Sunday, June 10, 2007

A Listener's Feast

Rhyme and Meter, Rhythm and Blues
The second annual national poetry recitation contest, sponsored by the National Arts Endowment and the Poetry Foundation, concluded on May 1st at the George Washington University Lisner Auditorium in Washington, DC. Duke Ellington School of the Arts senior Amanda Fernandez took the top prize by riveting audiences with her reading of Ma Rainey*, a vibrant portrait of rural African-American life by poet Sterling A. Brown.

The contest is administered in 50 states and the District of Columbia; winners advance to school-wide competitions, then to the state competition, and ultimately to the National Finals. Over 100,000 of our nation's youth participated in this year's competition, representing more than 1000 high schools.

For Your Listening Pleasure
Visit the Poetry Out Loud website which includes video and audio clips of the 2006 contest winners (you'll need Windows Media or Real Player) as well as photos of contestants by state. Also try a BBC website for audio clips of interviews with and readings by renowned poets.

*Gertrude "Ma" Rainey [1886-1939] was inducted into the
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.
Rainey is widely known as the "Mother of Blues".

Sunday, June 03, 2007

"If we had no Winter, the spring would not be so pleasant.."

June's Featured Poet: Anne Bradstreet
Anne Bradstreet (1612-1672) was married at age 16, and as a bride set sail from England for Massachusetts Bay. There, facing the stark hardships of the frontier and recurrent illness, she raised eight children and without support of any women — "I am obnoxious to each carping tongue
Who says my hand a needle better fits"—
wrote poetry published England in 1650 as The Tenth Muse.

In Honour of . . .Queen Elizabeth [excerpt]
Now say, have women worth? or have they none?
Or had they some, but with our Queen is't gone?
Nay masculines, you have thus taxed us long,
But she, though dead, will vindicate our wrong.
Let such as say our sex is void of reason,
Know 'tis a slander now but once was treason.
But happy England which had such a queen;
Yea happy, happy, had those days still been.
But happiness lies in a higher sphere,
Then wonder not Eliza moves not here.
Full fraught with honour, riches, and with days
She set, she set like Titan in his rays.
No more shall rise or set so glorious sun
Until the heaven's great revolution:
If then new things their old form shall retain,
Eliza shall rule Albion once again . . . .

Further Reading: Bradstreet, Anne (edited by Jeannine Hensley, foreword by Adrienne Rich) The Works of Anne Bradstreet, 1981; Gordon, Charlotte, Mistress Bradstreet: The Untold Life of America’s First Poet — both in our library.

Content developed by local resident and poet Lee Jamieson
Painting by Ladonna Gulley Warrick