Ode to Odes

I just need to say some stuff about poetry and what a medicinal cure it can be. It’s holistic, like poets are a fringe society of healers. Many of you have heard a poem — or even written one — and felt transformed. Like your molecules were rearranged. Or put back in order. Or floated to a grounded place. Whatever the experience, someone said something just right and you were seen, heard, and moved to live larger than you were living the moment before. That’s poetry to me.

My amazing daughter and her fabulous friends gave an online reading from her latest collaboration. The book is called b sides: loose translations in English. It is a collection of poems Kayla wrote, alongside her friend and collaborator Cosi Schietekat’s translations of these works — into her home language of Spanish. Buy it now: https://nueoi.com/Kayla-Ephros

An extremely talented poet, Tatiana, started off today’s reading with several poems of her own, and then Cosi read some of Kayla’s poems in English, as well as a few of her own works, both in English and Spanish. Kayla followed suit with several poems from the book (which is just a gorgeous production) and then some select others not included in the book. Sitting back against a pillow, taking in the magic — words painting thoughts and feelings and shadows — was ever so restorative. We could all use some restoring right about now. Here’s one of Kayla’s:

by Kayla Ephros

Lest you think I have tunnel vision when it comes to poetry and this is all just about one of the most talented and beautifully-spirited daughters anyone could ever have, well, there’s more. I read an article in the Los Angeles Times today about Marianne Faithful and the recordings she has made of old-school English poets like Byron and Keats. Who knew? There is this beautiful music by Warren Ellis that accompanies these powerful readings. Check it out: https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/music/story/2021-04-27/marianne-faithfull-courtney-love-poetry-cheating-death-sober-sex

The Bible has poems, too. Lots of them. This can really help us challenge what the definition of a poem even is. Where’s the rhythm and the rhyme, Old Testament!? These devices don’t appear too much in books of poems from the Bible, at least not in the translations we have access to. But oh there is most certainly poetry. Hebrew (the early language of the Bible) poetry is apparently big on parallels and opposites. Ecclesiastes was so poetic in its parallels and opposites that some folks a few thousand years later turned around and wrote a song to it.

Here’s the Bible version:

There is a time for everything,

and a season for every activity under heaven:

a time to be born and a time to die,

a time to plant and a time to uproot,

a time to kill and a time to heal,

a time to tear down and a time to build,

a time to weep and a time to laugh,

a time to mourn and a time to dance,

a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,

a time to embrace and a time to refrain,

a time to search and a time to give up,

a time to keep and a time to throw away,

a time to tear and a time to mend,

a time to be silent and a time to speak,

a time to love and a time to hate,

a time for war and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, New International Version

I’m just saying, go find a poem. Or write one. Be one: free verse, sonnet, epic. Look, I know National Poetry Month is over, but just like Black History Month most of us are way behind in the knowledge and experience of the month’s topic. So go for it, extend the month. Extend the months as a matter of fact and read a Black poet. Like this painful beauty right here, which I memorized as a kid:

Incident

BY COUNTEE CULLEN

(For Eric Walrond)

Once riding in old Baltimore,   
   Heart-filled, head-filled with glee,   
I saw a Baltimorean
   Keep looking straight at me.

Now I was eight and very small,
   And he was no whit bigger,
And so I smiled, but he poked out
   His tongue, and called me, “Nigger.”

I saw the whole of Baltimore
   From May until December;
Of all the things that happened there
   That’s all that I remember.

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