For Easter Monday A Post from Easter Monday Six Years Ago! A God Who Eats Words – The Devotional poems of Adélia (Luzia) Prado (Freitas)

Brazilian Poet Adelia Prado

Brazilian Poet Adélia Prado (1935 – )

While writing a blog for today I came across a reference to the fabulous Brazilian poet Adélia Prado and then went searching for my blogs on her. And found this post from Easter Monday six years ago and thought too perfect, must use it again! Prado was acknowledged in 2014 with A Distinguished Lifetime Contribution to Poetry Award from the Griffin Trust which suggests her celebrated poetic standing in the world. Below my 2014 Easter Monday post:

“On this Easter Monday it seems right to consider devotional poetry – poetry, whether or not explicitly religious, that reaches out to a presence, something transcendent, something that speaks to the eternal. A poetry where the “holy”, the “unspeakable” enters in.

I realize this is a huge topic and I don’t want to get lost in it. I want to highlight  poems by the Brazlilian poet,  Adélia Prado (1935 – ) , a mystic and devotional poet if there ever was one. (Click here for my previous post on Prado in 2012.) In the title I have given Prado’s full name!

Here is a first taste of her latest poems in English. Prado, this woman described by the celebrated Brazilian poet, Carlos Drummond de Andrade (1902-1987)  as a housewife in Minais Gerais ( the province where she lives) writing verses dictated to her by Saint Francis.

Eternal Life

Half a century.
The weight of that word used to send me straight to bed.
No more. I’m gathering wisdom.
Alchemists aren’t law breakers —
sure, they’re naïve sometimes like the saints,
believing in stones, fish seen in dreams,
signs written on the sky.
Where is God?
April is reborn out in the cosmos,
in the most perfect silence.
Inside and outside of me.

Adélia Prado, translated by Ellen Dore Watson, from Ex-Voto, Tupelo Press, 2013

Prado’s second book of poems Ex Voto, was translated into English by the American poet Ellen Watson and published in 2013 year. This book is a treasure. Not just for Watson’s translations that come so alive on the page, that bring such clarity to Prado’s loose-limbed yet muscular poems, her sure-footed shifts of tone, but for the introduction by Russian American poet Ilya Kaminsky. It’s a prose paean to Prado’s craft but also a primer on devotional poetics.

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A Bewitchery of Words and Natural and Mythic Worlds – The New Poems of Nova Scotian Poet Anne Simpson

Nova Scotian poet, adjunct professor, essayist and novelist, Anne Simpson. Photo Credit: St Francis Xavier University

IN THE TEDIUM

I go into days and nights, one after the other. A cup set down,
a scraped chair.

Outside, a coyote, tangled yelps. Moon, the way it lies

on snow. Snakebite blue.

I get up, stone.
I sit down, stone. King of morning, noon, night. Eat each stone,
spit it out.

This is what’s called normal.
It isn’t normal. It’s deathwater.

Don’t let me lose the sound of you. I’ll make a raft of your laughter.
My nose against your nose. Your tongue—
O, now it’s stone.

What have I done to you?

Anne Simpson from strange attractor, McClelland & Stewart, 2019

This poem captures, I think, some of what many of us, isolated at home because of Covid-19, are feeling. Maybe not the depth of the sense of loss in this poem but at least some of it. Maybe a sense, too, of the loss of our old selves, the hurly-burley ones racing around in our normal busyness. That sound of us.

And that question: What have I done with you? And maybe more challenging and profound, what if it’s not the busy one we miss but the one whom we left behind in our busyness. The one, during this time of quiet for so many, we may be forced to acknowledge, to confront. And normal, as not normal, as deathwater!  What deathwater do I need to spit out? The stone-cold taste of it.

And now by way of introducing Anne Simpson I need to declare I know her, the celebrated Nova Scotian/ Canadian novelist, essayist, teacher and poet, She was generous enough to write a commendation for the back of my poetry collection Hyaena Season in 2016. Okay, that’s out of the way!

I first got to know Anne at a Jane Hirschfield poetry retreat in Key West, Florida in 2015. It felt somewhat surreal to be sitting in the same circle, as fellow students, with someone, Anne, who had won the prestigious Griffin Poetry Prize in 2004. But Anne’s easy modesty and understated manner made it easy. But make no mistake: as much as Jane Hirschfield is one of the most accomplished poets of her generation on her side of the border, Anne is surely one of those on our side!
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Patrick’s Poets – #3 in a Series – Vancouver Island’s Mary Ann Moore

Poet, blogger, book eviewer and writer mentor, Mary Ann in front of Susan Musgrave’s B&a in Haida Gwaii

Only Child

Even though I’m an only child, no one
can remember what time I was born.

Dad was sure it was midnight, he heard
the whistle of the train going north.

Aunt Valada said it was early morning,
just after she saw the milkman on Princess Street.

Mum couldn’t recall the time.

She said I had gashes on either side of my head
from the forceps. I had to stay in hospital,

there was something wrong with my eyes.
Grandma recommended carrots, bread crusts

to give me curly hair and it worked out
as did 10:30 a.m. figured out by Elizabeth,

the astrologer I once slept with, the two of us
in her single bed, the Cowboy Junkies on CD.

Mary Ann Moore, Unpublished with Permission

Mary Ann Moore need little introduction to the Vancouver Island writing community. Based out of Nanaimo she has been leading writing circles and has been a wonderfuly frequent participant at poetry retreats and readings up and down the island for many years. It has been a pleasure to hear Mary Ann’s poems for more than ten years. To see how her poet’s  eye for  details using a spare everyday plain diction has developed and developed into today’s finely honed and distinctive voice. Each word counts and her comic timing feels just right. In her poem above, to start at birth in hospital and end up in a single bed with an astrolger lover! Got to love it!

I first met Mary Ann at a Patrick Lane poetry retreat many years ago and so I was so glad to see the photo below taken at a Patrick Lane retreat by my dear friend Liz McNally, for many years the organizer of the Patrick retreats. And it was Liz I first featured in this series on poets mentored by Patrick! The second poet featured was Martha Royea. Other Patrick poets I have featured outside this series include Heidi Garnett, Rosemary Griebel, Linda Thompson, Barbara Pelman, Rhonda Ganz, Terry Ann Carter and, Susan Alexander.
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A Poem for Our Time by the Great Spanish Poet Antonio Machado – Walker, There Is No Road, The Road is Made by Walking

Spanish poet Antonio Machado (1875-1939)

from Proverbs and Songs

#29

Walker, your footsteps
are the road, and nothing more.
Walker, there is no road,
the road is made by walking.
Walking you make the road,
and turning to look behind
you see the path you never
again will step upon.
Walker, there is no road,
only foam trails on the sea.

Antonio Machado, trans. Willis Barnstone from Antonio Machado, Border of a Dream: Selected Poems, Copper Canyon Press, 2004

This celebrated poem by the Spanish poet Antonio Machado (1875- 1939) first came to my attention through American poet Robert Bly in his seminal anthology, The Soul Is Here For Its Own Joy. Then it got a lot more personal when my beloved partner and wife Somae quoted it to me in day three of us getting together. I was getting all focused on the future and she gently reminded me, through this poem,  one day at time, Richard. One day at a time! Now I look back on more than four thousand three hundred and eighty of them!

And how relevant is this poem today. Its emphasis on one step at a time. Each step based on today. Only looking back will we know the path! It reminds me of the great line by David Whyte: what we can plan is too small for us to live.

And this huge little poem rings so true especially now during the pandemic when worry about the future looks like is running amok like a virus. What businesses will never reopen. The long term impact on investment portfolios, pensions, our standard of living. Instead this huge little poem says one step today, Another tomorrow. And trust that the step tomorrow may not be part of anything you planned.
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Grief Work – Two Versions of a Poem by Natalie Diaz

Hispanic and Indigenous American poet Natalie Diaz

Grief Work

Why not go toward the things I love?

I have walked slow in the garden
of her—: gazed the black flower

            dilating her animal-
            eye

I give up my sorrows
the way a bull gives it horns—: astonished,

            and wishing there is rest
            in the body’s softest parts.

Like Jacob’s angel, I touched the garnet
of her hip,

            and she knew my name,
            and I knew hers—:

it was Auxocromo, it was Cromofóro,
it was Eliza.

When the eyes and lips are brushed with honey
what is seen and said will never be the same,

so why not take the apple
in your mouth—:

            in flames, in pieces, straight
            from the knife’s sharp edge?

Achilles chased Hector round the walls
of Ilium three times—: how long must I circle

the high gate
between her hip and knee

            to solve the red-gold geometry
            of her thigh?

Again the gods put their large lands in me,
move me, break my heart

like a clay jug of wine, loosen a beast
from some darklong depth.

            My melancholy is hoofed.
            I, the terrible beautiful

Lampon, a shining devour-horse tethered
at the bronze manger of her collarbones.

            I do my grief work
            with her body—:

labor to make the emerald tigers
in her throat leap,

lead them burning green to drink
from the deep-violet jetting her breast.
We go where there is love,
to the river, on our knees beneath the sweet
water. I pull her under four times,

            until we are rivered. 
            We are rearranged.

I wash the silk and silt of her from my hands—:
now who I come to, I come clean to, 

            I come good to.

Natalie Diaz from Postcolonial Love Poem, Graywolf Press, 2020

A friend of mine responded to my post on Natalie Diaz yesterday by saying my featured poem reminded her so much of another favorite poem of her whose author she couldn’t remember. As she started to read her poem I realized it was Grief Work by Natalie Diaz published in 2015! What I didn’t realize was how that poem was revised in her newly released book Postcolonial Love Poem.

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The Poetic Disruptions of Natalie Diaz – A Rich and Complex Title Poem in a Brilliant and Complex Book – Her Second Collection – Postcolonial Love Poem

Indigenous and Hispanic American poet, Natalie Diaz. Photo Credit: Remezcla, a digital publisher, creative agency, and entertainment company.

Postcolonial Love Poem

I’ve been taught bloodstones can cure a snakebite,
can stop the bleeding—most people forgot this
when the war ended. The war ended
depending on which war you mean: those we started,
before those, millennia ago and onward,
those which started me, which I lost and won—
these ever-blooming wounds.
I was built by wage. So I wage Love and worse—
always another campaign to march across
a desert night for the cannon flash of your pale skin
settling in a silver lagoon of smoke at your breast.
I dismount my dark horse, bend to you there, deliver you
the hard pull of all my thirsts—
I learned Drink in a country of drought.
We pleasure to hurt, leave marks
the size of stones—each a cabochon polished
by our mouths. I, your lapidary, your lapidary wheel
turning—green mottled red—
the jaspers of our desires.
There are wild flowers in my desert
which take up to twenty years to bloom.
The seeds sleep like geodes beneath hot feldspar sand
until a flash flood bolts the arroyo, lifting them
in its copper current, opens them with memory—
they remember what their god whispered
into their ribs: Wake up and ache for your life.
Where your hands have been are diamonds
on my shoulders, down my back, thighs—
I am your culebra.
I am in the dirt for you.
Your hips are quartz-light and dangerous,
two rose-horned rams ascending a soft desert wash
before the November sky unyokes a hundred-year flood—
the desert returned suddenly to its ancient sea.
Arise the wild heliotrope, scorpion weed,
blue phacelia which hold purple the way a throat can hold
the shape of any great hand—
Great hands is what she called mine.
The rain will eventually come, or not.
Until then, we touch our bodies like wounds—
The war never ended and somehow begins again.

Natalie Diaz from Postcolonial Love Poem, Graywolf Press, March 3rd, 2020

What a poem! This eponymous poem by the indigenous and Hispanic American, Natalie Diaz, from her second poetry collection in almost eight years, Postcolonial Love Poem. This poem and its book, both dazzling in their dark and daring undercurrents, crosscurrents of danger, loss, eros, longing, and conflict given to us in rich mixture of meta and personal motifs and moments. And such duende, those so-called dark notes, in this poem and in many of the other poems in her book.So many hungry lines, the kind of lines she says she likes to write!

And as I say in the title of this poem Diaz’s poetry is a poetry of disruptions. Disruptions of war and the subjugation of the U.S.’s indigenous population, the disruption of post colonialism, environmental degradation and climate change; disruption of addiction through the lens of her addict brother and the disruptions of love. But through it all is a deep undercurrent of eros and Lorca’s duende – the dark notes. But above all, the power of longing and love in this book , love for beloveds and the land,  do not succumb to the book’s underlying themes of conflict and surviving oppression.
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To Put the Soul Right – A Poem (plus two others) by Caitlin Maude, With Thanks to Ilya Kaminsky for Sharing It

Irish poet Caitlín Maude (1941-1982)

I Long For the Rhyme of Health

I long for the rhyme of health
a small fresh syllable
a poultice of words
to put the soul right
and make the body strong.

I long for a rhyme
to put the soul right.

Caitlín Maude, trans. from the Gaelic by Pearse Hutchinson from a Facebook post by American Ukrainian poet Ilya Kaminsky

Call this my daily pandemic task, cleaning up the books and papers off the floor of my library! And call this poem by Caitlín Maude, featured above, an unexpected gift from that challenging task. I found it in a print out of poems and quotes posted by Ilya Kaminsky on Facebook before Christmas. That man is a treasure trove of great lines and quotes. Wise snippets.

In the first reading I had missed the Maude poem but in today’s circumstances it stuck out.  When I thought of the vitamins and such I am taking to boost my immune systen against Covid-19 I was forcefully reminded that perhaps an under-rated boost to my spiritual and physical immunity is the thing I love and cherish – poetry!

Oh how this wee poem sings out its heart to me! To put the soul right! To put the world right!  So apt for today. And I know as Keats knew that poetry has a lot to do with the soul! And if this poem isn’t some kind of deep soul-speak I don’t know what is.

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These Days I Can’t Seem To Get Enough of Greg Orr, His Latest Book – Two More Wisdom Poems for Hard Times

American poet Gregory Orr. Photo Credit: Emily Bolden

It’s narrow . . .

It’s narrow, and no room
For error—I zig

And zag through
The treacherous channel.

What fool said joy
Is less risky than grief?

My ship could wreck
On either shore.

Needing to navigate
By contradiction:

What I want to grip,
I need to release.

When despair says
“Let go,” I must hold

Gregory Orr from The Last Love Poem I Will Ever Write, W.W. Norton & Company, 2019

I seem to be on a Greg Orr binge these days. To see last week’s post on Orr please click here and to see my introductory post to Orr back in 2012 please click here. Now the poem above and one below to feast on.

What to with opposites? How connected they can be in strange ways. Here in the poem above, It’s narrow . . ., two shores, each that can cause a wreck. Joy and despair. And then how to avoid coming aground on either. The lovely contradictions. The need to release joy, not clutch it. And the need to hold on to life when despair says: Let go.

Greg Orr’s poem from his latest book also makes me so aware of how I can hold joy at arms length. That way I think I will avoid the let down when it goes. For me that’s worse then holding on too tight to it! What I appreciate: the thought stirred by Orr’s poem that I must hold all of it lightly. Even my life. Letting go as our great act of generosity.
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A Found Poem – By Italian Novelist Francesca Melandri from The Guardian on March 27th – When All of This Is Over the World Won’t Be the Same

Italian novelist, screenwriter and documentary filmmaker Francesca Melandri (1964 – )

From The Guardian:

The acclaimed Italian novelist Francesca Melandri,
who has been under lockdown in Rome for almost three weeks
due to the Covid-19 outbreak, has written a letter
to fellow Europeans “from your future”,
laying out the range of emotions people
are likely to go through over the coming weeks.

And what a letter it is. And it is as relevant for me here in Duncan on Vancouver Island as it is to her fellow Europeans. I posted the letter from The Guardian on Facebook earlier today and as I did I once again thought how more powerful it would be as a poem! So I lineated it, gave it stanzas and took out a few prosey lines or phrases here and there but otherwise all the words in the “poem are Francesca’s.

This “poem”/letter has so many surprises in it.  Things that seem so obvious once I read them but weren’t so obvious before. The real human cost of the lockdown/ self isolation around the globe. What might happen inside those houses and apartments. Will spouses and children be beaten? Will marriages collapse? With the emphasis on cases and deaths and the looming economic toll some of these other tolls are not so well described. But they are here.  I especially appreciated her arch remarks about how nice it is the CO2 emissions have been cut in half but how will I pay my bills?

I hope you enjoy this “poem”/letter as much as I do!

A Letter To My Fellow Europeans

I am writing to you from Italy.
From your future. We are now
where you will be in a few days,
in a parallel dance.

We are but a few steps ahead of you
just like Wuhan was ahead of us. We watch
you as you behave just as we did. You hold
the same arguments we did,
between those who still say
“it’s only a flu, why all the fuss?”
and those who have already understood.

From your future, we know many
of you, as you were told to lock yourselves
up into your homes, quoted Orwell,
some even Hobbes. But soon you’ll be too busy
for that. Read More »

In a Strange Time, A Familiar Voice in These Pages- A Poem from Today, March 28th, by Francesca Bell from Rattle’s Poets Respond

American Poet Francesca Bell

LOVE IN THE TIME OF COVID-19
for my husband, 21 years my senior

There are so many times
I could have killed you.

After 28 years of marriage—
the only contact sport
I’ve ever stuck with—

I found myself

crying this morning,
after a trip outside,
singing Happy Birthday

three times through,

just to be sure,

scrubbing despite
the sting of my split skin

as I’ve loved you
through even the rub
of the raw years.

I held my hands steady
in the water’s reassuring scald,

trying and trying
to save you.

Francesca Bell from Poets Respond at Rattle Online, March 28th, 2020

This is my fourth blog post featuring the American poet Francesca Bell. To see my most recent post on her first book please click here.

What I find startling in this poem published online by Rattle a few hours ago, is its simplicity but also its richness. Through her craft. Also they way Bell can be so personal without a hint of sentimentality. How well she does that here. Nothing like a love poem that begins: There are so many times/ I could have killed you. That’s enough to kill any sentimentality. And makes the love in the last lines so much more believable and impactful.

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