Poetry Sundays (3)

First of all, let me apologize for the delayed post!

Secondly, let me say that this is a very special Poetry Sunday for me! I want to share with you Gary J. Whitehead, teacher, poet, cruciverbalist, painter, mentor, and good friend! To me, Whitehead is the first teacher I ever had who looked at me and said, “you can do that,” and pushed me beyond my own zones in writing. Because of him, I attended the Putney School of Vermont, where I studied creative writing for a summer, as well New Jersey’s Governor School of the Arts, where I was one of twelve students selected from the state to study writing.

Not only is he an excellent mentor, he is a very talented man and poignant poet. His writing is brilliant, hauntingly real, and masterfully sculpted. His words flow with ease off the tongue, yet highlight great form and attention to details, imagery, and language. His many chapbooks display his truly unique and inspirational way with words.

Today, I’m only going to feature two his poems from his most recent anthology, Measuring the Cubits While the Thunder Claps. The first poem is below.

One Day in July

All that I am,
wrapped in a hammock’s sway

and time sounded
in the small turnings of sprinklers

and fat flies.
Green gone brown. Road dust

asleep for the least
wind or any cloud’s offering.

As easily as I lie here
I could die here for all that moves me,

grow bad as an apple
and fall in some patch of shade,

forgotten by all
I’ve forgotten and sweet as the legs of bees.

Out in this moment,
if ever I recall it, will rock the soft

pendulum of the human
I was, as naked and doomed and malcontent

as Adam still ribbed,
and mythic only to me. Who else

will remember
the bear I saw a few hours before

standing in a fir
like a logger, its breath like an engine,

or know another seven days
of silence and a single droning plane?

And if the same
could be said for every man alone

seeing the strange
and ordinary and storing them like seeds

for the tender shoots
of memory, passing time with little else

to grieve,
then its no wonder God created Eve.

The next poem is a personal favorite of mine, one I’ve heard many times and yet see new beauty in it everytime I read it.

First Year Teacher to His Students

Go no into summer, into the backs of cars,
into the black maws of your own changing,
onto the boardwalks of a thousand splinters,
onto the beaches of a hundred fond memories,
in wait, where the sea in all its indefatigability
stammers at the invasion. Go to your vacation,

to the late morning cool of your basement rooms,
the honeysuckle evening of the first kiss, the first
dip and pivot, swivel and twist. Go to where
the clippers ships sail far upriver, where the salmon
swim in the clean, cool pools just to spawn.
Wake to what the spider unspools into a silver

dawn dripping with light. Sleep in sleeping bags,
sleep in sand, sleep at someone else’s house
in a land you’ve never been, where the dreamers
dream in a language you only half understand.
Slip beneath the sheets, slide toward the plate,
swing beneath the bandstand where the secret

things await. Be glad, or be sad if you want,
but be, and be a part of all that marches past
like a parade, and wade through it or swim in it
or drive in it with your eyes open and your mind
open ti wind, rain, long days of sun and longer
nights of city lights mixing on wet streets like paint.

Stay up so late that you forget day-of-the-week,
week-of-the-month, month-of-the-year of what
might be the best summer, the summer
best remembered by the scar, or by the taste
you’ll never now forget of someone’s lips,
and the trips you took–there, there. there,

where snow still slept atop some alpine peak,
or where the moon rose so low you could see
its tranquil seas…and all your life it’ll be like
some familiar body that stayed with you one night,
one summer, one year, when you were young,
and how everywhere you walked, it followed.

Born in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, Gary Whitehead is the author of Measuring the Cubits While the Thunder Claps(David Robert Books, 2008), The Velocity of Dust (Salmon/Dufour Editions, 2004), After the Drowning (Finishing Line Press), A Cool, Dry Place (White Eagle Coffee Store Press), and Walking Back to Providence (Sow’s Ear Press). His work has appeared worldwide in journals, magazines and newspapers and most notably in The New Yorker and Poetry.

His awards include a New York Foundation for the Arts Individual Artist Fellowship in Poetry, two Galway Kinnell Poetry Prizes, a Pearl Hogrefe Fellowship at Iowa State University, and a Princeton University Distinguished Secondary School Teaching Award in 2003. He has held artist residencies at Blue Mountain Center, Mesa Refuge, and the Heinrich Böll cottage in Ireland. Whitehead was the founding editor of the now-defunct Defined Providence Press. In 2004, he was the recipient of the Margery Davis Boyden Wilderness Writing Residency Award, and spent April though October, 2005 in a secluded cabin in the woods of southwestern Oregon.

Whitehead’s crossword puzzles have been published in The New York Sun, USA Today, the Los Angeles Times and, most notably, The New York Times. He also has had his puzzles published in Games magazine. Well known for his poetry, Whitehead is also a painter whose oil paintings appear in private and corporate collections in America and the United Kingdom.

He currently teaches at the National Blue Ribbon School of Tenafly High School in Tenafly, New Jersey.

Connect with him:

Visit him on his website here.
Read about him in NYT’s Wordplay blog (10 published puzzles so far!).
See his poems on The Writer’s Almanac!
Send him an email telling him how awesome he is and how much his poems rock!

That’s it for this week. Tune in next week to see what crazy poem I will roll out next!

**Is there a specific favorite of yours that you’d like to see featured here? Let me know in a comment below!**



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2 responses to “Poetry Sundays (3)

  1. These are wonderful poems! I especially liked the first one, but the second one has me longing for the summertime. Gary J. Whitehead is a poet I will be sure to keep my eye on.

  2. Pingback: Poetry Sundays (5) | Reading, Writing, & the World of Words

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