Poetry on a Canapé

Kaleidoscope

Kaleidoscopes, those marvelous toys containing mirrors and pieces of coloured glass, amuse us with reflections that change patterns as we move a small tube around and around.  There is a random joy in each transformation that materialises as we gaze with rapt attention through a tiny eyehole. These constantly fluctuating designs are a reminder of the varied and vibrant patterns of our lives.

Today, this word became ever fresh in my mind when the postman delivered a package addressed to me from Quebec, Canada.    Inside, was Kaleidoscope, musings of life chronicles, by a wonderful blogger friend, Jean-Jacques Fournier.   His poetry creates amazing dialogues that explore the spirit of the human experience in a way that builds hope and resilience. The following poem brings out this message.

Memories  

-worth the keep-

So many memories

Worth the keep,

Tho there be many

Begs a clean sweep,

For those evoked

Leads one to wallow,

In recollects thin

Bordering hollow,

Or colours memory

Of near wilting age,

Yet wants fellow

Bides to engage,

In worthy recalls

Before time shades,

What gave our life a stage!

 Jean-Jacques Fournier is a native of Montreal.  He started writing poetry in earnest while living in California in the early eighties. In the process of reinventing himself numerous time, his penchant for language of poetry seemed best suited to express emotional experiences.  He then spent several years pursuing his writing in the South of France, during which time he published his first three books.  He has since moved back to Canada and is now living in the Eastern Townships of the province of Quebec with his French wife Marianne, and two Maine Coon cats.  (From the back cover of Kaleidoscope)

 

 

Gertrude Stein – A Bold Experimenter

“Writing and reading is to me synonymous with existing.”

Gertrude Stein

Paris

If I was ever asked who I would like to spend an afternoon with, I would choose Gertrude Stein.   After all, she lived in Paris surrounded by all that she loved best – art, music, poetry, food and wine.   Her residence at the salon, 27 rue de Fleurus on the Left Bank, was a gathering place for the “new moderns,” the talented young artists who would help define the idea of modernism in literature and art.  Imagine what it would be like to experience the conversations of Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Claribel & Etta Cone,  James Joyce, Thornton Wilder, in the formative stages of the modernist movement.   Her salon was indeed “A Moveable Feast” just as Ernest Hemingway described.

Gertrude Stein had very little use for the narrative, linear and time-orientated conventions of 19th century literature.   A self-proclaimed genius, she preferred to experiment in her writing.   Her poetry is not easy to read or understand, but there is drama, wit and boldness in her choice of words.  Many believe that she was creating portraits with words, much like Picasso was with paints.

To celebrate National Poetry Month, I chose Christian Bérard which is focused on food and eating.  I confess, it is easy to stumble over the words, but I found the more I read this poem aloud, the more I appreciated the nuances.  Since I have not included the full poem, I would encourage you to explore it at Poetry Foundation, an excellent resource for poetry.

Christian Bérard

By Gertrude Stein

Eating is her subject.

       While eating is her subject.

       Where eating is her subject. Continue reading

The Month for Poetry

Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote

The droghte of Marche hath perced to the roote

And bathed every veyne in swich licour….

Than longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,

 Geoffrey Chaucer, Prologue to the Canterbury Tales

Ferries

It all started in 1995 when the Academy of American Poets brought together a group of publishers, booksellers, librarians, literary organizations, poets and teachers.  This was no ordinary conference!  The participants had one objective, to organize a month-long commemoration of poetry.   They designated April 1996 as the inaugural celebration of National Poetry Month.     Geoffrey Chaucer would be proud!  After all, April is the time for pilgrimages.  In my experience, this embodies the essence of poetry.  Poems thrust us into a remarkable journey that demands are complete involvement.

Last year, OTR Poetry Reading Program 2013 selected, “The Voice of the Poet – Five American Women” which brings together the brilliant voices of Gertrude Stein, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Louise Bogan and Muriel Rukeyser.   To celebrate this month of poetry, I want to highlight these five American Women who used poetry to define their lives and challenged us to do the same.

Edna St. Vincent Millay was a free spirit known for her bohemian lifestyle.  Her background in theatre added a dramatic flare to her poetry readings.  Recuerdo, which in Spanish means memory, is a testament to living generously, without reservation, without regret.

Reading poetry speaks to the heart.  Listening to poetry sings to the soul.

Recuerdo

Edna St. Vincent Millay

We were very tired, we were very merry—

We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry.

It was bare and bright, and smelled like a stable—

But we looked into a fire, we leaned across a table,

We lay on a hill-top underneath the moon;

And the whistles kept blowing, and the dawn came soon. Continue reading