An evening of remembrance and poetry necessarily entails a mood which is something of a sustained air of loss and celebration. I do not say mixture because the two competing conditions never fully resolve. Perhaps it is more appropriate to describe the evening as melancholy, provided we understand the term in its Romantic period meaning: a beautiful disposition characterized by a serious and somber tone.
The Bonbonerie again provided the beautiful space and the fine food for the evening. The café and the staff of the Bonbonerie make for an ideal experience for Dos Madres events. What better setting for a Dos Madres poetry reading that a café that offers a touch of elegance.
Robert Murphy set things in motion with his reading of the poems of Paul Pines. Beginning with a posthumous poem entitled “Moments,” we were given some particularly apt metaphors. The image of Schrodinger’s cat somehow captured the spirit of everything—the poets were both present and alive in the voices of those who read, but the fact that we were gathered to remember that they were in fact not present was always in the fore of our minds.
Among the poems from Paul Pines’s collection, Furnace in the Shadows: Selected Poems, “Redness Remembered” resonated for its juxtaposition of mythology and war against the simple image of the Cardinals in the backyard. It was with this that Robert reminded us that “poetry is about conversation, it is on-going.” So it is that the poetry of Paul Pines re-entered the conversation.
Cincinnati’s former poet-laureate stepped up to read from the collection of poems by Aralee Strange entitled The Road Itself, a project supported by the Ohio Arts Council. With a nod to Mark Flanigan, who edited this volume, Pauletta explained that she felt the challenge to read in Aralee’s voice.
She began with a long poem, one which moved us from the particular and domestic outward to reveal a sweeping portrait of American life. The poem begins with an excerpt from the obituary for Dorothy Anne Weiseger Strange. We could sense the feeling in Pauletta’s voice as she read.
The poem then jets off in motion: “Another day you wake up down/dark clouds loom/skin so thin breezy feels like razor blades.” Again, with Pauletta’s voice lifted with feeling and the sing-song quality of the poem one could hear Aralee’s voice just beneath the lines.
“there is no revelation meditating on the ginkgo” carries us through post-war life and family, domestic struggle and happiness, the shadow of a maternal figure more than an actual mother, and ultimately leaves in an indeterminate place: “no meditation/no revelation, no clue.” Perhaps we are invited to continue the conversation—treat the poem as something that is on-going.
Next, Scot Goebel walked us through a few selections from Blue Planet: A Collections of Poems by Joseph Barrett. The pace picked up considerably as Scot animated the abrupt bursts of language in Barrett’s ”Nuclear Holocaust Mantra.” Not pulling any punches, the poem is an actual mantra for dropping the Bomb which terminates with the bold statement: “we did it all for moolah/ we did it all for moolah.”
Scot seemed to follow the pace of the poetry, reading the shorter works with the force and occasional humor the poems demand. Yet, with the final poem, “Hangover in Oxfordhsire,” things slowed down. Scot ended his reading with the lack of resolve dictated by lines such as “apparently/ I am alone” from which we recognize that waking into our own life is a process and not a discreet event.
The evening ended with considerable attention to Paul Bray. His hefty collection, The Terrible Woods, covers so much formal terrain and philosophical content, one could spend a life-time studying this volume alone.
Before getting to the poems, Robert Murphy shared an open letter to Paul Bray. Though certainly a personal note, the letter also set the stage for Bray’s poetry. References to Lewis Carroll, C.S. Lewis, and Borges prepared us for Norm’s guided tour of the magic of Bray’s poems.
Norman explained that Bray was a formalist who drew on a Gnostic vision and mythology, a poet who is the direct descendent of Poe and Lovecraft. With this Norman started off with “Gothic Heaven-Storming” in which we were immediately placed on a “mossy mental edge” with “no way to go but up.”
This poem is exemplary of the works Norman shared. Filled with images of magic that are always grounded in real experience, we are tossed from abstractions to cold realities in such a way that the difference between magical and earthly realms becomes unimportant.
Given our introduction to Bray’s poetry by Robert Murphy and the tone in which Norman read, it became easy to become immersed in “the crawlspace in the tenement/ beyond the Heaven/Heavens split/ outside the orbit of the limit.” Bray’s poetry recognizes no border between deeply philosophical ideas and the prosaic.
In all, the evening was characterized by that ideal balance between somber remembrance and a celebration of the lives and works of four of Dos Madres’ finest poets. We were shown that the conversation remains open with these poets and their works. It is easy to see poetry as an art we partake of in solitude, quietly reading and studying such things by ourselves. But a reading such is this one allows us to see just how animated poetry can become when shared aloud among a group of friends both old and new.
I completed my Ph.D. in literature at Miami University. My area of interest was the British Romantic poets. I have a fondness for William Blake. After spending some years as an adjunct professor teaching at area universities, I decided to strike out on my own as a freelance writer and independent scholar.
In addition to writing blogs, I have written several essays which have appeared in The Culture Crush, Culture Matters, and Aurore Press. I am fond of the literary fragment in both poetry and prose, and I have begun experimenting with this form in my own work. I have also read my own poems at Cincinnati Word of Mouth.
In addition to writing I am a professional musician, cook, and barista. More accidental jack-of-all-trades than renaissance man, I have learned to do many things over the years.
My involvement Dos Madres Press began when I hosted readings while I was a barista at the Bonbonerie Café. Working with Robert on these projects has led to writing these blogs.
I live in downtown Cincinnati with my wife who is a talented photographer. We spend our time walking around the city snapping photos. She looks up at that the grandeur of the city, while I always seem to be staring at the ground.