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Posts Tagged ‘Nancy Greenaway’

2019-Malcolm-Greenaway-Voices-from-Village

Photos: Malcolm Greenaway

April is National Poetry Month. I know quite a few poets, and I truly value the way they capture feelings obliquely and more deeply than common speech. In fact, at my sister’s memorial service in January, I read my friend Ronnie Hess‘s poem called “What We Scarcely Know,” from her collection Ribbon of Sand about a childhood on Fire Island. The theme of sand repeatedly washing away and returning in a new form really spoke to me. What poems speak to you?

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Photo: Wisconsin poet Ronnie Hess

Rhode Island poet Nancy Greenaway has been bringing a love of poetry to her community and to students on Block Island for decades. Recently she told me, “For National Poetry Month, I usually organize a reading of favorite poems by community members who are not poets: a ferry captain, a police chief, a teacher, a real estate broker, a minister, a doctor, a guitar-playing student, a gift shop owner, a first warden [something like a mayor], a manager of the power company, for example.

“We had scheduled the Voices from the Village reading for April 24, but cancelled because of COVID 19. Instead, we are asking community members to email favorite poems to their friends during the month of April. I’ve received two so far:
Wendell Berry’s ‘The Peace of Wild Things‘ and Kitty O’Meara’s ‘And the people stayed home.’ ”

Nancy’s email inspired me to search online for articles about past Voices from the Village events. This is from the Block Island Times, May 2018: “The annual community poetry reading known as Voices from the Village featured a wide range of voices reading the works of many different poets:

“Here is the poem by [former first warden] Edie Blane’s sister, Eileen Lee, titled ‘Block Island Spring,’ from Jan. 31, 1962.

miss20edie20blane

Photo: Malcolm Greenaway

“Spring doesn’t come to our bleak island home

“With whispering air and fragrant smell of earth.

“Ours is a different world —

“Grey, cold and harsh,

“And April days are angry with us still.

“The equinox comes in with windy roar;

“Pale dune grass dips and rises in its path.

“Seas crash

“White crested and dark shining green.

“The sun is bright but gives no pleasant warmth.

“And yet we have a portent, old as time,

“Though cold winds rule us yet, with icy breath;

“A day of quiet comes —

“The Sound grows still, a pale and milky blue

“The smallest waves lap gently on the shore.

“In the great echoing stillness on the sea

“The sweet slow tolling of the buoy rolls in.

“At last, this is the long awaited time,

“First sign of island spring.”

See all the Malcolm Greenaway photos of the 2018 readers here. And for inspiration from Nature, check the photographer’s website, here.

I’m wondering if a group poetry reading could be done virtually, the way these singers handled the old-time spiritual “Down to the River.” Looks complicated.

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Bonus Post

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Photo: Malcolm Greenaway

Nancy Greenaway sent me a couple of her lovely poems today, and they put me in the spring spirit. Thought I’d share them with you.

To Arms

After dull, damp, mud months,
tender green blades
duel to freedom
from the weather underground
where the fight for life
somehow survives
gray death’s dominion
over the frozen, surface world.

Just when we’ve thrown
gloved hands skyward
in surrender to whips
of winter wind,
daffodils shoot up blazing
captivating us with promises
of an armistice
called spring.

 

 

April

A great golden wall of forsythia
defines my neighbor’s property lines.

It glows through fog, competes
with daffodils to steal the show.

040120-daffodil

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Art: Josie Merck
Mansion Beach, New Shoreham, Rhode Island

Oh, my poetry-loving readers, you are in for a treat! Praised by poets Lisa Starr and Naomi Shihab Nye and US Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, among others, a book of paintings and poems that captures a powerful love of a place just became available. It’s Present on Block Island, by poet Nancy Greenaway and painter Josie Merck.

I have written about Nancy Greenaway in several posts, including the time she asked for feedback on her owl poem. Her collaborator Josie Merck is both a fine painter and an extraordinary benefactor of environmental causes. Her love of nature, especially in Rhode Island, is palpable in the art illustrating the collection.

I welcomed like an old friend Nancy’s owl poem, but the other poems were new to me. They cover a variety of themes, especially the joy that the beauty of nature can inspire. But there are also poems about friendships; a poem about a big-shot visitor who failed to engage school children; a moving contribution about a brush with death (the plane’s fuel line froze; “we all now know/ just how we’d handle/ a situation like that”); a funny one about being trapped in brambles near home and calling out for help before deciding to crawl on her belly to safety; and a very touching poem about island great Fred Benson, who lived to 101 and hoped that the afterlife would be something like Block Island.

I enjoyed Nancy’s many intriguing turns of phrase, too — like a new meaning for “weather underground” and the reference to ice cream as George Washington’s “revolutionary dessert.”

You can find the book at http://www.lulu.com. Or you can call the Island Bound Bookstore at 1 401 466 8878, as I did to buy my copy with a credit card. It arrived in the mail soon after.

From “Astonished,” by Nancy Greenaway

“Each morning that I wake
“to sun painting black sky blue
“and inhale ocean-chilled air,
“I am astonished.

“First glance out my window
“grants me cloud migrations
“over Great Salt Pond,
“sails on Long Island Sound.

“I drive to work with crows,
“gulls, hawks, terns, herons
“following overhead,
“pass waddling ducks, walkers,

“check ocean choppiness
“in scene-slots between dunes,
“wave to fellow drivers
“who wave to me in turn. …

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I was in New Shoreham in the spring, stopping at the bagel place, and Suzanne pointed out that on a patio table there was a little birdhouse where people were encouraged to contribute a poem to a small notebook. I added a haiku and a jingle I wrote decades ago.

Two days later, it hit me. I had participated in Poetry of the Wild, and I had written about it already here.

Rhode Island Monthly had a bit more on the subject.

Poetry Project founder and former RI poet laureate Lisa Starr told reporter Casey Nilsson about the April weekend when Poetry of the Wild was to be launched. “We’re finding ways to expose people to things that they might not be exposed to, to broaden the horizon while working on creative projects.

“One of the English teachers, Nancy Greenaway, started a project, Favorite Poems: Voices from the Village. She finds members of the community who have never come to a Poetry Project — like the guy who runs the deli or the music teacher — and asks them to choose their favorite poem … Nobody knows who they are until the day of the event.”

Starr also describes the new addition to the Poetry Project weekend, Poetry of the Wild: “a public art installation featuring boxes made by members of the community that contain a particular poem. The poems are meant to enhance whatever setting they’re in.

“The tech ed teacher at the Block Island School, Mark Mollicone, and the art teacher, Lisa Robb, [were eager to help.] They worked with the entire seventh and eighth grade class. Each student either made their own box or partnered with somebody. The kindergarten class made their own box and the first graders worked with a local bookshop owner on a box, too.”

The boxes were ultimately placed around the island. And I saw a birdhouse-like box outside the bagel shop.

More here.

Photo: Rhode Island Monthly
Carrying a box for a poem past Harbor Baptist Church, New Shoreham.

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I admit I dropped the poem-a-day e-mail from poets.org because I couldn’t keep up, but I saved a few that I liked recently.

This one by Alberto Rios, for example.

“One river gives
Its journey to the next.

“We give because someone gave to us.
“We give because nobody gave to us.

“We give because giving has changed us.
“We give because giving could have changed us. …

“You gave me blue and I gave you yellow.
“Together we are simple green. You gave me

“What you did not have, and I gave you
“What I had to give—together, we made

“Something greater from the difference.”

Read the whole poem here.

Meanwhile, poet friends have been busy capturing present realities and past screen shots. Ronnie Hess wrote a poem inspired by watching home movies of her Fire Island childhood. It reads in part,

“follow your sister
“as she leaps and cartwheels along

“the beach into the sea. I see your eyes
“follow her, your mind dart,
“your body imitate her older moves.” The whole poem is at Quill and Parchment.

And poet Nancy Greenaway caught the mood of our endless winter with this roll-over-and-go-back-to-sleep nugget

Sleeping In
School vacation: time for winter hibernation.

Photo: svsnowgoose.com

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Nancy Greenaway, also known to readers of this blog as the Snowy Owl Poet, just told me about two New England poetry events taking place this spring.

The ninth annual Block Island Poetry Project, featuring Rhode Island Poet Laureate Lisa Starr, will be offering four workshops, starting in April 12 and going to May 13.  Former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins will be there there May 12 and 13. I include a photo of Collins from the event website.

The other event is scheduled for a city best known for witches: “The fourth Massachusetts Poetry Festival will be held Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, April 20–22, in historic Salem. The three-day event, which will bring 1,500 poets and poetry lovers to the city, will showcase a variety of extraordinary local and regional poets, and engage the public through poetry readings, interactive workshops, panel discussions, music, film and visual arts, and performances geared toward a diverse statewide audience.” Check the line-up. It looks super.

(I see that my brother’s longtime friend Michael Ansara is on the advisory board!)

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Photograph: Mark Brown, Boston Globe

What a treat! A poet who follows this blog just sent me two lovely poems about a snowy owl she once saw. Or perhaps I should say, she once experienced. She would appreciate feedback on the poems, so please let me know your reactions in the Comments feature. E-mail is fine, too, suzannesmom@lunandstella.com. (And if you have a photo of a snowy owl in flight, I will replace the rather contemplative owl from National Geographic, below.)

Snowy Owl, by Nancy Greenaway

White shuttle of silken feathers
wefting across cloud warp of winter gray,
silently weaving sky with sea,
looming above watching walkers
tucked between patchworks
of stone-bound fields
and folds of silvered awe.

Snowy Owl 2, by Nancy Greenaway

Wide-winged whiteness
sensed before seen
swooping soundlessly
under low-lying layers
of cloud gauze

white on white
white on gray
soft on soft

too large to be living
and airborne

too white to be
worldly and wild

floating unruffled
on drafts of arctic cold

piercing consciousness
not with bill
or talon
or quill

but with light
and motion

avian divinity
spirited from
another dimension

penetrating dusk
by force of feathers

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I have always liked reading poetry, but there is something extra delightful about actually knowing people who write good poetry.

Nancy Greenaway is a friend I see summers in Rhode Island. I learned last weekend that among other output, she recently published this poem at the Texas Observer site. It begins:

Salaam.

You write ghazals under shade of an acacia,

speak Farsi or Pashto,

eat qurmas, sabzi, lamb kebabs,

wear burqas and hijabs.

I write free verse under shade of a maple,

speak English,

eat pizza, cod, corn on the cob,

wear jeans and t-shirts. 

Read it here. 

Francesca Forrest has several online poetry outlets. In the tantalizing “Temptation,” an internal voice whispers,

Throw yourself down from here; try!

This is a dream, and you will fly.

Read “Temptation” here, published at the Linnet’s Wings. Two other poems by Francesca are “Songs Were Washing Up,” in the publication Scheherzade’s Bequest, and “Old Clothes Golem,”  at the site Stone Telling.

When Suzanne was getting ready to launch Luna & Stella, she came to the conclusion that a poet should write the descriptions of the birthstones, because only a poet would have the right artistic sensibility. As it happened, she knew a poet who also did copywriting, Providence-based poet Kate Colby. Here is what Kate wrote about the gems for Luna & Stella.

You might also like to read one of Kate’s poems, “A Body Drawn By Its Own Memory.” It begins :

Certain labels are impervious

to solvents, impermeable

as drawn bridges. …

I will post poems from time to time. Perhaps you will let me know what you like. Try the comments feature. Or e-mail me at suzannesmom@lunaandstella.com.

Nancy writes: 
“Thought you might be one of the few who would appreciate our adventures in Boston/Cambridge on Sunday and Monday. Malcolm and I had a one-night vacation by driving to Cambridge on Sunday, staying at the Marlowe Hotel (with a view of the Charles) and hearing Naomi Shihab Nye read and then receive the Golden Rose Award from the Poetry Club of New England. She concluded with her poem about the Block Island ferry (which will appear in her new book of poems to be released by BOA Editions in September.) Before the reading, to the amazement of all in the audience, she rushed up the center aisle directly to me and gave me a wonderful hug.”

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