June Poetry Monday: Laurel Blossom

POETRY MONDAY:  June 3, 2010

Laurel Blossom


 (Photo by Steven Haas)

Our June poet, Laurel Blossom, has published widely, in such journals and anthologies as The Paris Review, Harper’s, and Billy Collins’ 180 More: Exraordinary Poems for Every Day. Since her first published collection, a chapbook, Any Minute (Greenhouse Review Press, 1979), she has published four books, the most recent of which are a book-length narrative poem, Degrees of  Latitude (Four Way Books, 2007) and Wednesday: New and Selected Poems (Ridgeway Press, 2004).  Her poetry has been nominated for both a Pushcart Prize and the Elliston Prize.

Blossom has also edited two anthologies: Splash! Great Writing about Swimming (Ecco Press, 1996) and Many Lights in Many Windows: Twenty Years of Great Fiction and Poetry from The Writers Community (Milkweed Editions, 1997).  She also serves on the editorial board of Heliotrope: a Journal of Poetry. 

The recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York Foundation for the Arts, and the Ohio Arts Council, Blossom was elected Regent Emeritus of Harris Manchester College (Oxford University) in 2008.

My own gratitude to Laurel Blossom, which I’m sure holds true for many other poets and writers, dates to 1976, when she co-founded The Writers Community, a community-based creative writing workshop and residency program for poets and fiction writers.  I was honored to be a member during its first year, when Robert Lowell was one of many outstanding visiting poets and workshop leaders.  The program, which ran for ten years out of a former chiropractor’s office in New York City, went on to become one of the most esteemed programs of its kind.  Later it merged with The Writer’s Voice at the West Side YMCA and then with the YMCA National Writer’s Voice, where it remains an offering of the National YMCA’s Arts and Humanities Initiative.

Now residing in rural South Carolina, Blossom continues to serve poetry with membership on the Boards of the Laura (Riding) Jackson Foundation in Vero Beach, Florida, and Edgefield Regional Arts in South Carolina.

Lest my lengthy introduction distract from her fine poems, below are three new ones by Laurel Blossom.
                                             Irene Willis
                                             Poetry Editor
      Hermaphrodite of the Carpathians

At 94 she still worked the fields
as if she owned them.  No one

in her family had ever walked more
than ten miles from that village

except your great grandmother who,
at 18, walked all the way to the Hague

and took ship to America.  She wore
boots up to her thighs, that old woman.

Some young man had to help her
out of them at night.  When she laughed,

her brown teeth stood in her mouth
like timber.   And you, so tall

and so ready to fall,  my love,
descended from her like testicles.

                                    Mountain Ash

            Late summer.  Fresh vermilion rowanberry juice
                        added to gin tastes exactly

            Like Angostura bitters.  Fruit often remains

                        on the tree during winter months.

            Large clusters of small white flowers, well-shown
                        in the plate, develop late spring to early summer.

            Leaves pinnate, with tooth-edged leaflets, dark green

                       above, paler below,  autumn colours dull to

             Lovely reds and gold.  Common all over the British

                       Isles and in many parts of Europe and Scandinavia.

            Lightfoot notes it near ancient stone circles.

                       Quicken, one of its several names, means bring to

           Life, and at the same time, hurry. 


          Miracle on the Fourth Day     

The cat’s fur backlit, gleaming like an aura
in the morning sun, is that it?

The note from Viki, full of praise, is that it?
Is the decision I finally made

the amazing result the chain letter promised
if only I followed instructions?  Is it

the heron I startled into flight?
The Valentine from my granddaughter Emma?

Is it that I was able to see my part
in the argument?  The smile on his face

when I said so, is that it?
Or the fact that there’s enough water in the well?

I don’t know what I expected.  An end to the drought?
I wished for a miracle, and look at what I got.

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