A Trio of Poetry
As National Poetry Month draws to its close, we thought we’d share a small trio of poems, written by two of our own here at PAWLP, Lynne Dorfman and Kathy Barham. As you can see, Lynne’s “Country Inn: Imagining a Different Life” draws on rich sensory detail—the “fireplaces crickles and crackles” and “pageantry of brilliant color.” Meanwhile, Kathy’s “Spring” brings the reader up close and personal to Nature in an encounter with a cardinal in springtime, while “Hard to be a Cod” takes playful inspiration from, of all things, a typo.
What wonderful poetry to celebrate this month!
Country Inn: Imagining a Different Life
By Lynne R. Dorfman
I could live like that!
Maine’s majesty of the wild outdoors calls my name:
Inspiring me to rise early to read the entries of my guests in our inn’s journal,
Basking in the freedom of wide-open spaces,
Drawing deep breaths of piney air; marveling at my view of the White Mountains.
I would pick blueberries full-to-popping
And stir them into a muffin batter in the purple-early dawn
To serve guests and family members staying at the inn.
My backyard and the lake, an art gallery for everyone to enjoy.
In winter the fireplaces crickles and crackles, inviting storytelling
As guests return from skiing or trekking through fields on snowshoes.
Fall brings a pageantry of brilliant color to the inn!
I would hike in the cool-warm days of September over hill and gully,
Moose, deer, even eagles hidden in the tall grasses and high in the pines.
Returning to freshen up and greet my dinner guests as they prepare for a feast:
Lobster bisque, beef bourguignon, homemade blueberry pie.
And just when you think you’ve taken in all the beauty that Maine has to offer,
The great outdoors of Maine will startle you with another photo op…
Yes, I could live like that!
Lynne Dorfman has always loved reading and writing poems. When she was growing up, she was often in trouble and sent to her room to reflect on her behavior. Fortunately, Lynne had a own desk filled with pens and writing paper and a wonderful guitar her grandparents had bought for her as a birthday present. She wrote many poems, sometimes turning them into songs she could play on her beautiful guitar. This poem was written because of her family’s love for Maine and all of its treasures, her gratitude and friendship with publisher friends at Stenhouse in Portland, and her love for Gerald Stern’s poem, “Saying the First Words.” Lynne used Stern’s poem as her mentor text to write. She first read this poem in an amazing poetry course offered by PAWLP. The facilitator was Julia Blumenreich.
Lynne Dorfman is a co-director for PAWLP. Her latest book, co-authored with Diane Dougherty, is Grammar Matters: Lessons, Tips, & Conversations Using Mentor Texts, K-6.
by Kathy Barham
Not speaking bird, I cannot decipher
the discourse from tree to tree,
but after almost hitting a low-flying
cardinal with my car,
I wonder if even Nature
buckles under her own demands,
if the constant ands
of proliferation add up
and incur subtle forms of
That cardinal seemed not bent on destruction
but it brushed it
and what about those poor peepers
after an April shower
who, horribly, suddenly covered the road
I was driving on
and what about me delighting now
in splitting a perfectly coiffed head
down the middle?
Hard to Be a Cod
(from typo in movie title Hard to be a God)
by Kathy Barham
In the usual context I am mediocre
by fish standards, but see me
in the sky, a twilight cloud
or milkier, superior, say, to a
mullet, whose fish identity
was lost to an absurd transubstantiation
of laughable hair fashion.
See me as the subject of a famous book,
presenting me as “slow-moving, [a] cold-water
fish, [where] “humans who, for a thousand years,
caught [me] traded [me], ate [me]
and built empires with [me].”
My own transubstantiation began with the Basques,
who had salt and boats and knew how to use both,
and I made the colonials in Connecticut rich.
And while we are on the subject of transubstantiation,
who’s to say the fishes in the loaves and the fishes story
in the bible were not cod? Or for that matter, mullet?
Who’s to say that fish status matters anyhow,
since cods’ fate and mullets’
and all the stately others’ in the pond
result in lying dead upon a plate?
Kathy Barham’s appreciation for poetry began with her father’s reading poems from his Louis Untermeyer’s Modern Poems anthology. She was too young to understand the meanings of Robert Penn Warren’s or Vachel Lindsay’s poems, but she begged to hear them reread and the echo of “Boom lay boom lay boom lay boom” in Lindsay’s “The Congo” reverberates in her ear today.
Kathy has been writing poems most of her life, but she entered Warren Wilson College’s Program for Writers to receive an MFA degree after sending poems to a former professor who was editor of The Southern Review and responded that the poems were better, but if she wanted to write good poems, he would recommend an MFA program. After completing that program, Kathy moved from Somerset, Virginia, where she taught high school English at Orange County High School, to Philadelphia. She retired from teaching at Conestoga High School in June, 2012. While there she taught a course she developed, “The Writer’s Craft,” in which she incorporated the reading and writing of poetry and many of the strategies she learned at Warren Wilson.
Since retirement Kathy has had more time to devote to PAWLP and the myriad of opportunities it offers her as a writer, reader, and teacher of writing. She has also participated in more writing workshops, one of which is the West Chester Writers, most of whom are also PAWLP fellows who provide wonderful feedback, encouragement and friendship. In February Kathy Barham’s chapbook, From the Familiar, was published by Moonstone Press.
The poems “Spring” and “It’s Hard to be a Cod” sprang from writing prompts she received from
Lynne, I want to be a guest at your inn in Maine! I love all your images and word-play that evoke the sense of place — the natural beauty, the colors, the sounds, and those “full-to-popping” blueberries (save some for me).
Kathy, I was struck by the surprise of Spring.” You have altered my view of vegetables. As for “Hard to Be Cod,” it’s amazing where a typo took you! I loved your juxtaposition of the conventions of textbook definitions with a leap of imagination.
The trio of poems is a spectacular gift for us this April, Poetry Month. Thank you.