Robert Frost Reads “Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening”

From a rare 1958 film shot at Frost's farmhouse in Vermont.

Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening
by Robert Frost (1874-1963)

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

 

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Ron Padgett

The Writer’s Almanac for June 17, 2016

Unknown

 

Hug
by Ron Padgett

Listen Online

The older I get, the more I like hugging. When I was little the
people hugging me were much larger. In their grasp I was a rag
doll. In adolescence, my body was too tense to relax for a hug.
Later, after the loss of virginity—which was anything but a
loss—the extreme proximity of the other person, the smell of
hair, the warmth of the skin, the sound of breathing in the
dark—these were mysterious and delectable. This hug had
two primary components: the anticipation of sex and the plea-
sure of intimacy, which itself is a combination of trust and
affection. It was this latter combination that came to character-
ize the hugging I have experienced only in recent years, a hug-
ging that knows no distinctions of gender or age. When this
kind of hug is mutual, for a moment the world is perfect the
way it is, and the tears we shed for it are perfect too. I guess it
is an embrace.
“Hug” by Ron Padgett from Collected Poems. © Coffee House Press, 2013. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

 

Today, 6/12/16, is the birthday of avant-garde American poet, essayist, and translator Ron Padgett (1942) (books by this author), who once said: “If you match yourself up against Shakespeare, guess what? You lose. It’s not productive. Better to focus on the poem you’re writing, do your work, and leave it at that.”

Padgett was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma. His father was a bootlegger who also traded cars; his mother was a housewife who assisted Padgett’s father with bootlegging. Padgett was a precocious reader as a teenager, drifting toward Baudelaire and Rimbaud. He said: “When I got to adolescence, I became more and more gloomy and introspective and serious and angst-ridden.” He and a few friends started an avant-garde literary journal called The White Dove, which lasted for five years. They weren’t shy about writing to their literary heroes and soliciting work. Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and LeRoi Jones all published poems in Padgett’s small magazine.

Padgett went to New York to attend Columbia University (1960), where he fell in with a group of poets who favored stream-of-consciousness writing, vivid imagery, and spontaneity. It was the 1960s, and Padgett, Kenneth Koch, Frank O’Hara, and Ted Berrigan drew inspiration from the art galleries, museums, dancers, and artists that surrounded them. Padgett inherited Kenneth Koch’s teaching position as a “poet-in-the-schools” (1969) for the Teachers & Writers Collaborative, and stayed for nine years. In the beginning, he was paid $50 for three class visits, which he could do in one day, and which paid for an entire month’s rent, utilities, and his phone bill. He loved teaching public school children. He said that whenever poets visited a classroom, “We were like heroes being welcomed home.”

Padgett’s collections of poetry include Bean Spasms: Poems and Prose (1967, with Ted Berrigan); How to Be Perfect (2007); and Alone and Not Alone (2015). His collection How Long (2011) was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

Padgett says: “Almost everything that’s happened in my poetry is what you might call organic. I don’t do much pre-conceiving. If I start to sound too much like the Ron Padgett that I’ve read before, I stop myself.”

On writing his poems, he says: “If I don’t make line breaks, it’s a prose poem. The line breaks are part of the dance of the poem. If I’m not dancing, I don’t know what steps to take. I don’t know whether to turn or to bow or to move quickly or whatever. I don’t know what to do if I don’t have the line breaks.”

 

SPOTLIGHT ON LAWRENCE KESSENICH

 images

Wild Turkeys

by Lawrence Kessenich

I watch them from my office window

pecking at pebbles on the blacktop,

pink heads, iridescent feathers,

stick legs moving with surprising grace.

 

Living in the woods behind the office

park, they tolerate our diurnal presence,

unmoved by creatures four times their size

invading in steel and glass.

 

Ben Franklin preferred them for our national

symbol, and they act as if they deserve no less.

 

How different would our nation be if we

had chosen these gentle grazers—who

nonetheless defend their nests—over

a bird who scours the earth for prey?

 

American though they are, these turkeys have

no allegiance. They only need a patch of earth

to scratch, a place to raise their pink young. And,

come to think of it, do any of us need more?

 

“Wild Turkeys” by Lawrence Kessenich from Before Whose Glory. © Future Cycle Press, 2013. Reprinted with permission.  (buy now)


 

Communion

During Lent, season of discipline,

I drag myself early out of bed, ride

to Mass with Mom and Mrs. Crivello,

warm in the front seat between their

woolen coats, soothed by familiar perfume.

Headlights carve the ebony darkness.

The women talk in low tones

about people I don’t know, the thrum

of their voices reassuring. I doze

for seconds that seem like minutes.

In the half-acre lot, we park among

a small band of cars huddled near

the entrance of St. Monica’s. Inside,

stained glass windows, a feast of color

in daylight, are black. The church is barn-cold.

Candles burn, bells ring, prayers are murmured,

songs sung. The church warms slowly. I sit,

stand, kneel between the two women,

rituals washing over me like soft waves

on Lake Michigan in August.

Later, I carry the sacred mood

out on my route, dispensing papers

like Communion to my neighbors.

 

“Communion” by Lawrence Kessenich from Age of Wonders. © Big Table Publishing, 2016. Reprinted by permission.  (buy now)

 


 

Becoming Bostonian

 

I hear the music of seven languages

on a four-block stretch of Harvard Square,

see the copper glow of the Hancock

Tower at sunset, feel the familiar

bump of cobblestones under my feet.

Mark Twain said people in New York ask

“How much is he worth?” while Bostonians

ask “How much does he know?” That burning

desire to discover keeps the city humming,

yet we’re grounded in history, too,

still treading on sidewalks made of

baked clay. I stand

one night on Beacon Hill, gaze up at the

few stars city lights allow to shine,

feel myself stretched between past and future

the pull of the earth on which

our forefathers stood, the pull of the moon,

which they could not have dreamed their descendants

would visit. Or perhaps they did.

One historian reports that

“there were books on Beacon Hill while wolves

still howled from the summit.” Perhaps some

Englishman closed his book one night and stood

where I stand, dreaming of what we’ve become.

 

“Becoming Bostonian” by Lawrence Kessenich from Age of Wonders. © Big Table Publishing, 2016. Reprinted with permission.  (buy now)


 

https://thisibelieve.org/essay/441/

In My Father’s Tears

Lawrence Kessenich – Watertown, Massachusetts

As heard on The Bob Edwards Show, December 17, 2010

My father and I disagreed vehemently about politics and religion in the late 1960s. He was a World War II veteran and a colonel in the Wisconsin National Guard. I was a long-haired student at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, helping to organize antiwar demonstrations. He was a devout Catholic. I was an agnostic. My younger siblings remember all too vividly the violent arguments he and I would have. There was nowhere to hide from them in the small home where we lived. Once, my father ended up chasing me around the kitchen table, intent on hitting me for the first time in his life—and then he broke down crying.

The memory of those tears says more to me about who my father was than the memories of our arguments. He was a man who cared passionately—about the people he knew and loved, but also about people in need he didn’t know at all. He taught me to care with the same intensity. I never doubted that he loved me, even in those moments when I felt least understood by him. And his life spoke eloquently about how much he cared for the less fortunate. He and my mother always did charitable work—preparing and serving meals for homeless people at St. Ben’s parish in Milwaukee’s inner city, for example—but after my father retired, he took his social action to a new level.

He was admitted to a lay ministry program sponsored by the Milwaukee Archdiocese, a program that introduced him to contemporary theology and the history of Catholic social action. This was heady stuff for a man who had never gone to college—one of the greatest regrets of his life, by the way. Suddenly, my conservative father sounded like someone from Dorothy Day’s Catholic Worker Movement of the 1930s. He became incensed about how unconcerned the wealthy people in his suburban parish were about the plight of the less fortunate. When he graduated from the program, he became the Social Programs Coordinator for his parish, and until he died at eighty-one, he was a thorn in the side of his fellow parishioners, continually exhorting them to give more to, and do more for, those in need.

It is in large part because of the example set by my father, Arthur Kessenich, that I believe I have a responsibility to give of myself—not just to those I know and love, but to those I would never know if I didn’t seek them out: the poor, the disabled, the imprisoned. It is because of my father’s example that I try to tithe, to give 10 percent of my income to charity; that I spend two hours a week assisting a blind man; that I help lead Alternatives to Violence workshops in prisons.

I don’t do it out of guilt or fear of damnation, but out of love. Because I saw love in action, in my father’s tears and in the way he lived his life. Because of him, I believe in love.

Lawrence Kessenich was formerly an editor at Houghton Mifflin, where he encouraged W. P. Kinsella to write Shoeless Joe, the basis for the movie “Field of Dreams.” Mr. Kessenich now makes his living as a marketing writer while spending his free time writing poetry, essays, short stories, plays, and novels. He lives in Watertown, Massachusetts.


 

Lawrence Kessenich Reading Poetry on Poet to Poet Writer to Writer with Doug Holder

 

 

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Lawrence Kessenich

 

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Audible Hor d’Oeuvres: Two Poems by Eloisa Perez-Lozano

New Fourth and Sycamore

By Eloisa Pérez-Lozano

My Turn to Read

microphone Image credit Jan Mehlich

My concentration begins to wane
during the poet’s last stanza
not because I’m bored
but because I’m next.

My foot taps just a little faster
as I scan the poem, line by line
lingering over certain words
and making mental notes.

I hear my name hang in the air
followed by encouraging claps.
I rise from my chair and try not to trip
as head to the podium.

I look down at my typed-up thoughts
and realize they’re about to come alive
audible hors d’oeuvres for my audience
who waits to sample my soul.

I breathe in deeply, breathe out slowly,
swallow my nerves and fears
about not being worthy to read
and begin.

An Ode to Writing

penIt grabs you, shakes and stuns you
Then soothes, and lulls, caresses
You’re putty in its ink

Every page is packed

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NOT MUCH DO I WANT

keithgarrettpoetry

A roof over my head, a bed to rest my weary head,

Food on the table, a shower and a place to sit.

Healthy inside, a little money so i may survive,

A friend or two, love is really quite a miracle.

Not much do i want as this is about all i need or want,

Things that are still free to enjoy are in my sight.

The rising, morning sun is a sight taken much for granted,

See the sky, the clouds drifting by, look always up so high.

The wind would be beautiful to see, feel the winds beauty,

A smile during a falling rain, a gift with hope will always remain,

Not much do i want, simple things as i live each given day.

Keith Garrett

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MELISSA STUDDARD

COSOMSI Ate the Cosmos for Breakfast

by Melissa Studdard

It looked like a pancake,

but it was creation flattened out—

the fist of God on a head of wheat,

milk, the unborn child of an unsuspecting

chicken — all beaten to batter and drizzled into a pan.

I brewed my tea and closed my eyes

while I ate the sun, the air, the rain,

photosynthesis on a plate.

I ate the time it took that chicken

to bear and lay her egg

and the energy it takes a cow to lactate a cup of milk.

I thought of the farmers, the truck drivers,

the grocers, the people who made the bag that stored the wheat,

and my labor over the stove seemed short,

and the pancake tasted good,

and I was thankful.

This poem first appeared in Dash Literary Journal 3 (Spring 2010).
Used here with the author’s permission.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0988944766 —

And here are the ISBN Numbers: ISBN-10: 0988944766

ISBN-13: 978-0988944763

UnknownI Dream; Therefore You Are 

by Melissa Studdard

Moon & Pillow

say this is yesterday, and I’ve

pasted you back together

with salt. I mixed you with straw

& carried you into the desert to dry. My adobe

tulip,

my red earth, my paper doll,

I forgot that the rock I propped

you up against

was made of tombstone,

so I searched beneath your eyelids

for an explanation of color. I built

highways & colonies across

the meadows of sleep.

I followed you into the temple of absence

to learn how to die.

Don’t you know

how hard it is to keep you

buried? Please.

Have some compassion.

It’s like a swamp in this desert.

The caskets are at sea level

and always rising. See—

there you go, floating by, mouth full of

music and death.

I guess this means they finally told you:

You are the corpse in this off-key song.

And my words are a pilgrimage

bearing gifts. I brought you flowers.

Is it too late? Are you hungry?

I’m planting a casserole

in the grass.

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We Are the Universe

by Melissa Studdard

Watching your mouth as you eat I think

perhaps an apple is the universe and your body

is an orchard full of trees. I’ve seen the way your leaves

cling to the ground in fall, and I noted then

that your voice sounded soft, like feathered, drifting things

coming finally to rest. Note:

I was the core in your pink flesh. You

were hungry birds

and foxes walking through the miles of me.

You climbed, dug your nails in my bark, yanked

something loose. Don’t tell me what it is.

Just keep it close.

Because I planted these rows

and rows of myself for you–

so I could lick the juice from your lips,

so I could remember

how round and hot

the promise of seed. If I could find

that orchard right now, I’d run all through the rows

of you. I’d stand in the center and twirl

until I got dizzy and fell. I’d climb high and shake

until the only thing left in you was longing,

and you’d write a poem for me. You’d say:

Your mouth is the universe. Your desire

is an orchard full of trees.

Photo by Jennifer Ayers of Ayers Design

Photo by Jennifer Ayers of Ayers Design

Melissa Studdard is the author of My Yehidah, The Tiferet Talk Interviews, and the best-selling novel Six Weeks to Yehidah. Her books have received numerous awards, including the Forward National Literature Award, the International Book Award, January Magazine‘s best children’s books of the year, The Reader’s Favorite Award, and the Pinnacle Book Achievement Award. Her poetry collection, I Ate the Cosmos for Breakfast, is available from Saint Julian Press. Her short writings have appeared in dozens of journals and anthologies, and she currently serves as professor for Lone Star College System, a teaching artist for The Rooster Moans Poetry Cooperative, an editorial adviser for The Criterion, and host of Tiferet Talk radio. Visit her website. Melissa lives in Texas with her extended family and four sweet, but mischievous, cats.

Learn more about Melissa at www.melissastuddard.com.