This month, Hill-Stead is taking a final opportunity to showcase the adult poetry accepted for publication in the former Theodate.org website.
Brad Davis (MFA, Vermont College of Fine Art) got the idea to launch an on-line poetry journal for Hill-Stead as he was working with Mimi Madden on behalf of the museum’s summer poetry festival and editing the volume that would become Sunken Garden Poetry, 1992–2011 (Wesleyan University Press). The need for an assistant editor was resolved when Heidi St. Jean (MFA, Fairfield University) came on board to help review and select submissions and contribute her considerable business experience to the new journal. By the time the third issue of Theodate was released, however, Davis and St. Jean were already being drawn to new projects and employment opportunities. They are thrilled that the transition to new editorial leadership is now complete and that Theodate will continue as Hill-Stead’s distinctive literary venue for established poets and become a new channel for young and emerging poets.
Brad Davis has taught creative writing and religion on the faculty of Pomfret School in Pomfret, CT, for almost three decades. He has also taught creative writing as an adjunct at the College of the Holy Cross and Eastern Connecticut State University. A past winner of the Sunken Garden Poetry Prize for his chapbook, Short List of Wonders, his other publications include four books from Antrim House and a chapbook from Finishing Line. His most recent books of poems are Opening King David (Emerald City) and Still Working it Out (Cascade). Individual poems have appeared in such journals as Poetry, Paris Review, DoubleTake, Connecticut Review, Image, Spiritus, Ruminate, Michigan Quarterly Review, Puerto del Sol, and Tar River Poetry. He is currently the poetry editor for a new journal out of Charlottesville, VA, The Mockingbird.
Please click on a name below to read the poetry by that author, or scroll down to read each poem.
*Billy Collins read at Hill-Stead’s Sunken Garden Poetry Festival on July 9, 2008.
Billy Collins is famous for conversational, witty poems that welcome readers with humor but often slip into quirky, tender or profound observation on the everyday, reading and writing, and poetry itself. Dubbed “the most popular poet in America” by Bruce Weber in the New York Times, he served two terms as the US Poet Laureate, from 2001-2003, was New York State Poet Laureate from 2004-2006, and is a regular guest on National Public Radio programs. In 2002, as U.S. Poet Laureate, Collins was asked to write a poem commemorating the first anniversary of the fall of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center on September 11. The reading was in front of a joint session of Congress held outside of Washington D.C.
You look like a badly drawn G-clef,
to me, and you’re a latecomer, a bastard,
born in 1835 to an unknown father,
aspiring to the status of a musical notation.
What good are you?
show-off with such simple tasks
as joining a father in business & his sons.
Move over, flourish on the page,
your three-letter predecessor
is coming in, the humble connector,
useful fuser of this and that, these and those.
Jose Angel Araguz
Jose Angel Araguz is the author of The Wall, a chapbook published by Tiger’s Eye Press, and his poems have appeared in Gulf Coast. He lives and works in Cincinnati, Ohio.
He followed the instructions
and unearthed a wife
from the charcoal and paper,
a face slightly sketched,
looking out with a longing he knew
was not for him,
which is why he shades in the night
leaving stars in the blanks
that seem to rise,
scraps of paper
the sky above her,
all he leaves untouched
hangs over her
like footprints, like dancing,
and he only laughs
and wipes his eyes.
Gods and Goddesses
She told the class to imagine themselves
as gods and goddesses,
and to draw that.
A few laughed,
then grew silent,
leaving the strokes
of a pencil
to grow louder,
a hand in the back of the room
across a sheet
where teeth could be found
and the beginning lines
around a mouth.
wanting to hear
what it had to say.
That first time moving aside
his clothes in the closet,
the feeling came to her
of looking out over water from shore –
that expanse –
a silence that can never be silent –
a part of her forever
needing to be moved aside,
a part of her
unable to hold still.
JoAnne Bauer, Ph.D., holds advanced degrees in communication arts and technology, special education leadership, psychology and religion and philosophy. She’s been honored as a special education director and for her nonprofit leadership, environmental activism, scholarship and research, events coordination and promotion, mixed media visual art, camerawork and grant making. An academic book co-author (Cambridge University Press, 1993), JoAnne has received numerous prizes and small press acceptances for her poetry, including: Connecticut River Review; Caduceus; Journey to Crone, an anthology of international women poets; Where Flower’s Bloom, seed packets, and a chapbook by Finishing Line Press. Her full-length collection, Drawn Parallels, will be published this fall.
Raphael, pen and ink
Unfamiliar with your legend
Lucretia, I view you in folds
of fabric, elegantly posed as if
your only purpose was pure portrayal
by Raphael and fellow figure-artists
who drew you with wistful gaze
falling toward your future…
But with one breast exposed,
as if you beckoned the boy…
I read that your story swirled
such unspeakable scandal as to fell
the monarchy of mighty Rome;
that on a night of your husband’s absence
in brute battle for his king would come the son
to your bedroom, despoiling all Honor…
You with broad hips Lucretia, and
voluptuous beauty so belying defilement…
Woman! Were you raped a second time
by History, and a third by Art…?
Your dagger, disguised in a glint of chalk,
drawn as if protection; not rendered true
to the bloody blade you would thrust
– out of unfathomable shame –
into your own heart.
Kim Bridgford is the director of the West Chester University Poetry Center and the West Chester University Poetry Conference, the largest all-poetry writing conference in the United States. As the editor of Mezzo Cammin, she founded The Mezzo Cammin Women Poets Timeline Project, which was launched at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington in March 2010, and recently celebrated its third anniversary at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, in affiliation with the exhibition The Female Gaze. Her collaborative work with the visual artist Jo Yarrington has been honored with a Ucross fellowship. Bridgford is the author of eight books of poetry, including: Bully Pulpit, a book of poems on bullying; Epiphanies, a book of religious poems; and the forthcoming Doll. She has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Connecticut Post, on NPR and the website of The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, and in various headline news outlets.
All the compartments fitting deep inside:
One is the daughter and one is the bride,
One is the woman who will beg or borrow,
One is the woman who understands great sorrow;
One is the woman who by culture’s bred;
One is the woman who is herself in bed;
One is the survivor, who keeps the structure going;
One is the woman whose heart has been broken.
One inside the other, neat and secure.
Which one, I wonder, is the real her?
The one on the outside, holding all in?
The one deep inside, as sharp as a pin?
They’ve formed to her shape, and they all look the same.
They cry when you call, and they all have her name.
Ken Fifer is the author of severall ‘s poetry collections including Architectural Conditions (2012, with architect Larry Mitnick), After Fire, Water Presents, The Moss That Rides on the Back of the Rock, and Falling Man; he has edited three anthologies of poems by children. His poems have appeared in many national and international journals, including Theodate, Barrow Street, New Letters, and Ploughshares. His translations of contemporary Turkish poetry (with Nesrin Eruysal) have appeared in The Wolf (UK), Söyleşi Üç Aylık Şiir Dergisi (Turkey), The Literary Review, and other magazines in the US and abroad. He has a Ph.D. in English Language and Literature from The University of Michigan.
My Mind Has Fallen from the Flowering Tree
In Bihzad’s unfinished miniature,
Assault on a Castle, I’m with the plumed soldiers
who are being showered with molten pitch.
We can’t save the drawbridge or defend the prince.
The prince, apart, remains unruffled,
perfecting his posture
against a backdrop of puckering clouds.
Meanwhile the painter stirs pennants on parapets,
knots the edges of earth and air’s kilim:
blood-red, black, and summer green.
My mind has fallen from the flowering tree.
While we’re busy burning at the drawbridge,
princes and painters want us to believe
everything comes down to technique:
how the eye surrenders to the minor debris.
Kate Gleason is the author of Measuring the Dark (selected by Phillis Levin as the winner of the First Book Award at Zone 3 Press). Her work has appeared in Best American Poetry, Verse Daily, Los Angeles Times Book Review, Green Mountains Review, Crab Orchard Review, Cimarron Review, Rattle, Ekphrasis, Sonora Review, The Spoon River Poetry Review, Worcester Review, Boomer Girls, and elsewhere. A Pushcart Prize nominee, she has received writing fellowships from the NEA (in conjunction with the Ragdale Foundation artist colony), the Vermont Studio Center, and the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts.
To the Unknown Painter in Chauvet Cave (While Taking a Virtual Tour)
Your mouth made these pictures, from what
I hear, your spit mixed with the local
ochre for yellow, charcoal for black,
and stuttered through a straw
to get this pointillist stippling,
this flecked effect that later would be lit
and scumbled by the tongues
of flames and shadows
dancing from a primitive wick
in the rendered fat of an aurochs.
Your hands made these animals
seem to breathe, say these horses
with their nostrils flared, lips apart,
the fluid lines of their turning
bodies, their perked ears
an echoing curve,
as if something has drawn
their attention in concert.
Your hands caught their likeness,
which is sealed now inside
— stanza break, continued —
the airless, calcified layers of time,
saved inside a cave that won’t be opened
to the public but brought to us
through a system of binary codes
reconfigured on our end as digital pixels
flickering too fast for the eye to see:
all these panels of animals
whose bodies are marked
with iron oxide blotches
like the imprints of a sponge
or Keats’s lungs after consumption
turned them into bloody sacks
as the open work of lace.
in whose presence
we can’t even breathe,
the very moisture of our sighs
deadly to what otherwise
might stand for eternity.
John Gribble’s work has appeared in many publications in the US, UK, Australia, and Japan. A native Southern Californian, he has resided in Tokyo since 1993 and is one of the organizers of the Japan Writers Conference (http://www.japanwritersconference.org/). His website: http://johngribble.com/
Rembrandt van Rijn, The Omval, near Amsterdam, 1645
Bowered in our little nest, we hear the footfall
of the fellow going down to the Amstel’s edge,
hear him call out to his friends rowing past,
hear the creaking oars, and the flap of a sail—
another boat coming about in the wind. My love
murmurs, laughs low at their noise and our secret.
Her hair’s loose in my hands, her skirts are riding up.
Here we’re invisible, even to that old boy with the sketch pad,
drawing, I suppose, the windmills across the river.
Edward Hopper, “Sunday,” 1926
Let others sit in church,
be told what they believe.
I’ll take this curb,
these closed and silent stores.
I got me a clean white shirt,
no tie or collar, but a respectable vest.
Red sleeve garters. Sitting here,
I got my thoughts, and my cigar.
Dolores Hayden’s poems have appeared in Poetry and Raritan, Shenandoah, American Scientist, and Solstice. She has been a poetry fellow at VCCA and Djerassi in the last few years and has won awards from the PSA and the NEPC. She also writes non-fiction about the landscape.
I’ll not demand a recount, or complain
about low turnout, calculate the cost
of my long-shot, burnout, way-behind campaign.
Friends mutter, “Close, close finish,” but I’ve lost.
My rival hired consultants, spent big money,
talked up her “family values,” famous name,
bet that in politics and matrimony,
winners take all, losers depart the game.
Midway, I surged in the polls: good looks, wry wit,
a tired incumbent I might just dethrone.
Then came the night–oh, I’ll get over it–
you drew the curtains shut, and all alone
you cast your vote. So hesitant, so slow,
you stayed with her, my dear, and bade me go.
Wedding Blessing in the Spirit of a New England Revival
Strum the harps and set the bees to humming,
twirl the azure-painted spinning wheels.
Pave the dusty village lanes with gold.
Set out six celestial ladders, graft
fair spring flowers onto summer trees.
Carpenters have built a banquet table,
seamstresses constructed little silver
drums to beat: this is the sound of boundless
bliss and simple married happiness.
Singers chant and circle, step and whirl,
rejoice, go on, you’ll soon attain the sight,
sign the wedded contract of delight.
We wish long life with love’s renewed surprise,
a thousand shades of color in your skies.
“Dido and Aeneas get married and live happily for a time, but…”
–B. L. Ullman and Norman E. Henry, summarizing the plot
of Book IV of the Aeneid in Latin for Americans, 1950
Read it? You’ll spot two ‘50s Latin geeks
downplaying sex and passion, dousing fire
in Virgil, so their high school textbook speaks
about the cave, the landscape of desire,
to teachers with twin beds. Forget the sappy
“marriage”–she runs the port of Carthage. In class
kids sense who’s hot, assign them Dido’s happy
coupling, lift drowsy Latin, hard to pass.
I’d rewrite her style as chill, rich, older.
She built her town, hauled ships, she saved him too,
I’d plot it so she’d find the wit to say,
“We’re done, dear boy. Town founders must be bolder–
some busy goddesses force Rome on you,
we’ll skip the speeches, hoist your sails today.”
Rough portals span six feet of sand
with lumber raw and new,
solitaire palms shade a blue-green gulf,
sunset coats calm, still sea
and gilds the drapes that flutter down
to frame the words, “I do,”
and warms the seats of folding chairs
lined up for She and He.
Three wedding set-ups line the beach.
Spaced fifty feet apart,
three brides greet grooms, their kin attend
“I now …pronounce …thee…”
before they start to party. Drink
to the portals of the heart:
one in two couplings ends in divorce—
or is it one in three?
Marc Tretin is an attorney who specializes in Family Law, mostly child abuse and neglect, juvenile delinquency, child support and custody. He has been published or accepted in Massachusetts Review, New York Quarterly and The Painted Bride Quarterly.
Madame LeBlanc by Ingres
So much depends upon her colorless eyes
that see as a mirror sees (without insides
)and upon her smile – not amused – not surprised –
and upon her golden chain that gently rides
the faint rise of her breast, then is discreetly
pinned below her heart. Despite her tapering
fingers, long and white, that rest obliquely
on her knee, or the rich brown cloth draping
her wingback chair, or the black translucent lace
wrapped around her wrist in careful little bows
or the tight series of black ruffles that show
off her white shoulders and complacent face;
her casual, yet implacable stare
chills the barely perceptible air.
Picasso’s “Two Sleeping Peasants”
Not her knees opened wide and slightly bent
nor her neck sacrificially exposed
nor her sweet soaked blouse that never meant
to show her breast, nor her lover juxtaposed
against the hay, his cockeyed hat floating off
his head, nor his hands (huge, brown – but almost red)
nor his face composed by hints of soft
sleep, but his right thigh, where she lays her head,
(in deep dreams despite the ocher sun)
that he will not move, fearing she would wake,
that shows a love that runs from the furrowed ground,
through the baled and bound hay, so snugly done,
and through the shimmering fields they had raked
in this heat, their heat, not making a sound.
Elaine Zimmerman is a policy leader for children, essayist and poet. Recent publications include poetry in Lascaux Review, Coal Hill Review, Adanna Literary Journal, New Millennium, Cyclamens and Swords, and a few anthologies, Everybody Says Hello, Sleeping with One Eye Open, Encore, and Worlds in Our Words-Contemporary American Women Writers. Honors include a Pushcart nomination and the William Stafford Memorial Award.
The Scent of Durian
When Monsieur Petifour drove into Kuala Lumpur
past the terrace houses and small shops,
he could smell the curry and wonton. Bells rang
at the Temple and the Goddess of Mercy . .
No one would see him or know him.
His wife still sleeping in Singapore.
When she woke, she would stroll to the market
batiks. Bold yellow and indigos in sacred design.
Now he can see his true beloved, walk with her
by the lake. Past the red orchids, flamingos
bathing, and one stork flapping by.
The market already so pungent.
Behind the bundles of lychees, large baskets
of durian fruit. Almost unbearable, the odor.
So strong from their ripeness. Dizzying.
But who was he to comment? So much
lovemaking last time. The room full of
musk and longing. A purple and black
darkness deeper than the moon could bear.
Smiling, he turns a narrow path dotted
with banyan trees. But something falls,
fast and hard. He swerves, glass shattering.
Monsier Petifour knew of Chicken Little falling
from the sky, but a massive snake on his window,
straight from the clouds. Lord have mercy.
The python slithered up the outer limbs on thin
gnarly boughs to snag a monkey. Swift, but not
so cautious or clever. He fell down fast, eating
his catch. Not unlike Monsieur Petifour, forgetting
the strength of his bough. His weakness for women
leading straight to the hospital and front page news.
How to explain why he was there. The public more
concerned about the harmed python than the tourist
and his wife wondering where he was. Her fingers
moved back and forth over a batik of monkeys
hanging by their tails. They fed from a tree branch,
eating a fruit she did not know and could not name.
She heard the sounds from the school window.
A tapping from across the fields. Ten times.
What was that? A plane. A dream. So fast
she could only imagine river’s thunder at
the unknown juncture, turning on itself.
A night train speeding past the window.
Some tired rider wishing for warm tea and bed.
Maybe a stallion leaping over the gray fence,
wildly charging. The muscle and rigor of
beast pushing past barn, elm, meadow.
Nothing like this could be the sound of
chaos running forward through bones,
a lost ring, one heap of marbles. They said it
was not possible to hear from so far away.
But of course she did. So did her friends.
Even the oaks bent forward to cape the
seeded soil. Orioles warned, on low-hanging
boughs, all tiny critters who dug into holes.
They already knew, of course. The light
had dimmed; the breeze changed.
Twenty children falling fast like stars.
Open armed and scattered. What would
have been play, if the spinning only
stopped or the season lurched right
into reason. But nothing gave meaning.
No. Winter’s balance gone and splayed.
Ashen in the simple morning light.
She heard the sound from the school window.
A tapping from across the fields.
Nothing is Still in this World
The startled rabbit sits still in the yard.
White tailed; not too large or small.
Just the whiskers moving. Nothing else.
Bodies washed up in Fukushima.
Eyes big as fish before gutting.
Not three or four, but hundreds, like
sea kelp or shells lining the shore.
Still clothed, so many arms and legs jangled
and splayed. No fast footing quick enough
to beat the fierceness. The waves higher than
the market or narrow paths that climb
the village. Flailing bodies reaching for air
and answer. The world’s undone in a single
breath and we all come shuddering down.
Hands on cheeks, open mouthed. Some hold
special objects, a stone or coin. The last act
before a tremor. Then everything washed away.
Each gesture and sound quieted now. No speech
to speak of but an endless stun in the eye
as if the world turned upside down on those
remaining, just before the heaving sounds.
Toddlers plant tea seedlings in rice fields,
six each, to touch green-stemmed growth.
But even the simple cow, icon of field and farm,
is a menace now. All milk pulled from market.
Wild parsley contaminated in Singapore.
The humble turnip, tainted. Radiation arrives
in northern California, like an upended whale.
Rooftops and tires floating. Masked toddlers
line up for iodine. It is cold, so cold. Truly,
nothing is still in this world. Even the chair,
empty as poor luck, goes back and forth.
No one is sitting in it, but fierce winds.
The sky gray as dreams before they fly away.
Only the rabbit stares, waiting like a still life.