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poetry circle

One Page Poetry Circle Archive


September, 2012.

Welcome back to the One Page Poetry Circle at St. Agnes Branch Library!

Date: Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Time: 5:30 - 6:30 pm
Place: St. Agnes Branch Library, 444 Amsterdam Avenue (near 81st Street), 3rd Floor
Theme: Poetry and Disaster (pdf)

Please join us for an hour of authentic conversation about poetry through the examination of works of established poets. While there is no instructor and this is not a workshop for personal writing, once a month OPPC gives everyone a place to become teachers and learners to explore the form, content, language and meaning of poetry.

We open our fall season on September 11th with the subject of Poetry and Disaster. The meeting date led to our theme as 9/11 has certainly been the defining disaster for New Yorkers. We invite you to bring a single page of poetry by a known author on the subject-with copies for others, if you can. To get started on your search, try poetryfoundation.org or poets.org.

The poet Nicole Cooley writes that though we usually speak of poetry as personal or political there is another space that lies between the two: "…at this juncture, I would situate the poetry of disaster, in the 'social,' the space of community where we might find new understandings of what poetry can do in the world."

Muriel Rukeyeser ends her work "The Book of the Dead" (1938) with these lines that recognize the truth of witnessing disaster:

  • What three things can never be done?
  • Forget. Keep Silent. Stand alone.
  • The hills of glass, the fatal brilliant plain.

Poems may depict disasters like Woody Guthrie's ballad, "The Sinking of the Reuben James," that recounts the destruction of the first US Navy vessel in World War II, resulting in the loss of all but 44 of the 159 men on board:

  • Have you heard of a ship called the good Reuben James
  • Manned by hard fighting men both of honor and fame?
  • She flew the Stars and Stripes of the land of the free
  • But tonight she's in her grave at the bottom of the sea.

Often we turn to poetry in times of disaster to give voice to our feelings of despair and find assurance that other people have felt as we have. Some may find comfort through Emily Dickinson's words about the enduring quality of love in "The Bustle in a House."

  • The bustle in a house
  • The morning after death
  • Is solemnest of industries
  • Enacted upon earth.
  • The sweeping up the heart
  • And putting love away
  • We shall not want to use again
  • Until eternity.

Others may prefer Frost's "Nothing Gold Can Stay" in which the poet tells how perfection can only exist for a precious moment.

  • Nature's first green is gold,
  • Her hardest hue to hold.
  • Her early leaf's a flower;
  • But only so an hour.
  • Then leaf subsides to leaf.
  • So Eden sank to grief,
  • So dawn goes down to day.
  • Nothing gold can stay.

Both poets tease meaning out of the commonplace. They cherish what has been, although Frost describes nature and Dickenson the ordinary work of women. We look forward to reading and discussing poems on disaster that speak to you!

Here's our fall meeting lineup:

September 11: Poetry and Disaster
October 9: Poetry and Your Memories
November 13: Poetry and Time
December 11: Poetry and Repetition

See you on September 11th. Bring a friend-all are welcome!


Abigail Burnham Bloom and AnnaLee Wilson

The One Page Poetry Circle is sponsored by the New York Public Library and is open to all. St. Agnes Branch Library is handicapped accessible.


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