Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Bellingham Library: Searching for all the drowned stories

I go to the Bellingham Library almost every day. Catch up on all the newspapers and magazines. Read and write for a while. Wander around the stacks celebrating the joys of serendipity. I love walking down the aisles puzzling over the seemingly arcane shifts of the Dewey System. The Bellingham Library is a great little library. Most importantly, it is alive. Always a good number of people there using it. It is, without a doubt, an active center of the community.

In front of the libary are a series of 11 poems on plaques for the Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest. Every year they are replaced by new winners. I stop and read over them often. I want more: huge metal books chained to the walls with heavy pages carved over with words. Anyway, here are a few of my favorites from the current series. ( Click on the image for a larger version. )

A Reefnetter's Paean to the Sea by Tyree Callahan

This is good poetry. Best one of the bunch. Rings true. Each word containing worlds resonating off of each other - look at how the awkward word "keen" stumbles on "affection," then is saved by "keeling." And that one word: "Reefnetter" just stands there front and center, singing by itself. I remember when I first read this poem, being a little tired, not really listening to the words, then coming upon the lines:
What great solemn fields of broken water
have I plowed for you;
I am a petal upon a raging sea.
Beautiful juxtaposition of imagery from solemn to raging. Haiku intensity of theme. Sort of thing that makes you forget that you are standing outside in the cold and rain reading a poem on a plaque.

Awe by Oksana Hanson

The images layer on top of each other: departing sun, soft grass, the moon. The usual poetic litany, nothing outstanding, until the phrase: "I wouldn't have noticed." It suddenly puts the poet/ reader in a strange place, somewhere outside of the poem itself. What follows is very nice.

I was simply being.
No rushing thoughts occupying my mind.
I was a bystander in the ticking of time.
There I sat,
consumed by only
the beauty,
on an island of beautiful nonsense,
unruffled by the imperfections of the outside world.

Lovely phrase, "bystander in the ticking of time" and then the rhythm slows down, lines shorten. Elliptical moments of evocation slip into the sense of it all.

the beauty,

That's beautiful, sublimely so. Those lines lingered in my memory for a long time.

It is worth adding that Oksana Hanson was in the eighth grade when she wrote this poem.

Diminishing Returns by Kate Berne Miller

I didn't want to like this poem. The structural and thematic conceits put me off, ebb and flow. I could sense the shift coming after the first sentence. A kitten swimming in a shark tank. But the broken images won me over: "beach glass in the mud," "erasing delicate tracing of snails," "steel blue waves/  snatch away names." The last sentence redeemed everything:

On these days my
mother peers into the distance, longing
for landmarks, searching for all
the drowned stories.

 I think about that often as I walk by the plaque. "Searching for all the drowned stories."

2008 Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest Winners
Winners of the 2009 Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest 

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