“In This Valley”, Thanks for Being There
Usually I read all new works at my poetry readings, but this event was also part of the celebration of Carnegie’s 120th year so my poems focused specifically on sites and events in Carnegie. I read, as usual, 12 poems, two of which were new, one written specifically for this reading to an audience of about 30 people, friends, family, and others who I’d never met.
I always introduce the theme and give a brief narrative for each poem before reading it, and a summary afterward. My readings also include an exhibit of art and photographs and while this is also mostly new, this exhibit was taken from my collection of photos and sketches from around town in a collection I call “My Home Town” as well as most of the 32 photographs in the collections “Of Harps and Fig Leaves” and “Carnegie Photographed” which are a permanent exhibition in the Reception Hall. This year it included a few new street sketches, paintings and photos and note cards on display from the set “My Home Town” and “Eye on the Sparrow”. Two pieces were borrowed from their owners, all the rest are for sale, both originals and prints.
Much of what I do is inspired by the place I live as I’ve walked the trails and streets of Carnegie and the surrounding area, watching the land and people change from my childhood. Most of my poems began with something I saw, which often has multiple levels of inspiration for me and can inspire many different works. I photograph everything I possibly can and I may never use that photograph but sometimes it becomes a work in its own right. Then it may immediately or later become a sketch or painting, then possibly a poem and even some times a short story. You’ve seen and read the beginnings of these many times here on Today.
I ordered the poems according to the time frame they referred to. It’s interesting to see how the context of reading a poem can change my own reading of it and the poem’s reception. For instance, I read August 28, 1941 the first year I wrote it in all seriousness, despite the sometimes comical notices included in the classified ads that made that poem, in the face of the imminent world war. Last night reading the prices and products and comments from that era provided natural humor for everyone in the audience that felt completely appropriate and perhaps the last line referring to the storm on the horizon was even more gripping after our laughter.
Several poems were about or referred to things that I’d…found in the trash, and why they were found in the trash was part of the reason I included them and wrote a new poem. Many homes around town had been owned and occupied by only one family from the 1930s or 1940s to today, and contain a lot of things people kept for various reasons, things that tell a story about life in that house, and the eras the house was occupied, typical of Carnegie and towns like it. August 28, 1941 was one of those poems, and a new one entitled The Cabinet for a cabinet made in 1946 which I’d found during the time my mother was critically ill, and because WWII was “her” era the carefully handmade cabinet had touched me deeply, thinking of someone returning from overseas with all the pain and trauma and trying to get back to “normal” life.
The kingfisher I saw the other day, though, was what brought it together for me, and I wrote a poem focused on the changes that have been and those to come for Carnegie, and gave a narrative about what the kingfisher means in ecology and how our change from industry to small businesses had made a positive change in our landscape we probably hadn’t realized, cleaning up the very creek that was the reason Carnegie had been founded where it was so long ago, and that the kingfisher symbolizes the rebirth from winter to spring, transition and adventure, and hope that Carnegie is in for some positive change after all we’ve done to build and rebuild our town in this valley.
As I have done with past poetry readings, I will post the poems and images in a virtual reading on my website. The artwork will remain in the Reception Hall until the end of March. And hopefully I’ll finally have my newly-printed poetry books!
I was so excited and comfortable at this reading that I felt it was my best yet of all six. Thanks to Maggie Forbes, executive director of the ACFL&MH for hosting me.
I read these poems, those that appear here are linked and you can read many others at allpoetry:
Snow in the Cemetery
My First Decision
Memorial Day Parade
Flocks of Children
And here’s a slideshow of some of the art that’s there: