Thursday, July 3, 2014, at 7:00 pm, poets Neil Shepard and Sarah Sousa will close the seventh season of the Collected Poets Series. Mocha Maya’s Coffee House, 47 Bridge St, Shelburne Falls, MA. ($2-5 suggested donation)
Neil Shepard’s most recent books include a full volume of poems, (T)ravel/Un(t)ravel (Mid-List Press, 2011), and a chapbook, Vermont Exit Ramps (Big Table Publishing, 2012). His new book, Hominid Up, is due in January 2015 from Salmon Poetry Press (Ireland). His three previous books of poetry are Scavenging the Country for a Heartbeat (First Book Award, Mid-List Press, 1993), I’m Here Because I Lost My Way (Mid-List, 1998) and This Far from the Source (Mid-List, 2006). His poems appear in several hundred literary magazines, among them Antioch Review, Boulevard, Harvard Review, New American Writing, New England Review, North American Review, Paris Review, Ploughshares, Shenandoah, Southern Review, and TriQuarterly. His poems have been nominated numerous times for the Pushcart Prize, and they have been featured online at Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, and Poem-A-Day (from the Academy of American Poets). Shepard has been a fellow at the MacDowell Arts Colony and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and he has been a visiting writer at the Chautauqua Writers Institute and The Frost Place. He founded and directed for eight years the Writing Program at the Vermont Studio Center, and he taught for several decades in the BFA Creative Writing Program at Johnson State College in Vermont until his retirement in 2009. He also founded the literary magazine Green Mountains Review a quarter-century ago, and he is currently its Senior Editor. He currently splits his time between Vermont and New York City, where he teaches poetry workshops at The Poets House and in the low-residency MFA writing program at Wilkes University (PA). Outside of the literary realm, Neil is a founding member of the jazz-poetry group POJAZZ.
Sarah Sousa’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Massachusetts Review, Passages North, Barn Owl Review, and Salt Hill Journal among others. Her first collection won the Red Mountain Press Prize and was published by Red Mountain Press in May; her second collection will be published in late 2014 by Free Verse Editions. She also edited and transcribed The Diary Of Esther Small 1886. Sousa’s poem “Learning My Name” can be viewed at Edmands Park in Newton, MA where it is affixed to a stone pillar as part of the Poetry in the Park installation project. She holds an MFA from Bennington College and lives in Western Massachusetts with her husband and two sons.
BLUSTERY / Neil Shepard
Blustery 25-below, O Walt, I wouldn’t go
And live with animals tonight —
Or anytime soon. How do
They survive in their snowy lairs?
How could I, for that matter, who
Hasn’t taken the wild Swedish plunge
Every chilly night to thicken my fur layer
By layer, I who doze by the fire
With the phone to my ear,
Doze the whole new year
Listening to my wife in such weird
Zone-warping tropical heat, naked,
Whispering her desire for 50-below,
If it brings her home. That’s fur
Of a different nature, Walt, layer
Upon layer of love that glows, grows
Over us like a sun-lit coat.
O we are hothouse flowers, Walt,
Naked and limply alive in a narrow
Equatorial zone. Otherwise, we die.
Walt, we must make do
With our lovely human hair.
THE ART OF FLYING / Sarah Sousa
Apply intent like gentle pressure
to a wound. Superfluous maybe,
but the arms should be extended.
First, a height scaled, a precipice
achieved. Read: a jumping off
place. Let go, get heavy
as when you pass from this world
to the other nightly. Breach the flimsy wall.
To rise up, you must sink
like a tonnage of links. Recognize
your intent, but obliquely,
through a half-closed eye. Bow to gravity
as the noose you’ll be slipping.
To join the hollow boned you’ll have
to cast your body down, cast it off
like a wedge of sunlight sliding
from the wall, like the fly
giving its husk to a hook and a nylon line.
But you’re not tethered and you’re not
weightless. So plummet.
Invest not in flight, but falling.
The most you can do is believe
air is measured in fathoms
and bottomless, that earth is a myth
created by birds who would kill for a rest.