inkwell.vue.421 : Poetry Festival with Jane Hirshfield and Mary Mackey
permalink #51 of 140: Jane Hirshfield (jh) Sun 2 Oct 11 19:45
    
(Mary slipped in and posted those latest responses while I was writing
what follows--people in the Well are used to this kind of thing
happening, I'm just mentioning it for anyone not on the Well who might
be reading this now, or later)

I do need to pack, so I'll talk about one other aspect of
this--Jennifer, you proposed experience, and meeting people, as one of
the possible gifts of this more public life, and that's true. This May
and June, I was invited to two of the Centennial Festivals being held
all over the world for the great Polish poet Czeslaw Milosz (who was a
friend, from the end of his years in Berkeley). This means I was
invited to Krakow (where I'd been before, when Czeslaw was alive) and
also to Lithuania, where I'd never been--his birthplace. These trips
were extraordinary, both for what I was able to see and do (I was
asked, for instance, to read a long poem I began writing for him when I
heard he'd died that mentions the river he swam in as a boy--asked to
read it standing next to the river he swam in as a boy. That was almost
undoing; and then it was read in Lithuanian translation as well), and
for the poets who were also there. Just one evening of the Krakow
festival, in an enormous basilica (filled to the doors), I heard read
three poets who have been by my bedside for years--the 1996 Nobel,
Wislawa Szymborska, who is 88, the 90 year old Polish poet Julia
Hartwig, and the great Swedish poet, Lars Gustafsson. At a festival in
London a few years ago, I met Tomas Transtromer, and heard him play his
famous pieces for one-handed piano (he's had a stroke). Earlier this
spring I was in Japan, and then in China. I've stood where Basho lived,
by the Sumida River; I've stood where the Sung Dynasty Chinese poet Su
Tung Po stood. 

I came to pilgrimage late in my life--I only saw Emily Dickinson's
home in Amherst the last time I read at Smith, I saw Wordsworth's
cottage in Grasmere when I was asked to read there--and it moves me at
some level far below any words I can find that, by poetry, I have been
able to murmur a thank you in person to some of the poets who have
meant the most to me, and to their home places on this earth, for
others. In Dickinson's room, I was given a few minutes alone when I
asked, and I was afraid to touch the dresser where she kept her
poems--I felt as if it might give off an electric shock. But I did put
my hand on the foot of her sleigh bed, to touch something she'd once
touched. To do such things seemed silly and symbolic to me when I was
young. Now it feels a gate into gratitude's mansion.
  
inkwell.vue.421 : Poetry Festival with Jane Hirshfield and Mary Mackey
permalink #52 of 140: Mary Mackey (mm) Sun 2 Oct 11 19:46
    

Now the good: when you become a public person you meet many wonderful people
who tell you how much they love your work (always something we writers love
to hear), and better yet tell you that your work has comforted them, make
them stronger in the face of grief, and changed their lives. My poems (and I
imagine Jane's poems) have been used for wedding and funerals and golden
wedding anniversaries. They have been carved into stone, woven into cloth,
engraved on brass plaques, and set to music. There is a bridge with one of
my poems on it. People have sung them; danced to them.

I get email from all over the world from people of all ages who tell me how
my work has touched them or simply how much they liked it. A blind woman in
Sweden was inspired to become a priestess because of my novel "The Horses At
the Gate." A graduate student in Finland has written a doctoral dissertation
on my work. Some German readers have put up a wiki page on me in German (I'm
just asssuming that it says good things because I can't read German).

In sum, I feel that I have reached somewhere deep inside myself, written,
and in ways both small and large, connected with my fellow human beings. I
think a writer can have no greater gift that great readers, and I am very
grateful to have been able to find them and have them find me in return.

Plus, after Garrison Keillor read my poem "My Methodist Grandmother Said" on
Writer's Almanac, I got a fan letter from the Line Dancing Society of Baton
Rouge Louisiana and a year's subscription to their newsletter.
  
inkwell.vue.421 : Poetry Festival with Jane Hirshfield and Mary Mackey
permalink #53 of 140: Mary Mackey (mm) Sun 2 Oct 11 19:48
    

Here is the poem that the Line Dancers liked. It's from my previous
collection "Breaking the Fever":

My Methodist Grandmother Said

My Methodist
grandmother said
dancing
was adultery
set to music

how right she was

in that sweet sway
breast to breast and
leg to leg
sin comes into its own

if you have never
waltzed
you cannot imagine
the sheer voluptuousness
of it
the light touch
palm to palm
wool and silk
mixed below the waist
your partner’s warm breath
on your neck
coming quicker
and quicker
the strength of the man
the yielding of the woman
so incorrect
so atavistic
so unspeakably sweet

he moves toward you
you back away
he pursues you
and with the faintest
pressure
you encourage him
and watch the blood
rush to his face

not a word is spoken
no one sees this
although it's done in public
in full sight of everyone

you touch
and retreat
meet
and touch again
in time to the music
saying yes
no       yes
no       yes
no
yes

you dance
without thinking of your body
in that gentle
rhythmic
careless
almost copulation

one     two    three
one
two    three

the longest
foreplay
in the western
world
  
inkwell.vue.421 : Poetry Festival with Jane Hirshfield and Mary Mackey
permalink #54 of 140: Amy Keyishian (superamyk) Sun 2 Oct 11 21:16
    
Mary! I'm going to go take a cold shower!
  
inkwell.vue.421 : Poetry Festival with Jane Hirshfield and Mary Mackey
permalink #55 of 140: Jennifer Simon (fingers) Sun 2 Oct 11 22:38
    
Don't use up all the cold water!  That is one of my favorite poems
from Breaking the Fever, Mary.  Jane, it was kind of you to take the
time to answer in depth when you're getting ready to travel.  These
replies are so rich in stories and ideas I want to give them further
reflection.  In the meantime, thanks to both poets for such thoughtful
posts.
  
inkwell.vue.421 : Poetry Festival with Jane Hirshfield and Mary Mackey
permalink #56 of 140: paralyzed by a question like that (debunix) Sun 2 Oct 11 23:36
    
I'm following this very interesting discussion mostly because of
experiencing poetry in new media formats.  I got hooked on the Writer's
Almanac on my local radio station, and now catch it mostly as a
podcast.  That helped to reawaken my interest in poetry of all kinds.

I've always enjoyed poetry but like to savor a little at a time, and
the occasional poetry volumes I'd check out of the library or buy would
sit only partly read for ages.  Kindle on my phone allows me to
download a book of poems and read a poem here and there without having
to carry a volume everywhere--better yet, I can carry several, and pick
the poet to fit my mood.  Right now I'm working my way though Come,
Thief (I told Amazon I want to read Sugar Zone too).  

I grew up in a house where the printed page was truly an object of
reverence, and it feels a bit like a betrayal to be so happy with the
evanescence of e-books.  But I'm reading more poems now than I ever did
before.  The formatting is not always consistent, and can be a bit
frustrating, but the value of ready access to my pocketful of poets is
more than worth it.   
  
inkwell.vue.421 : Poetry Festival with Jane Hirshfield and Mary Mackey
permalink #57 of 140: Jennifer Simon (fingers) Mon 3 Oct 11 09:05
    
I love to hear about poetry reaching a broader audience, <debunix>,
thanks.  My perception is that electronic media have been a great boon
in this respect, and what you have to say confirms that.  Jane probably
won't have a chance to chime in while she's travelling, but Mary, I'm
curious to know whether you've perceived a change in the publication
and sales of your work, as well as responses to it -- you mentioned
getting email from around the world, and I wondered whether you would
have heard from so many, had the letters required ink, paper, and
stamps.
  
inkwell.vue.421 : Poetry Festival with Jane Hirshfield and Mary Mackey
permalink #58 of 140: Joe Cottonwood (joecot) Mon 3 Oct 11 09:21
    
Jane, Three Legged Blues makes a great song!  Nice job by the singer.

Here's a question for Jane, when she has a spare moment:  the
structure of the I Ran Naked poem, which seems a departure for you -
did you know from the start what that structure would be?  Did you have
to labor at it until finding that structure?

I've always maintained that it's hard to be simple, and I'm just
wondering if that seemingly simple poem was hard to write.  And I love
the poem, by the way.  (Oddly, I first read it after writing a piece
that included running naked through the sprinklers of a golf course at
midnight.)
  
inkwell.vue.421 : Poetry Festival with Jane Hirshfield and Mary Mackey
permalink #59 of 140: Jennifer Simon (fingers) Mon 3 Oct 11 12:28
    
Oh yes, thank you for reminding about the song, Joe -- very glad you
posted the link, Jane, for I didn't know about it.  What a great match
of melody and lyrics!  David's got the perfect voice for it, too.
  
inkwell.vue.421 : Poetry Festival with Jane Hirshfield and Mary Mackey
permalink #60 of 140: Jennifer Simon (fingers) Mon 3 Oct 11 13:29
    
Today at 3:00 pm (Pacific time), Mary will be talking with Denny
Smithson on KPFA.  I believe she'll be reading some of her poems too --
I'm hoping to hear some Portuguese!  Here's a link:

http://www.kpfa.org/listen/
  
inkwell.vue.421 : Poetry Festival with Jane Hirshfield and Mary Mackey
permalink #61 of 140: Mary Mackey (mm) Mon 3 Oct 11 16:39
    

I am fairly sure that I would not have received so many emails from people
outside of the US if they had had to buy stamps and send air letters. I
think the convenience and low prices of e-books are giving people an
oppoturnity to read more and writers a chance to reach more people. I'd just
like to remind everyone that many of the great independent bookstores can
sell you ebooks. I believe Pegsus in Berkeley can as can Book Passage in
Corte Madera.
  
inkwell.vue.421 : Poetry Festival with Jane Hirshfield and Mary Mackey
permalink #62 of 140: Jennifer Simon (fingers) Mon 3 Oct 11 16:42
    
Pegasus is a wonderful place, my favorite haunt in the East Bay.
  
inkwell.vue.421 : Poetry Festival with Jane Hirshfield and Mary Mackey
permalink #63 of 140: Michael Zentner (mz) Mon 3 Oct 11 17:04
    
One of my favorite stop-in places in that neighborhood. If I'm on foot
there, I stop in.
  
inkwell.vue.421 : Poetry Festival with Jane Hirshfield and Mary Mackey
permalink #64 of 140: Gail Williams (gail) Mon 3 Oct 11 18:21
    
Small independent bookstores can sell you ebooks?   I guess I have
never noticed that. Very cool!
 
  
inkwell.vue.421 : Poetry Festival with Jane Hirshfield and Mary Mackey
permalink #65 of 140: Jennifer Simon (fingers) Mon 3 Oct 11 18:55
    
It is.  OK, I had trouble getting livestreaming to work on my
computer, so I had to wait till the show was in their archives to catch
it.  It occurs to me other might not have gotten a chance to listen,
so here's a link for those who missed it live:

http://www.kpfa.org/archive/id/73897
  
inkwell.vue.421 : Poetry Festival with Jane Hirshfield and Mary Mackey
permalink #66 of 140: Mary Mackey (mm) Mon 3 Oct 11 20:53
    

This is your chance to hear how Portuguese sounds. It's softer than Spanish,
more musical.
  
inkwell.vue.421 : Poetry Festival with Jane Hirshfield and Mary Mackey
permalink #67 of 140: Jennifer Simon (fingers) Mon 3 Oct 11 21:07
    
Yes, that struck me too, when I was listening...a kind of slidey sound
instead of staccato, like the difference between trumpets and
trombones.
  
inkwell.vue.421 : Poetry Festival with Jane Hirshfield and Mary Mackey
permalink #68 of 140: Jennifer Simon (fingers) Mon 3 Oct 11 21:17
    
The other thing I noticed was that I couldn't hear in your reading the
spacing I saw in some of your lines on the page (and this spacing is
something I don't remember seeing in Breaking the Fever).  It changed
the effect in interesting ways.  All the poems flowed by so quickly,
although that's partly just a feature of listening instead of reading,
but I wonder whether there is something purposeful about it too, a way
of getting two readings out of each poem, depending on whether it's
heard or seen. 
  
inkwell.vue.421 : Poetry Festival with Jane Hirshfield and Mary Mackey
permalink #69 of 140: Jennifer Simon (fingers) Mon 3 Oct 11 21:31
    
Here's an example of one you read today, with that spacing I mentioned
(which conveys a different effect than a line break), that struck me
differently when I heard it:


There’s No Sin South of the Equator


Pull back the covers    turn off the lights
let’s get high on pango, liamba, dirijo, birra,
elva, fininha, fumo de Angola

at sixty degrees south cyclonic winds
swirl around the pole without ceasing
nothing stops them    not land    not remorse
not confession
nada

right now    under our bed
icebergs are being tossed like scree
by waves that carry the bones and wrecks
and broken masts of every part of us that ever went
down

below the equator
sin does not exist
but we have learned this too late

venha      come
enter the great emptiness
that encircles the world
see the história infeliz
the sad    history
love has ordained


  -- Mary Mackey
  
inkwell.vue.421 : Poetry Festival with Jane Hirshfield and Mary Mackey
permalink #70 of 140: Jennifer Simon (fingers) Mon 3 Oct 11 21:35
    
(I love the multiple meanings conveyed by your choice of the final
word there, too!)
  
inkwell.vue.421 : Poetry Festival with Jane Hirshfield and Mary Mackey
permalink #71 of 140: Jane Hirshfield (jh) Mon 3 Oct 11 22:11
    
Just a quick drop in from Massachusetts, where it's after midnight...
all I'll do is answer Joe's question before it gets chilly standing
around without a sweater...  That poem arrived in the basic form it now
appears in, as best I can recall--it wasn't translated from something
different,  or an "idea" I had to work to turn into a poem. The poem
came in that voice, that music of rhyming and repetition. The form here
is the meaning. I have a vague memory that it went through perhaps a
dozen to twenty drafts--but they were small. The line and stanza
breaks, looking at whether the word "more" should be capitalized or in
italics or inside quotation marks, things like that. Tuning the
instrument, not changing it from what it was.

I probably wouldn't have ever published or read that poem, but a
friend came to visit and asked to see what I was working on--I rarely
show new work to anyone--and she was hugely enthusiastic about that
one. So with some trepidation, I tried it next at a small reading--and
they loved it too. And then the third time I read it (I don't know what
came over me, I still had huge doubts about whether or not I could say
or publish this, it was so different from anything I'd ever done), I
read it at the Dodge Poetry Festival, to around 2,000 people in that
huge white performance tent they used to have before the festival moved
to the city. That audience seemed to respond to it too--so after that
I became a little more confident that it might be a poem to keep in the
repertory. 
  
inkwell.vue.421 : Poetry Festival with Jane Hirshfield and Mary Mackey
permalink #72 of 140: Jennifer Simon (fingers) Mon 3 Oct 11 22:50
    
I noted the presence of rhymes in a number of poems in Come, Thief,
which seems like something new in your work.  I was very taken by them.
 They called to mind something Carol Adair, the host of the Poetry
conference here before me, once said: "It takes such courage to rhyme.
The rhyme steals you and you can never be sure of what is your own." 
That may not be true for every poet, but I wonder whether you feel it
is true for you, or whether your doubts about "I Ran Out Naked in the
Sun" came from some other source.
  
inkwell.vue.421 : Poetry Festival with Jane Hirshfield and Mary Mackey
permalink #73 of 140: Jennifer Simon (fingers) Mon 3 Oct 11 23:06
    
Here's another of the poems I had in mind, with the riddling but
unforgettable nature of a nursery rhyme that almost sings itself:


It Must Be Leaves


Too slow for rain,
too large for tears,
and grief 
cannot be seen.
It must be leaves.
But broken 
ones, and brown, 
not green.


 -- Jane Hirshfield
  
inkwell.vue.421 : Poetry Festival with Jane Hirshfield and Mary Mackey
permalink #74 of 140: Rip Van Winkle (keta) Tue 4 Oct 11 10:02
    
Hi all.  There was a comment way back about how reading poems aloud to
audiences is a relatively recent thing - and then noting that it
isn't.  I've been thinking about that and gone in two directions that
come out as comments/questions.

First, hearing I Ran Out Naked in the Sun, I was reminded of the song
Circle Game ("Yesterday a child came out to wonder/ Caught a dragonfly
inside a jar...).   And it reminded me that lyrics are poems too -
there's a whole realm of poetry that is primarily spoken/sung, is
vastly more widespread and "popular" than poet poetry as we are
discussing here, and...  ...well, what do either of you want to say
about lyrics and song?  (Thinking along these lines, Mary's
two-language poems read/sound like a form of jazz to me - scat-singing
the second language.)

Second, poetry is so much older than writing - it is originally the
province of the bard, the storyteller, the epic-keeper, the minstrel,
even the Zen teacher.  Maybe it would be interesting to turn the
question on its head and ask what does writing bring to poetry - what
does it add, being such a newfangled addition to the game?
  
inkwell.vue.421 : Poetry Festival with Jane Hirshfield and Mary Mackey
permalink #75 of 140: William F. Stockton (yesway) Tue 4 Oct 11 10:30
    
“Music begins to atrophy when it departs too far from the dance...
poetry begins to atrophy when it gets too far from music.” - E. Pound

Despite Pound's admonition, it seems to me that song is essentially
different because the melody informs the mood. A spoken poem is
informed by the expressions, both vocal and facial of the speaker. A
poem on the page must impart all it can in the imaginary soundscape of
the readers mind. The poet must choose whether to exclude
ambiguity(difficult at best) or exploit it, or both. 

A melody can affix import and meaning to a lyric, and using that
relationship artfully is what makes a good songwriter. A solid lyric
can take on an entirely different meaning when a stylist re-interprets
the melody. Joni Mitchell's wistful Woodstock becomes anthemic in the
hands of (croz) and his cohorts.

On the other side of the coin, a lyric can fall flat in the absence of
a driving set of harmonic turns. The Paul Simon song that was recently
published as a poem in the New Yorker is(IMHO) a fresh example of
such.

The thing I think is new and different that is changing the way poetry
is perceived is Youtube and other internet avenues   
  

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