National Poetry Month, April 23, 2014

NC Poet Laureate Joseph Bathanti

NC Poet Laureate Joseph Bathanti

According to what records we’ve retained – and there are quite a few – today is the 450th birthday ofWilliam Shakespeare – and the site I’ve just supplied you with, fascinating and labyrinthine, could easily be the end of today’s entry. It will keep you busy.

William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare

And, precisely because Shakespeare is Shakespeare, he deserves to have three of his famous sonnets showcased below: “Sonnet CXVI: Let Me Not to the Marriage of True Minds;” “Sonnet XVIII: Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day?;” “Sonnet XXIX: When, in Disgrace with Fortune and Men’s Eyes.”

Let’s not forget The North Carolina Shakespeare Festival. Year in and year out, it provides wonderful, robust interpretations of Shakespeare.

Today is the birthday of Vladimir Nobokov. Known primarily for his prose, Lolita in particular, he was also a poet. Here’s Nobokov’s “The University Poem,” translated by Dmitri Nobokov, his son and only child.

Warm Birthday greetings to Joe Mills. His poem, “Enter the Duchess in a White Sheet,” was published originally in MadHat Lit.

Enter the Duchess in a White Sheet

Joe Mills

Joe Mills

Those working wardrobe know
there are two kinds of sheets
in Shakespeare, white and bloody.

The first often becomes the second
and then becomes the first again:
wedding to wounding to winding.

It’s a common progression,
perhaps the fundamental one;
still, each time he must start,

as every writer does,
contemplating white sheets,
then staining them, one by one,

until by the end, ink-crammed
with rhymes and bodies,
they sail ever graveward.

Joseph Mills holds the Susan Burress Wall Distinguished Professorship in the Humanities at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, He has published four collections of poetry with Press 53. His fifth collection, This Miraculous Turning, will be released in September 2014.

Warm birthday greetings, as well, to Laura Hope-Gill. I’m pleased to present the following poem, seen here for the first time.

Frankfurt Airport

Laura Hope-Gill

Laura Hope-Gill

His name was Hassad. He came from Algiers. This was the
night I tried to find safety sleeping in the lady’s room
at the airport until my flight left at dawn. But even in
there I woke to the breath of a security guard against my
face. He must have thought he could kiss a woman without
her feeling anything. At some point we learn we’re safer
in the crowd and move downstairs to the lobby where the
see of travelers undulates to the rhythm of flight. All these
bodies are going somewhere fast. They are as temporary as
the sand Hassad tells me about while I’m trying to sleep.
He has moved over so I can have four seats to myself.
He strokes the hair from my face repeatedly. His palm
is cool and smooth like water; too tired to protest or protect,
I’ve surrendered into his voice like a child walks into a dream.
Overhead the names of the city of this world flip and chime.
The letters of them are from the same alphabet which tonight
expands to name the world within mere permutations of itself.
And there’s a peace in this, the sort of peace that comes to the
astronaut when he looks down and sees all the land is the same,
all of it washed clean at the edges by the same unifying sea.
Hassad’s voice is washing me like the sea at my edges. In the
entire world tonight the Africa of his hand consoles the Canada
of my forehead. Our histories mesh and weave. Our ancestors
rise. He is telling me about the roses that grow in the Algerian
desert. They are perfect and strong. But the sand winds come
and the sand finds its way into every crevice; every curve and
thorn remembers the sand until the sand conceals the rose
and absorbs all of its moisture. As the wind blows some more,
the excess sand vanishes, and only that which is hardened, that
which was closest to the rose remains. It holds the form of the
rose, he tells me, the names of nations breaking in the air above my
rising sleep, and deep inside the sand the rose soon dies, but you
see them when you walk in the desert, Hassad tells me. You see
the roses made of sand for these roses are stronger than the wind
because they come from the wind. These roses can live forever.

Laura Hope-Gill founded and directs Asheville Wordfest and the Thomas Wolfe Center for Narrative at Lenoir-Rhyne University. She has published two architectural histories of Asheville and one collection of poems, The Soul Tree.

Jazzman Jimmy Noone’s birthday is today. Here he is performing “You Rascal You.”

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