Join us for a writing workshop with Tina Escaja on Monday, October 14 from 5:00 – 7:00 at Rock Point Center, Burlington, VT. Tina will be exploring “Techno/Identity and Resistance: On Poetry, Gender, and Interspecies.” Interspecies? I had to ask Tina myself! Tina explained, “Interspecies and random poetry has to do with my work with sheep: https://www.badosa.com/bin/obra.pl?id=p197“. Whether it’s sheep, robots, or exploring creation through deconstruction, you’ll sure to experience something new regarding poetry in Tina’s workshop! To register, click here.
Thank you to all those who attended our 2nd annual Justice & Poetry for All event. Special thanks go to the poets who shared their and others’ work as well as to North End Studios for hosting. What a beautiful night it was! See photos from the event here.
Sundog Poetry Center is pleased to announce the launch of their annual poetry event entitled Justice – And Poetry – For All. The series aspires to raise the voices of those in marginalized populations through poetry, focusing on different groups each year. The first event will be held at Clemmons Family Farm in Charlotte, VT on Friday, June 22, 2018, from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM and will be a celebration of African-American poetry. The event, which is free and open to the public, will include readings from Major Jackson, Rosa Castellano, Mary Jane Dickerson, Rajnii Eddins, Vera Escaja-Heiss, LN, and Judith Yarnall, among others.
The series’ goal is to raise Vermonters’ awareness of the persistent courage shown by those deemed marginal as they have struggled – and still struggle – for respect, recognition and inclusion in American democracy. Although often cited as one of the “whitest states in the nation,” Vermont’s historical landscape reveals how its populations have engaged from the early eighteenth century in the struggles toward inclusion of the many who have sought to become Americans. These tensions of class, race, and gender are often described polemically or in the language of the social sciences.
“We believe poetry has an uncanny ability to connect our outer lives with our inner selves, to give voice to what is often left unspoken.” said Judith Yarnell, Board Member of Sundog Poetry Center and a participant in the event. “This will enable audiences at the events we create to inhabit, however briefly, the lives of others.”
Inspired by Langston Hughes’s ambition to “sing America” and by the inclusive and wonderful lists of common Americans which Walt Whitman included in “Song of Myself,” this on-going series will offer a new focus each year. This cultural mapping of Vermont tells an American story of how one small rural state embodies its own conflicted stories of first peoples and settlers, slavery and the freedom trail, women coming into possession of their own lives, immigrant laborers, and 21st-century refugees resettling into a foreign culture. Each year, at a significant historical location, the voices of poets and readers will create a vital link between past and present. Highlighting such a physical trail of revelation through the voices of America’s poets who have kept alive the stories of struggle in the poetry of social justice will inform us about who we are and who we want to become as individuals and as a nation.
“Our series is multifaceted,” noted Mary Jane Dickerson, Vice President of Sundog Poetry Center and a participant in the event. “It’s not only a literary event, but it’s also historical and geographical. We’re pleased to be partnering with Clemmons Family Farm to bring that level of heritage to the evening.”
To broaden the audience of the program, Vermont Access Network (VANS) will be a collaborator in the project. Their documentation of Justice – and Poetry – For All will enable schools and libraries to share the programming with many more than those in attendance. The event is also supported by the Vermont Humanities Council.
Plans for future events in the series include spotlights on LGBTQ+ people, the Abenaki, and migrant workers. Register (for free) here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/justice-and-poetry-for-all-tickets-47041494376. For more information on Sundog Poetry Center and this series, visit https://sundogpoetry.org/justice.
It’s the third and final installment of our 2018 AMP Nights! It’s happening Thursday, May 24 from 6:00 – 8:00 (doors open at 5:30) at Bryan Memorial Gallery in Jeffersonville – a night filled with magnificent Art, Music, and Poetry! $10 suggested donation at the door. Presented in partnership with River Arts and sponsored by Cambridge Arts Council and Cambridge Area Rotary.
Here’s our line-up for the final installment of the 2018 AMP Nights:
Artist: Lois Eby – Lois grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She spent her childhood summers on an island in northwestern Ontario, Canada. It was on that island, contemplating vast sky over expanses of water, far from the mainland and “civilization,” that her first profound experience of nature, and questions about what “nature” is, occurred. She moved to northern Vermont in 1969, and lived there until moving to central Vermont in 2015. Her work is at West Branch Gallery & Sculpture Park in Stowe, VT, and online at The Painting Center of New York’s Juried Art File. Originally she studied still life and landscape painting, but eventually she felt the need to push in a different direction. When working from observation, she felt too “outside” nature, and wanted to find a way to work from within. This impulse led her to explore the meaning of the calligraphic line, of open space interacting with color, and of improvisation.
Musician: PoJazz – For more than a decade a rotating group of professional and student musicians and poets in Vermont have collaborated on a project called “PoJazz”. It’s the brainchild of musician and Johnson State College creative writing teacher Tony Whedon. As a young man, Whedon performed in Jazz groups in the New York area and in Europe. At the age of 16, he received the prestigious Great South Bay Jazz Festival Award for his trombone playing and was praised by Downbeat Magazine’s Nat Hentoff for his “lusty, inventive” trombone style. He has played in Salsa groups in Cuba, Ecuador, and Argentina.In recent years, Tony has combined poetry and jazz improvisation in ensembles at colleges and jazz festivals throughout Northern Vermont and the Eastern Townships of Quebec.
Poet: Tony Whedon – Tony Whedon is a poet, essayist, and musician. Over the past two decades his writing has appeared in over a hundred prominent literary magazines. Tony spends his summers with his wife Suzanne at their rural, peaceful cabin in the woods of Vermont. Winter finds them in their bungalow in the bayou of Georgia, performing locally and continuing his writing and poetry. Tony attended Goddard College, The New School for Social Research, and the University of Guanajuato in Mexico. He received his Bachelors and Masters degrees from the University of Iowa’s Writers Workshop, and an MFA from the VT College of Fine Arts. In 2010, he retired from his position as Professor of Creative Writing at Johnson State College. He has also taught at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia; at the University of Maryland overseas campus in Madrid, Spain; and at Champlain College in Vermont. From 1989-’90 he was a visiting professor at Shanghai International Studies University in Shanghai, China. Tony Whedon’s new essay collection “Drunk In The Woods” is due out in Fall 2018, distributed by Green Writer’s Press.
Don’t miss this! It’s our final AMP Night of the year.
Check out images from March’s AMP Night at River Arts in Morrisville, featuring Hanna Satterlee, Melissa Perley, Shay Gestal, and Martha Zweig
We had an inspiring day at Bishop Booth Center last Thursday with feature poet Tim Seibles, Vermont poets LN Bethea, Stephen Cramer, Rajnii Eddins, Lizzy Fox, Geof Hewitt, Kerrin McCadden, and Neil Shepard, and teachers and students from BFA St. Albans, Rock Point School, Vergennes, and Montpelier High Schools. Thank you to Main St. Landing and Clemmons Farm for hosting Tim’s reading and workshop!
Listen to our interview with Cleopatra Mathis here. She was the last in our series, Conversations with Vermont Poets, sponsored in part by the Vermont Humanities Council. Cleopatra discusses writers and poetry topics such as Slyvia Plath, Flannery O’Connor, the importance of holding tension in writing poetry, the relationship between syntax, line break, vocabulary, and the music of a line in a poem, lyric vs. narrative poetry, and the observation of things outside the self that then become of the self. CD’s and podcasts of all 8 Conversations with Vermont Poets available soon!
This past fall, Sundog board members Mary Jane Dickerson and Tamra Higgins had the honor of conversing with Vermont poets Sydney Lea and Jody Gladding about their poetry, their literary influences, and their writing practices among myriad other topics. While these two poets seem worlds apart in their creative style, both are steeped in nature and value what fewer and fewer places on Earth offer us – a sacred communion with nature. Thanks to support from the Vermont Humanities Council, these conversations are now available for listening by clicking here.
Please see below or click here to view this article by Daniel Halpern of the New York Times.
Why Poetry? Well, yes. Most books of poetry sell a couple of thousand copies, at best. So in a quantitative sense, what’s the point of supporting it? With dollars or sense? Would we make the same argument for investing in an endangered species? Like the great Indian bustard, one of the heaviest flying birds, down to a couple of hundred of its kind.
The issue is larger than the number of collections of poetry sold each year. It’s about the language — our language. Is it, too, endangered? If the depleted language of emails and texts and Twitter is any indication, then there’s a case to be made that it might be.
Still, a question I often ask myself is why so many people (and we’re now talking about millions of people) turn to poetry for all important rites of passage — weddings, funerals, toasts, tragedies, eulogies, birthdays. . . . Why? Because the language of poetry avoids the quotidian — but the best poetry simultaneously celebrates the quotidian. Language that’s focused in such a way that true meaning and emotion is redolent in the air. The poet W.S. Merwin once said: “Poetry addresses individuals in their most intimate, private, frightened and elated moments . . . because it comes closer than any other art form to addressing what cannot be said. In expressing the inexpressible, poetry remains close to the origins of language.”
Why poetry? I sent out a few emails to see what various people had to say. The poet Louise Glück, on the subject of book sales, wrote back, “The books may not sell, but neither are they given away or thrown away. They tend, more than other books, to fall apart in their owners’ hands. Not I suppose good news in a culture and economy built on obsolescence. But for a book to be loved this way and turned to this way for consolation and intense renewable excitement seems to me a marvel.”
The Greek poet Yiannis Ritsos, jailed for political reasons, wrote his poems on cigarette papers while in prison, stuffed them into the lining of his jacket and, when he was released, walked out wearing his collected poems. They were mostly short.
The Ukrainian poet Irina Ratushinskaya, while in prison, wrote her poems on bars of soap. When she had them memorized, she washed them away.
The novelist Richard Ford differed from the poets in his take: “The question ‘Why poetry?’ isn’t asking what makes poetry unique among art forms; poetry may indeed share its origins with other forms of privileged utterance. A somewhat more interesting question would be: “What is the nature of experience, and especially the experience of using language, that calls poetic utterance into existence? What is there about experience that’s unutterable?” You can’t generalize very usefully about poetry; you can’t reduce its nature down to a kernel that underlies all its various incarnations. I guess my internal conversation suggests that if you can’t successfully answer the question of “Why poetry?,” can’t reduce it in the way I think you can’t, then maybe that’s the strongest evidence that poetry’s doing its job; it’s creating an essential need and then satisfying it.”
When you’re looking for a poem to read at a memorial service, what is it you’re looking for? And why are you looking for a poem? Do you imagine that it is in poetry that you’ll find something you could not have said yourself? And when you find the right poem, what have you discovered? What do you hear? What’s been said? And what do you imagine the mourners are going to hear?
Why read poetry? Emily Dickinson wrote: “If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire ever can warm me, I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry. These are the only way I know it. Is there any other way?”
Again, why poetry? I wrote the poet Robert Hass. His response: “ ‘Paradise Lost’ was printed in an edition of no more than 1,500 copies and transformed the English language. Took a while. Wordsworth had new ideas about nature: Thoreau read Wordsworth, Muir read Thoreau, Teddy Roosevelt read Muir, and we got a lot of national parks. Took a century. What poetry gives us is an archive, the fullest existent archive of what human beings have thought and felt by the kind of artists who loved language in a way that allowed them to labor over how you make a music of words to render experience exactly and fully.”
So to the question at hand: Why support poetry? Those of us who engage in the publication and sustenance of the written word do so to insure that language for our future generations remains intact, powerful and ultimately renewed, capable of its role during times of crisis and celebration.
Wallace Stevens wrote that the poet’s function was “to help people live their lives.” And because he was a financial guy as well as a poet, he wrote, “Money is a kind of poetry.” I’d reverse that and say poetry is a kind of currency. As Stevens himself put it, “The imagination is man’s power over nature.”
Conversations with Vermont Poets continues with an interview with Geof Hewitt in his home in Calais, Vermont. While discussing many topics, we learned Geof’s take on the difference between a poem and poetry, about some good poetry anthologies, how the incident at Kent State University caused him to move from Hawaii to Vermont, and his thoughts on the use of media and the human connection. Please join the conversation by listening here.
As a testament to Geof’s perseverance as a poet and to his commitment to poetry, his books include The Perfect Heart: Selected and New Poems (2010), Hewitt’s Guide to Slam Poetry and Poetry Slam with DVD (2005), Today You are My Favorite Poet: Writing Poems with Teenagers (1998), Just Worlds (1989), and Quickly Aging Here: Some Poets of the 1970’s (1969),
Here is Geof’s bio as it appears on the Poets and Writers website:
“I’ve been writing and publishing poems (since 1965) and teaching for a living. I hope the language of my poems is conversational, heightened only by a lucky image or cherished surprise. The Perfect Heart, my book of selected poems from Mayapple (2010), reflects that hope. I do not write “slam” poems, but I brag that I am Vermont’s reigning poetry-slam champion (since 2004, the last year Vermont held a sanctioned championship). I won by just one-tenth of a point. I visit schools and libraries throughout New England with workshops for all ages above 7, sometimes just writing workshops, sometimes connected to or involving a slam.”
Please join us in celebrating Vermont poetry by listening to our conversation with Geof Hewitt. Send any comments to share with Geof or as feedback about the conversation to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re sure you’ll enjoy the conversation as much as we did!
Conversations with Vermont Poets is sponsored in part by a grant from the Vermont Humanities Council.
There is still space available in our summer poetry camp for students entering 5th through 7th grades! August 1-5, 9:00 – noon, Cambridge Community Center, Jeffersonville.
This year’s camp will focus on rivers and in particular Jeffersonville’s Brewster River. We will read, discuss, and write poems about rivers, and with the assistance of an Eco-Americorps volunteer, students will explore
their “water address,” past and present uses of water, and the interaction of humans and rivers. Sponsored in part by the Cambridge Conservation Commission, The Vermont Bookshop in Middlebury, and Sue and Jeff Dinitz. To learn more and register, click here.