National Poetry Month, April 13, 2014

NC Poet Laureate Joseph Bathanti

NC Poet Laureate Joseph Bathanti

This afternoon, I’ll give a public reading of my work at the Watauga County Public Library for The Friends of the Watauga County Library Annual Meeting. The Watauga Friends “formed in 1974 in order to engage the public in the use and support of [its] public library, as well as to provide funds in those areas not supported by government funding.” Most libraries I’ve traveled to across the state have Friends groups maintained by selfless volunteers who believe in the

Seamus Heaney

Seamus Heaney

evangelical power of reading and writing to not only enhance people’s lives, especially children’s, but to transform them as well. The Watauga Friends sponsors anannual Friends Book Sale at Boone Mall, this year on May 14, 15, and16; and also organizes The High Country Festival of the Book. There is also the Friends of North Carolina Public Libraries, the statewide volunteer Friends of the Library organization.

Today is the great Seamus Heaney’s birthday. One of the grand poets of our age, of any age, he died in Dublin on August 30, 2013. He needs no introduction, no biographical gloss, yet the eulogy of Paul Muldoon“Seamus Heaney’s Beauty,” seems ample and comforting this bright spring day. “Digging,” oft-anthologized, is the first poem of Heaney’s I ever read – I don’t know how long ago – and I’ve taught it ever since. Here’s Heaney reading that very poem.

Celebrating her birthday today is Tina Barr. Happy Birthday, Tina.  “Blue Rose” first appeared in Brilliant Corners.

Blue Rose

for Sheila Jordan’s bebop in Provence

Tina Barr

Tina Barr

Someone’s picked lettuce from sunlight,
brined mussels in vinegar and bruised thyme,
to work against the sweetness of smoked salmon,
snipped the heads and tails of four anchovies,
split grey and white, arranged on a plate.

They taste of a concentration of salt
breaking into the mouth. As if their bodies
are permeated by a sea where vessels of olives
leached their oil into the blue
or Tyre’s purple, boiled from snails.

Sheila sings as if she has fed off feelings,
her insides transparent. Her voice a fluid.
Like a wound inside my mouth when
a marzipan grape sprayed with color
spurts its brandy.

The blue rings inside me. I am the hood
of a bell slammed by the clapper;
sound shakes, rips
colors and tones, so I see my split selves
come back to rest, cast, and whole.

A current resident of Asheville, and former Director of the Creative Writing Program at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tina teaches at Montreat College and is the recipient of an NEA Literature Fellowship.

Michael Jefry Stevens

Michael Jefry Stevens

Tina also teaches Jazz Poetry with her husband, internationally known Jazz composer and pianist, Michael Jefry Stevens. Hence, it seems only appropriate that we include a little Michael, with the Stevens/Cayolle Quartet, in today’s mix.

And, lastly, today is virtuoso Jazz clarinetist John Laporta’s birthday.  Here’s LaPorta and company from a 1956 recording in New York.


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