Saturday, September 24, 2016
Review by: Bridget Seley Galway
Father and son team Anthony and Ben Holder, working alongside Amnesty International, not more than a year ago, edited their first anthology, Poems That Make Grown Men Cry. Following its success they decided to ask the same question of 100 remarkable award- winning women writer/poets, actors, musicians, public figures, academics, and activists.
Such noted women as, Judy Dench, Joan Biaz, Nikki Giovanni, Joyce Carol Oats, Kate Allen, Lydia Davis, to name a few—were included.. The introductions to each poem chosen by these 100 women are poignant, and often profoundly personal.
Every form of loss experienced within our human condition has been defined by the 100 poems which bless the pages of this anthology; loss of life, dignity, love, home, country, and self.
It has been difficult to leave myself as much as possible out of the composition of this review. I can only say that I have experienced some of the losses defined through many of these brilliant and beautiful poems. They have thrown me back into the moments of those experiences that gripped my heart and brought tears to my eyes.
At the same time, I was moved forward with extreme empathy into the immense grief and sadness of experiences beyond my own. Although those experiences can be inexplicable, the chosen words of the poems in which they are described, form a tangible island of poetic power, they pulled me into those foreign lands, and I now hold indelible in my heart.
There are many poems that I would like to highlight within this review, because their meaning has haunted my being in silent memorial.
I will begin with a stanza from a poem chosen by women activist Helen Pankhurst, from John Clare’s “I Am”- “Despite the undertones of madness, it is one of the most lucid poems about sadness and loneliness I have ever come across.”
“I long for scenes where men have never trod
A place where women never smiled or shed a tear
There to abide with my creator, God,
And sleep as I in childhood sweetly slept,
Untroubling, untroubled where I lie
The grass below-above the vaulted sky.”
John Clare wrote this poem while in the Northampton Asylum. “I Am” continues to be my favorite poem which defines the loss and want of self. His words are both a constant harsh effusion of emotion, and as tender as a silent tear.
Although I believe in God as energy, and not God as an entity, it is of no consequence, as this poem defines my yearning when I have felt the loss of self.
Taiye Selasi, writer, filmmaker, activist, chose Warsan Shire’s poem, “for women who are hard to love”- “I’d been trying to make a home out of a human being for my heart too wild, too fragile, too trustful, too untrustful, to be housed. Then I read these lines by Shire, I knew that my longest search was utterly, utterly doomed.”
“and if he wants to leave
let him leave
you are terrifying
strange and beautiful
something not everyone
knows how to love”
Taiye Selasi has described with perfection how this poem touched me.
Anne Enright, author of “The Gathering as well as five other novels, and won the Man Booker Prize in 2007, chose Mark Doty’s poem “Michaels Dream (from Atlantis)” -“ The loss is always there, ready to ambush and undo, and Doty’s work is always there too, when I need the courage I saw in those terrible days, and how we rose to meet our sorrow.”
“in this raddled and unraveling ‘here’.
What is the body? Rain on a window,
a clear movement over whose gaze?
Husk, leaf, little boat of paper
and wood to mark the speed of the stream?”
Mark Doty’s poetry documents the devastation of AIDS. I lost so many dear friends to AIDS during my young adulthood, a time when we were celebrating our individuality. In memorial to the ones I lost, as I know they would have all wanted, I acknowledge one thing of beauty daily.
Scottish novelist, Jackie Kay, chose Anne Sexton’s “ Unknown Girl in the Maternity Ward” - “I am still undone by “Unknown Girl”, heartbroken for the mother, for her tender love for her baby, her “funny kin”, all mothers in whatever circumstance, who lose their babies
“I touch your cheeks like flowers. You bruise
against me. We unlearn. I am a shore
rocking you off. You break from me. I choose
your only way, my small inheritor
and hand you off, trembling selves we lose.
Go child, who is my only sin, and nothing more.
This poem defines the extreme depth of a mother’s unconditional love, and the strength of what a woman can bear.
I chose to sum up this review with actor of stage and screen Claire Bloom’s choice, Elizabeth Bishop’s, “One Art”. -“ The ironic tone of this poem hides a deep and enduring sorrow, only hinted at in the last devastating line.”
The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things filled with intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.
Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.
Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel, None of these will bring disaster.
I lost my mother’s watch. And look! My last, or
next-to-last, of three houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.
I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.
-Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
I decided to end with this poem in its entirety, because it enshrines the sense of all loss.
Whichever of these 100 poems bring tears to your eyes; they will remain within the rhythm of your heart.
Simrin Tamhane is an international student from the Himalayan state of Sikkim in India. Currently a junior at Endicott College, she is majoring in International Studies and is interested in human rights and many of her writings focuses on this topic. She also writes about her childhood back in India and she enjoys old music, tragedies and iced lemonade in the winter.
Her eyes are cold marbles,
That don't remember warmth.
Her mind is a forgotten novel,
That lays lifeless on dusty shelves.
Her heart is a hollow violin
Strings broken and
She walks on shards of glass.
She is a catastrophe
Waiting to explode.
Nights like this I wish,
You were here next to me,
Laughing at my failed attempt to bake
Or making fun of my fingernails.
I wish I could feel,
The warmth of your fingers
Intertwined to mine.
I wish I could taste,
The sweet melody of your laughter
And hear the low rumbles of
Your heart echoing into mine.
I just wish to be home again.
Wednesday, September 21, 2016
Friday, September 16, 2016
"My poems have appeared in Straylight Magazine, Poet’s Espresso Review, Stray Branch Magazine, Old Red Kimono, Ship of Fools, Song of the San Joaquin Quarterly, Emerald Coast Review, WestWard Quarterly, PKA's Advocate, The Ultimate Writer Quarterly, The Pink Chameleon, JerryJazzMusician.com, and others. My chapbooks “Panhandle Poet - Solitude” and “Panhandle Poet - Second Helpings” are available online at barnesandnoble.com."
saw my Buddha
and came over.
Smiling, he recounted
the basic beliefs
The mind exists to the extent
necessary for thought
and to cling to naught.
The body exists to experience
feelings like lust or non-lust
and to learn how to abandon them.
Life’s journey shows how
material fetters the mind
and the way to see clearly.
The truth is revealed,
when opinions are dropped
and other ways tolerated.
Such wisdom comes
from the Buddhist text
“Discourse on Mindfulness.”
I asked why Buddha,
is portrayed beautifully robed?
He explained how Alexander’s troops
came upon the Ganges and
saw a priest without clothes.
“Why are you without clothes?”
The priest responded,
“Why are you with clothes?”
Alexander stayed and listened,
enthralled that so many cared
about a man who died centuries earlier.
Commissioning a statue,
his sculptor robed the Buddha
in a fine Greek tunic.
All told, Rajith’s eyes lit up,
hearing I was Greek and
my son’s name is Alexander.
Thursday, September 15, 2016
By Rosie Rosenzweig, Resident Scholar,
Brandeis University Women’s Studies Research Center
The 1970 dark comedy Company (music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by George Furth), which won the 2007 Best Musical Tony award, was updated by Director Spiro Veloudos at the Lyric Stage with irony and relevance. This production kept theatre-goers smiling with the occasional “huh?” moment to enliven the evening.
Individual relationships are presented through ironic vignettes, tinged with many annoying flaws of togetherness; this underline the tongue-in-cheek cynicism of the main character’s views of long term relationships. Robert (a.k.a. the protagonist Bobby) feels that his friends, all in more-or-less committed relationships, adore him to excess. The work is a brilliant song and dance set at that time in New York when the upper middle class was indulging the psychoanalysis and talking about it ad nauseum. The score, with its almost comical indulgences in muted brass phrases, caused many a guffaw in the audience. There were shades of Cabaret and the ghost of Berthold Brecht haunting the evening, just in case the audience might even for a second take the digs at relationships seriously. It’s Bobby’s birthday party and the use of the birthday cake causes us to do a double take and question the reality of the vignettes that follow, which caricature “perfect relationships: Neighbors you annoy together/Children you destroy together/ That keep marriage intact.” The various couples have one scene to present themselves, beginning with a judo-fighting couple, and include the number “You Could Drive a Person Crazy.” The variety of relationships from his diverse and comical friends grab the audience’s attention throughout. “Company, the recurrent song and dance that rises up at important times in the action of the drama, is presented with different moods by the ensemble, begins with an opening sappy “Happy Birthday” theme and progresses to an almost stifling quality.
What does Bobby do when he realizes that, in truth, all his committed friends are really happy. And that none of the female partners really want to sleep with him? That answer arrives with a startling turnabout that awakened us to the truth about the darkness of Bobby’s ironic take on commitment. Can we really take his conclusion seriously in the final number, “Being Alive?” That will be up to those in attendance and will receive no spoilers here, other than that the themes of this questionably dated work is relevant today among Gen X kids and millennials loathe to commit to marriage and children.
Matching a New York high kicking number was the Act II ensemble show-stopper called, “Side by Side by Side/What Would We Do Without You?” It magnifies the narcissism of Bobby, a 35-year-old bachelor unable to sustain a lasting relationship, surrounded by five couples, who, through his eyes, seem to adore him. Here, John Abrosino playing and singing Bobby, leads the ensemble with the movements and subtle flair reminiscent of a Fred Astaire; he lights up with body language that, hopefully, will spread to the rest of the play as the production continues through October. Even though he can sing, act, and dance quite professionally, all too often his upper body enacts that uptight quality, which his Puerto Rican girlfriend ridicules.
Another show stopper was the classic “Ladies Who Lunch” by Leigh Barrett, who made this her own, despite original performance by Elaine Stritch and Patti LuPone. This sardonic toast, with the biting irony of a Cabaret number about women is out of Betty Freidan’s Feminine Mystique. This has the historic undertones of the popular sonnet by e.e. cummings about “the Cambridge ladies who live in furnished souls” with no individuality and “comfortable minds.” Company features, not only good drama, but some biting social commentary as well. Following this is the contrasting “Being Alive” conclusion of Bobby’s search,
The entire cast embodies what the Director Spiro Veloudos describes as “act the book and act the story” for all the other important numbers in the show. Veloudos has directed almost 20 Sondheim musicals in the course of his tenure at Lyric Stage.
Presenting big stage choreography on a postage stamp size stage is the remarkable result of Choreographer Rachel Betone.
Even though Company’s 1970 pre-Broadway Boston run received mixed reviews saying that this show “is for misogynists and homos,” the themes are relevant today for 21str century theatre goers.
Lyric Stage certainly lives up to its mission with this first production of the season to bring to Boston audiences “challenging and entertaining theatre.”