Love’s hum and hues

I am a sojourner in civilized life. But today I am thinking of the day we stepped onto the curved and narrow path around that pond, seeking the way where silence and song are one and the same, where simple beauty outstrips ornate, where all is love and love is all, where beams of sunlight stream through the trees in hues arrived from another world, tints which are tinctures which heal wounded souls.

Leaves for WoW post
Autumn leaves at Walden Pond

A man collects trash around these peaceful waters, an admirable enterprise requiring no new clothes. But he is not calm, not joyful at his labors, and he stabs at the trash with anger, not blissful, not wishful, far from finding the higher ground at the end of his path. I pray he finds the proper prayer to chant each day, the words, the song, the holy hum, the soothing thrum to overcome his desperation.

It is written that the only remedy for love is to love even more.

But who would need such a cure, I wonder, who would feel afflicted? I catch you in my gaze, hold love softly in my hand, and here by the waters of Walden I lay down and weep, softly from joy, and here we have found the fire of love, and we are warmed by its heat and guided by its light as we walk around this pond and find our way down this path which is lit a thousand times by a thousand rays of sun.

Red leaves against water for WoW
Red leaves at Walden

Simplify. The waters are calm. The sun shines off the water. Ducks swim in a row. People stroll all in a row. You find a lady’s slipper tucked into a shaded glade. We see red leaves against a blue sky. Woods surround the pond. A slight breeze. Simple.  And we are simply here.

Mallard for WoW post
A duck -- perhaps a mallard -- at Walden

But what if the ducks swam out of sight, then flew away? What if rough winds roiled the water? What if the lady’s slippers did not fit the lady’s feet? What if the blue sky turned to black? What if all the people all in a row scattered in all directions? What if lumberjacks cut down the woods? What if that winding path suddenly slithered away like a snake? What if the pond drained and dried? What if a thousand beams of sun dimmed to darkness one by one?

Yellow leaves for WoW

Then I would front only the essential facts of life, to see if I learned what it had to teach, whether I had managed to learn these truths so I would not come to die and find that I had not lived. And I would know I had learned these truths, had learned the chant, the whispered prayer: I glory in the glow of the light of love’s bright fire and know that its flames will keep us always warm.

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Did someone spike Bob Dylan’s eggnog?

Maybe it’s not Bob Dylan. Maybe it’s Bob Dylan channeling Tom Waits and Louis Armstrong.

Or maybe it is Bob Dylan. Maybe he got into the eggnog and didn’t know someone had spiked it with a bit too much rum. Or maybe he knew about the rum.

Or maybe there’s just no way to describe how awfully bad — and impossible to explain — “Christmas in the Heart” really is.

Or maybe you just have to hear it to believe it. This album could change your life…you might, for example, stop believing in Santa…or you might decide that those dancing elves you saw when you drank too much spiked eggnog at that Christmas party weren’t a figment of your alcohol-drenched imagination. They were really there. They were Dylan’s backup singers on “Winter Wonderland.”

Ho-ho-hold on to your hat —

Here’s the set  list:

Here Comes Santa Claus,  Do You Hear What I Hear?,  Winter Wonderland, Hark The Herald Angels Sing, I’ll Be Home For Christmas, Little Drummer Boy, The Christmas Blues, O Come All Ye Faithful (Adeste Fideles), Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, Must Be Santa, Silver Bells, The First Noel, Christmas Island, The Christmas Song,  O Little Town Of Bethlehem.

 

Poetry takes center stage in N.J.

The 12th annual Delaware Valley Poetry Festival’s this weekend — Saturday, Oct. 17, at 8 p.m., at the historic Prallsville Mills along the Delaware River in Stockton, N.J.

Rita Dove
Rita Dove

The main attraction, of course, will be chance to hear and meet Rita Dove, two-time U.S. poet laureate and winner of the Pulitzer prize for poetry. In addition to reading from her work, Rita will sign books at two locations: Book Garden on Bridge Street in Frenchtown, N.J., at 3:30 p.m, and directly after the reading, right in the recently restored  sawmill where the reading will take place, sponsored by the Borders bookstore in nearby Flemington.

But here’s a special added attraction:  Laura Swanson and Keith Strunk, my ultra-talented friends and colleagues who are the principals of Frenchtown-based River Union Stage, will be staging a presentation based on a segment of Rita Dove’s latest book, “Sonata Mulattica,” which is based on the extraordinary life of George Bridgetower, a violin virtuoso to whom Beethoven initially dedicated the “Kreutzer” Sonata.

River Union Stage has partnered with me to stage the Delaware Valley Poetry Festival since 2006,  and in past years has performed a shor, theatrical treatment of a selected work by the featured poet as a curtain-warmer.  For Diane Wakoski’s Thanking My Mother for Piano Lessons, RUS created a film treatment of the poem with appropriate visuals and music.  For the 10th anniversary of the festival, featuring Robert Pinsky, RUS had a child actor, a 40-something actor and Robert himself in performance of To Television, representing Pinsky at different stages of his life, illuminated by the glow of a “television” throughout.

This year RUS, with considerable imput from Ms. Dove herself, will offer a theatrical interpretation of The Performer, a section from “Sonata Mulattica.” Starring will be Ryan Quinn, who performed in a previous RUS production of It’s A Wonderful Life.  He received his MFA from Yale School of Drama, and has since performed in numerous regional houses and off-Broadway with many Shakespeare credits under his belt.

Ryan Quinn
Ryan Quinn

It will be an extraordinary evening of poetry and theater this Saturday at Prallsville as the extraordinary Rita Dove adds her name to an impressive roster of poets who’ve come to our remote cultural outpost in western New Jersey: In addition to Pinsky and Wakoski, add the names of nationally acclaimed poets Louise Gluck, Paul Muldoon, Thomas Lux, Stephen Dobyns and Gerald Stern (of nearby Lambertville, N.J.) and other outstanding New Jersey-based poets including Maria Mazziotti Gillan, Charles H. Johnson, BJ Ward and the amazing Joe Weil.

Try to make it to Stockton, N.J., this Saturday night. And try to get there early. Since admission is free (N.B.: Donations are welcome to help offset production costs for the poetry reading series at a time when government funding for the arts has been trimmed or eliminated), seating is first-come and first-served. Lines of people were waiting to get in when Robert Pinsky read for the festival’s 10th anniversary. I expect, and hope, there will bne similarly long lines of poetry fans arriving early to get a good seat for a great night of theater and poetry.




There’s something about Maria

I’ve written before about Maria Mazziotti Gillan, who’s one of my favorite poets — and favorite people. Maria, who has read several times at the annual Delaware Valley Poetry Festival, writes provocative, emotional, touching poems which address simple, basic issues — love, friendship, aging, illness, ethnicity — in spare, simple, powerful language that elevates, invigorates and inspires listeners and readers.

Maria runs the master’s program in creative writing at SUNY-Binghamton. She’s founding editor of the Paterson Literary Review. She’s mentored and encouraged dozens and dozens of New Jersey poets. I could go on and on, and just might, except it might be best to let you hear it for yourself.

Here’s a link to a recent video of a recent reading by Maria:

Here’s a YouTube video of Maria reading three of her poems:

And here’s a list of dates, times and locations for a series of readings Maria is giving during October in Connecticut.

10/19/09: Southern Connecticut State University, 501 Crescent Street, New Haven, Ct.,  7 pm.

10/20: Middlesex Community College, 100 Training Hill Rd. Middletown, Ct.  12:30 pm.

10/21: Central Connecticut State University, 1615 Stanley St. New Britain, Ct. 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

10/21: Manchester Community College, 161 Hillstown Rd. Manchester, Ct.  8 pm.

10/22: University of Hartford, 200 Bloomfield Ave., West Hartford, Ct. 12:15 pm.

10/28: St, Joseph’s College, 1678 Asylum Ave, West Hartford, Ct.  7:30 pm.

10/29  Wesleyan University, 229 High St, Middletown, Ct. 8 pm.

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If you live anywhere near the Nutmeg State, try, try, try really hard to attend on her appearances. You will leave feeling better about life than you felt before you heard Maria’s beautiful, powerful and stirring poems.