Do you keep reading headlines about how poetry is dead and independent bookstores practically nonexistent? Fierce resistance to both notions is more than alive in the Upper Valley. On June 3, poets Carol Potter and Carol Westberg (pictured above), introduced by Liza Bernard, read from their newly published books of poetry at the Norwich Bookstore. If you hadn't reserved a seat in advance, you'd have missed the opportunity to hear both poets giving voice to their work.
Carol Potter began reading from her book Some Slow Bees with The Good Pig, a question about what we learn from children's books with human-like animal characters. Excerpts from The Miss Nancy Papers recalled the historic children's television program, Romper Room, in which an iconic song urged us all to "Do Be a Do Bee." What of the Don't Bees? Don't ask. Or do, and then read this poem. My favorite, perhaps due to my semi-disastrous days in home economics class, was Busybody. Potter writes (in part):
In HomeEc., I flattened cakes on purpose.
Banged pots. Ripped seams. Back when
you had to take that course if you were a girl.
Carol Westberg's first poem from her book Terra Infirma was In Time's Maw, which begins by asking how we see time, maybe "too little or too much?" and closes with "Can I step off the bus anywhere and still get back on?" Her poem Halo is a meditation on the death of a brother that froze listeners' faces in recognition of loss. Scalpel Song is the voice of the instrument itself, "steel tip agleam in the dark like starlight. . ." The voice is dark, a little menacing, even as it concludes with "I will be the life of you."
Terra Infirma is published by David Robert Books, Some Slow Bees by Oberlin College Press.
A word on the Norwich Bookstore, which is a rare treasure in our midst. Not only can one buy and read books, one can hear authors and poets read from their own works. The Bookstore sponsors many such readings throughout the year, so popular that reservations are strongly recommended. A friend and I pondered whether a gathering of this kind was solely a New England tradition. Probably not, but sitting in a local bookstore listening to local authors felt something like home.