Tag Archives: poetry

Violin Song

Lynda with violin

Me, approximately age 5

A poet is a man who puts up a ladder to a star and climbs it while playing a violin. ~ Edmond de Goncourt

Violin Song
by Aline Murray Kilmer

The thing that I am seeking
I know I shall not find;
A wistful voice is crying
This sorrow in my mind.
I know I shall not find it
However far I go,
But I shall always seek it –
My heart has told me so.

Though I must always wander
I do not find it sweet;
There is no journey’s ending
To draw my restless feet.
There is no distant vision
To help me on my way;
I know my quest is hopeless
And yet I may not stay.

The thing that I am seeking
Should not be far to seek.
I hear this haunting echo
Through every word I speak.
So I shall always seek it
Down all the roads I go,
But I shall never find it –
My heart has told me so.

[Note: This post is #22 of 26 of the April A-to-Z Challenge. Please see the button at the right of the page for more information.]

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Poetry in Motion

Jane Reece and Paul Shivell exhibit

Capturing the Moment: The Intersection of Poetry and Photography in the Work of Paul Shivell and Jane Reece

 

Photography’s own etymology connects it to writing: photography literally means writing with light. A great many poems focus on light and time, photography’s two essential ingredients. Illumination is at the heart of both, the illumination of something evanescent, intense, fleeting. The singular eye of the photographer is akin to the singular voice of the poet. How alike poems and photographs can feel, both concise slivers of the whole, blinks of time and sensation.

~ Scripps College, 2006

Part of my work as an archivist is creating exhibits which highlight our collection materials. Exhibits give us the chance to show off some of our materials, sometimes the familiar, sometimes the unknown, and to take our materials –usually copies, not originals, by the way– to different areas. Special Collections and Archives is located on the top floor of our library, a place few people head unless they know they want to see us or to find a quiet spot to study. Many of our exhibit cases, including our largest ones, are located just inside the main entrances to our library.

My colleague, officemate, and BFF Toni and I have just finished creating and installing two cases of exhibits that we both simply fell in love with while doing the project. We hatched the idea for these cases back in early winter and have been putting them together ever since. The focus –Capturing the Moment– centers on the work of Jane Reece, a local Dayton photographer from the early part of the 20th century, and her fabulous photography.

Jane Reece self-portrait

"The Poinsettia Girl," Jane Reece self-portrait, 1907.

Coupled with Reece’s phenomenal photographs are other local Dayton artists, notably the Schwarz Sisters, who founded the Dayton Ballet, and poet Paul Shivell.

Toni created the magnificent and hauntingly beautiful exhibit on the Schwarz Sisters and Reece.

Schwarz Sisters and Jane Reece exhibit

Capturing the Moment: The Intersection of Dance and Photography in the Careers of the Schwarz Sisters and Jane Reece

Reece’s photographs of the two sisters capture their beauty and elegance, their graceful movements.

My contribution was the side of the exhibit pictured at the top of the post – the Jane Reece and Paul Shivell connection. Shivell’s poetry is a mix of religious works, folksy dialect poems, and –what I think are his best works– his pastorals, many of which were written about the Stillwater River near Dayton. His first book was published in 1898, but it was his second one, Stillwater Pastorals, which attracted the most attention. Indeed, it caught the eye of one famous American poet, Robert Frost. As I noted in a post last fall about Frost, Frost sent a letter to Shivell, complimenting him on the book, mentioning two poems by name. When I saw that letter, I knew I wanted to create an exhibit about this little-known Dayton poet. When Toni raised the idea of doing an exhibit using Reece’s photographs, I knew it was a winner. Part of the new Shivell collection we have are portraits of Shivell and his family taken by Reece. Between the Shivell collection (which is still being processed) and the Reece collection, there were many portraits available to work with. Reece took portraits of Shivell, including a stunning study of just his hands. She also took family portraits, photographs of his children, and there are Reece photographs of Shivell’s daughter from about the age of 4 or 5 all the way up into adulthood. In return, Shivell had written several sonnets to Jane Reece, including works about her cottage, the art of her photography, and several on specific images, including his own portrait by her. And in a strange, final connection, I discovered that Reece had taken a series of portraits of Robert Frost as well. I love it when things come together.

So, especially since April is National Poetry Month, what better way to celebrate Poetry in Motion than by looking at the unique blending of dance, poetry, and photography, each an art of capturing the moment.

[Note: This post is #16 of 26 of the April A-to-Z Challenge. Please see the button on the right of the page for more information.
Last year’s “P” post: Peacock in the Park.]

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Life’s Tragedy

stone wall barrier from sxc by juliaf

Ever have one of those days (weeks? months?) where it feels as though you just keep hitting wall after wall after wall? Where even doing simple things takes an extraordinary amount of effort, or steps, or oomph?

I’m pretty sure this week is one of those weeks. The first couple of things that go awry, I mutter and go on. The next few happen, and I begin to suspect collaboration by fates or circumstance or some other invisible force. The walls keep appearing, the stones grow higher, and I begin to look back at myself. To wonder if I’m not being the problem instead of the solution. To question if I’m getting in my own way. Sometimes it’s me, sometimes it’s not.

But I’m reminded of the poem by Paul Laurence Dunbar, “Life’s Tragedy,” in which he brings home a simple truth: sometimes we lose sight of what is good by looking at what is not. By not taking pleasure in what we can do or what we try, we focus on how far from perfect the attempt was. Every now and again, that’s a lesson I need.

Life’s Tragedy
by Paul Laurence Dunbar

It may be misery not to sing at all
And to go silent through the brimming day.
It may be sorrow never to be loved,
But deeper griefs than these beset the way.

To have come near to sing the perfect song
And only by a half-tone lost the key,
There is the potent sorrow, there the grief,
The pale, sad staring of life’s tragedy.

To have just missed the perfect love,
Not the hot passion of untempered youth,
But that which lays aside its vanity
And gives thee, for thy trusting worship, truth –

This, this it is to be accursed indeed;
For if we mortals love, or if we sing,
We count our joys not by the things we have,
But by what kept us from the perfect thing.

[Note: This post is #12 of 26 of the April A-to-Z Challenge. Please see the button on the right of the page for more information.
Last year’s “L” post: Labyrinth.]

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Homage to my Hips

Poet Lucille Clifton

Lucille Clifton

Things don’t fall apart. Things hold. Lines connect in thin ways that last and last and lives become generations made out of pictures and words just kept. ~ Lucille Clifton

One of my favorite contemporary poets is Lucille Clifton. Although she passed away in 2010, her poetry has been published in various forms since the late 1960s. Her unabashedly honest writing, her mix of hard truth and humor, and her celebration of self in every form are some of the reasons her poetry calls to me.

Today, I’ll share one of my favorite poems of hers with you. You’ll find the text here, but I hope you’ll follow the link and go listen to Clifton read this poem herself. The poem exists; her reading gives it life, especially in her introduction of the work, where she celebrates “the wonderfulness that I am:”

homage to my hips
By Lucille Clifton

these hips are big hips
they need space to
move around in.
they don’t fit into little
petty places. these hips
are free hips.
they don’t like to be held back.
these hips have never been enslaved,
they go where they want to go
they do what they want to do.
these hips are mighty hips.
these hips are magic hips.
i have known them
to put a spell on a man and
spin him like a top!

How do you celebrate the wonderfulness that you are?

[Note: This post is #8 of 26 of the April A-to-Z Challenge. Please see the button on the right of the page for more information.
Last year’s “H” post: Helpful Tips for Capturing Family Stories.]

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Monday Moments: Paul Laurence Dunbar

Dunbar Celebration Schedule

If Death should claim me for her own to-day,
And softly I should falter from your side,
Oh, tell me, loved one, would my memory stay,
And would my image in your heart abide?
~ “Love-Song” by Paul Laurence Dunbar

Over the past several weeks, I’ve spent many hours with Paul Laurence Dunbar’s poetry. The university library where I work is officially named after him, and Dunbar was a significant figure in Dayton’s history. So since last fall, I’ve been working with a committee here on campus to plan out an entire month of events to encourage the study of Dunbar’s life and works, and offering new ways to “Experience: Paul Laurence Dunbar.”

The kick-off was last Tuesday night, and it combined several pieces of the events which are available throughout the month. The complete series is listed on the poster above. Since I realize most of you aren’t anywhere nearby, I thought I’d share some of what we’re doing in a few posts this February. So, like the folks on Tuesday night, here’s a little intro to what all we’ve been up to with Paul Laurence Dunbar.

So, who was Dunbar? Excellent question! Dunbar was a Dayton native who was considered one of the first nationally known African American writers. Despite living only 33 years, Dunbar produced 12 books of poetry as well as a number of novels and books of short stories. The son of former slaves, Dunbar attended school and was a high-school classmate of Orville Wright. Dunbar was best known for his poems in dialect, but he wrote beautiful poems in standard English as well. One of his best known poems, “Sympathy,” from 1899, which includes a line made famous by Maya Angelou, “I know why the caged bird sings.”

Since 1992, the Wright State University Libraries has maintained a Digital Text collection of Dunbar’s published poetry on our website. It consistently gets the largest number of hits out of any other portion of our site, in fact. So one of our contributions to the month-long Dunbar celebration was to completely revise, update, and relaunch the Paul Laurence Dunbar portion of our website. We added images to our photo gallery, wrote a new biography, and now provide information on visiting Dunbar sites in Dayton as well as a whole long list of resources about Dunbar for anyone interested in learning more about him. While our fabulous web designer developed the look and motion of the site, one of my jobs was to create and update content. That included proofreading and editing the code behind all 430+ Dunbar poems, which means I read each of them at least three times. There were some nights I swear I ended up dreaming in dialect! But it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience to be able to surround myself with one person’s poetry so thoroughly and completely.

Anyway, on this February Monday, I hope you’ll take a moment and come check out our Dunbar site! Dunbar’s poetry influenced later writers during the Harlem Renaissance and throughout the 20th century and made an amazing contribution to American poetry and literature.

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