National Poetry Month 2012

March 29, 2012

Tune in April 3rd at 1:00pm and 7:00pm on WSKG Radio

Poetry can come out of the heart, the mind, the soul and the woodwork.  Nothing is written as carefully as a poem, measuring the weight and sound of each word, each syllable. During April - National Poetry Month - Off the Page invites listeners to be among the creative participants. Once again the offer is extended and we expect some fine words from many members of the audience.  Will you be one of our poets this time?  Just copy your words into e-mail, and send it to OffThePage@WSKG.ORG.

The poem should be brief enough to be read in two minutes or less. Please send us your poem in the body of the message, not as an attachment. Bill Jaker and Kathleen Harrison Cook will read as many listeners' poems as possible on the air and a selection will be posted on


It's possible, with a little imagination, to already sense lines and reams of wonderful words floating above New York's Southern Tier and Finger Lakes and northeast Pennsylvania, perfect profundities or doggerel ditties, in flowing rhyme or electric meter, sentimental or silly or both at the same time.

For some people writing a poem is a rare personal experience, while others enjoy the opportunity for self-expression that comes from wrioting about everyday or extraordinary moments.  And then there are those exceptional persons whose poetry may be inspired by other existing poetical works.  Martin Bidney is a critic, translator and among the best of today's "dialogic poets".  He is Professor Emeritus of English and Comparative Literature at Binghamton University.  His works include commentaries on the Qur'an in "East West Poetry" and e-book translations of "Crimean Sonnets" by Adam Mickiewicz and the immortal Russian poet Alexander Pushkin in "Like a Fine Rug of Erivan."

Dr. Bidney's newest work is in dialogue with a great classic of world literature. Divine Adventure: The Fantastic Travels of Dante is a new translation of La divina commedia of Dante Alighieri, written not by Dante but originally in Italian by Ernesto Cerni and Francesca Gambino and rendered as a modern versification intended for young people.  The 14th century poem tells of Dante's spiritual and human strivings through the Inferno and Purgatory to reach Paradise.  The opening lines of the first Canto of L'inferno ("Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita/ Mi ritrovai per una selva oscura...") as told by Bidney:

Let the great adventure start
Of a poet of the past
Who had read with ready heart
Many books, and very fast.
Dante was the poet named,
And his surname, Alighieri.
All his tales were widely famed,
Some were spooky, really scary.
On a lovely day he found
He was in a gloomy wood.
Filled with fear he looked around;
He was shaking as he stood.
How he got in such a spot
He could never rightly say.
He was walking as he thought:
How Iíd like to get away!

Professor Bidney worked from a literal translation by Maria Altschuler of Binghamton.  The colorful and dramatic illustrations are by Maria Distefano.  The first group of young people to have an advance look into "Divine Adventure" are 7th and 8th grade students at Harpursville Middle School; they will offer their comments for Dr. Bidney's consideration. Everyone else is welcome to join in the conversation about Dante and the appreciation of poetry in general by calling during the live 1:00 PM broadcast to 888/359-9754 or posting a comment or a poem of your own to OffThePage@WSKG.ORG.

Martin Bidney
Kathleen Harrison Cook
Students from Harpursville Middle School