Questing for poets on spring nights — #Berkshireweekend

Why is April called poetry month? Why now, in a precarious early spring? Ross Gay and Robert Hass remind me that poetry is physical. Immediate. Close as skin or rain on birchbark.

They are both nationally recognized poets who have both come here around this time in past years to share their work, and so I’ve read and heard their words on spring nights, and had the incomparable chance to talk with them. They tell me poems have a rhythm we feel in our bodies and an immediacy that can recognize pain beyond words and hold affirmation, even joy.

Last summer, Wild Soul River brought a group of local people to Caretaker Farm to share words, and I remember sitting in the warm dusk on the lawn outside the barn with the herb garden at our backs.

The fields stretched down to the river, beginning to fill in green with early summer lettuces and chard and peas and the young shoots of beet and carrot and squashes. We could hear the voices of songbirds and the soft comments of ginger-colored hens.

It was the last meeting of a group that had been running monthly in the pandemic, and they turned it into a celebration. They were bringing together writers across the county and beyond — some I had never heard before in all the years I’ve lived here.

I knew Nationally known singer songwriter Bernice Lewis, but I had not had the chance before to hear Williams professor Ashok Rai examine with care Colonial conflicts in coffee plantations in Africa.

As the dusk grew, in the deep lingering summer light, Monique Tyndall, cultural affairs director for the Stockbridge Munsee, the Mohican Nation, read from Layli Long Soldier. And I remembered reading Log Soldier’s poems in Whereas, her National Book Award finalist collection — her own reckoning with the pain of silence, and holding people alive, speaking, a clear voice in these hills.

Poet Charles Simic is photographed at the City University of New York. Photo courtesy of Charles Simic
Photo by Richard Drew

Poet Charles Simic is photographed at the City University of New York. Photo courtesy of Charles Simic

Internationally awardwinning poets Joy Harjo and Nikki Giovanni have brought light to the Berkshires with their words in earlier springs.

Jessica Fisher, poet and associate professor of English at Williams College, has read her own work and championed others including nationally awardwinning poets who are her mentors and friends — Louise Glück and Robert Hass among them — and warmly acclaimed awardwinning poet Safiya Sinclair has come to Lenox for a residency at the Amy Clampitt House.

Events coming up …

Find more art and performance, outdoors and food in the BTW events calendar.

Paperwhites fill the greenhouse with petals and scent at Winterlights at Naumkeag.
Dec 7 2023 @ 4:30 pm
Winterlights is back, filling the gardens with holiday light and sound for a magical outdoor experience at Naumkeag as it shimmers with thousands of lights.
Clouds and sun pattern the sky over the Clark Art Institute.
Dec 7 2023 @ 6:00 pm
David Lean's film asks searching questions about identity and loyalty, and the consequences of British intervention in Arab affairs.
New York fiddler Aldo Lavaggi performs at the Great Barrington Farmers Market. Press photo courtesy of the market.
Dec 7 2023 @ 7:00 pm
Dewey Hall's final square dance of 2023 brings two of the Northeast's most skilled old-time musicians, Aldo Lavaggi and Sophie Mae Wellington.

By the Way Berkshires is a digital magazine exploring creative life and community — art and performance, food and the outdoors — and I’m writing it for you, with local voices, because I’ve gotten to know this rich part of the world as a writer and journalist, and I want to share it with you.

If you’d like to see the website grow, you can join me for a few dollars a month, enough for a cup of coffee and a cider doughnut. Members get access to extra stories and multimedia, itineraries a bookmark tool. Let me know what you're looking for, and we’ll explore together.

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