Dodge Poet Spotlight: Luray Gross

Welcome to our continuing blog series here on Poetry Fridays, Dodge Poet Spotlight. We are 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 answers some questions about themselves and provides 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.

Without further ado, today’s Dodge Poet is Luray Gross.

Photo Credit: Lauren Rutten

What are you reading?
I’m a notoriously undisciplined reader, frequently sampling this or that volume, magazine or post. I do lots of re-reading, either touchstone poems or poems new and intriguing or frustrating.  Often I focus on just one poem for a few days .  This week it’s Wordsworth from the battered Norton Anthology I used in college, early Gerald Stern, Nazim Hikmet’s poems from prison  and a poem “More Lies,” by Karin Gottshall, serendipitously saved from the recycling bag.

When did you first discover poetry?
I suspect poetry discovered me long before I was aware of it.  Poetry sang in the fierce hymns and plaintive liturgy of Sunday mornings and in the classical language of weekly Grange meeting rituals.  Poetry was call and response, an exchange between self and other, often a conversation without words: the sound of water, wind, or fire, the chatter of sparrows, and the ache of childhood’s longings.

What poets made you want to write poetry?
Keats and Whitman made me want to write poetry; Williams showed me that I could use language from my own place and time.

What is your favorite place to read?
On our couch with one pillow for my back, another to support the book or laptop.  A sleeping dog nearby is a bonus.

With all the other demands and distractions in life, how do you make time for poetry?
I do not make enough time, though it helps to have a poetry book or magazine in the car, several sources in each bathroom and others scattered throughout the house.  I do try to let poetry distract me from my mundane responsibilities. As for working seriously on a poem, nothing helps me as much as a deadline.

What is the funniest/strangest response you’ve ever gotten to telling someone you are a poet?
The non-response can be the strangest, as though one has revealed an affliction so terrible that the listener can think of not a thing to say.

A Kind of Luck

The unlucky have their own kind of luck.
They show me what it is to be happy
sitting here in early March sun.

The dogs inside bark once, twice–
desultory remarks at my desertion.
I am writing as though nothing could be easier.

Easy to be a buddha spark today
drinking cool water near the holly tree,
listening to the exclamatory grackles.

Our gray cat brushes past my arm, then repairs
to the driveway to roll in wood chips and dust.
Tree after tree we’ve turned into smoke and ash.

I am waiting for fusion, waiting for us
to unleash force through joining
rather than breaking apart.

The cat rolls, builds up static. Her electric meow
scolds my hands for ignoring her.
Her green eyes are the eyes of a saint.

For hundreds of years, the monk who
illuminated them has slept in Irish peat and sand.
He scorned the saint, he loved her.

Her bodice he painted kermes red, her skirt lapis blue.
He gave her a girdle of gold for her waist,
another to hover just above

her startled head. At night, the monk lay down
and felt her quick pulse throbbing
in his neck, his groin.

He touched her body and it crumbled.
Now he rests, and nearly everyone
has forgotten him, the chill scriptorium,

the slight heft of the brushes in his hand.
Often he paused, mid stroke, listening
for her heartbeat. I am listening too

as spring wind glances off the little shields of the holly.
The cat has abandoned me,
and the dogs have forgotten I exist.

When I open the kitchen door,
I will be born again to their happiness,
assigned to carry its light burden of joy.

Luray Gross
from The Perfection of Zeros, 2004.

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2 Responses to Dodge Poet Spotlight: Luray Gross

  1. Ralph K. Allen, Jr. says:

    Hi Luray Gross,
    You are the first person I have found who responded to the Grange influence. Here in Washington State I belong to the Williams Valley Grange #452 (Deer Park, WA) and am the Lecturer for our Pomona Grange.

    We have been working hard to have people enter the annual convention-associated State Grange Poetry Contest. This annual event generates about 350-400 poems from adults to kids and is a fun event for many of us.

    In our Pomona we try to encourage teachers at every level to have their students submit entries and use our grange as sponsors. It is really difficult to get cooperation from schools as the kids change grades and the awards are given in summertime and
    then the kids are in different grades in the fall. Bummer, sez I, why cannot the schools get more into that sort of thing?

    Do you have an notions or suggestions to improve this opportunity for young writers?

    I would love to try them out!

    Ralph Allen

  2. Kenneth Kowalski says:

    Luray Gross always seems right there among us, with her clear details and easy, comforting voice. Then she and the poem leap off to some other place and I just sit and wonder how she does this, how she does this leap so well. So I must go back and read her poem again and again, just for the joy of leaping.

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