Wednesday, April 25, 2012

CARYN MIRRIAM-GOLDBERG's poem "Landed" mixes whimsy and details of nature

The Poet Laureate of Kansas reads April 25, Wed., at the Lawrence Public Library—see  If you miss this springtime reading, check  for upcoming events. Earlier this spring, she and her husband burned grass as part of the renewal process for prairies. As Poet Laureate, she has brought Kansas writers together as well as state poets laureate from across the country. In 2011, she organized one of the few national gatherings of poets laureate, from Rhode Island, Alaska, Texas, and Alabama, as well as Midwestern states. She recently edited a collection of 150 poems by Kansas poets to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Kansas, Begin Again. She has organized a dozen group readings from this anthology. She has more projects brewing.
In addition to advocacy for writing, she is herself a fine poet. This title poem for the collection Landed (2009) shows her balance of whimsy and observation. She walks the line of sentiment, as she writes a celebratory nature poem. She focuses on specific details, like a field guide, but her language creates the aesthetic. The curve of a crow’s feather, “where it bows,” echoes the “long crescent” of her partner’s body later in the poem. Her personal reflection complicates the descriptive details also, putting them into a larger context. She writes, “whatever we think of love is just the aerial view,” and likewise this poem gives us a new way to view the cedars, grass, wind, and stories about love.


Here everything is a list of its details:
the surface of crow feather where it bows,
or echo of whippoorwill through the closed window
over the bed. The chiggers and the slow-creeping
cedar trees, milkweed webbed with spittlebug,
and the grass above and below ground,
mirroring out from a single point
of root and longing.
I'm landed here, in the center of something
not my own doing, and although I keep thinking
I'm alone, I'm dying, I'm afraid,
I'm making all that up.
The man I love is coming out of the woods,
the long crescent of his body closer, bowing to touch
something, say its name.
When he stands back up, he walks slowly to show me
whatever we think of love is just the aerial view
that tells you nothing compared to the soft green stems
that curl and fall with the wind, compared to how each step
across the grass is a form of falling
out of and into what losses make life possible.
The quick flashes, like the sun balancing
on the lip of the horizon right before
it goes out, like that moment the field golds
everything opaque, like how love strips us
out of the stories we have for love.

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg is the 2009-2012 Poet Laureate of Kansas, and a long-time transformative language artist. She is a poet, fiction and non-fiction writer, teacher, mentor, and facilitator. Founder of Transformative Language Arts at Goddard College (where she teaches), and facilitator of Brave Voice workshops.  Forthcoming books are The Divorce Girl, a novel of art and soul, from Ice Cube Books and Needle in the Bone: How a Holocaust Survivor and Polish Resistance Fighter Beat the Odds and Found Friendship, from Potomac Press. Other books are Begin Again: 150 Kansas Poems, editor, 2011,Woodley Memorial Press; An Endless Skyway: Poetry from the State Poets Laureate, co-editor with Marilyn L. Taylor, Denise Low and Walter Bargen, Ice Cube Books;  Landed, poetry, Mammoth Publications; The Sky Begins At Your Feet: A Memoir on Cancer, Community & Coming Home to the Body, Ice Cube Books; and The Power of Words: A Transformative Language Arts Reader, co-editor with Janet Tallman, Ice Cube Books. More information is at her website