POETRY MONDAY:  April 2, 2018

Good morning, poetry lovers everywhere, on this early April day that actually, right after the dismal March that we in New England call “mud season,” feels like spring, with temperature in the near-balmy forties.  While April isn’t really laughing her “girlish laughter,” neither is she yet weeping “girlish tears.”

This is also National Poetry Month, which we have celebrated for so long and with such verve that it’s hard to believe it was first introduced as recently as 1966 and has since become the largest literary festival in the world.  Teachers in schools everywhere are introducing children to and helping them to experience poetry.

I had intended to make today’s column an exhortation – a call to you to be vigilant in service to poetry.  Go to senior centers, assisted-living facilities, “over-55” residences.  See that poetry isn’t relegated to a dim corner, and donate if you can.  Go to your few-and-far-between independent bookstores, as well as the chains, and check out their collections.  Look over the course catalogs that arrive in the mail.  As you buy a poet’s collected works, donate the individual volumes to places where the collections are thin.  Publicize what you’re doing and get people out to poetry events in your area –readings, book launches, and the like – and if there are none, organize some.  Arts funding is drying up; fight it.  Become a missionary on behalf of poetry.  Buy the theme-based anthologies that support your causes, e.g., Poets in the Age of Trump.  Did I imagine this title?  Perhaps.  And here’s an important question: How many of your friends and relatives can name a single well-known good contemporary poet, the Poet Laureate of the U.S., of your own state, or for our international readers, your own country, county, province?

Well, I said “had intended,” but it looks as if I did it after all.

Now to a sadder topic.  We’ve just lost another wonderful poet. Colette Inez, author of eleven books of poetry and a memoir, born in 1930, died early this year.  It was a shock to me, personally as well as professionally, because I hadn’t known she was ill.  Unlike so many of us, her writing seemed to ignore mortality and the infirmities of aging.  She retained the buoyant spirit exemplified in one of her most recent collections, The Luba Poems (Red Hen Press, 2015).  The Luba of these poems is like a joyous avatar for Inez herself – dancing, lively, passionate.

It’s almost unbelievable that such poems could have been written by someone her age – as unbelievable as her amazing life story, detailed in her memoir, The Secret of M. Dulong.  Here we learn that she was a child whose father was a priest and mother a scholar.  Conceived in Paris, she was born in Brussels, where she spent her early childhood in a Catholic orphanage.  Later she was moved to America, landing first in a foster home on the South Shore of Long Island.  Later she lived in Cleveland, Ohio.  That she survived at all is remarkable; that she survived with wit, joy and the ability to love as she did is more so. She married a fine and loyal man, a free-lance writer born in Brooklyn, Saul Stadtmauer, who was always her champion and I suspect was the author of the splendid obituary that arrived in my mail last week.

It shouldn’t take much urging for you to seek out one of her many books.

                     –Irene Willis
                        Poetry Editor


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