Saturday, August 18, 2012

Culture and Incongruous Trees in the Berkshires

We had the really fine weekend last week, part 2 of my wife's 60th birthday celebration.  (Part one was her ladies-only tea party a couple of weekends ago.)  We took a long weekend trip to the Berkshires in Massachusetts - we'd been there about eleven years ago and really enjoyed it, but only had one of our sons come with us at the time.  This year we took all four and their significant others, and stayed in two 2-bedroom condos at Wyndham Bentley Brook resort.  Getting there was an adventure, with heavy rain for much of the journey, which is usually about four and a half hours from our house.  But once we got there we had a splendid time.  The Berkshires have a lot going on culturally in the summer, so we took advantage of that by attending a production of Shakespeare's The Tempest (starring Olympia Dukakis) on Friday evening, seeing Yo Yo Ma perform Elgar's Cello Concerto at Tanglewood on Saturday (what an amazing and passionate performer he is), plus some shopping and museum-hopping the rest of the time.  We only wished it was longer than four days.

My group, the Quick and Dirty Poets, had our monthly reading last evening, featuring our friend Adele Bourne, who unfortunately lost her husband (and fellow poet) John earlier this year, and who will be moving from the area soon, so it was probably a "farewell" reading for her.  It didn't start auspiciously though - the coffee shop where we always have our readings was inexplicably closed.  We ended up going over to Adele's house to have it there. (She'd already planned to have people over anyway after the reading.) She read poems by John and herself (rather moving, needless to say), followed by readings from the other poets in attendance.  It turned out to be a good evening after all.  Adele's chapbook, A Grocery List and Other Poems, is available from Finishing Line Press and

Now my big news: I was reading the Writer's Almanac interview with Marge Piercy last night (you'll recall I took her week-long workshop on Cape Cod in June).  The interviewer's last question was, what new writers excite her?  She included me in her answer!  Wow - I guess I'll have to live up to that praise now.  She also mentioned my fellow workshop member Shana Ritter, and Maria Gillan, whom many of us New Jersey poets know as the editor of Paterson Literary Review.  It's so cool to get props from a famous writer!

Poem of the Week:  One of the sites we visited last weekend was Mass MOCA, a modern art museum in a converted factory in North Adams.  We'd been there before on our previous trip, and one sight struck me enough to inspire this poem, which appeared earlier this year in the online journal Curio Poetry:

Incongruous Trees  (Mass MOCA Summer 2001)

After wandering the glory of forested Berkshire hills,
we stop one morning at a modern art museum,
a converted factory in an old industrial town.

On the promenade to the entrance
we pass an unassuming row of maples.
Our eyes catch the glint of green above our heads,
where they should be – and we stop in our tracks.

Thre trees are upside-down,
hanging from cables strung across poles.
They grow earthward from metal tubs,
trunks pulled gravity-straight 
leaves clinging in midair, so it seems.

This is a Magritte painting come to  life –
the familiar presented incongruously.
Water drips like IV fluid from hydroponic pots
to grateful foliage below.

We marvel a moment before we proceed,
but the message is delivered:
“Welcome. Come in. 
See how we have played with the world.
Take a look.
And take a look again.” 

1 comment:

Mad Kane said...

Good poem. And what a wonderful compliment from a great writer!