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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Main Stage - Saturday evening - "How is the truth to be said?"

The Main Stage on Saturday evening at the Dodge Poetry Festival was a special set of readings by the 21 "name" poets centered on the theme "How is the truth to be said?". This question is a line from a Gwendolyn Brooks poem "The Mother ". reproduced here to help set the context for the poems that were then read in the following order. The poets were asked to keep to about fine minutes and to do one of their poems in response to the theme. If they also could do another poet's work, in response, then that would be welcome too.

The only trouble with this process is that two poems for some of the poets can not be spoken within five minutes so the time schedule was off. In an attempt to catch up, they had the break as scheduled but cut one of the music interlude sessions. The order of the poets to read apparently had some scheme to it, although it was not apparent to us in the audience and made for some interesting contrasts. I'll comment on those that occurred as we progress along the readings.

As with earlier sessions, sometimes the poet would announce the title of the poem, sometimes they would not. And sometimes if they did, I missed it. If there are errors that are found, please let me know. I will be happy to make the correction. There is also a working assumption that if they did say the title and I did catch it, that I have also spelled it correctly. In a few cases, I have been able to go back to the poet's book in my possession and verify the poem title. Unfortunately, my library does not include all of the works this august body of poets. I have also attempted to check the internet but the archive of poetry there is still scarce. Ironically (or fortunately) the Dodge Foundation in taping and recording these session will ultimately be the best source of the corrections when they put their collection on line.

Gwendolyn Brooks: The Mother
Abortions will not let you forget.
You remember the children you got that you did not get,
The damp small pulps with a little or with no hair,
The singers and workers that never handled the air.
You will never neglect or beat
Them, or silence or buy with a sweet.
You will never wind up the sucking-thumb
Or scuttle off ghosts that come.
You will never leave them, controlling your luscious sigh,
Return for a snack of them, with gobbling mother-eye.

I have heard in the voices of the wind the voices of my dim killed
I have contracted. I have eased
My dim dears at the breasts they could never suck.
I have said, Sweets, if I sinned, if I seized
Your luck
And your lives from your unfinished reach,
If I stole your births and your names,
Your straight baby tears and your games,
Your stilted or lovely loves, your tumults, your marriages, aches,
and your deaths,
If I poisoned the beginnings of your breaths,
Believe that even in my deliberateness I was not deliberate.
Though why should I whine,
Whine that the crime was other than mine?--
Since anyhow you are dead.
Or rather, or instead,
You were never made.
But that too, I am afraid,
Is faulty: oh, what shall I say, how is the truth to be said?
You were born, you had body, you died.
It is just that you never giggled or planned or cried.

Believe me, I loved you all.
Believe me, I knew you, though faintly, and I loved, I loved you

From A Street in Bronzeville by Gwendolyn Brooks, published by Harper & Brothers. © 1945 by Gwendolyn Brooks.

"How is the truth to be said?"

Coleman Barks - "Loosing it"

Linda Gregg - "Pay attention", then "It goes away"

Ekiwah Adler Belendez - "Possibly Nelson", then"My heart box apple"

Linda Hogan - "Naming the animals"

Brian Turner - a Wilfred Own poem (title not captured), then "Katyusha rockets"

Toi Derricotte - an Audrey Lord letter, then "Tender"

Tony Hoagland - a Bruce Wizell poem "No matter what", then "Love"

Taslima Nasreen - the story of her mother's death, then "Elegy for my mother"

Kurtis Lamkin - the story of his brother as a closet poet, "Old Sancphia", then "Royal language"

Robert Bly - Robert Creeley's poem "My friend John", then "Stealing sugar from the castle"

Lucille Clifton - read Gwendolyn Brook's "The Mother ", then "The lost baby poem"


Steve Katz on cello for a musical interlude

Taha Mohammed Ali (with Peter Cole) - "kid goats of Junea"

Sekou Sundiata - a Lucille Clifton poem "Lucifer, understanding at last"

Linda Pastan - Elizabeth Bishop poem "One art", then "Tourist at Ellis Island"

Anne Waldman - "married", then William Blake's "Garden of Love" which lead into "Rogue State"
Anne is of the Howl school of poets. She is a performance artist. She can howl for long lines with out catching her breath. It is quite amazing. Some wonder if it is poetry. She certainly is confident in her "voice". when she finished there was a collective sense of relief, almost of exhaustion.

Jorie Graham - a Wilfred Owen poem (title not captured), then "Epidemic"
As she took the stage, she mentioned that was there really a reason for this line up order? As in, do you expect me to follow Anne? They certainly are representative of two extremes. Jorie went on to say we need some dead poets around here now to help us settle down. I wonder if she understood what was implied when she said that as Andrew Motion was scheduled to come up next. She apologized for taking some time to collect her thoughts before getting into her first reading. We all empathized with her. Following Anne would be an ordeal for anyone.

Andrew Motion - a Philip Larkin poem (title not captured), then "Fox provides for himself"
Andrew was a true gentlemen and commented that as a representative of dead poets, he would read one of the famous dead poets poems (i.e. Larkin's work) then go into one of the live dead poets (meaning his own).

Billy Collins - "building with its face blown off", then from 180 by GB Garrett "What I want"

Mark Doty - part of Walt Whitman's' "Song of Myself", then "Tiara"

Gerald Stern - e.e. cummings' "Buffalo Bill", then "Lorca"

Ko Un (with Richard Silberg) - "echo", then FL "I want to offer water", then "Mountain is mountain"

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