Tuesday, February 14, 2012

What Poetry Makes Happen

Writing is such a solitary act, most of the time, that’s it’s really worth celebrating when we find a writing community that is vibrant, thriving, and supportive of all its members. So this is celebration. Get out the cava!

First I want to celebrate our daughter Sarah Busse who, along with co-editor of Verse Wisconsin Wendy Vardaman,has been named one of the two Poets Laureate of Madison, Wisconsin.

Rich and I went up to Madison for some grandparent time and to attend the poetry reading in honor of these two poets laureate.
Along with the cava here's a sampling of poetry--

From Wendy--"Relying on Your Imagination to Discern the Question, a Prose Sonnet"

(at the Capitol, 2/25/11) Because what's the point if you're not enjoying your life. Because neither of us is getting any younger. Because it is an unseasonably pleasant February day in Wisconsin. Because it is an unpleasantly seasonable February day in Wisconsin. Because my children are with me. Because who needs all this stuff this house these plates this bed these chairs. Because it all comes down to backstory: who we & why we. Because there is free Ian's pizza from Finland and Arkansas at the top of the hill where we listen to Rabbi Biatch.

Because you can read the news on Avol's Bookstore windows and on Facebook and in poems and on people's faces. Because Tammy Baldwin, my congresswoman, and Beth Kiser, my children's grade school cello teacher stand on either side of me. Because "ROTC Kills." Because my husband writes Solidarity on his sign in seven languages while my teenagers get out their magic markers. Because poetry and plays came from one place, and theatrical gestures aren't stunts or tricks or mere or even just. Because 14 senators are just enough to make a sonnet, if you're careful, and I am letting go of perfect all the time and sometimes the performance is the poetry.

From Sarah--The Sound of People Learning to Make Music [excerpt]

...but the sound of people learning to make music
has never bothered me, maybe because
I grew up in a music filled house, and we
were always honking, squeaking , strumming
and pounding, trying our hands and breath in new
combinations, beginning again.

So it doesn't bother me now, when my son
pulls out his viola, or my daughter her ukulele,
the warm-ups and scales, rehearsal and process, tents
and manifestoes, are all just part
of the open-ended art of getting it wrong
in order to get it right. It's somewhere in this
not quite aimless, not quite tuneless wandering
we learn, if we ever will,
to shape a new music, new chords, that don't
reach for the usual resolutions. There is always
somebody, somewhere, practicing, learning--
not a rigid perfection, not the dictates of order,
but how to hear, and what to listen for.

Huzzah Kuzzah for a community that celebrates its poets by giving them a post and a platform to strengthen community and for a daughter who has always loved words and arranges them in intricate and beautiful ways.

Huzzah Kuzzah for a community that celebrates its poets and comes to hear them. The reading was held in a meeting room of the Goodman South Madison Branch Library. The room holds fifty people. It was full and past full to the rafters. Closer to seventy people came out on a Saturday afternoon to hear poetry. Some were poets themselves, some were friends and family, some were just curious, some one or two were hungry for the cupcakes. And all were welcome. There was no cost to admission.

Bruce Dethlefsen , Poet Laureate of Wisconsin gave a wonderful reading. Here's one of his poems--From Unexpected Shiny Things

at night
my mother bathed me in a white tub
scrubbed me with white soap
rubbed me in a white towel
hugged me and plugged me
into pajamas and the white sheets
an act so kind
so common
it barely even happened

Fabu, the third and most recent Poet Laureate of Madison, introduced the readers and read a bit from her own work. She did not read this one but I wish she had.
This Woman I Love
for Effie Florida Cunningham Partee
(Play Audio)

Down a winding dirt road
with rust colored rocks
and glistening beige pebbles
is where my Grandmother lived.

She woke up to clear blue skies
and billowing white clouds
My Grandmother went to sleep
when the shimmering sun was just down
and the still stars were floating outward.

Yet all the beauty
of Mississippi land
cannot nearly compare
with this woman I love.

Also on the program were Andrea Musher (Madison's second Poet Laureate) , and the members of the Hibiscus Collective, a group of Wisconsin women writers ”dedicated to ensuring that multicultural voices are heard in oral and written traditions” (from the program).

W.H. Auden wrote, "Poetry makes nothing happen." I've never quite agreed with that iron proclamation. Something happened last Saturday. People from all over Wisconsin, and two from Iowa, walked in out of the cold to listen and share poems about sorrow, humor, and the complications of living, to affirm as Rich once said, that "we do build worlds with words and heart touches heart through the tongue."

That's something.


  1. Huzzah, Huzzah -- I am so pleased to hear this news about Sarah and her wonderful success.Congratulations Sarah - Congratulations Jackie for having instilled the love of words -- and giving her the means to let her words soar. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful.

  2. Thanks, Sharron. You would have loved the event. There were several kids there listening to the reading and picking up the poems on postcards and other handouts.