poetry

Which Writers Get Museums?

Apr 30, 2015
Creative Commons

Mark Twain has many literary sites; yet Henry James has none. You can visit Edith Wharton's house but not Shirley Jackson's. You can walk where Wallace Stevens walked but you can't buy a ticket to go through his front door. And can you believe there's no single museum devoted to all American writers-- yet?

New England is about to get two great new writers’ museums: The Dr. Seuss museum in Springfield, Massachusetts and-- if we're lucky-- the Maurice Sendak Museum in Ridgefield, Connecticut. Today we look at who gets a writer's house and why-- and what sort of experience we’re looking for when we make pilgrimages to the desks of our literary heroes.

Rachel Eliza Griffiths

Ficre Ghebreyesus and Elizabeth Alexander were born two months apart in 1962, he in Eritrea, she in Harlem. They didn’t meet until 1996. He was an artist and a chef at a New Haven Eritrean restaurant he owned with his brothers. She was a poet and professor. She had been teaching at the University of Chicago, where she had also met a senior lecturer named Barack Obama. She married Ghebreyesus. She delivered Obama’s 2009 inaugural poem. In 2012, a few days after her husband’s 50th birthday, he died abruptly. Her new book, “The Light of The World,” tells that story.

Anthony Quintano / Creative Commons

Calling in to WNPR's Where We Live on Tuesday, Michael from Middletown shared a poem he wrote in honor of Blizzard 2015. 

Fire: Sparking Imagination Since Two Million B.C.

Jan 14, 2015
BriSaEr / Flickr Creative Commons

Things burn: Our environments, resources, and all forms of monument to self. And since the beginning, so too has our imagination. The inspiration humans have drawn from fire throughout the millennia is as impressive as it is immeasurable. Why fire occupies such an elemental place in the creative wellsprings of our consciousness is certainly a debate to had.

Donkey Hotey / Creative Commons

Okay, I'm warning you. You're going to have to adjust the band on your thinking cap. Christian Bok, our first guest, is an experimental poet with some fascinating ideas, some of which will strike you as unfamiliar and maybe dissimilar to any other ideas you ever heard. In a nutshell, Bok is part of a small movement of thinkers and writers who want to revolutionize the way literature is produced, stored and consumed. For example, Bok has spent years trying to encode  a poem into the DNA of a bacterium able to survive extreme conditions, like vacuums.

Where Have All The Poets Gone?

Sep 5, 2014

For centuries, poets were the mouthpieces railing loudly against injustice. They gave voice to the hardships and evils facing people everywhere. From Langston Hughes to Jack Kerouac and Federico García Lorca — so many — verse once served as a vehicle for expressing social and political dissent. There was fervor, there was anger. And it was embraced: See, there was a time when the poetry of the day carried with it the power of newspapers and radio programs. It was effective, even as it was overtly political. What has happened?

En Garde!

Jun 23, 2014
Abhijit Shylanath / Creative Commons

This saber was forged in the town of New Britain to end you!
Put down your pistol and draw your sword. Any man can shoot
but do you have skill? Do you not have the will to clash such
fine steel? Put down your pistol coward! I will make you kneel
before me... Have you no honor? Valor? You'd rather flick a
finger than allow your blade to linger in the heart chambers of
your rivals?

Me, Sparky, and Little Barbara Jean

Jun 23, 2014
DeeAshley / Creative Commons

It's senior privilege, we get to sit on the rickety bridge
by the football field and smoke Viceroys after lunch.
It's fun bein' queenie and all; Dad always said
I had the prettiest peepers from here to Harrison.

New England Cowboy

Jun 23, 2014
Charles Henry / Creative Commons

Cue tumbleweed.
Dust kicked up from his snakeskin boots catches to the northbound gale
He straddles the barren road; a stance ready to draw
He practices 1, 2, 3 gunshots just because he can
The sheriffs peer tentatively behind blinds
He holsters his Peacemaker, a Colt .45

Fragment Skyline

Jun 4, 2014
Stephanie Nobert / New Britain Industrial Museum

Off target planes de-throttle
to re-smelt the Russwin doorknobs,
     their tired steel.

Hands that once embraced such metal--
turning points from halls to
windowed rooms -- have fallen with the rubble.

Not to hold a single door.
     To lay in wreckage.

Knobs detached to form no entries.
Moans from under cinder yearn in unison,
stretch for the door to another side.

They char from jet fuel flames,
     they smolder...

plane-shattered sun and buildings.

Revelation

Jun 3, 2014
Bureau of Land Management / Creative Commons

His T-shirt says, “I am God”.
I think - My lucky day!
I’ll run over,
shake his hand,
ask for an autograph.
I might never have this chance again.

katsrcool / Creative Commons

after a line from Haruki Murakami

The Cause

Jun 3, 2014
brankomaster / Creative Commons

When you jump off a bandwagon, it rolls on
toward the cities’ high places,
and you’re left without music on an empty road,

nothing to guide you. Not even the moon
drenches each milepost. No joyous faces
when you jump off a bandwagon. It rolls on,

its pipers shrill, its drummers too loud,
yet you listen: thick notes, then thin traces
and you’re left without music on an empty road.

Just you versus you—your pro, your con,
your rabbits in hats, your sleeves, your aces
when you jump off. A bandwagon? It rolls on.

Paul Kline / Creative Commons

When I see starlight I marvel
the thousands of years it traveled
to meet me, before I was even
conceived, and think myself
a sort of time vector—a very
short one—in the midst of lines
that stretch along farther than I
can imagine. Behind me are things
evolving which that star’s light
is on its way toward, and each will
know itself the final destination—
though the light threads itself
through them like a needlepoint:
stitches them and me together
in contemplation of an image
of the past. Tell me, human,

The Space Traveler and Wandering

Jun 3, 2014
Sweetie187 / Creative Commons

I didn’t always wander. Once,
I had a small home with a garden.
A planet dweller lived there,
and we had the local equivalent
of a dog. It’s hard to say
what happened, but at some point
I found myself converting parts
of our bungalow into a ship.
First appliances: fridge, stove,
electric tooth brush and water pick.
Then larger pieces. Siding
for the rocket body; chimney
for part of the nose cone.
Right now, I’m entering coordinates
into a combination of water heater
and wet bar. Both of us knew

Saying Goodbye at the Nursing Home

Jun 3, 2014
Ari Bakker / Creative Commons

My meeting can’t wait
so I’ve kissed the top of your head,
both cheeks
and like the Eskimos do.

Isla Providencia

Jun 3, 2014
Ana Rodríguez Carrington / Creative Commons

From his final trip to Providencia
I asked my grandfather to bring back
a piece of the island, so he wrapped

a conch shell with three towels, deep
in his suitcase among plastic jars
jammed with stewed plums and orange rinds.

Cashel Man

Jun 3, 2014
TechnoHippyBiker / Creative Commons

Cashel, Ireland, 2,000 B.C.

In ancient Ireland, bogs were sacred
areas; a cool wetland mirage meters
deep of peat during demoralizing
drought. Greenish-brown landscape
of mystery, insufferably slow plant
growth. What must a farmer have
thought as his wife offered a vessel
of golden butter to appease a merciless
deity? He plunges his hand deep into
the bog, brings a handful of drenched
soil to his eyes, squeezes and watches
as his hairy forearms stain a deep rust.

From the Heart to the Plate

May 15, 2014
Stephanie Nobert / New Britain Industrial Museum

All thanks to Landers, Fray and Clark,
the turn of the century had launched
many irons, coffee percolators, samovars,
Another in that list is their variety of toasters.

The smallest of the house would sit
and watch so the bread won't burn to a crisp.
It was done with the assistance of a lever
if the bread was too hot for them to handle.

The Spirit Level

May 8, 2014
Doug Kerr / Creative Commons

a terza rima for the New Britain Industrial Museum

Hard hittin' New Britain, some of my students intone
to describe their home for a few years or a lifetime
in that depressed part of Hartford County once known

by relics in unphotographable pre-European times
as a fertile hunting and fishing ground by the Tunxis,
Quinnipiac, Wangunk, Podunk and Mattabesett tribes

Flickr Creative Commons, shutterhacks

Today you will meet two poets and one novelist, all women, all fascinating, all appearing around here in the next three days. 

Richard Blanco broke a lot of barriers in one gust of cold air this month. As the poet at the second Obama inauguration, he became the first openly gay, first immigrant, first Latino and youngest ever inaugural poet. Blanco was born in Spain to Cuban exiles.

You can see and hear him in person when he's at the Hill-Stead's Sunken Garden Poetry Festival this summer.

 You can join the conversation, e-mail colin@wnpr.org or Tweet us@wnprcolin.