Posts Tagged ‘Brotherhood of the Briar’

After kicking off National Poetry Month with a radio interview on the 88.1 WETN show “Joy in the Morning,” I’ve continued to celebrate poetry all month long.

I joined the Brotherhood of the Briar for a second time in April and recited a little bit of Emily Dickinson, the poem that begins, “Success is counted sweetest …” Later, I celebrated poetry with student poets at Wheaton College at the release parties for two publications, The Pub and Kodon. I was particularly delighted with the recent work of one of my former students, Peter Strand, who shared his poems “World Records” and “Avocado.” Peter’s talent first impressed me when I read “Los Que Saben Las Garífunas,” which I originally posted last summer – a sensual, beautiful poem! I also enjoyed listening to the music of Gabriel DiRicharde, whose lyrics are genuinely poetic, as can easily be discovered at his blog: “i am the outlaw.”

Yesterday, the last day of National Poetry Month, I gave a poetry reading and flute performance at the BGC Museum for, as Milton would say, “a fit audience though few.” I was delighted to be able to share poems from my forthcoming collection The Bird-Watcher’s Diary Entries as well as my in-progress collection Birth-Song. Some other poems I truly enjoyed sharing were … “Man Friday’s Girl” from Made in the Image, “Angels on Jacob’s Ladder,””Sea Turtle Song,” “Garden Hoses,” and “Bridge” from the newly expanded version of Love-Song, “The Horn of Amalthea, the Last Unicorn” from Magical Poems for Girls, and “Meditating at Nelson Cove: Rancho Palos Verdes, CA – 30 August 2009,” an experimental haiku sequence, which I published in Tidepools.

As I prepared the poems for the reading, I saw a theme emerging that related very closely to the fact that I am severely directionally challenged. For example, I set off to go to Sky Yoga Studio last Sunday. It is literally fifteen minutes from my house, but I’d never been there before. I made four wrong turns and arrived a half an hour later than I intended. Sigh. But that’s me. It seems, though, that this literal difficulty sometimes extends to the metaphoric journey of my life. Where am I going? Where have I been? Will I ever arrive at my desired destination? Where is the harbor of my life? I love to sail out to sea, but I also want to find my rest at home.

So several of the poems I chose related to this theme, and so did one of the songs I played with on flute, Rascal Flatts, “Broken Road.” It’s a beautiful song worth listening to if you haven’t heard it. Like so many love songs, it could easily be sung to a lover or to the Lover of our souls, which is comforting to me.

Although I originally intended to end my reading with “Song to the Mapmaker,” I forgot to read it! Fortunately, in the blogosphere, it’s possible to make certain changes in the record of events, so here is the poem from my collection, Sanctuary:


Even when I do not know where I am going, God knows. He knows the map of my heart because he drew it. He understands the map when I do not. He knows how to help me follow it even when I get lost. And most beautifully, he is walking with me on all the roads upon which he has set my foot.

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Last night, I joined the Brotherhood of the Briar at the home of my friend, Dr. Jerry Root. The brotherhood meets outside on dark Thursday nights around a splendid fire to drink scotch, smoke pipes, and talk poetry — very much in the spirit of Inklings like J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. I snuck in to celebrate National Poetry Month with them … with taquitos, a story, and some poetry about eagles.

One of the brothers, Justice, read two poems very beautifully: Whitman’s “O Captain, my Captain” and Poe’s “The Raven.” Since we’d had a poem about a bird already, it followed naturally for me to share my story about a world-breaking flight. Jennifer Murray, 66, and Colin Bodhill, 55, recently became the first woman and man to circumnavigate the globe from north to south in a helicopter, but only by facing incredible challenges first.

When they were flying over the Antarctic, they hit a storm or rather, a storm hit them. They were flying blind. The landscape was completely whited-out around them. And they crashed.

Both blacked out on impact from the crushing 4G force of their plummet. When Colin came to, his body was in agony. He had broken his back. He thought, “I’m going to die.” He looked over at his co-pilot, Jennifer, and saw she was in shock, repeating over and over again, “We’ve crashed. We’ve crashed.” The crash exposed them to below-freezing temperatures, and Colin knew Jennifer was in danger of hypothermia. And suddenly, he thought, “I’m still alive,” and, as he has since said, “It became all about saving Jennifer.”

With a broken back, in minus 40F weather and 35 MPH winds, Colin got up, dragged Jennifer out of the helicopter into a sleeping bag, erected an emergency tent, pulled a generator from the crash, and lit a stove. Because of this, both Colin and Jennifer survived to be found 4.5 hours later by a search-and-rescue team. Colin has said that if he had been alone, he would have given up and died because he knew his back was broken and he could feel the internal bleeding. But because of the threat to his co-pilot’s life, he got up, and he did the impossible.

After this, both Jennifer and Colin had to recover from their injuries. They did. Then, they got back in their helicopter and flew around the world together, just has they planned, this time without crashing. They set the world-record and became the first man and woman to circumnavigate the globe in a helicopter. (An interesting note: Jennifer had already gone around the world in a helicopter by herself and set the world-record for doing so as a woman in solo flight!).

In honor of these two daring heroes (whom Jerry Root affectionately called “crazy!”), I read a paragraph about eagles found in the 14th century Petersborough chronicle, “The Eagle” by Alfred Lord Tennyson, and “The Dalliance of Eagles” by Walt Whitman.

Many other things were said and done (and I shall certainly remember Greg Root and Mark Neal putting splinted wood on the fire as the flames leaped around their forearms!!), and I enjoyed the whole poetic evening very much.

I hope you, too, are enjoying National Poetry Month.

Jane Beal, PhD

p.s. To read Shelby Skrhak’s original write-up of Jennifer and Colin’s record-breaking adventure and see pictures, visit the essay that appeared recently in Success magazine.

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