Saturday, April 4, 2015

When One's Poetry Is Read

Pear tree blossoms; peach blossoms behind them.  April, 2013

I was honored this past week in a way I never expected.  In a celebration of Kostroma Russia’s sister city, Durham, NC, a group of secondary school students presented poetry, music, and dance about Durham.  One young woman read part of my poetry book Susannah, Teach Me to Love/Grace, Sing to Me, Book 4.  Here’s what she recited.  She had memorized these lines.

It is neither spring nor some lush lane
of new, intoxicating green.  It is the last
of a dry, hot spell.  I am in downtown Durham
taking my walk past smoothly concrete banks
and large urban motels, and then shops, in an
area supposedly renovated, where half the stores
are empty and out of business and boarded up.

Durham is your city.  You have haunted it,
photographed it; you told me some club downtown–
was it the Odyssey Club that I passed?--
had just been bought by one of your friends
for a theatre.  I looked at another empty club
building, too, and wondered if that was it...

There’s more in the poem, but this is what she recited.  A huge gift. Then a young woman played a keyboard quite beautifully; a young man, a saxophone.  One young man played a guitar while a young woman danced wildly, her limbs loose and nimble.  Clearly they were liking many things about Durham, about America.  The music, dance, even the poetry.  Here’s the link of the you-tube film, about 20 minutes long, mostly in Russian, but near the beginning at 1.43 minutes, there is the young woman reading my poetry, written back in 1983. Amazing.
Dear Judy,
we haven’t had an event about your poetry yet (I hope we’ll manage to do it in April) but there was an event about Durham at the library of a Kostroma school. We use a small part of your poem. Here is a video about this event, sorry, it’s in Russian but your poem is recited in English, it starts on 1:43 of the time scale. The girl was a bit nervous; she knew that the author would watch her reciting.
I hope you enjoy it.
Take care,

Tatiana [A Kostroma Regional Librarian]


Then last Saturday Jane Gallagher, a good friend whom I haven’t seen in along time, dropped by to hug me and wish me luck on the difficult work we do now to stop two huge coal ash dumps from coming to two places near where I live.  She didn’t understand how I could be optimistic that we could keep these dumps out of Chatham and Lee County, how I could live normally, even peacefully, while I also worked to stop it.  A good question.  If you’re working to change a difficult situation, it eases the fear.  I am afraid sometimes, but I can’t stay there.  I write in my diary; I take a walk, I plant peas, beets, and carrots.  Anyway, Jane left with my new poetry book  This River: An Epic Love Story.  She wrote me a few days later–maybe the next day–this.  Thank you, Jane. Real readers finding something they enjoy in my books helps so much.
I treated myself to The River today. I read it on my hammock under a large oak tree. Beautiful. I loved it as I did Beaver Soul. 
I especially liked 
...We can't give each other what we don't create ourselves ..... 
...I must do as the river does move on and on. I must love my banks. She carries with her that which we leave behind 
......take one's place in the world in a way that matters 
....We must choose carefully every day, balance within ourselves our needs , the needs of others, our most urgent tasks and what we will let flow past us never to return. 
.....Better to aim one’s life toward a radiant horizon, a sky made red by sun than let oblivion declare black the sole reality, or grey, our fated life. The river keeps brimming with gold. My eyes keep seeing the glowing embers of a sky in winter before the dark curtain falls ...
I am glad you had a true love. 
Thanks for sharing,

Jane Gallagher


I’d love to hear from others of you out there what you think of any of my poetry books, but I do think This River is my best so far among my published books.  Judy Hogan

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