April is National Poetry Month

(photo credit: Nicole Adami)

and the days are flying by …

T.S. Eliot was wrong. April is not the cruelest month, at least not for me, at least not this year. Its days are moving very fast with the first week already gone and the rest of the month filled to overflowing as I open my arms to what will be the start of my 86th journey around the sun and the launch of my new chapbook, Tributaries. But I insist on making time to see the sky through the wide open window of poetry at the expense of household chores and even when the sun momentarily disappears.  I invite you to join me.

And while we’re on the subject, how about these words from Annie Dillard’s classic 1982 essay “Total Eclipse”?  Seeing a partial eclipse bears the same relation to seeing a total eclipse as kissing a man does to marrying him …  although the one experience precedes the other, it in no way prepares you for it.  If you’ve never read Dillard’s essay and would like to, here’s a link to a pdf.

One more thing about the eclipse, which I didn’t get to see this time, but still carrying very vivid memories of the 2017 event  … If you’re interested in the science and/or the myths about them, you might enjoy reading what The Conversation had to say about total solar eclipses.

Then let’s move on. I love this quote from Alice Walker.

A writer’s heart, a poet’s heart, an artist’s heart, a musician’s heart is always breaking. It is through that broken window that we see the world.

And because I love sharing that spectacular view with others, I will be sending my subscribers one of my favorite poems each week this month. (two this week to make up for the late start). If you’re not a subscriber and would like to be on that list, you can sign up here.

But for right now, right here … A MAJOR TREAT!  I can’t think of a better way to get in the mood of April than with this beautiful reading by Amanda Gorman, accompanied by cellist John Vogler.

And speaking of music …  if you’ve never heard Emily Dickinson’s “Hope is the Thing with Feathers” performed on acoustic guitar by Ara Duzian, here is another treat. You’re welcome

And now let’s talk just a bit about aging and ageism.  I recently subscribed to Andrea Gibson’s bold, courageous, and beautiful substack column “Things That Don’t Suck”.  There’s a January post titled “The Surprising Gift of the ‘Old Age Filter’”; in it they write these words.

I’m not a musician, but I write song lyrics constantly. A few years ago I wrote a song that included the words, “I saw a photo of you/ I saw the lines on your face/ I made you smile once/ so maybe one of those lines has my name.” Staring into my own ancient eyes, I knew that every wrinkle on my face had the name of someone I loved. I have so many wrinkles, I thought, because I have loved so many people. To me, that is aging WONDERFULLY.

Two of my favorite screen stars are Carol Burnett and Jamie Lee Curtis. Carol, with whom I share a birthday, needs no explanation, but Jamie I’ve come to admire more since an AARP Best Movies for Grownups event a few years ago.  Occasionally, someone will tell me they want to be like me when they grow up and while I feel very flattered and do know what they mean, I can’t help responding with “But that’s an oxymoron.”  I’ve learned that ‘growing up’ isn’t necessary to experience the wonder of growing old, but I like Jamie’s words and can’t resist sharing them here.

The truth of the matter is, I love grownups. … They say please and thank you and often write thank-you notes. And they mostly say what they mean and mean what they say and try not to say it mean. For the most part, I really like being a grownup. All that prepubescent and adolescent angst and tsuris and bad haircuts and clothing choices really disappear when grownups grow up. I love that we sort of know who we are and what we’re about and what we like and what we don’t like, and that has given me the greatest confidence. I love that we know that we’re here for something more than shiny things and Instagram likes. I love that we know and recognize that it’s our responsibility to do our part before we die to simply make the world better.

Thank you, Jamie. Me too! which brings me to the part about my upcoming birthday and my decision to call the party a “Pre-emptive Celebration of Life”.  I mean, really, why not? Why wait?  I have often heard this question and I’ll bet you have too. “Wouldn’t it be nice if we could hear all that stuff people say about us after we’re gone?”  Truth be told, I’m not sure we can’t … but nobody’s talking, so it remains a mystery.

Just in case you didn’t see the invitation to my Birthday Book Launch, here’s a link. And for those who can’t be with us that day, a video recording of the “toasting & roasting” along with my inaugural reading will be available on youtube. Just let me know if you’d like to preview that link.

And as for Tributaries … words of homage & gratitude to other poets and artists, I will tell you that putting this little chapbook together has been a most delightful adventure. A lot of fun for me and hopefully a good read for you, providing lots of opportunities to explore poems you may not be familiar with … maybe a nudge to write some Centos yourself. In his generous comment on the back cover, Kim Stafford declares “All poets plagiarize the beauties and terrors of the world. That’s their job.” And then he goes on to call what I’ve done honorable plundering that invites readers to eavesdrop on rich conversations of all kinds. Thank you, Kim. As always, I love your gift of words.

And here’s the book’s closing poem … a little gift for you, my fellow rascal readers.

Words That Dance

Dancing words have always belonged
to you, Ellen. Sometimes I too feel that
invisible tug between me and everything.
And in those moments I realize how right
you are to say It’s a hard time to be human.
Indeed, we know too much and too little. 

And bless you, Gretchen, for continuing
to weave your bright thread ... the one
that reminds us there is too much beauty
in this world to give up on it yet and it is
always too soon to surrender to cynicism.

Kim, I love to hear your gentle voice speaking
truth to power. I will use Gretchen’s bright thread
to embroider your words: We may wear the virus
veil of cloth, but not the muzzle of silence.

And I see you, Amanda, your youth and your vigor
in the light leading us as the new dawn blooms
and we dance our way up that hill together ...
for there is always light, if only we’re brave enough
to see it, if only we’re brave enough to be it.

With deepest gratitude for their Words That Dance:
Ellen Bass – The World Has Need of You
Gretchen Haley – The Bright Thread of Hope
Kim Stafford – The Virus, The Voice, and the Vote
Amanda Gorman – The Hill We Climb

I had a whole bunch of other stuff in mind for this post, but realize that like the month itself, it is getting over-loaded. So I will take the lesson that’s being offered and let the rest of my musings go … for now.  I will send you a poem each week of April if you’re already a subscriber or have signed up here, and we will get together again soon to share (as Kim says) the beauties and the terrors of the world and to eavesdrop on rich conversations of all kinds.

In the meantime, if you’re looking for something to sing along with and if you haven’t watched “Harold & Maude” for awhile, here’s your chance.


Published by Sulima Malzin

This 'Aging Rascal & Occasional Writer' invites you to embrace the world through her open window of poetry, art, activism, music, and humor.

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