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This article by Nicole Plett was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on
September 23, 1998. All rights reserved.
Poems From Nature & Beyond
I love music and I like words for the way they sound
like music," says poet Joan Goldstein. "Language can be music,
especially in poetry — poetry comes closest to music in that
Goldstein’s love of words and music come together in her program,
"Men on Ice: Poems from Nature," presented with musicians
Olga Gorelli, Lawana Ingle, John Burkhalter, and Barbara Highton
at the 1860 House, Montgomery Cultural Center, Sunday, September 27,
at 4 p.m.
The concert includes the premiere performance of Goldstein’s poem,
"The Rain," set to music composed and performed by Olga
with soprano singer Lawana Ingle. Other featured poems are
and "The Ice Man," both accompanied by musician and
John Burkhalter on instruments that include a Swedish flute, stone
ax heads, a rasp, and a pre-Columbian Mayan drum. Also on the program
is "Cuando Viene La Primavera," another Goldstein and Gorelli
collaboration, recently performed at Westminster Choir College.
Barbara Highton Williams of the Westminster Conservatory interleaves
her musical interludes on flute with poems read by Goldstein.
Goldstein’s poems draw on her own images of nature, from sunlit and
frozen landscapes to real and mythical creatures, in order to express
the force of human emotions and longings. The unifying theme of the
"Men on Ice" reading is seasonal: it starts with fall, moves
on to winter, then early spring, then summer. "As the program
goes on, it gets lighter, and the poems get lighter, too."
Goldstein says her "Men on Ice" poems were written from life
last January during a writers’ workshop she was leading for the
Mountain Club at the Delaware Water Gap. "I had never been there
after Thanksgiving before, and the whole of Catfish Pond was
frozen," she recalls. "I wrote while I was watching them,
sitting on a log." Goldstein returned to the pond the following
day and read her poem to the fisherman. "They liked it, and I
asked them a lot of questions about the process. The second poem is
full of the information that I got from them."
A research sociologist, Goldstein’s professional work has focused
on the impact of human beings on the environment. She is a professor
and consultant for faculty development at Mercer County Community
"I need to be outside to write these poems," says Goldstein,
who also enjoys outdoor sketching. "I’m very visual and I get
my inspiration from what I see and what I feel. Then I just let it
go like a sketch. I don’t stop and examine the meaning of what I’ve
written, I just let whatever come through, come through. Later, I’ll
go back over it for some editing. But I don’t know how the listener
is going to interpret it — they get to put their own story
Goldstein grew up in New York, began writing at age 10, and continued
writing poetry as teenager. "I’m going to read a poem that I wrote
when I was 15 — `The Sea is a Weary Man’ — that is so much
in keeping with what I’m doing now that it’s startling." She studied
literature and writing at the University of Iowa, and studied with
Donald Justice and John Berryman at its famed Iowa Writers Workshop.
A second-generation American, Goldstein’s grandparents
were immigrants from Rumania who could neither read nor write. Her
father and uncle had a wholesale florist business together. Her mother
played the piano, and also used to read Shakespeare to her and her
brother at bedtime, to which she attributes her love of literature.
Two poems of death and grieving that are part of the poetry reading
commemorate the life and death of her only brother, Michael Joseph
Goldstein, a UCLA scholar known for his research on schizophrenia,
who died of cancer last year.
Goldstein asked each collaborating musician to make their own choice
of how to treat the poems. "I gave each musician different set
of poems that I thought would work best for them. And each musician
that I chose to work with brought a different dimension to it. There
was an element of surprise for everybody."
Goldstein and Gorelli met through the Belle Mead Friends of Music.
Gorelli, who began composing music as a child in her native Italy,
studied in the United States with Gian Carlo Menotti, Paul Hindemith,
and Darius Milhaud. The collaboration was "a marvelous and
experience," she says. "It was one of those serendipitous
surprises in life that lend themselves to something unexpected."
Center , 1860 House, 124 Montgomery Road, 609-921-3272. $10.
Sunday, September 27, 4 p.m.
New Jersey is truly The Poetry State this week when
the seventh biennial Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival gets under
way at Waterloo Village in Stanhope, bringing together over 100 poets
and as many as 12,000 poetry devotees for four days of readings,
and conversations about poetry and the poet’s life. The event
poetry’s role as "the pounding heart of the gift of speech,"
says Scott McVay, Princeton resident and retiring executive director
of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation. The Dodge Poetry Festival is
the largest in North America and takes place from Thursday, September
24, through Sunday, September 27.
Festivalgoers can hear readings by featured poets that include U.S.
poet laureate Robert Pinsky, MacArthur Fellow Adrienne Rich,
Prize Winners Galway Kinnell, Stanley Kunitz, and W.S. Merwin, and
Emmy award winner Lucille Clifton. Also featured are Marjorie Agosin,
Amiri Baraka, Coleman Barks, Loma Dee Cervantes, Bei Dao, Mark Doty,
Deborah Garrison, Jane Hirshfield, Kurtis Lamkin, Tato Laviera,
Geok-lin Lim, Paul Muldoon, Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill, Sharon Olds, Alicia
Ostriker, and Marge Piercy.
There is music by the Paul Winter Consort and Yarina, an Andean Flute
Ensemble. The festival also hosts a festival bookstore, that boasts
one of the most extensive collections of poetry books (16,000 copies)
assembled in one place. On Saturday and Sunday, festival participants
can work with the best by attending "Conversations on Craft"
with featured poets and share their own poems in more intimate writing
This year’s featured poets promise the wide range of styles and
often addressed in contemporary poetry. "Every new poem is like
finding a new bride. Words are so erotic, they never tire of their
coupling," says the now 93-year-old Stanley Kunitz, who rearranges
the sounds of language as he does the flowers in his garden. Amiri
Baraka, formerly LeRoi Jones, has achieved international stature as
a poet, dramatist, essayist, and political activist. His poems and
plays, including the Obie Award winning "Dutchman," express
his consciousness of the political problems and esthetic possibilities
facing ethnic artists in America.
Galway Kinnell, Mark Doty, and W.S. Merwin look to the natural world
for insights, while the poetry of Deborah Garrison and Robert Pinsky
often finds nourishment in contemporary urban life. Garrison charts
with honesty and humor the terrain of urbane, post-single life, and
Pinsky reminds us of poetry’s capacity to "record information
compactly. It’s how we make ourselves smart."
Agosin and Dao are expatriates from Chile and China whose political
activism informs their lives and their poetry. Adrienne Rich writes
in a language that insists on the complexity of contemporary political
experience. Marge Piercy uses both poetry and science fiction to
social, ecological, and economic injustices.
Irish poet Paul Muldoon, a faculty member at Princeton University,
uses etymology to reinvigorate words by calling attention to their
forgotten roots. Coleman Barks will read both his own poems about
family and Southern life and, accompanied by the Paul Winter Consort,
his translations of the ecstatic poems of Rumi, a 13th-century mystic
poet who — thanks to Barks — has become one of the most widely
read poets of our time.
And Charles H. Johnson of Plainsboro, who has had poems accepted in
U.S. 1 Summer Fiction issues, will read his poem "Rearview
Johnson, a copy desk editor at the Home News Tribune, wrote "Road
Hog" for U.S. 1’s July 29 fiction issue.
Over 12,000 people attended the 1996 Festival, which is the subject
of a three-hour PBS series, "Poetry Heaven." The 1994 festival
served as the subject of Bill Moyers’ PBS series, "The Language
973-540-8442, extension 139. $16 for day/evening combination; $12
students and seniors. Sunday or evening only, $10. Tickets can be
purchased at the gate, or from Ticketmaster, 201-507-8900.
September 24, through Sunday, September 27.
Tickets for each Conversation on Craft session is an additional $20
(attendance limit 40), and for each Writing Workshop, an additional
$30 (limit 8). Preregistration is encouraged but on-site registration
may be available.
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