Friday, June 29, 2012

Effingham Poetry Workshops

For the past four years, the Effingham Public Library in Effingham, N.H., has sponsored a poetry workshop, led by Bob Demaree, on the fourth Saturday of June. The poets involved appreciate the hospitality and support of the Library.

Link to Library’s announcement of the 2012 Workshop:

Link to the Effingham Public Library website:

Past Workshops:

June 26, 2010: “Poets and Publishing: The Amateur Poet and the World of the Small Press”

June 25, 2011: “To See and See Again: A Peer’s View of the Process of Poetic Composition”, examining in particular techniques of revision

June 23, 2012: “Poetry and Personal Identity, Getting Experience Down on Paper: A Peer’s View.”
            We discussed how we can use the medium of poetry to tell personal stories, come to terms with them, and use them to provide meaning for a broader readership. We discussed the techniques of Ted Kooser, Eavan Boland, David Baker, Jeffrey Harrison, Jane Kenyon, Brad Leithauser, and the use of mythology in the “persona” poems of Louise Gluck. Topics included poems drawn from childhood, the coming of age of a child, and separation and loss.

We discussed the various points of view the poet can use:
1.      Write in first person, not straying too far from facts.
2.      First person, changing facts a little, usually to compress poem
3.      First person, changing facts a lot, or making them up so that the first person is simply a poetic technique
4.      Write in the Third Person, but the persona is you (a way to distance yourself from the facts, perhaps for emotional reasons)
5.      Third person, based on fact or not
Some people use the Second Person instead of the third.

Below are two quotations that did not appear in the syllabus; they underscore, I think, the collected insights of our morning and provide material for further thought, conversation and poetry:

Louise Gluck: “I do not think that more information always makes a richer poem…I am attached to ellipsis, to the unsaid, to suggestion…the possibilities of context.”

“I loved those poems that seemed so small on the page, but that swelled in my mind.”

Poems by 2012 Participants

Barbara Bald

In my dream, I made a bright red dress
with bellowed sleeves and plunging neckline.
Trying to get it all just right,
I worked all day while mother was away.
Adorning it with stiletto heels
and shiny black choker,
its taffeta skirt swished with gentle movement
and its shade caught light like a tulip in the sun.

 In case she didn’t like it,
 I followed the pattern for a second dress,
 a pastel, flowered affair,  worn knee-length
 with white flats and a string of fresh water pearls.

Anticipating her arrival,
wearing the flashy crimson frock,
I readied myself behind the front door.
Turning round and round with several sensual swirls,
I modeled it for her.
Mother oo-ed and ah-ed, told me that she loved me.
As I reached to take her hand,
the flowered dress muscled its way between us,
leaving red taffeta folds puddled at my feet.

Cheryl Cizewski

In the still, silent backwater
of the river, a turtle has hoisted
itself up on a log to take advantage
of the heat of the sun, a grey heron
legs still as the steel of a double-barreled shotgun
stands motionless, a sentinel, keeping watch,
The oars of the canoe slip in and out
of the water, quietly, respectfully.

In the comfort of her kitchen, Kathy,
now fifteen years retired,
relates updates on neighbors. Sarah, she says,
always said that her second husband
treated her well—
never hit her,
never pulled her hair,
never yelled at her or anything like that.
But still, Sarah and Bill no longer live together.
Sarah moved to Iowa to live with her son.
Kathy says she doesn’t know what to think,

Says Bill is very well-to-do, has a big, beautiful
house that overlooks the river,
says Sarah also told her that there was a much
younger woman, who would drive past
their house every morning, flash her headlights
twice and, a few minutes later, Bill
would drive off somewhere. She does not know
where. Sarah took to drinking wine. A bit too much,
According to Carla, the neighbor-girl,
who tried to help Sarah around the house,
until Sarah’s drinking became a problem.
Carla is going to the community college now,
for Criminal Justice.

Sarah now lives in a nursing home close
to her sons in Iowa, while Bill
still lives back East,
still calls Sarah every day,
still says he loves her.

The grip on the oar slips. The oar slaps
the water, the splash—a signal—alarms.
The turtle slides head-first into the comfort
of the murky undercurrent.

The heron squats briefly in a sort of pumping
action, as if priming itself before taking flight;
much like someone who cocks the release on a gun
to prime it, before
taking the shot.

Never Underestimate the Power of Self-Hatred
Jeanne Clark

It starts early
And never lets up.
There’s the sign
Hung around the neck.
It says
“Defective merchandise”

The wearer is too young
To read
The sign, of course
Nevertheless it sets a solid
Foundation for
What follows

Don’t call what follows PTSD
The trauma is not a one-time event
It lasts a lifetime
There was no pre-trauma
No interlude between birth
And the realization
Of defect

And when the universe
Neglects to maintain the stress
The defective one
Takes over the job

The status quo is self-hatred

The Journey
Marge Dahle

I walk the soft of
Springtime grasses
while twilight sings
it's song of fading day.

I drink the sweet
a generous cup
 now offered
still thirsting for
the light that
cannot stay.

Evening's drift enfolds
the wooded hillside
streaks of painted sky
turn into gray.
No flight of wing,
the valley sings      

I continue on my way.   

Beth Fox
May I have some time with you?
I’ll make an omelet
With these black trumpet mushrooms
I found at Squam Lake yesterday--
Spring green tea, peeled peaches
Blackberry jam, still warm.

Do you miss me?
You have something you always wanted.
When your back is turned, it’s gone.
There is no replacing the magenta
Loss of it.

Even as the green peel
Slips from the cucumber,
A hare’s paw clutches my jaw.
I dreamed the baby was outside
all night, alone.

Naomi Lavori

I murdered my diaphragm.
I stabbed it with a knife.
Not content,
I cut out its rubber heart
With a scissor.
I had to go
To the doctor
For another.
The nurse asked
What had happened
To the one you had.

Pat Savage

Death butt-slaps memory smooth, gets rid of the bumps, your imperfections
the times when you were downright annoying. Deb got lost this morning
running on Coffeetown Rd, had to beg to use the phone at Mr. Mike’s. 
You never let me go for a walk in the woods without my cell phone, 
never let me jump on my bike without a helmet. Deb says, 
It’s a good thing. Someone in the family has to be that way. 
You see what I mean? Every mention making you a hero.

The Usher
Gail Hersey

You dress up nice.

The tails of your rented tux
tickle the backs of your trousers.
The snowy vest nips in your waist
and that bright yellow bow
is a welcome surprise at your throat.

Pomade rubbed into your scalp
this morning while you sat for the barber
makes your hair shine
in the bright afternoon sun
while storm clouds gather
over the mountain at your back.

I watch you,
a rehearsal of grace
one hand resting on your spine
and I think
maybe now, right now,
you are safe.

 Once, I thought
you were safe in your room
but instead, you were perched,
a giant bird
on the windowsill
drinking anxiety and fear,
smoking your way into sleep.

I would close my eyes
and dream
that you were safe
cats pressed up against you in your bed
their low purring your only narcotic,
holding you in Nod
until the telephone rang
and I was dragged
out of my soporific
into an icy car.

But today
you are Jay Gatsby
standing in the courtyard
your smile and boutonniere
belying the curse of
your adolescence,
introducing your debut
into the world of young men
who waltz with their sweethearts
and dazzle the world
with the brilliance of their futures.

You line up with the others
beside the birch arbor
listening to promises
hypnotized by the shine of your shoes
and I watch you
and the hot sun heats up my bracelets
until they burn my wrists
and the clouds spill snow on the mountain.

Interest Due, 1989
Bob Demaree

Stoic, we do the needed things,
Wait numbly for the clerk of deeds
To return from lunch,
Always some article found later
The tipping point of grief,
Her lipstick, his shaving brush.
The bereaved should perhaps hire surrogates
To go through bureau drawers,
The safe deposit box,
Decide what to do with
That small bond she bought
Thirty years ago,
Meaning to defray last costs. 

(copyrights held by individual poets)


We are first of all observers and remembers.

“Poetry is the safest known mode of human risk. You risk only staying alive.”                                                                                                 --William Meredith

Next Workshop:
Saturday, June 22, 2013
10:00 a.m.2:00 p.m.
“The Poetry of Time and Place”