Saturday, February 16, 2013

36 State Poets Laureate Write THE WORLD KEEPS TURNING TO LIGHT

Poets laureate of the United States have no formal connection, yet they continue to find ways to meet. Fall of 2011, a gaggle of state poets laureate met in Lawrence, Kansas, at a conference organized by Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg. She then edited this national collection of poems that contribute to a renga, or “linked poem.” The Academy of American Poets defines the form:

Renga, meaning "linked poem," began over seven hundred years ago in Japan to encourage the collaborative composition of poems. Poets worked in pairs or small groups, taking turns composing the alternating three-line and two-line stanzas. Linked together, renga were often hundreds of lines long.”

This group renga contains 36 parts, each by a different state poet laureate or former poet laureate. The title comes from Katharine Coles: “…Loving the view/Is still a luxury. The moon rises./The world keeps turning into light.” Here is the laureate of Alaska Peggy Shumaker’s section, used with permission

Blue light has slipped back
between paper birches, bold
shadows returning.

Long days of long, dark season
without scent. Nearly over.

Moose scoop thigh-deep snow
off bent-flat willows. So still
this river of ice

creaky and stiff, soon to break.
Liquid again, river song.

 Samuel Green, of Washington, wrote this for his last image before Shumaker: “At dusk crows return/from the day’s unconcern, flakes/of pepper spilled on/ grey sky.” He continues to conclude his section, but note how the sky and light and darkness continued from Green’s section into Shumaker’s. After Shumaker’s section the next poet, Kathleen Flenniken, picks up the word “scoop” for her section, as she describes “Children in floppy coats prepare/to be scooped up and lugged home.” A mountain is in this section, continuing the theme of natural settings.

J. Kates describes the book and its form this way: “Every poem is a conversation with other poems, some more explicitly than others. This version of the Japanese conversational tradition, the renga, rings with the give-and-take of three dozen lively voices, laureates, in the best sense of the word, using their verse to commemorate and celebrate in our name.”

Negative Capability Press published the print version of the entire renga Jan., 2013. They are at 36 Ridgelawn  Dr. East, Mobile, AL 36608. Publisher is Alabama poet laureate Sue B. Walker.

The entire online version of this book is at The America: Now and Here cross-country tour site

The books is for sale on Amazon: