Some background by Rodger Martin….
First let me provide a brief history of what we
now call The Monadnock School of Poetry Workshop meeting monthly at Del Rossi’s
Trattoria in Dublin, New Hampshire. The workshop began over twenty years
ago at The Meeting School in Rindge. It was a group which included myself,
Gordon Korstange (who now lives, teaches and writes in Saxtons River, Vermont),
David Patterson of Mount Wachusett Community College and a few others.
During the next ten years, the workshop has met in The Jaffrey Inn, the
Fitzwilliam Inn and occasionally a member’s home but the idea of an inn seemed to
work best because it provided a neutral backdrop plus occasional food and
drink. When Del Rossi’s opened in 1990, their central location, commitment
to the arts, and good food provided the stable meeting place for the workshop
which then spawned the Poetry Sextet and all that has followed.
The workshop itself follows the standard concept
that those bringing work are looking to publish that work and response is
provided with that in mind. First, the poet is not permitted to speak
except in answer to questions of fact. Each member of the workshop
receives a copy, the piece is read twice– once by the author, once by another
member of the group. Then criticism, often lively and dissenting, is
provided as if the piece had just been read in some journal. The
discussion usually is not so much directed to the author as to each other with
the author bearing the responsibility to note those thing he or she feels
appropriate. Once the discussion has exhausted itself, the group
moves on to the next piece. In order to prevent the poem from
becoming too molded by others, we discourage the poem ever being brought back to
the group except as we may hear the revision during or for a reading outside the
The workshop has does an annual reading at Del Rossi’s each
spring in conjunction with The Monadnock School Writes of Spring
series. On the following pages are poems by the current members of the
workshop that have wended their way through the process.
In Pursuit of the Loon
The marsh lay grey and still.
Mist drifted like thin smoke.
Swamp grass grew grey and silent;
A few stunted tamaracks poked their black beard
Through the soundless contrast of level color.
“So Lonely …”
The loon’s slow echo reached me,
Hands that cupped my ears in sobs,
“So Lonely ….”
My grey raft swelled silent in the slate marsh,
Each oar carefully placed and drawn
So that I moved like leaf in stagnant pond.
The loon knew but stayed
Always at the edge of vision.
Like a ghost he beckoned till I closed
Then submerged leaving an image which vanished like vapor.
Seconds primed ages and he emerged without a ripple
In a more distant place he had not been before.
He soothed, a siren of loss.
His black-and-white-lined throat seemed
Stark against the sifting curtains of grey.
His eyes glowed red as he called,
“So Lonely ….”
It echoed to hills hidden in mist and returned;
It filtered the shore in riffles that wash and restore,
“So Lonely …
So Lonely …
So Lonely ….”
Appalachia prize for poetry, 1988
You came to me first as dawn hauled up on ropes
of apricot above the blackened wall of white pine.
You came from the south, from the highest places,
came down the mountain running.
You were announced by the crows, the shrill
calls of alarm from the uppermost branches.
You opened your throats in a high harsh singing.
I didn’t know what you were and rose trembling
from the deck chair, stood breathless and still
where the woods surrounded me, gathered dark
and darker as if to stall the light.
You came down, two of you: one young and red-bright
the other old, rust streaked with gray.
You pretended not to know me and lay down
beneath a small granite ledge, lay on the fallen
needles, licking light into your fur.
You came to me because I have wanted you.
You came though I had asked for nothing,
because I was full as a river at flood tide
You came to me, rested and then rose, first one,
then the other, and ran downhill into the morning.
You who assumed the guise of foxes, come again
as you did that morning on the mountainside.
And wasn’t that you who came last summer
as whale boiling up from the waters of Jeffries Shoal?
Wasn’t it you who came in September as wood duck
over the Stoddard marshes, who flew parallel to my car window?
Come to me again as moose invisible on the night road.
Come the way deer steal across the field at dusk
Come as raccoon, as coyote. Come carrying your burden
of blood and shadow–
come joyous and light with song, come in sleep,
in the unexpected reaches of the day. I am waiting.
Come red-tailed or black-winged; come fluked
and finned, come clawed and taloned,
renew my breath, come full of the mystery
I am only beginning to know.
(published in Ploughshares)
I am in my office straightening the mess
in my IN basket so that to all who enter
it appears I know exactly what I’ll be doing next,
when, suddenly, through some force of memory
or miracle of my olfactory, I am reminded
of my grandfather’s lentil soup. The smell of it
wafts through the doorway and across my desk
as scantily as a negligee. I imagine someone’s
cup of soup with his face on it, his Lebanese nose,
his lips permanently formed around the letter m.
I imagine his thick, brown broth bubbling
in a pot on a gas stove, the lens-shaped
seeds swelling with the flavor of his world –
lamb meat, grape leaves, unleavened bread
and lentil soup – until I hunger for more than lunch,
for a sea-side cafe in Beirut whispering the histories
of the Phoenicians, the Ottomans, Christians
and Druses. My waiter brings me a bowl
of hot soup. I thank him in Arabic as a breeze
from the sea blows the steam from my spoon.
first published in The Worcester Review,
Contentment has his hand on my mouth
stifling my screams and dragging me down
to a green land
a land of pastured sheep and cudded cows
a land of brooks and maple trees.
My heartbeats slow and my eyelids droop
my limbs loose in the meadow grass
and I am nearly asleep.
The hawk keens on columns of sky.
Its shadow scythes the stalks
slashes a flicker across my face
but the grass has entwined through my fingers
and I am bound to the ground
the sun sliding into the horizon.
Debra Cae Hurley