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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Laverne Frith—9/10/2007



Laverne Frith, one of Sacramento’s mainstays, spent the evening reading many of his fine short, tight poems. The poems in the first half of the reading were intensely focused on nature. They were still lifes and landscapes brought to the page. Working through a sinus problem, he commented that he hoped his poems in the chapbook had in some way a relationship to light. He hoped that, like light, they would meld together in a meaningful way.

The second half of the reading featured poems from Laverne’s newest chapbook entitled Drinking the Light. These poems ranged from meditations on art to ruminations on the death of a close friend.

The first half included titles, such as “Overflight,” “Over the Rice Fields,” “Lightning Over Albuquerque,” “In the Bottlebrush,” “If Only Mary Oliver Here,” “Desert Signatures,” “In the Shadow of the Blue Heron,” “The Beach,” “The Range of Burning,” “The Cracked Desert,” “After a Western Sunset,” “Steel,” “Drifting back to The Bottomlands while reading Li Po,” and “The Way the Fall Dies.”

Over The Rice Fields

Watch as the shorebirds fly in formation,
a white squadron wheeling in the wind.

They bank right and dip as they shadow
the targeted fields. So many decisions

that follow will be independent, as if
landing brings individual freedom

for a spell—their foragings taken at will —
protracted for as long

as the grain will last. After all,
this is not really about rice;

this is not really about flight;
this is not really about birds.

In the second half Laverne switched to reading rangier poems that reflected his interest in the creative process of capturing life within a frame like in painting and photographs. He read “My Best Friend is Blind and Dying,” “Toward Clarity: The Power of Contrast,” “Yosemite Crossing,” “An Artist’s Portrait (for Jim Leitszell)” “Cloud Rhythms, Lenticular,” “White Arachnid,” “Spirit Moth,” “Setting the Stage (after a photograph),” “Mosaic,” “Arrival Of the Normandy train at the Gere Saint-Larane (After a Painting by Monet),” “My Cats Love Bartok,” “Somewhere in Vienna,” “Drinking the Light,”Cafe Concert (after a painting by Georges Seurat)” and “Dream Dancing.”

From these the audience learned what animates and depresses Laverne’s cats: “My Cats Love Bartok. but they become morose at any hint of Wagner . . . We find them at the appointed hour blissfully engaged, clearly engrossed with Bartok.”

And now for something completely different. Hoping for them to meld together (like light) in a meaningful way, lines gleaned from the poems read by Laverne during the evening are forged into a poem-collage:

Soft Song

Such is the nature of bees,
hoping in the dark there will be a soft landing,
transforming a bright red madness.

The salamander’s heart would sing.
Already prepared for the soundings of the night.
A gentle rise and fall of vernals we can never forget.

All that is left is scrolls on empty tortoise shells.
The frogs are audible in their longing.
Even the heron’s call is beginning to sound the dread.

Outreach of hand, sadness of hand.
If Li Po were here,
he would speak to the anxieties of squirrels.

You never know how the artist’s eyes will divide you.

After an observation of mannequins,
we find them at the appointed hour, blissfully engaged,
beginning to glow in virgin eyes.

But light will not go beyond its limits,
how it lives and how it always dies.
Who knows where the shadowing will end?

Erratic loopings and zitherings,
bees drawn to endless nectar.
Let them hear your soft song.

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