Poetry Porch Introduction


Introduction 2015:
Afternoon Light

Intuitive associations informed the arrangement of this installment of The Poetry Porch. Soon after Marge Piercy’s winter meditations arrived, I thought I might use a photograph of a wild turkey for the cover. It was an image that my husband took in mid-February and depicted the homely bird with all its oily feathers in sharp detail on an overcast snowy day. But suddenly this image was snatched up by an environmental magazine in Lebanon, interested in the bird nominated by Ben Franklin for our national icon, so I turned to the work of Allegra Printz. Her oil painting of the gray-white barn with blue shadows and red-rusted doors captured a quiet and isolation that spoke to many poems that were selected from the submissions folder. Catherine Breese Davis begins: “You know how it is to hold in mind/ A place—a house or a river scene— /That keeps an earlier time intact.” And then L. N. Allen uses similar vocabulary in her counterpoint to logic with the title “Give All You Have to the Poor,” and the line “Because everything should have a place and be there / firmly enough to leave an impression of itself / when it’s gone.”

Many other of the poems I received also allude to images of place: for Michael Blumenthal, a special place, where it is possible “To live in peace with my private gods.” Or we see another kind of place when George Kalogeris describes the reaction of women to the death of a son (originally Icarus in the family of Daedalos), who slap each other on the back and across the shoulder blades, “Here’s where the pinions should be, /If we weren’t human, and we could fly away.” In her poem “Mother of My Friend,” Marge Piercy also calls up the image of a woman with ties to Greece, who was “learning ancient Greek to read the plays,” while, in another poem, the plows cleared the drifts of snow off the main roads, but left those who lived on secondary roads to their own devices. She concludes, “It’s back to primitive grim days, / nights of ancestral fear ruled by / coywolves and great horned owls.” In his poem “How Can It Be,” Robert K. Johnson likewise recalls primitive fears with his lines about sleeplessness: “waking up in a bed/ surrounded by midnight, /I feel forest lost / and foodless.”

There are many other treasures here, an essay on Julia Budenz by Helen Heineman, a story by Celia Gilbert, not to mention the new length of The Sonnet Scroll, introducing Jenna Le, James B. Nicola, Sayoudh Roy, and others, along with the translations of Henry Weinfield and William Ruleman.

The barn in Printz’s painting can be found on Sir Francis Drake Boulevard in San Raphael, California, heading west toward Olema. Printz captures the sense of the earth’s turning, where the south wall catches the white heat from the sun but can’t hold it when the rays begin to cool to gray as they bend and start coming from the west. This barn reminds me of the barn from my childhood, a vertical clapboard mushroom barn that we could see from our kitchen window. Facing west, its peaked façade transformed every day in the varying intensities of afternoon light.

Joyce Wilson
July 2015

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