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EDITORIAL: Poetry Surging


by Nat Frothingham

Beginning on April 1 and continuing throughout the month is PoemCity 2017 — a celebration of reading, writing, language, and the dazzling, often humbling, power of poetry and song —made possible by Kellogg-Hubbard Library and its many partners.

The April 1 PoemCity kick-off took place at Lost Nation Theater and as the month goes forward PoemCity is sponsoring 24 quite different events that include workshops, readings, slams, theater rehearsals, and star appearances.

One of those star appearances is a “Painting with Words” workshop in partnership with The Bridge with poet and Vermont Public Radio jazz host Reuben Jackson on Wednesday, April 26.

Then there are events inspired by poets, that remember poets in the theme and spirit of PoemCity, though not on the official PoemCity calendar.

In 2016, we lost these poets — Sherry Olson from Marshfield, Northeast Kingdom Poet Leland Kinsey who lived in Barton, Scottish poet Leonard Irving who lived in Plainfield and David Budbill who lived in Wolcott.

Sometimes death is described as final but as long as poetry is written and the written word survives — do poets ever die?

As part of the Vermont poetry that is spread across Montpelier as part of PoemCity — two poems in the window of Bear Pond Books remember Sherry Olson and Leland Kinsey.

The poem for Olson “You Left too soon, Sherry” by Andrea Gould begins —

Before the lightly tufted loons

Finished flight training

Before the last hummingbird, belly full

Vibrated outside the window

Before the trees let go,

raining leaves…

The poem that honors Leland Kinsey is titled “Missing Leland Kinsey” by Veda Lyon and begins —

When I recall of Leland Kinsey:

A poetry reading, Bear Pond on some

Warmish early evening, fall leaves lazy

On their slow–spun dance to earth…

And a line or two from a poem written by Leonard Irving himself tells us what happened after Leonard suddenly imagined finding his father in a crowded street.

After our eyes meet

we will hurry towards each other

to hug and love. And,

after regaining our composure

we will attempt to greet each other

for the first time.

David Budbill, since his death this past November, has been widely remembered both in Vermont and beyond, and his play, “Judevine,” first performed by Lost Nation Theater 10 years ago, will be revived as a tribute to him with a series of performances from April 20 through May 7. Many actors who performed in the original production 10 years ago are returning to perform again this April and May.

A special opening night event on Friday, April 21 will include Susan Reid (violin) and Leeds Brewer (guitar) with remarks from Ellen Lovell and Rusty De Wees. Ellen Lovell will remember Budbill from her years as executive director of the Vermont Council on the Arts when Budbill participated in the Artists in the Schools program. De Wees starred as the Logger in the 2007 Lost Nation production of “Judevine” and went on to embrace the Logger as part of his solo acting career.

On the very next night, Saturday, April 22, Capitol City Concerts will present a concert called “Poem Music.” As the final program offering Capitol City Concerts will perform the world premiere of a song cycle by Evan Premo – “Songs of a Mountain Recluse” — set to the poetry of David Budbill.

Not last year, but just as spring was approaching in 2015 – I found myself struggling with a line from a 1939 poem written by W.H. Auden, “In Memory of W.B. Yeats.”

The line I stumbled on was part of the stanza that follows.

You were silly like us, your gift survived it all:

The parish of rich women, physical decay,

Yourself. Mad Ireland hurt you into poetry

Now Ireland has her madness and her weather still

For poetry makes nothing happen: it survives

In the valley of its making where executives

Would never want to tamper, flows on south

From ranches of isolation and the busy griefs,

Raw towns that we believe and die in; it survives

A way of happening, a mouth.

The line I stumbled on asserted: “For poetry makes nothing happen.”

It won’t fix your car, revive a stalled economy or stop a forest fire. But long after the car is fixed, the economy is moving again and the fire has been put out, poetry is still there — stirring us, shaking us awake, consoling us, allowing us to hear the heavy seas pounding on the rocks and feeling the sweetness of morning light.