It’s time to look back at the last quarter and see what pieces were the most liked and listened to during those months. I released (or re-released) 51 pieces since March 1st here, more than enough to return to our regular multi-post Top Ten countdown format, so let’s present numbers 10 through 8 today as we move toward the most popular one this spring. As usual, the bolded titles are links to the original post in case you’re new here and want to read what I said when I first presented them.
10. “Blackberries” by Kevin FitzPatrick. Kevin, who died last year, was a contemporary and fellow poet to Dave Moore and myself, and this charming poem about his early experiences as a life-long urban dweller (and reader of Irish poetry) getting used to his life partner Tina’s small rural farm is a fine addition to our Top Ten today. This audio performance is a live take, and in honor of our mood of remembrance that day, I decided to leave our longish instrumental prelude in place for the version you heard here.
This poem was often a highlight when Kevin would read it, displaying his dry wit. I read it a little differently than Kevin might, but of course Kevin isn’t here to do that anymore. I will leave a reminder that Kevin’s poetry collections are available through this link run by his people.
The player gadget to hear the performance is below for many, and this highlighted link is a backup way to play it.
9. Sonnet To Beauty by Lola Ridge. While reading Lesley Wheeler’s new book about encountering poems in the context of one’s life, Poetry’s Possible Worlds, I was pleasantly surprised to find some poems there from modern New Zealand poets. If I had world enough and time, I’d like to be even more various here with the countries’ poets I present, even though most of what I know about New Zealand is from scholarly works: The Flight of the Concords and Wellington Paranormal. Despite sharing a name with an Australian settler poet, I’ve only presented a couple of emotionally riveting and under-known poems by Australian Modernist Kenneth Slessor as part of the Parlando Project — and what, not a single New Zealander? Oh, wait. There’s Lola Ridge. Ridge was born in Ireland in 1873, moved with her family as a preschooler to New Zealand. After a brief marriage, she left for Australia and then finally to America where she spent most of her life, though her early poetry does reflect her times in the Antipodes.
“Sonnet to Beauty” is likely one of those poems. Though Ridge soon became known early in the 20th century in the US as a staunch advocate of social reform and radicalism as well as knowing and interacting with many of the NYC area early 20th century Modernists, “Sonnet to Beauty” is a regular sonnet about the radical appeal of the artistic life — even while life may present buzzards misapprehended as if swans. Ridge lived that twin social and artistic radicalism thoroughly from most short accounts I’ve read.
When I presented Ridge’s poem this March it was easy for me to pair that twinned dedication with another contemporary of Dave, Kevin, and myself: Irish-American poet Ethna McKiernan. Ethna died this past winter. Yes, somedays it’s hard to see the swans instead of the certain buzzards.
Same deal, player gadget if you see it, highlighted link if you don’t.
The 3 poets whose words I use today: tilt, tilt, and look away. The light turns a buzzard out a swan?
8. The Pool by H. D. I said, re-released above, and here’s the story. Roughly a third of the listeners to this project’s audio pieces never read the posts I put up about my encounter with the poems or any thoughts I write on composing and realizing the original music. Instead, they find the recordings via podcast directories where I present only the musical pieces without the usual talking and joking that fills the running time of most podcast presentations. Having seen radio production done at a high level close-up for a couple of decades in my day-job life, I suppose I could have attempted a talking pod show about music and poetry — but if only for myself I see an appeal of these 5 minute or less podcasts that might serve as a palate cleanser between main courses of talk-talk-talk.
I’ve noticed that some of my most popular early episodes, ones that racked up a lot of listens in the early years of this Project, had rolled off the “last 100 episodes only” offering lists of most podcast directories, and so for April’s National Poetry Month I decided to “re-release” 30 of them. Even for the blog readers like you, I think many of them would be new to current readers here as well. Coming in at number 8 this Spring then is early Imagist Hilda Doolittle’s “The Pool,” a mysterious very-short poem about a tidal pool encounter. It’s so short and compressed that even at one and a half minutes of run time I had to creatively elaborate the text a bit to reach that length. I rather like the music I composed and realized for this little piece. A lot of listeners did too.
See a player gadget? You can use it. Otherwise, this highlighted link plays it too.
Back with the next three pieces in our spring Top Ten rundown soon.