Catherine Chandler's Poetry Blog

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Red Beads and other poems

HERE is a link to my poem, The Red Beads, first published in First Things. At the bottom of the page there are also links to my poems When, Eleven, and Kyrielle.

My audio recording of The Red Beads is online HERE.

I wrote the poem a few years ago following a Sunday morning trip to the Maldonado feria (flea market) in Maldonado, Uruguay.

Monday, August 25, 2014

María Eugenia Vaz Ferreira

Sketch of María Eugenia Vaz Ferreira, Uruguayan poet

I invite you to read my paper on María Eugenia Vaz Ferreira at the Mezzo Cammin Women Poets Timeline Project HERE.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

50,000 Visitors to The Wonderful Boat!

In a little over 3 1/2 years, my poetry blog has reached visitor #50,000!

So much has happened in my life in that time. Happy times include the publication of two full-length collections of poetry, Lines of Flight (Able Muse Press) and Glad and Sorry Seasons (Biblioasis). Also, a chapbook of sonnets, This Sweet Order (Kelsay Books/White Violet Press), and many publications of my poems, translations, essays and podcasts in print and online journals and anthologies in North America, Europe and Australia. I've given many local and international poetry readings and received a full scholarship to the WCU Poetry Conference, where I participated in the First Books Panel.

The sad times I shared with you were the deaths of my mother (2011) and father (2012), and my dog, Chola (2012).

The major life-altering event, though, was my daughter's illness and subsequent recovery. A five-part poem, "Almost", dedicated to Caitlin, appears in the manuscript I'm working on now.

Thank you to my regular and occasional followers. Let's aim for another 50,000!


Émile Nelligan - "La passante" translated by Catherine Chandler

Émile Nelligan as an adolescent

The original, "La passante" is available HERE.

My translation was first published in Iambs and Trochees, Journal III, Issue 2, Fall 2004. It also appears in Lucid Rhythms, May 2012, and in my new book, Glad and Sorry Seasons.

Click HERE for more information on Nelligan.

The Passerby

Last night a woman passed me in the park,
a veil of mourning shadowing her face.
Dispirited, she walked the sombre place
alone, her pride dissembled in the dark.

I could not help but guess as to the stark
adversity she dared not have me trace.
She sensed my scrutiny, stepped up her pace,
fled down an alleyway, beyond remark.

My youth is like this woeful passerby:
many shall cross my path before I die;
they shall observe me fade and fall and curl

like dry leaves in the whirlwind of the night;
while I, disconsolate, shall ever swirl
unloved, misunderstood, out of their sight.

Copyright © Catherine Chandler, 2014

Émile Neligan, several years before his death in 1941

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Alfonsina Storni

One of my favorite Latin American poets is Alfonsina Storni. Below is my poem, "Beach Dogs", originally published five years ago this month in The Centrifugal Eye, Volume 4, Issue 3, and reprinted in the journal's Fifth Anniversary Anthology. It also appears in my book, Glad and Sorry Seasons (Biblioasis, 2014) on page 71. My English translation of Storni's poem, "Peso ancestral" is also included in the book on page 61.

BEACH DOGS   (My audio recording is HERE)

In memory of Alfonsina Storni

A man parades his paunch, and you can bet
his wife, though dripping gold, will not get wet.
While brother reads Clarín, a bored boy pokes
a jellyfish. Grandma smirks and smokes.

They seem to sense that I’m not one of them;
I’m much too serious, too plain. ¡Ajém!
I hear them warn each other as I rise
to shift my chair. They weigh my gringa thighs.

What’s this I see? A scrawny mongrel winds
his way along the shore. At last he finds
a spot of shade. The worn-down, worn-out fella
drops down beneath the nearest beach umbrella.

Mine. My neighbours bray in disapproval,
insist upon the vagabond’s removal;
then take a different tack and whisper, Please …
maybe he has the rabies or the fleas!

That well may be. For look—his skin is bruised
and scarred; he’s been forgotten, shunned, abused.
I feed the dog some water and a crust
as the porteños gawk in dark disgust.

Before the Prefectura comes we fly,
he to the sands of Mansa Beach; while I,
cast off, adrift, unmoored from the décor,
will drown at sea and later wash ashore.

(Punta del Este, Uruguay, January 2009)

Friday, August 15, 2014

Edward Hopper's "Automat" - Audio Recording

"Automat" by Edward Hopper

My audio recording of my poem Edward Hopper's "Automat" can be heard by clicking HERE.

This poem was first published in the Australian journal, Quadrant and is the final poem in my book Glad and Sorry Seasons.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Commentary on "Coming to Terms"

Interior with a Young Woman Sweeping, Vilhelm Hammershøi, 1899

Following my recent posting about its having won a Laureate's Choice Award, I've received a few requests to reprint "Coming to Terms" on my blog.

Before I do, however, I'd like to reprint part of A.E. Stallings' commentary on the poem. Ms. Stallings was the final judge for the Howard Nemerov Sonnet Award in 2010. Her full commentary is available in Measure, Volume VI, Issue 1, 2011, pages 32-33.

It took a while to come to terms with the excellence of "Coming to Terms," partly because it "displays" so well the art that conceals art: the art of concealing loss being one of the themes. But I was immediately taken with the assured voice and the charming full rhymes of "panel" and "channel." The poet also has a way of leveraging diction so that it contributes to the full meaning without overdoing it. 

I am interested in how poems dispense information over time and space. "Coming to Terms" trusts the reader to work out the facts over the course of the sonnet. At first, we are only mildly concerned that the house is "empty"-- a number of possibilities suggest themselves. Country western music being the music of lost love and mature concerns does not resolve our uneasiness. Even the week in which to "heal and convalesce" could be after, say, a C-section. But the peeling away of the ceiling stars, the unweaving of the year of making the christening dress -- a bold choice, as one actually sees the unraveling of the knitted garment itself (I am put in mind here of the Psalmist's "You knitted me in my mother's womb") -- comes upon us with devastating knowledge, and ripples back to the title. A full-term still-birth or miscarriage?

The sestet is also pregnant with wordplay, the "premises" that must be rearranged being both the speaker's physical surroundings and mental calculations. The abrupt enjambments here suggest both frenetic activity and a mind at sea with grief. ("Scour" is another one of the poet's careful word choices -- a suggestion of scrubbing clean as well as searching.)  The flatness and coolness of the close is a little risky ("ordinary" is our poetic age's "terrible"), but ultimately earned, as we see the speaker preparing a mask to meet the faces it must meet, and to tidy heartbreak away.

To answer the question posed above, the poem is based on my miscarriage in March 1977. It took  thirty-three years to portray this experience properly in words.

Coming to Terms

I put aside my white smocked cotton blouse,
my pants with the elastic belly panel.
The only music in the empty house
strains from a distant country western channel.
My breasts are weeping. I’ve been given leave—
a week in which to heal and convalesce.
I peel away the ceiling stars; unweave
the year I’d entered on your christening dress.

I rearrange my premises—perverse
assumptions!—gather unripe figs; throw out
the bloodied bedclothes; scour the universe
in search of you. And God. And go about
my business as my crooked smile displays
the artful look of ordinary days.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

"I peel away the ceiling stars . . ."

My sonnet, "Coming to Terms" just received a Laureate's Choice Award in the Great River Shakespeare Festival, Maria W. Faust Sonnet Contest (Winona, Minnesota).

There were over 400 sonnets entered in this year's contest, by poets from thirty-six U.S. states and six foreign countries.

The poem also won the 2010 Howard Nemerov Sonnet Award and was first published in Measure and also appears in the award-winning, Coming to Terms, finalist in the Wattpad Attys competition, judged by Margaret Atwood.