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April: A month for poetry | Fresh Reads


Last updated 4/5/2018 at Noon

We know April brings us showers and warmer days.

For bookstores, libraries and publishers, April also brings Poetry Month, when readers of all stripes should pause to contemplate and celebrate what poetry provides: private moments of revelation; sparks of inspired observation connecting synapses in new ways; reminders of mortality and change; clear and/or abstract reflections of world around us; and unexpected music in the rhythms and half rhymes and line breaks.

Poetry readers around the Salish Sea enjoy a rich regional poetry heritage. Though arbitrary, it’s convenient to survey by generations, and many poets listed here (and many more) have taught or were educated at colleges and universities around the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia.

The elders

Those born in the first third of the 20th century, including Theodore Roethke, William Stafford, Eve Triem, Nelson Bentley, Beth Bentley, Robin Skelton, Madeline DeFrees, Denise Levertov, Carolyn Kizer, Richard Hugo, David Wagoner, Robert Sund and John Haines, among others, helped form the distinct poetry esthetic of our region.

...Water’s my will, and my way,

And the spirit runs, intermittently,

In and out of the small waves,

Runs with the intrepid shorebirds--

How graceful the small before danger!

In the first of the moon,

All’s a scattering,

A shining.

– Theodore Roethke, excerpt from “Meditation At Oyster River, Collected Poems”

...Then take these flowers,

too long borne like a cross,

and hang them where

the brick walls ring

exultant in a dying chant:

I cannot love my yield

the less because of this

late gathering.

– Madeline Defrees, excerpt from “The Garden Of Botanical Delights, Blue Dusk”

The moderns

Many more influential regional poets come from the generation born in the ’30s and ’40s, including Gary Snyder, Marvin Bell, Richard Shelton, Raymond Carver, Tess Gallagher, Duane Niatum, William Ransom, Red Pine (Bill Porter), Primus St. John, Vern Rutsala, Emily Warn, Sam Hamill, Shawn Wong and Carolyne Wright.

You are not beautiful, exactly.

You are beautiful, inexactly.

You let a weed grow by the mulberry

and a mulberry grow by the house.

So close, in the personal quiet

of a windy night, it brushes the wall

and sweeps away the day till we sleep.

A child said it, and it seemed true:

“Things that are lost are all equal.”

But it isn’t true. If I lost you,

the air wouldn’t move, nor the trees grow.

Someone would pull the weed, my flower.

The quiet wouldn’t be yours. If I lost you,

I’d have to ask the grass to let me sleep.

– Marvin Bell, “To Dorothy, Nightworks”

The contemporaries

A rich array of northwest poets were born in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s. These include Heather McHugh, Linda Bierds, Ed Skoog, Matthew and Michael Dickman (twins), Melinda Mueller, Sam Green, Laura Jensen, Lucia Perillo, Robert Wrigley, John W Marshall, Matthew Zapruder, along with many others.

I used to live

in a mother now I live

in a sunflower

Blinded by the silverware

Blinded by the Frigidaire

I sit on a sidewalk

in the sunflower and its yellow


The light of the world

beads up in one perfect

green leaf

– Michael Dickman, excerpt from “Where We Live, Green Migraine”

The locals

Lastly, a couple of older Edmonds poets have left, and are still leaving, their marks. The late Joan Swift published a number of well-received volumes in her lifetime, while John L. Wright came late to poetry writing after a medical career.

Is the light the last thing lost, or never lost at all?

There is light so far away, it’s gone

by the time we see it,

the tail lights on the highway far ahead

that say someone is driving

this same dark way….

– Joan Swift, excerpt from “Light Years, The Body That Follows Us”

A late winter snow

Sudden deep and wet

The boughs all bent

The witch hazel spent.

Pink blossoms –

Whitcombii cherry,

Clipenese –

Peeking through white.

When my times comes

I hope to go

Like this old man,

Air shimmering white.

– John L. Wright, “A Late Winter Snow, After William Stafford, Bumping Against the Glass”

A reminder that Edmonds Bookshop will host two events in celebration of Poetry Month.

From noon to 1 p.m. Saturday, April 14, the store will welcome Sue Sutherland-Hanson and Holly Hughes, both reading from recent work.

And for Third Thursday Art Walk, 5-8 p.m. April 19, David Horowitz of Rose Alley Press will host five poets for brief readings, along with his usual entertaining trivia contest.


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