Irish Poets in Placitas! A Class with John Roche

Poet John Roche in Dublin with James Joyce statue, July 2018

Contemporary Irish Poets 5 week class with John Roche
Where: Jules’ Poetry Playhouse, Placitas, NM
When: September 4 to October 2, 2019
(Five Wednesday nights, 6:30-9:00 pm)
Cost: $125
(Class Limited to Twelve Students, plus one Scholarship)

***Scholarship info: email

A five-week course beginning with the legacies of Seamus Heaney and John Montague, then focusing on living Irish poets like Michael Longley, Paul Muldoon, Eavan Boland, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, Medb McGuckian, Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, Mark Granier, and Paula Meehan. We’ll also consider three Irish poets who visited New Mexico recently, Kevin Higgins, Eamonn Wall, and Annemarie Ní Churreáin. This class will concentrate on reading and discussion. No lectures or tests. But we will try our hand at some poetry writing exercises.

About the instructor: John Roche is Associate Professor Emeritus of English at Rochester Institute of Technology (where he taught creative writing and literature courses, including Irish Literature), and Co-Director of Jules’ Poetry Playhouse. He holds an MA in Anglo-Irish Literature from University College Dublin, as well as a PhD in English from the State University of New York at Buffalo. Dr. Roche is also a poet who has published four books of poems and produced a number of poetry anthologies, including, most recently, the Poets Speak series.

Poem by Osip Mandelstam

A friend just sent me this poem in the comments section under Dictators and I felt it deserved its own blog. Mandelstam was a Jewish Russian poet, one of the three Acmeists, along with Anna Akhmatova and Marina Tsvetaeva. Their lives were destroyed by Stalin. Tsvetaneva killed herself and Mandelstam died in a transit camp on the way to a Siberian gulag. His widow, Nadezhda, wrote two incredible memoirs, Hope Against Hope and Hope Abandoned. The titles play on her name, which means Hope in Russian. She managed to preserve his poems by hiding them in a pot on the stove. The secret police ransacked the apartment but failed to discover them. She felt that was because they were men–it was an obvious hiding place to a woman. With Ahkmatova she survived the purges, in part because the two were–for unclear reasons–evacuated to central Asia during WW2.

Our lives no longer feel ground under them.
At ten paces you can’t hear our words.

But whenever there’s a snatch of talk
it turns to the Kremlin mountaineer,

the ten thick worms his fingers,
his words like measures of weight,

the huge laughing cockroaches on his top lip,
the glitter of his boot-rims.

Ringed with a scum of chicken-necked bosses
he toys with the tributes of half-men.

One whistles, another meows, a third snivels.
He pokes out his finger and he alone goes boom.

He forges decrees in a line like horseshoes,
One for the groin, one the forehead, temple, eye.

He rolls the executions on his tongue like berries.
He wishes he could hug them like big friends from home.

Osip Mandelstam
(trans. merwin/brown)

3 Questions for Lauren Camp

Miriam Sagan — 3 Questions interview with Lauren Camp

1. What is your personal/aesthetic relationship to the poetic line? That is, how do you understand it, use it, etc.

I came to poetry from careers in magazine and technical writing and visual art, and from the hobbyist perspective of jazz. I fell in love with the poetic line, which is, in a way, a hint, a color, and a sound all mixed. I’m fascinated by its liquidity, how it can move through some, but not the entirety, of a thought. Its ability to be rich in meaning, and yet to shape-shift. That it urges (depending on the punctuation or lack of it) a journey to another part of the composition. The line is a length that can be manipulated: short, long, stressed, rushed, stretched, ended, pulled forward…Perhaps a fragment, and so then, a whimsy, even when dealing in hard views. The line: a truth. There are likely to be other sounds and truths below it, if the reader will just settle in. I delight in the fact that it doesn’t hold still. It’s a direction, a mapping—but maybe also a misdirection.

2. Do you find a relationship between words and writing and the human body? Or between your writing and your body?

I’m an avid reviser. There’s a deep relaxation to that process for me, because it is all about letting go. Perhaps for a while there is no body as I reorder, cut, expand, or otherwise change course. When something good happens, something satisfying with the words and their sounds, I feel a tickle in my nerve endings. I read aloud as I revise, and the sound reverberates through me, sometimes with a friction I find pleasing, other times with tenderness —the sibilants running along, radiant stresses, the pummel of hard consonants.

3. Is there anything you dislike about being a poet?

I’m sometimes overwhelmed by the effort (and alignment of planets) that it takes to get a poem to the right audience. I’m talking about the full cycle, not strictly the submission and acceptance, but the follow-up effort to make sure (or hope) people notice it. Self-promotion is a beast compared to the luminosity of poetry writing. Yet, there is much that I love in actually being a poet: the allowance to focus wherever I choose, the realization that (because of my temperament) I can be entirely sensitive to an image, find a story in a shift of light, or claim and study a certain feeling. How else might I get such a chance to just plain feel?

Here, and Here

Been here
a while, and I haven’t yet

read all
different ways the beginning—

Life is part thus,
and part commonplace:

the rippling light
riding the edge of the porch

and so what
if the ditch ends

in rust and abrupt
obsidian? We see it all, and take

pictures of elevation,
unable to find another view. We love

the detachment, the broken

on the window.
To whom should we rejoice

about what
never happens?

(Poem from Turquoise Door, first published in Driftless Review)

Poetry Post News

FRAMED! There is new project for the Poetry Posts on Santa Fe Community College campus.

Santa Fe Poet Laureate Elizabeth Jacobson, along with Miriam Sagan who originated the posts, will curate 12 poets in the next 24 months. Expect a gathering of voices and some fresh poetry. There are ten posts for a walkable literary experience. The inaugural installation is poetry by Elizabeth Jacobson, to celebrate her appointment. It’s up July and August!

Courtyard C

My Poems Were Rejected For Being Sentimental by Miriam Sagan

And that surprised me, although I’m always interested in editorial feedback. Obviously a difference of aesthetic between me and this publication for short poems. However, it got me thinking.
I think of sentimentality as superficial positive emotion instead of authentic feeling. The dead person we grieve was a saint. Mothers are perfect. You, my darling, bring to mind only hearts and kisses.
But I’m not against passion, admiration, desire, mad love. In fact, I like those things.

Here is one of the rejected poems:

is no longer a planet
but you’re still
in my bed
no one knows
how to understand

Perhaps it is a bit sentimental? At least, it has sentiment. I’d hope that Pluto and the words gravitational wobble would keep it off a Hallmark card. I also think “in my bed” if not cynical certainly isn’t gushy. So, we have a bit of science, a bit of the mystery of love…yes indeed, I did write this poem. In any case, it’s mine.