Monday, December 3, 2012

After the poetry, more poetry

In the midst of the poetry, out in the wild blue yonder

Yesterday I did a performance reading titled The Poetry of Aging at the Ashland Library.

It went very well, with an enthusiastic audience of 15 or 20 people. Some of them were avid poetry buffs, and knew many of the poems I shared.

The poems were quite varied. Some were reflective, some were humorous or sardonic, some lyrical, and some were laments.

I thoroughly enjoyed sharing that feast of  poetry,  as you can see from the photo here which shows the truth of something Stanley Kunitz said, how "The poem comes in the form of a rapture breaking on the mind."

One of the folks who attended asked me to share the titles and authors of some of the poems I presented, and I am doing so here.

I read several poems by W.B. Yeats, including Sailing to Byzantium, When You are Old and John Kinsella's Lament for Mrs. Mary Moore.

I sang Fern Hill by Dylan Thomas. I set that poem to music many years ago and always love to share it with others. Poetry was sung or chanted in the old days, and even today, when you hear poets "read' their work, many still do it in a musical, bardic way. I think that's even more true in places outside of the US, where we have adopted a rather flat-earth relationship to language.

One woman left while I sang Fern Hill. I wish I could have asked her whether it was just too much for her, too strange or difficult. This kind of singing is so different from the style of vocal presentation we are familiar with. I suppose that is one reason why I like it. I long for more variety, subtlety, more open and expansive voice that can lead us into deeper regions of the psyche. Bardic poetry. People used to sit for hours together and hear the deep songs. I am happy that some of us kindred spirits gathered to commune in that way yesterday.

I shared the humorous and poignant poem Forgetfulness by Billy Collins. You can listen to it while watching a  You Tube video.

I shared several poems by Polish poet Anna Swir, from her book Talking to My Body.

I presented Sonnet 73 by Shakespeare, some poems by May Sarton about becoming 80, the wonderful poem Otherwise by Jane Kenyon, Affirmation by Donald Hall, In View of the Fact by A. R. Ammons, With a Wave of Her Old Hand by Kathleen Raine, Touch Me and Passing Through by Stanley Kunitz, Past by Pablo Neruda, Lines on Retirement, After Reading Lear, by David Wright. I shared Break the Mirror by Nanao Sakaki and Maya Angelou's poem On Aging.

We did call and response for the poem Ancestors, the choral piece which begins my musical revue, A New Wrinkle. That was lovely, too. It gave me a glimpse of what that poem may sound like set to music and sung by a chorus.

I learned, as one often does in doing things. I felt fine about the way I shared the poems, but afterwards, I realized that I did not give the audience enough introduction to me or my work with creative aging, or tell them enough about the musical revue I'm working to finish and produce.  I was a bit disappointed in that and I will do better next time.

Playfulness and Wellness
The other day, I somehow (did someone send it to me?) found a video about Stephen Jepson, an active elder who likes relating to life as one big playground, as you will see from this video on Growing Bolder, an Internet community that focuses on positive aging.

Jepson is passionate about playfulness and physical activity and their role in happiness, health and wellbeing. I hope that he succeeds in sharing his methods and philosophy widely. Playful physical activity can build a set of skills that help coordination and prevent falls. Not only that, look at this fellow. He is having a wonderful time. His happiness is quite contagious. He has a Never Leave the Playground website you will enjoy, too.

Here we are in December!

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