Welcome to our new blog series here on Poetry Fridays, Dodge Poet Spotlight. We will be turning the focus over to the individuals who make our programming what it is in the schools, with teachers in Spring & Fountain, and on the ground at the Dodge Poetry Festival — the Dodge Poets.
Each week, a Dodge Poet will answer some questions about themselves and provide a selected poem of their own work. We hope that this will be a way for you to get to know the Dodge Poets a little better, and you can get an idea of why we love working with them so much.
The first poets we will be featuring are all leaders of Spring & Fountain sessions. If you have registered for a s session, you may see you leader featured.
Without further ado, our first Dodge Poet is Edwin Romond.
What are you reading?
I am reading The Art of Loss, a poetry collection by Myrna Stone, and I am also re-reading Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar to help my son who is studying the play in his 10th grade English class.
When did you first discover poetry? What poets made you want to write poetry?
I had three “poetry awakenings” in my life. Although I had always respected the art form I really came to love it when I was student teaching in Wisconsin in 1971. Having to give more intense attention to literature that I would be teaching in front of a class brought me to a much deeper place. I was amazed at how much I loved teaching the poems in the text book and remember with special fondness Elizabeth Bishop’s “Filling Station” and how my 9th grade students responded to it. What turned that love of poetry into a passion, however, was the night in March, 1977 when I heard Robert Bly read in Demarest Hall lounge at Rutgers University. I had never heard anyone present poems with the fire that Bly had that night and I drove home from New Brunswick a very different person. Even though Bly opened my eyes to poetry in a new and exciting manner, I didn’t become interested in writing my own poems until seven years later when I was a member of Stephen Dunn’s poetry workshop at the Artist-Teacher Institute at Stockton College. Those ten days changed my life again for Stephen helped me learn about making poems in a way that I could not only understand but also embrace. Whatever I am as a poet I owe to Stephen Dunn.
Richard Hugo said we’ve written every poem we ever loved. He was particularly proud of having written Yeats’ “Easter, 1916.” What great poem are you proud of having written?
Joseph Pintauro is better known for his novels and plays but I love his poem “Lizzie and Blondie” from his book, Kites at Empty Airports. I have lived with this poem 42 years and each time I read it privately or share it in a workshop I continue to be deeply affected by the brilliance of the poem’s construction and the restraint with which he handles the delicate subject matter (the death of his mother.) I have grown old with “Lizzie and Blondie” and my life experiences have only increased my appreciation of both the poem and the artistry of the writer.
Tell us about your favorite experience reading for an audience.
In 1989 I did a reading in Dublin at the James Joyce Room which is directly across from St. Stephen’s Green. I had been thrilled to be in Ireland for the summer but this joy was tempered by the thought that both of my parents died before they could return to the country of their ancestors. When I was growing up they spoke often about their wish to travel to Ireland and see where their families came from. That night in Dublin I read “My Parents’ Honeymoon,” a selection I had read in public many times before and I shocked myself by breaking down in the middle of it. I think it all caught up to me that I had been able to do what my parents had only dreamed of doing so when I read about their honeymoon, the beginning of their married life, I was overcome with emotion. That had never happened to me at a reading nor has it happened since. Reading about my mother and father to an Irish audience stirred such deep feelings in me that I could not help but have a physical response as well. It hit me that even though my parents could never be there in person, that night in Ireland, through my poetry, I could finally bring them home.
when I was ten my father,
a truck driver, taught me
how to paint using our porch
steps as his classroom.
I can still feel his huge hand
around mine guiding the brush
brilliant with green paint
across the wooden step
and the thrill of watching
the pigment sink in, turning
scuffed to glossy. My father
told me, “Always bring the
brush back into where you
have just painted, before
you go on to the new spot,”
and he would move my hand
to the left then slide the brush
onto the next patch of worn wood.
We painted two steps together
then he let go of my hand and
honored me by letting me paint
the bottom step on my own.
I still hear his voice urging
me to bring the brush back
to blend the paint into one
continuous stroke of green.
I don’t know why after 50 years
these words remain
like lyrics of a favorite song
but I keep seeing that Saturday,
and feel the paint on my fingers
and hear my father’s soft
instruction as I now bend to
my young son and guide his hand
holding a paint brush across
his skate board ramp. I repeat
the exact words of my father
and hear him speaking with me
then feel his hand upon my hand
holding his grandson’s hand
as together we guide Liam’s brush
across the ramp, reaching back
to go forward, our brush marks red
as a bloodline, seamless, beautiful.