeled and untrammeled emotion. Though the poems embody essences of form and feeling, lines and stanzas moving crisply down the pages, there is nothing minimal here. The breadth and depth are both inspiring. – Baron Wormser

Nan Meneely’s SIMPLE ABSENCE, refers, I assume, to the poet’s absence of authorial ego, since there’s nothing else absent in these richly-textured, various-structured, deeply-felt and capacious poems (plus a few prose pieces). Great pleasure is to be garnered from Meneely’s powers of description; precise, wholly new, better than anyone’s I know. Wonder is to be had, as well, in the particular objects, observations, ideas and emotions this poet chooses to treat as subjects: idiosyncratic in the best sense. From first thought to last, the reader’s ride is electric and ultimately bedazzling. I want to pour Meneely’s poems into my bathtub and soak in them, or mix them up in my juicer and drink them: I want to have written them. – Gray Jacobik

The stunning front cover is Griswold Point December, by Scott Kahn.


Poet Pat O’Brien shared this recent poem, along with a judge’s fabulous critique.

And Almost Home

He’d only just added
three French phrases,
one algebraic formula, ease

with his locker key.
He’d elbowed
his buddy in the hall.

Daydreamed

the night into being,
his favorite
Hey, cute thing!
just before maple leaves
garlanded the spikes
of his perfect hair, his sweet/

smart-ass smile no guard
against the descent
of the undermined tree,

the wind with its last lesson.

– – – – –

A 16-year-old boy has died after being struck by a tree near Clayton Heights Secondary. At 2:24 p.m. Friday, emergency crews were called to a wooded area by the school, at 6965 188 St. They found the boy in serious condition after being struck by a tree, which toppled during a wind storm. Firefighters initiated “first responder protocols” according to Deputy Surrey Fire Chief Larry Thomas. Fire crews continued medical assistance on route to hospital. However, the boy succumbed to his injuries once he had arrived at the hospital. Surrey School District spokesperson Doug Strachan said Friday the final bell had gone and kids were heading home. They had been warned to stay away from treed areas because of the high winds. Strachan said extra counseling would be available to kids when they return to school on Monday and that the school’s website would be updated with pertinent information. Fire crews were incredibly busy on Friday as winds and rains took down trees, which in turn knocked out power. More than 12,000 homes were without power in the Surrey area on Friday afternoon.

– – – – –

About your poem, “And Almost Home,” Mr. Zdanys notes: This is a powerful and yet low key build-up to a moment of crisis and loss, the ripples of action in this lyric moment standing outside of time and bringing us up to and into the moment of time named in the epigraph. The poet works backwards in this poem, in a kind of brisk countdown, to those closing moments of a life, based on an account in a newspaper. The sense of standing outside of time and yet being engulfed in time is what gives lyric poetry its defining authority, and the poet manages that clearly and well here. The recurring use of the long “e” sound sends a jarring aural message, an expression of surprise and pain, throughout the poem. It is a long sound, not a quick one, and therefore it is a counterpoint and a background noise to the fast and unexpected action of the falling tree and the death of the boy.

 


Echoes of the natural world and early life on a farm in East Andover, New Hampshire enhance the poetry in HIKING THE RUGGED SHORE, as do the variety of creatures and landscapes always thoughtfully observed by GPG Poet Carol Altieri. Her poems criss-cross the planet, interwoven with travels in the United States and abroad.

Altieri simultaneously evokes the strong emotions that followed the untimely losses of her sisters, daughter, and husband. Gradually, moving from grief to acceptance to appreciation, she inspires the reader to consider the pendulum that swings between the memories and experiences of family and our engagement with the natural world.

HIKING THE RUGGED SHORE is 132 Pages with 50 Color Photos, $20.00. Available online or from Carol,  carolaltieri@comcast.net.


Looking for something new to read?
Check out these books by GPG members:

Our Changing Environment: Guilford Poets Guild 20th Anniversary Anthology

Hiking the Rugged Shore, Carol Altieri

Regarding Rock, Evelyn Atreya

Tastes, Gwen Gunn

Murder at the Tavern: A Guilford Mystery, Juliana Harris

Letters from Italy, 1944, Nancy Meneely

Simple Absence, Nancy Meneely

Bulletin from Suburbia, Jane Muir

When Less than Perfect is Enough, Patricia O’Brien

The Laughing Rabbit: A Mother, A Son, and The Ties That Bind, Patricia O’Brien

• Will There Be Music, Sharon Olson

Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind, Jen Payne

• Waiting Out the Storm, Jen Payne

Poems in a Pandemic: Ode to My Shopper

ODE TO MY SHOPPER
by Sharon Olson

I was seventy-one and still counting
when I counted the grocery bags arriving
at my front door, each one labelled
I guess for the shopper’s convenience,
some mnemonic only he had derived,
Poems 1 of 8, Poems 2 of 8, and so forth,
and they were like poems, each item
of slightly different size and voice,
tuna can haikus next to sonnets of milk.

I chalked it up to coincidence, until
the next week new bags came, this time
marked Lyric 1 of 7, Lyric 2 of 7, so
we knew we were in some sort of
telepathic, telegrammatic finger-
tapping sync-apathy, as if he knew
I must write poems and would eat
to write them, not eating words
but snippets of lyric, edible syllables.

The market has stipulated one week
between orders, and I am as I said
earlier seventy-one and still counting.
And so I find myself wondering
what the next code will bring, what
subliminal message my messenger
will write to signal our connection.
He must be a poet, too, composing
behind the front lines and so essential.


FROM SHARON: “Originally appeared in The New Verse News. The New Verse News presents politically progressive poetry on current events and topical issues. They have published several of my poems. I’m always interested to see what poets they present. There are new poems every single day.”

IMAGE: Vertumnus by Giuseppe Arcimboldo

Ekphrastic May: Le Bal à Bougival

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

 

Le Bal à Bougival
by Sharon Olson

Is she more noticeable in his arms, or more forgotten?
We do not see his eyes beneath his straw hat,
but we know they burn.

The red trim on her white dress excites him,
his hand wants to slide from its grasp on her waist.

They are hardly moving but their steps are powerful,
he leads her even as they stand still.

All the while she watches the watchers,
knowing they are seen as lovers,
as invisible as a couple, but worth a few stares.

He is my sister’s husband,
she is laughing over there beneath the trees,
and does not suspect us as the others do,
strangers throwing us a strange eye.

We are full of cold beer, caught up in the dance,
and the way he holds me I am staggering.

My left arm thrown over his neck
leaves my right side open.
This is something he knows well:
not to press too hard or smother,
but to leave part of the body untended, waiting.


I bought this poster of Le Bal à Bougival by Renoir when I was a teenager and hung it in my room in the early 60s. By now it is yellowed on the borders but I framed it to be able to keep hanging it in my present home. The first time I saw the painting in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts was when I was well into my forties. I wrote a poem about it in my thirties and it was published in my book The Long Night of Flying.

Poet Sharon Olson

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 poet Sharon Olson had to say.

How did you come to being a poet?
I used to write rhymed poems and epics as a teenager, but wrote my first “serious” poems at age 30. I was in a “serious” relationship with a man who was a poet. I used to type up his manuscripts to send to the annual Yale Younger Poet contest, but he never won. My poems started to flow as we began to break up.

Do you remember the first poem you ever wrote?
I don’t know if this is the first poem (in the above series), but it certainly is a very early poem:

MISGAUGED

The oven repairman
said he’d return next week
with a new dial; meanwhile,
reverse expectations:
up for low, down for high
I told him that wouldn’t be
difficult, people do
that to me all the time

What else do you write besides poetry? Do you have other creative pursuits?
I love traveling and taking photographs, and have filled up many notebooks. I also have become a “certified” (as in obsessive…) genealogist. With a co-author I have written nine articles about the history of a New Jersey family for the Genealogical Magazine of New Jersey.

What has been the defining moment in your life as a poet/writer?
Defining moment number one: taking a poetry workshop from Frances Mayes in Palo Alto, California in 1979. Defining moment number two: a chapbook of my poems won a contest judged by Carolyn Forché and was published in 1987. Defining moment number three: my full-length book of poetry was accepted by Sixteen Rivers Press of San Francisco in 2004.

How long have you been a member of the Guilford Poets Guild and what’s that like?
I joined the Guild in 2008 after arriving in Guilford with my husband, an adventurous cross-country move we made from the Bay Area of California to the East Coast. This group always made me feel at home, gave great critiques, and seems to have forgiven me even though I abandoned them when we moved to Lawrenceville, New Jersey in 2012. I am still a “virtual” member.

What inspires your writing today?
Inspiration usually either comes from a memory from the past, or people or events I have recently read about, and often all of those things get combined. Many of my poems are ekphrastic (written as a response to a piece of art). I was an art history major in college, and studied at a campus in Florence, Italy.

Describe your poem-writing process.

I don’t know. The poem just sort of lets me know it’s coming. I have to be ready.

Where do you like to write? With what?
Because I don’t control the process (see question above), I’m not sitting at a desk like a typical poet. One of the oddest things that has happened to me many times is that a poem will come to me when I am at a classical music concert. So I write with a pen all over the program. If we are sitting in the front row I always worry the musicians will think I am a reviewer.

Who are your favorite poets and authors?
Probably the people that influenced me most were the ones that I was lucky to work with as a young poet. These include Galway Kinnell, Sharon Olds, Carolyn Forché, Bob Hass, and William Stafford. Poets I have learned to love later in life include August Kleinzahler, Robert Pinsky, Seamus Heaney and Adam Zagajewski.

What book are you currently reading? (poetry or not)
I read novels more than poetry. The last book I read that I really recommend is Richard Powers’ The Overstory.

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?
This poem almost doesn’t fit in one’s pocket, Adam Zagajewski’s “Lullaby.”

LULLABY
Adam Zagajewski

No sleep, not tonight. The window blazes.
Over the city, fireworks soar and explode.
No sleep: too much has gone on.
Rows of books stand vigil above you.
You’ll brood on what’s happened
and what hasn’t. No sleep, not tonight.

Your inflamed eyelids will rebel,
your fiery eyes sting,
your heart swell with remembrance.
No sleep. The encyclopedias will open
and poets, dressed carefully,
bundled for winter, will stroll out one by one.

Memory will open, with a sudden hiss
like a parachute’s. Memory will open,
you won’t sleep,
rocked slowly through clouds,
an easy target in the firework’s glow.
No sleep: so much has gone on,
so much been revealed.
You know each drop of blood
could compose its own scarlet Iliad,
each dawn author
a dark diary.

No sleep,
under the thick blanket of roofs, attics,
and chimneys casting out handfuls of ash.
Pale nights row noiselessly into the sky,
their oars silk stockings delicately rustling.

You’ll go out to the park, and tree limbs
will amiably thump your shoulder, making
sure, confirming your fidelity. No sleep.

You’ll race through the uninhabited park,
a shadow facing more shadows.
You’ll think of someone who’s no more
and of someone else living so fully
that her life at its edges changes
to love. Light, more light
gathers in the room. No sleep, not tonight.


Any last words?

Let’s call them further thoughts, rather than last words…! Because of the current coronavirus epidemic, I had a delightful email interaction with one of my great-nieces who lives in Arlington, Virginia. She had been assigned to write a paper on Emily Dickinson’s “There’s a Certain Slant of Light.” Through back-and-forth discussions, I think I helped her see how there could be various interpretations of the poem, and also how the poet herself might have approached writing it. She commented that often in the classroom students get the idea there is only one way. After talking with me she realizes there are many roads into a poem, and how the poet might actually be encouraging different meanings to emerge, and how this is one important way poetry is different from writing in prose.


BONUS VIDEO
The Scriven Arts Colony in Gilmanton, New Hampshire, asked Sharon (a summer resident there) to do a 10-minute reading from her work “to help get us all through this long and frightening quarantine.” CLICK HERE to watch the video now.


Sharon Olson‘s book Will There Be Music came out in early 2019 from Cherry Grove. Her previous book The Long Night of Flying was published by Sixteen Rivers Press in 2006. A retired librarian from California, she currently lives in Lawrenceville, New Jersey where since 2015 she has been a member of Cool Women Poets critique and performance group. She has also been a member of the Guilford Poets Guild since 2008. You can see more of her writing on her blog Slopoet Tells All.

GPG Hosts Sharon Olson, Author of Will There Be Music?

 

The Guilford Poets Guild is pleased to host member Sharon Olson for an afternoon of poetry on Saturday, April 27 from 2:00-4:00 p.m. at the Guilford Free Library. She will read from her new book of poetry, Will There Be Music?

Olson is a retired librarian, a Stanford graduate, with an M.L.S. from U.C. Berkeley and an M.A. in Comparative Literature from the University of Oregon. Her chapbook Clouds Brushed in Later (1987) won the Abby Niebauer Memorial Chapbook Award. A previous full-length book of poems, The Long Night of Flying, was published by Sixteen Rivers Press in 2006. Her second book Will There Be Music? was published by Cherry Grove Collections in early 2019. She has published (with co-author Chris Schopfer) numerous articles about the Sandford family of New Jersey in The Genealogical Magazine of New Jersey. After retiring from the Palo Alto City Library she and her husband moved initially to Guilford, Connecticut, and presently live in Lawrenceville, New Jersey. She is a member of Cool Women, a poetry performance ensemble based in Princeton, New Jersey. She has also been a member of the Guilford Poets Guild since 2008.

Remember to bring your own poem to share during the Open Mic. Refreshments will be served after the reading, and Olson’s books will be available for purchase. This event is free and open to the public.

The Guilford Poets Guild, celebrating its 20th anniversary, is a group of poets from Guilford and the shoreline area who meet regularly to share poems and promote a general appreciation of poetry in the community. Throughout the year the GPG hosts a number of poetry readings including its popular Second Thursday Poetry Series, a Holiday Roundtable, the Guilford High School Poetry Contest, and coordinates poetry/art events with the Madison Art Society and the Florence Griswold Museum. Watch for its 20th Anniversary Anthology being published later this year.

The Guilford Free Library is located at 67 Park Street in Guilford. Please register by phone (203-453-8282), online (guilfordfreelibrary.org) or in person. For more information about the Guilford Poets Guild, visit guilfordpoetsguild.org.

Will There Be Music? A New Book by GPG Poet Sharon Olson

Will There Be Music?
poems by Sharon Olson

In Sharon Olson’s book Will There Be Music? the poet employs a sharp eye to illuminate scenes from a fifties childhood, and during her journey seeks testimony from an array of disparate voices: a Swedish grandmother, a band of prostitutes, a waitress in a Fellini film. Her investigations into the lives of artists and writers, among them John Sloan, Emil Nolde, Sartre and Stendhal, unfold with lyric intensity, deepening and darkening her report from an America where “gun cases beckon,” an earth that “would never be scrubbed clean.”

Cincinnati, Ohio, Cherry Grove Collections, 2019

ISBN: 978-1625493026, 106 pages, $19.00
Order from Amazon, from Barnes and Noble, or from your local bookseller


The loose ends of lives and generations are expertly bundled in these alert, meditative poems. Part of a poet’s task is to catch the resonances of time and Sharon Olson has done that. —Baron Wormser

‘Will there be music?’ asks the poet in her title poem. This collection definitively answers that question: we cannot live without it. —Fred Marchant


Sharon Olson is a retired librarian, a Stanford graduate, with an M.L.S. from U.C. Berkeley and an M.A. in Comparative Literature from the University of Oregon. Her chapbook Clouds Brushed in Later (1987) won the Abby Niebauer Memorial Chapbook Award. A previous full-length book of poems, The Long Night of Flying, was published by Sixteen Rivers Press in 2006. She has published (with co-author Chris Schopfer) numerous articles about the Sandford family of New Jersey in The Genealogical Magazine of New Jersey. After retiring from the Palo Alto City Library she and her husband moved initially to Guilford, Connecticut, and presently live in Lawrenceville, New Jersey. She is a member of Cool Women, a poetry performance ensemble based in Princeton, New Jersey. See author’s blog at slopoet.blogspot.com.