Friday, June 23, 2006

Anna Akhmatova

Russian (Ukranian) poet, Anna Akhmatova, was born June 23, 1888. According to Joseph Brodsky, who introduced _Poems_, selected & translated by Lyn Coffin, Akhmatova's father forced her to write under an assumed name: "When her father learned that his daughter was about to publish a selection of her poems in a St. Petersburg magazine, he called her in and told her that although he had nothing against her writing poetry, he'd urge her 'not to befoul the good respected name' and to use a pseudonym. The daughter agreed, and this is how 'Anna Akmatova' entered Russian literature instead of Anna Gorenko" (xiii).

"Lot's Wife"
by Anna Akhmatova
Translated by Max Hayward and Stanley Kunitz

And the just man trailed God's shining agent,
over a black mountain, in his giant track,
while a restless voice kept harrying his woman:
"It's not too late, you can still look back

at the red towers of your native Sodom,
the square where once you sang, the spinning-shed,
at the empty windows set in the tall house
where sons and daughters blessed your marriage-bed."

A single glance: a sudden dart of pain
stitching her eyes before she made a sound . . .
Her body flaked into transparent salt,
and her swift legs rooted to the ground.

Who will grieve for this woman? Does she not seem
too insignificant for our concern?
Yet in my heart I never will deny her,
who suffered death because she chose to turn.

From Poems of Akhmatova, by Anna Akhmatova and translated by Stanley Kunitz and Max Hayward. Published by Little, Brown & Co. © 1973 by Stanley Kunitz and Max Hayward. Granted by permission of Darhansoff & Verrill Literary Agency. All rights reserved (, linked above).

Sunday, June 18, 2006

"Blackbirds" for My Father

This is a recent picture of my father and me taken during my visit in Alabama. Below is a poem written in his honor and published in the inaugural issue of _Poemeleon_, an online journal of poetry edited by Cati Porter. Click on the above title "Blackbirds" to visit _Poemeleon_.


Like a canopy of darkness
they shadow the ground for miles
on currents that lift them
back to their roosts.

Years later I ask my father
if he gathered us
to watch thousands
swoop down on trees
sit wing to wing
until morning branches cracked
under their weight.

At daybreak did they leave the oaks

He says we never saw them abandon the hollow
catch a new wind to an unharvested south

but often would pile into the car to see their return
black streaks on the upward drift
of a September afternoon.

Chella Courington
June 2006

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Visiting my dad in Rural Alabama

We spent three weeks with my dad in Albertville in North Alabama at the tip end of the Appalachians. The locals like to eat lunch at the Albertville Candy Store, a kind of general food/trinket store on Main Street. In the back the older ladies play bridge three times a week.

Here's a typical daily menu. BTW, the Candy Store serves lunch Monday through Friday. Come as you are.

Friday, June 09, 2006

wishes for sons

lucille clifton is one of my favorite poets. she speaks so honestly about being female.

wishes for sons
by Lucille Clifton

i wish them cramps.
i wish them a strange town
and the last tampon.
I wish them no 7-11.

i wish them one week early
and wearing a white skirt.
i wish them one week late.

later i wish them hot flashes
and clots like you
wouldn't believe. let the
flashes come when they
meet someone special.
let the clots come
when they want to.

let them think they have accepted
arrogance in the universe,
then bring them to gynecologists
not unlike themselves.

Copyright ©1991 by Lucille Clifton. Reprinted from Quilting: Poems 1987-1990 with the permission of BOA Editions, Ltd., 260 East Ave., Rochester, NY 14604. Poets.Org

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Stephen Colbert Addresses Graduates at Knox College

It’s that wonderful time of year when students graduate from college & wonder: what now? Stephen Colbert, one of my faves, gave the commencement speech at Knox College, June 3. While the text can be accessed by clicking on the above hot link title, here’s an excerpt:

There are so many challenges facing this next generation, and as they said earlier, you are up for these challenges. And I agree, except that I don’t think you are. I don’t know if you’re tough enough to handle this. You are the most cuddled generation in history. I belong to the last generation that did not have to be in a car seat. You had to be in car seats. I did not have to wear a helmet when I rode my bike. You do. You have to wear helmets when you go swimming, right? In case you bump your head against the side of the pool. Oh, by the way, I should have said, my speech today may contain some peanut products.

My mother had 11 children: Jimmy, Eddie, Mary, Billy, Morgan, Tommy, Jay, Lou, Paul, Peter, Stephen. You may applaud my mother’s womb. Thank you, I’ll let her know. She could never protect us the way you all have been protected. She couldn’t fit 11 car seats. She would just open the back of her Town & Country—stack us like cord wood: four this way, four that way. And she put crushed glass in the empty spaces to keep it steady. Then she would roll up all the windows in the winter time and light up a cigarette. When I die I will not need to be embalmed, because as a child my mother hickory-smoked me.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Return after Hiatus

I'm pleased to announce that Jim Bennett has added my blog to Poetry Kit, a central place for locating blogs on & about poetry. Since the first annual poetry contest, activity has been low with the end of school and my dad's fall. I'm glad to report that I am writing a fair amount, looking forward to more creative time when Ted & I return to Caifornia.