CPS & the Brat Lit Fest

Not only did I have the great fortune to see and hear Carol Frost and Michael Waters at the Collected Poets Series reading this past Thursday, but then I was able repeat the experience as they both took part in the Brattleboro Literary Festival this weekend. In addition to the comedy duo of Alan Cheuse and Robert Pinsky (truly, these old friends really know how to riff together!), they were my favorite readings of the day.

Michael has a confident, dramatic delivery that really brings his poems alive, while Carol’s voice is softer. She read some new poems from a series she’s working on, which she describes as a collaboration with her mother, who has dementia.  I think of them as an expansion, a deepening of her “Apiary” poems included in The Queen’s Desertion.  Really moving work.  I can’t wait to see them all collected together in the pages of a book.

I love the picture of her below, how it captures her impish generosity. Between poems she told the briefest of stories, flashed that smile. In fact, both she and Michael showed the utmost consideration to their audience and fellow readers, taking not a minute longer than their allotted times, graciously sharing the stage and the spotlight. It always surprises me when poets showboat or try to upstage one another, but not a whit of it came from Carol or Michael.

And I really enjoyed meeting Richard Frost, Carol’s husband, and Mihaela Moscaliuc, Michael’s wife, who are also poets in their own rights — and just as generous and welcoming as their spouses. I hope we will all meet again before too longcarol-frost.jpg

This poem by Carol, which she read today and described as a sort of fractured pantoum, is from her collection, Love & Scorn: New and Collected Poems (2001):

Matins


I

I’ve felt undeserving. I’ve made myself ill with the glory,
in the unleavened garden
disgorged the lies and scared away with a stick a snake.
What made me covet that which I could not have?

I’ve grieved and walked in catacombs,
I’ve felt undeserving. I’ve made myself ill with the glory.
Even the falling leaves gesture their renunciation.
I disgorge the lies and abhor the serpent’s hiss.

I remember seasons, things I bring from far away,
and grieve. I walk in catacombs.
In gardens now, by the stone walls, sunlight closes,
the falling leaves gesture their renunciation.

I remember being in a field touching a man’s body.
I remember seasons, things I bring from far away
and things that hold their breath for shame.
His skin was soft as a girl’s and he closed his eyes.

I placed apple petals on his eyelids;
we were lying in a field and I touched his body.
Then there were clouds, an uncanny silence,
as when in a green place the air holds its breath for shame.

What made me covet what I could not have?
Ill with the power and glory, a thrashing in my chest,
I remember the unleavened gardens,
petals falling singly, the yellow snake disgorging lies.


II

I’ve grieved and walked in catacombs.
I’ve felt undeserving. I’ve made myself ill with the glory,
power and glory–
a thrashing in my rib cage.

I’ve gone into the unleavened spring garden,
disgorged the lies,
and scared away with a stick a snake.
I’ve grieved and walked in catacombs.

What made me covet that which I could not have?
I’ve felt undeserving. In this bright land
that changes from yellow to green and back to yellow,
I remember seasons, things I bring with me from far away

and things that hold their breath as if for shame.
I’ve made myself ill with the power and glory.
I’ve gone into the unleavened garden
and startled a yellow snake

disgorging lies. A thrashing in my rib cage.
What made me covet what I could not have?
I remember seasons. Things that hold their breath for shame.
Things I bring with me from far away.


III

I’ve made myself ill with the power and glory.
I’ve made myself ill with the power and glory.


The Collected Poets Series, Oct. Edition.

Thursday night we begin a new season of the Collected Poets Series with the phenomenal Carol Frost and Michael Waters. For more information, directions, and a glimpse of the upcoming schedule, visit the new website!

I’ve lent all my Carol Frost books out, but here’s a timely poem from Michael Waters’ collection, Parthenopi: New and Selected Poems (BOA 2001):

Apples

I was the clumsy child
who stole apples
from your favorite tree
to toss them into the lake.

I have no excuse, but
those apples were never lost.
Each night, while you slept,
as apples bobbed in moonlight,

I waited in shallow water
until the apples washed ashore.
Each night I gave you an apple.
Sometimes I remember that desire

to take whatever belongs to you
so I can return it.
Now, on windless nights,
when the lake lies still,

I have another dream:
I gather you in my arms,
after death, and ease you
like a basketful of apples

into the moonlit water,
and we float home,
with an awkward grace,
to a continent dark with apples.