National Poetry Month 2011

This April has had its fair share of shoures soote in upstate New York.  Thank you, Mr. Chaucer, for helping to turn us all in the direction of springtime and to the sense of renewal and personal expression.  Our journey through the year has brought us around again to National Poetry Month, a time filled with more poetry presentations than usual, opportunities to read and share poems, and to consider the role of poetry (and by extension, all the arts) in our civic life.  It's become a tradition on OFF THE PAGE to invite poets to participate in the broadcast during April -- and it does feel satisfying to establish a tradition.  Once again, we have a delegation of established, published poets in the studio and lots of skilled, aspiring, creative poets in the listening audience who are invited to send us their work to be read on the air.

Speaking their poems and responding to listeners' queries:

Gail Holst-Warhaft is a woman of international standing and many talents.  A native of Australia, she holds a Ph.D. in comparative literature from Cornell University, where she is now the director of the Mediterranean Initiative in the university's Institute for European Studies.  She is also an adjunct professor of classics and comparative literature.  Gail lived in Greece for many years and wrote the English translation of the works of poet and composer Mikis Theodorakis. Her 2007 volume of poems, "Penelope's Confession", appeared in a bi-lingual edition.  Dr. Holst-Warhaft is also a musician and presently holds the title of Poet Laureate of Tompkins County.

Winter returns like Agamemnon,
fires on the hills heralding its coming.
Spring startles like Orestes,
its offerings placed on the dark earth,
locks of green hair on a grave,
a chorus of birds muttering doubts.

Susannah W. Simpson's work has been published in many prestigious journals, including Phantasmagoria, Minnetonka Review, Nimrod International and The North American Review.  Her first book of poems, "Geography of Love & Exile" has just been accepted for publication by Cervena Barva Press.  Susannah spent much of her childhood in Afghanistan and has been working to advance the Afghan Women Writers Project.  She co-founded the New Mexico Poetry Alliance and the Long Island chapter of Poets for Peace and is a member of the American Academy of Poets (sponsor of National Poetry Month) and the National Association of Poetry Therapy.  A Ph.D. candidate in creative writing at Binghamton University, Susannah's newest work is "EJ's Johnson City: The People and Welfare Capitalism", a collection of her poems and photographs that takes us into the lives and minds of people who live and have lived in that moody and moldering town.

My dad Sal came home after the war.
He didn't say much about it,
but sometimes after a glass of two
of his homemade red, he would talk
about the French farmer who hid him,
talk about eating wind fall apples
and wild grapes and how he made
his way to Marseilles.

Some nights he would sit in the basement
next to the wine press, and tears would run
down his face.  Our mother never asks,
she just wipes her hands on her apron
and keeps cooking.

Gail Holst-Warhaft and Susannah Simpson join Bill Jaker on OFF THE PAGE to share their poetry, the experiences that went into their poetry and their views of the poetry scene today.  Theirs will not be the only poems on the program, because (another tradition) we invite listeners to send in poems they've written to OffThePage@WSKG.ORG.  Poems should be somewhat short (no more than two minutes when read aloud) and should be in the body of the message, not an attachment.  Bill will read as many as he can on the air and all of the poems received will be posted on our website.  To ask a question of the guests or to comment on the poetry call during the live broadcast to 888/359-9754.

Gail Holst-Warhaft
Susannah Simpson