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January 21, 2010

2010 Poetry Event Calendar

(still waiting on dates for the Dodge Festival, Istambul Festival, and information on events in Asia, Canada, and South America)

January 18-23 Palm Beach Poetry Festival (Florida, U.S.)

January 28 Het Huis van de Poëzie (Netherlands)

February 3-5 Kritya (Mysore, India)

March 10-13 Split This Rock Poetry Festival (Washington, D.C., U.S.)

March 17-21 Stanza (St. Andrews, FIfe, Scotland)

March 25-28 DLR Poetry Now (Dún Laoghaire, Ireland)

April 9-11 Wenlock Poetry Festival (Shropshire, England)

April 11 Robert Frost Key West Poetry Festival (Florida, U.S.)

April 15-18
Austin International Poetry Festival (Texas, U.S.)

April 22-25 Seacoast Poetry & Jazz Festival (Portsmouth, New Hampshire, U.S.)

April 23-25 Rio Grande Valley International Poetry Festival (Multiple locations along the Texas/

April 23-24 Hocking Hills Poetry Festival (
Logan, Ohio U.S.)

April 29-May 2 Cowboy Poetry and Music Festival (Geonoa, Nevada, U.S.)

April 30 - May 2 Strokestown International Poetry Festival (County Roscommon, Ireland)

July 2-11 Ledbury Poetry Festival (Herefordshire, England)

August 6-9 London Poetry Festival

August 27-29 Queensland Poetry Festival (Brisbane, Australia)

September 3-5 Australian Poetry Festival (Sydney, Australia)

September 4-13 Overload Poetry Festival (
Melbourne, Australia)

(October, Dates TBD) Dodge Poetry Festival (Newark, New Jersey, U.S.)

October 4-9 Poetry Africa (Durban, South Africa)

October 8-11 Houston Poetry Festival (Texas, U.S.)

October 17-18 Belfast Poetry Festival (Maine, U.S.)


January 17, 2010

Rennaisance Man

James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938) was a man who did so many things that it would take an article as long as a Dostoyevski novel to truely do him justice. Born in Jacksonville, Florida, and initially home schooled by his mother, he went on to become many things - an author, poet, teacher, editor, lawyer, journalist, songwriter, literary critic, politician, university professor, diplomat, civil rights activist and a noted figure in the Harlem rennaisance. Somewhere in there he wrote sixteen volumes of poetry and compiled anthologies of African-American poetry and folklore.

After serving on Teddy Roosevelt's presidential campaign, he was US Consul to Venezuela, and then Nicaragua. He spent ten years as head of the NAACP where he initiated non-violent demonstrations that would be echoed decades lated under Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In 1920 he led a delegation to Haiti, then under U.S. occupation, and emphasized the need for economic and social development, issues that persist tot the present day. During the 1920's he was one of the drivers behind the Harlem Rennaisance, working to get young black witers and musicians visibility and publishing opportunities.

The poems added to Poets Corner, http://theotherpages.org/poems/poem-ij.html#jwjohnson are from his 1917 volume Fifty Years and Other Poems, and cover a wide range of subjects in clear, elegant voice. A sampling:


Sunset in the Tropics


from Down by the Carib Sea

A SILVER flash from the sinking sun,
Then a shot of crimson across the sky
That, bursting, lets a thousand colors fly
And riot among the clouds; they run,
Deepening in purple, flaming in gold,
Changing, and opening fold after fold,
Then fading through all of the tints of the rose into gray,
Till, taking quick fright at the coming night,
They rush out down the west,
In hurried quest
Of the fleeing day.

Now above where the tardiest color flares a moment yet,
One point of light, now two, now three are set
To form the starry stairs,--
And, in her fire-fly crown,
Queen Night, on velvet slippered feet, comes softly down.




From the Spanish of Placido

ENOUGH of love! Let break its every hold!
Ended my youthful folly! for I know
That, like the dazzling, glister-shedding snow,
Celia, thou art beautiful, but cold.
I do not find in thee that warmth which glows,
Which, all these dreary days, my heart has sought,
That warmth without which love is lifeless, naught
More than a painted fruit, a waxen rose.

Such love as thine, scarce can it bear love's name,
Deaf to the pleading notes of his sweet lyre,
A frank, impulsive heart I wish to claim,
A heart that blindly follows its desire.
I wish to embrace a woman full of flame,
I want to kiss a woman made of fire.


Before a Painting


I KNEW not who had wrought with skill so fine
What I beheld; nor by what laws of art
He had created life and love and heart
On canvas, from mere color, curve and line.
Silent I stood and made no move or sign;
Not with the crowd, but reverently apart;
Nor felt the power my rooted limbs to start,
But mutely gazed upon that face divine.

And over me the sense of beauty fell,
As music over a raptured listener to
The deep-voiced organ breathing out a hymn;
Or as on one who kneels, his beads to tell,
There falls the aureate glory filtered through
The windows in some old cathedral dim.


Father, Father Abraham


On the Anniversary of Lincoln's Birth

FATHER, Father Abraham,
To-day look on us from above;
On us, the offspring of thy faith,
The children of thy Christ-like love.

For that which we have humbly wrought,
Give us to-day thy kindly smile;
Wherein we've failed or fallen short,
Bear with us, Father, yet awhile.

Father, Father Abraham,
To-day we lift our hearts to thee,
Filled with the thought of what great price
Was paid, that we might ransomed be.

To-day we consecrate ourselves
Anew in hand and heart and brain,
To send this judgment down the years:
The ransom was not paid in vain.


January 13, 2010

Violet Jacob

I recently ran across another poet recently that was new to me, Violet Jacob (1863-1946), a Scottish novelist, historian and poet. While most of her poems are in Scots and will need some annotation for most readers, her poems in English are very good.

Born Violet Augusta Mary Frederica Kennedy-Erskine, she married Arthur
Jacob, an Irish Major in the British army, and lived with him in India where he was serving. Their son, Harry, also served in the army and was killed in World War I at the battle of the Somme in 1916. When Arthur died in 1936, Violet returned to Scotland.

She wrote five books of poetry, including ‘More Songs of Angus” (Angus is a district on the eastern coast of Scotland), published in 1918, two years after her son’s death. Perhaps this one was for him:


The willows stand by Fringford brook,
From Fringford up to Hethe,
Sun on their cloudy silver heads,
And shadow underneath.

They ripple to the silent airs
That stir the lazy day,
Now whitened by their passing hands,
Now turned again to grey.

The slim marsh-thistle's purple plume
Droops tasselled on the stem,
The golden hawkweeds pierce like flame
The grass that harbours them;

Long drowning tresses of the weeds
Trail where the stream is slow,
The vapoured mauves of water-mint
Melt in the pools below;

Serenely soft September sheds
On earth her slumberous look,
The heartbreak of an anguished world
Throbs not by Fringford brook.

All peace is here. Beyond our range,
Yet 'neath the selfsame sky,
The boys that knew these fields of home
By Flemish willows lie.

They waded in the sun-shot flow,
They loitered in the shade,
Who trod the heavy road of death,
Jesting and unafraid.

Peace! What of peace? This glimpse of peace
Lies at the heart of pain,
For respite, ere the spirit's load
We stoop to lift again.

O load of grief, of faith, of wrath,
Of patient, quenchless will,
Till God shall ease us of your weight
We'll bear you higher still!

O ghosts that walk by Fringford brook,
'Tis more than peace you give,
For you, who knew so well to die,
Shall teach us how to live.

Perhaps she wrote this one is for him as well:


When winter's pulse seems dead beneath the snow,
And has no throb to give,
Warm your cold heart at mine, beloved, and so
Shall your heart live.

For mine is fire--a furnace strong and red;
Look up into my eyes,
There shall you see a flame to make the dead
Take life and rise.

My eyes are brown, and yours are still and grey,
Still as the frostbound lake
Whose depths are sleeping in the icy sway,
And will not wake.

Soundless they are below the leaden sky,
Bound with that silent chain;
Yet chains may fall, and those that fettered lie
May live again.

Yes, turn away, grey eyes, you dare not face
In mine the flame of life;
When frost meets fire, 'tis but a little space
That ends the strife.

Then comes the hour, when, breaking from their bands,
The swirling floods run free,
And you, beloved, shall stretch your drowning hands,
And cling to me.

And even this:


I have brought no store from the field now the day is ended,
The harvest moon is up and I bear no sheaves;
When the toilers carry the fruits hanging gold and splendid,
I have but leaves.

When the saints pass by in the pride of their stainless raiment,
Their brave hearts high with the joy of the gifts they bring,
I have saved no whit from the sum of my daily payment
For offering.

Not there is my place where the workman his toil delivers,
I scarce can see the ground where the hero stands,
I must wait as the one poor fool in that host of givers,
With empty hands.

There was no time lent to me that my skill might fashion
Some work of praise, some glory, some thing of light,
For the swarms of hell came on in their power and passion,
I could but fight.

I am maimed and spent, I am broken and trodden under,
With wheel and horseman the battle has swept me o'er,
And the long, vain warfare has riven my heart asunder,
I can no more.

But my soul is still; though the sundering door has hidden
The mirth and glitter, the sound of the lighted feast,
Though the guests go in and I stand in the night, unbidden,
The worst, the least.

My soul is still. I have gotten nor fame nor treasure,
Let all men spurn me, let devils and angels frown,
But the scars I bear are a guerdon of royal measure,
My stars--my crown.



January 06, 2010

Aline Again


While I was editing Vigils, I found an OCR source text online for Candles That Burn, also by Aline Kilmer. This book, published in 1919, was likely written while Joyce was still alive, though much of it may be from when he was off to war.


This book focuses almost entirely on their children, and on children they lost. Infant and child mortality were especially high in the timeframe of the first world war due to a global influenza pandemic that killed millions.

I don't know the circumstances of the kilmer family, but several of Aline's pieces in this volume are especially poignant:

To a Sick Child

I WOULD make you cookies
But you could not eat them;
I would bring you roses
But you would not care.
In your scornful beauty,
Arrogant and patient,
Though I'd die to please you
You lie silent there.

Your once wanton sister
Creeps about on tiptoe,
And your brother hurries
At your slightest nod:
Watching at your bedside
When you sleep I tremble
Lest before you waken
You go back to God.

And this one:

My Mirror

THERE is a mirror in my room
Less like a mirror than a tomb,
There are so many ghosts that pass
Across the surface of the glass.

When in the morning I arise
With circles round my tired eyes,
Seeking the glass to brush my hair
My mother's mother meets me there.

If in the middle of the day
I happen to go by that way,
I see a smile I used to know--
My mother, twenty years ago.

But when I rise by candlelight
To feed my baby in the night,
Then whitely in the glass I see
My dead child's face look out at me.

But there are lighter notes as well, on her day-to-day life with her children,

Dorothy's Garden

DEAR, in all your garden I have planted yellow lilies,
Dainty yellow lilies everywhere you go:
They are nodding slim and stately down the paths along the hedges,
Delicately stepping they curtsey in a row.

So when you walk among them like a lily in your slim-ness,
With your shining head just bending graciously,
All the little angels that look down upon your garden
Will wonder which is lily and which is Dorothy.


January 03, 2010

The Other Kilmer

I have just finished editing Vigils, a book of 30 poems by Aline Kilmer. This is one of three new books I picked up over the holidays at Haslem's in St. Petersburg.

Aline Murray Kilmer (1888 – 1941) was an American poet , and the wife of another American poet, [Alfred] Joyce Kilmer. You may be familiar with Joyce because of the wide circulation of his poem, Trees, (“I think that I shall never see / A poem lovely as a tree.”) – A simplistic piece that is in the love it or hate it category. Joyce wrote several books of poems and essays and did some editing as well. He died in World War I, killed by a sniper's bullet in the Second Battle of Marne, 1918.

Aline Kilmer published four volumes of verse, along with essays and some childrens’ books. Her writing style varies, sometimes as succinct as Teasdale, sometimes as wistful as Aiken, sometimes playful, sometimes grim.


Vigils was published in 1921, following the publication of her earlier poems in Candles that Burn in 1919. We can assume most of its content was written after Joyce’s death, which can be seen in the mood of many poems. The first piece, Things, is very much like Aiken’s Bread and Music:


SOMETIMES when I am at tea with you
I catch my breath
At a thought that is old as the world is old
And more bitter than death.

It is that the spoon that you just laid down
And the cup that you hold
May be here shining and insolent
When you are still and cold.

Your careless note that I laid away
May leap to my eyes like flame
When the world has almost forgotten your voice
Or the sound of your name.

The golden Virgin da Vinci drew
May smile on over my head,
And daffodils nod in the silver vase
When you are dead.

So let moth and dust corrupt and thieves
Break through and I shall be glad,
Because of the hatred I bear to things
Instead of the love I had.

For life seems only a shuddering breath,
A smothered, desperate cry,
And things have a terrible permanence
When people die.

And there is a desperate fatalism is apparent in The Night Cometh:

The Night Cometh

MY GARDEN walks were smooth and green
And edged with box trees left and right,
An old grey sun-dial stood between
Two rounded bee hives, low and white.
My hollyhocks grew tall and red,
My larkspur thrust its lances high:
"The Night Cometh," the sun-dial said,
And I hated its wisdom and hurried by.

I watch the sun-dial as I wait
And hope to see its slow hand fly.
The stately poplars at the gate
Are funeral torches flaring high.
The scent of wallflowers breaks my heart,
The box is bitter in the sun,
The poppies burst their sheathes apart
And tell of rest when pain is done.

The hawthorn shakes a ghostly head
And breathes of death at fullest noon.
"The Night Cometh," the sun-dial said--
The night can never come too soon.
O sun-dial, hurry your creeping hand,
Let the shadows fall where the brown bees hum,
1 watch and wait where the low hives stand,
Let the night come, let the night come!

On the other hand, some of the pieces suggest enduring through loss or pain, or accepting sad truths and moving on. These include Daimon, and The Gift:

The Gift

HE HAS taken away the things that I loved best
Love and youth and the harp that knew my hand.
Laughter alone is left of all the rest.
Does He mean that I may fill my days with laughter,
Or will it, too, slip through my fingers like spilt sand?

Why should I beat my wings like a bird in a net,
When I can be still and laugh at my own desire?
The wise may shake their heads at me, but yet
I should be sad without my little laughter.
The crackling of thorns is not so bad a fire.

Will He take away even the thorns from under the pot,
And send rne cold and supperless to bed?
He has been good to me. I know he will not.
He gave me to keep a little foolish laughter.
I shall not lose it even when I am dead.

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