Monday, July 20, 2009

live from chautauqua!

I'm here for the first time in beautiful downtown Chautauqua, New York--one week late for the Highlights Foundation Writers' Workshop, I know, but compromise with the grandparents was necessary--and trying to get the hang of how to do it without overdoing it. On the first day already I went to a poetry&prose reading and then read from Pumpkin Butterfly for the first time to a small but enthusiastic group of adults. In between doses of this week's theme, "The Ethics of Capitalism," I'm reading White Girl, a memoir by Clara Silverstein, the only other girl from Richmond, VA who attended Wesleyan at the same time as I did. Robert Pinsky will be here later this week discussing, among other things, the Favorite Poem Project and the third collection of Americans' favorite poems entitled Invitation to Poetry.

So I'm thinking about my favorite poems, and remembering how in high school two stanzas by an outwardly prim Victorian priest whomped me upside the head (despite all the God talk) with the sheer wildness of the words, some of which I couldn't even attach to actual things, as concrete as they all are in Gerard Manley Hopkins's "Pied Beauty":

Glory be to God for dappled things--
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches' wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced--fold, fallow and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise Him.

(And wondering: does anyone know how to preserve a poem's formatting in a blogger post? All the indents just disappeared...)

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