Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Dodge Poetry Festival—Friday

My first assignment on Friday was to introduce Jane Hirshfield. I was delighted to have that one as I'd never heard Jane read. She is such a sweet and lovely human being. This was Teacher's Day, but her presentation on Poets on Poetry was perfect for any member of the audience.

Jane getting ready as we waited for the tent to fill.

Jane first read "The Envoi" and then spoke about some of the problems involved in its translation into Russian, e.g., there's no word for "thirsty" and "long-legged" had to be substituted with the Russian "spindly-legged" as the former apparently has negative connotations about Americans. She spoke also about a "sound-driven" poem—I like that idea—and "wandering rhymes."

She spoke also about our moods and said the one she finds least tolerable is anxiety. Yet she said that anxiety gives us good information: we need to change what is causing us anxiety. She spoke about training awareness, which is the purpose of Buddhism and something we need as poets. She then took questions and finished by reading poems by other poets. And she recommended a book: Metaphors We Live By. I plan to order it.

One of the buildings in the Village

Next I went to hear Naomi Shihab Nye, also on the Poets on Poetry Topic. She addressed quite specifically issues related to teaching as she has spent a lot of time teaching young people and has edited a number of anthologies for young readers. She advised that new poets write what comes to them, that they "take the swerve." She talked about the value of "I don't know." And she suggested as an activity for new group introductions that the teacher/leader go around the circle and have each person begin with "I am not." Sounds like fun!

Naomi also spoke of poetry as an international art, one that costs little money and one that we should pass on. Poetry, she said, encourages respect for other students. I always found that to be true when I was teaching. Even a hostile classroom warmed up when I brought in poetry, especially when I had my students write it.

This was another excellent session.

You can see here that the day turned dark with rain.

After lunch I went to the very long Poetry Sampler in the Main Tent. Huge audience. Tent was packed. 21 poets read, 5 minutes each (with a few violations).

My final assignment was to introduce the panel on The Mysterious Life within Translation. But Robert Hass just started, so my work was done for me. Above you see Forrest Gander, Coral Bracho, Hass, and Peter Cole. This was held in the same church where I'd been on Thursday with Maxine Kumin. Good turnout, lots of thoughtful questions and responses. This seemed to complete a nice circle for my day, taking me back to Jane Hirshfield's comments about translation.

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  1. Thanks for your report, Diane. I missed the session by Hirschfield. In fact, when I went later to hear her talk, the later session was cancelled. I enjoyed hearing Naomi Shihab Nye in several sessions; I will try her suggestion with my students! [I am not...a golfer.]

  2. That church is a great place for an event. When the air is moving.

    I would guess Gander and Bracho were compelling on this subject - I found her tremendously insightful when she trusted her English enough to speak.

    And comparing the Spanish and English versions of Water (which they read together in whole or part at least three times over the weekend) is a great study in what dimensions different languages can provide.

  3. Amanda--
    Didn't know Hirshfield had cancelled a session. I heard Clifton missed a morning one. I suppose that when they come a distance and have such full schedules it's easy to have a not-feeling-so-hot day. I think Nye's intro activity would be fun--maybe a bit risky with kids, but I'd try it anyhow.

    David--The church is my favorite venue in the village. But small but then that adds to the intimacy. Humid day a bit of a problem, though.


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