Posts Tagged ‘Peter Strand’

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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When I was a white boy
with the skinny legs and pointy elbows,
I watched them dance the punta.
The early drums in distinct, one with the waves
that steal kisses from the shore.
Always the woman first, eyes closed
and head swaying: left then right
like a green culebra until she swallows
the music, takes it into herself and it takes her
hips. The tambores obeying her
gyrations, circling each other like buzzards
and climbing the air to desperation.
Then a man: wide-eyed, hungry,
the braids in his face and him not caring.
The music soaring to a frenzy
and the womanhips saying youcan’thaveit.
And the people howling and hooting
because they know that this is true,
but this is always the way
with a man and a woman.

Peter Strand
from Kodon (fall 2008)

Commentary: Garífunas are a people from Guatemala, Belize, and Honduras. The punta is a dance. A culebra is a snake; tambores are drummers.

Peter Strand was my student as a freshman at Wheaton College, and I will never forget how he reenacted the the lover-transformed-into-a-hawk from Marie de France’s “Lai of Yonec” in our class!

This poem was published in Kodon last fall. It reminds me of what an extraordinarily sensitive young man Peter is – and what a talented poet aware of all the riches of our senses!

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