Friday, August 3, 2007

Further afield/Poetry reading

We were so very lucky on Wednesday afternoon to hear three of America's most wonderful poets read some of their poems. They all came to The Frost Place in Franconia, NH. This was Robert Frost's home for five years, and then his summer home for many more years. Because this house was always a rental, there was little change made to it over time. Part of the house is now a museum, and an annual poet-in-residence lives in another part. The grounds are very nice, much like other gardens in the area.

The poets we saw were Donald Hall, who was Poet Laureate of the United States last year, Maxine Kumin, who held the same post before it was so named, and Galway Kinnell. They are all older people by now, which made me feel sad, but they are still vigorous of mind. Donald Hall read the poem I quoted when my white peony first bloomed. It was neat because he thanked Galway Kinnell for suggesting he use the word "swinging" for the dog's tail rather than the more common, "wagging." And isn't it just the perfect word?

Maxine Kumin's poems combine her life on a NH farm raising horses and growing a garden, with the political climate of the world.

"My poetry is pretty much centered in New England, but more poetry of people and animals than of landscape," said the writer whose plain, direct style often evokes comparisons to Robert Frost. "I suppose it could be called pastoral, but not a romanticized pastoral. It has real manure in it and real rain, and real anguish and loss just as much as it has some of the sunny hours."

Galway Kinnell's readings were much about his children and home life. As we now have garter snakes, I greatly enjoyed a poem he wrote about his kids when they were little; they appeared at the door, naked and delighted to be covered in garter snakes. He noticed that one of the snakes was in the process of swallowing a frog. His daughter told him not to bother saving it because "he is already elsewhere."

The poets read for an hour and a half. It was like magic to me. We sat outside on a beautiful, really very perfect summer day. Galway Kinnell quoted an incredible line from a William Carlos William's poem, Asphodel, That Greeny Flower.

It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
for lack
of what is found there

Whew! Isn't that terrific!

Donald Hall
Galway Kinnell
Maxine Kumin


  1. It sounds like a perfect day spent in such beautiful surroundings too. You live in a very beautiful part of the world. Enjoy your weekend.
    Kim x

  2. Nan, That sounds like a perfect way to spend a few hours on a beautiful summer day. Poeple really ought to spend more time with poetry. Sometimes we begin to think it is a lost art, and then we meet some kindred spirits who appreciate a thoughtfully written poem! :)

  3. They all have of such a way with words when speaking as well as their poetry! I couldn't believe how "mature" they all looked though. I too liked the way Hall used the word "swinging" instead of "wagging" the dog's tail. Oh my, I just loved this post. And then Maxine saying her poetry has "real manure in it...excellent. I also find it satisfying that they've turned Frost's summer home into a museum and they have a poet-in-residence living there. I'm going to dig out some of their poems to read today.....

  4. Thank you for taking us all to this poetry reading. Poems--favorites and newly discovered gems--bring such awareness to our lives, don't they?

  5. And I thank each of you so much for taking the time to comment. It was a perfect afternoon.


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