Mining Poetry for Humor and Meaning

What if a deceased dog could talk? What if hippos went on holiday?

Those are some of the questions asked and answered by the former U.S. poet laureate and Island favorite Billy Collins in a reading of new and selected poems at Featherstone Center for the Arts last Friday evening. Among other disparate themes, he explored parenting, animal-human relationships, endearing soap bars and the experience of a traveler who arrives in a foreign place and is immediately told he has arrived too late in the year to witness the peak of the natural beauty.

My Yellow Lab Floyd

He shows me the way A boy in a dog suit On a scent Innocent His marble-sized eyes Soft brown nougats Warm Black Crow centers Anchored in opposing tear drops At rest Lying sideways Between the weight of the world And a profound sense of loss He has seen it all And regrets most of it Eyes rimmed as if with kohl It’s a look, a look that cannot be denied You want to give him everything You will give him anything, Anything that will make his tongue come out And swipe his snout Or make him sweep the floor with his tail Call his name Tell him he’s good Ask him if he wants food Ask him if he wants a ride Tell him Mommy’s coming Tell him anyone’s coming For God’s sake just say hello As Quixote upon seeing a windmill, He tilts his head He pumps an eyebrow He’s ready to follow you To the ends of the earth or the driveway, Whichever comes first. “Mommy, why is that doggie so sad?” The little girl pumps her mother’s hand, Her finger wags at Floyd “He can’t help it,” I say in a sing-song way. “His eyes are shaped like sadness. His brows slope down, Like a seesaw always down. He always looks this way, Even when he’s happy And he’s always happy. Isn’t that right, Floyd?” Tilt Pump Lick Wag Giggle The little girl runs over and hugs Floyd, Squeezing his scruff with arms of grace in training. He looks at me as if to say, “Is this the ends of the earth or the driveway?”

Acclaim Received, Never Sought for Poetic Soul

Throughout her life, Fanny Howe has consistently chosen to do what she loves most, never expecting to be compensated, much less be read or appreciated. She has lived a life of letters, writing poetry for her own enjoyment and inspiring others to do the same.

Noepe Center for Literary Arts: A Still Place for Flowing Creativity

In the Wampanoag language, the word “noepe” means, according to one interpretation, a still place among the currents. The Wampanoag people gave the name Noepe to this Island to indicate that it was a piece of dry land among opposing tidal currents.

In downtown Edgartown, a still place exists at the intersection of three roads. It is a refuge of sorts, which has for years provided shelter and peace of mind to visiting artists.

Creative Foundation at Cleaveland House

The Cleaveland House Poetry Group was founded over 40 years ago by Dionis Coffin Riggs, its name arising from her house in West Tisbury where the meetings are held. It is the longest running writers group on Martha’s Vineyard, hosting bi-weekly meetings, year-round. Today Dionis’ daughter, Cynthia Riggs, presides over the group, and the meetings are still held at the same location.

The Lonely Days Are Gone, My Baby Printed Me a Letter

When most guests sit down to a dinner at Beetlebung Farm in Chilmark, they usually glance at the menu and then set it down again, absentmindedly imprinting it with grease and wine stains. But the more discerning will notice that the seemingly disposable item is actually a work of art — the design is innovative, the words have been selected for sound and form, and the ink has been elegantly fused with the paper.

Poem: For Maya

Dipping our bread in oil tins

we talked of morning peeling

open our rooms to a moment

of almonds, olives and wind

when we did not yet know what we were.

The days in Mallorca were alike:

footprints down goat-paths

from the beds we had left,

at night the stars locked to darkness.

At that time we were learning

to dance, take our clothes

in our fingers and open

ourselves to their hands.

The veranera was with us.

Gifts for All, Good Tidings for Island

M enemsha was all hunkered down

’Twas quiet like all Chilmark town

In winter when it’s cold — and snow

Is falling as all folk do know

And Dutcher Dock is still — except

For Scott McDowell who’s so deft

At making copper fish to sell

For he must pound and tap as well

To make his fish come out just right.

His cod and sole are quite a sight.

Few boats are tied up at the dock

And so it came as quite a shock

To Santa Claus to see bright lights

For Copper of Chilmark

A copper-white streak across the field,

Darting through dunes, power to wield . . .

A Brittany spaniel at home on the moors

Not of French, but Vineyard shores.

Like a king atop ridges he’d survey his land,

Alert ears, tail — and again sail the sand.

When he did pause and gaze with amber eyes

Upon those he loved, with his soul so wise . . .

’Twas clear Copper to no other could compare:

Alley’s General Store

Alley’s General Store

In times of yore, one humble store

Sustained our tiny town.

‘Twas not the kind where one might find

A fancy evening gown.

Instead, our needs — from nails to seeds —

Were modest as the dickens,

And Nancy Luce had little use

For lipstick on her chickens.

These wooden walls held overalls

To fit most any size;

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