Monday, June 20, 2011

Of Politics, & Art, a poem by Norman Dubie.

Post 617 - After finishing high school, Norman Dubie (1945 -) had hoped to play football for West Point, but instead, following his father's wishes, he enrolled at the University of New Hampshire at Durham. There he failed every subject except English and Geology and was then rejected by the draft due to high blood pressure. After taking some time off, he enrolled at Goddard College in Vermont where he received his BA in 1965. He subsequently received a fellowship from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, where he earned his MFA in 1968, as well as an invitation to stay on as a member of the program's regular faculty. In 1975 he was invited to establish an MFA program at Arizona State University in Tempe and accepted a position there as consultant in the arts. He currently lives and teaches in Arizona. Dubie's poetry has received the Bess Hokin Award from the Modern Poetry Association, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.
I love this poem - it reminds me of when I attended a one-room country schoolhouse some sixty years ago in Killesk and first learned to love poetry.

Of Politics, & Art by Norman Dubie.

Here, on the farthest point of the peninsula
The winter storm
Off the Atlantic shook the schoolhouse.
Mrs. Whitimore, dying
Of tuberculosis, said it would be after dark
Before the snowplow and bus would reach us.

She read to us from Melville.

How in an almost calamitous moment
Of sea hunting
Some men in an open boat suddenly found themselves
At the still and protected center
Of a great herd of whales
Where all the females floated on their sides
While their young nursed there. The cold frightened whalers
Just stared into what they allowed
Was the ecstatic lapidary pond of a nursing cow's
One visible eyeball.
And they were at peace with themselves.

Today I listened to a woman say
That Melville might
Be taught in the next decade. Another woman asked, "And why not?"
The first responded, "Because there are
No women in his one novel."

And Mrs. Whitimore was now reading from the Psalms.
Coughing into her handkerchief. Snow above the windows.
There was a blue light on her face, breasts and arms.
Sometimes a whole civilization can be dying
Peacefully in one young woman, in a small heated room
With thirty children
Rapt, confident and listening to the pure
God rendering voice of a storm.

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