Sunday, November 19, 2006

Jeannine Hall Gailey & Ronda Broatch at the Jewel Box Theatre

I'm just back from an incredible poetry reading by Jeannine Hall Gailey and Ronda Broatch. When I hear these two read, I always believe I'm participating in part of history. I know, it sounds odd, but it truly feels as if Ronda is the next Jane Hirshfield while Jeannine is a more fun Louise Gluck. They are two of my favorite poets writing today.

Ronda read first. She chose poems from her chapbook Some Other Eden as well as some newer work. A few of her newer poems were written from writing exercises that explored part of her childhood. Her chapbook is lovely, the second page is paper with rose petals pressed into it.

Here's one of the last poems she read. Her work is quite spiritual without slipping into cliche'. She has an amazing way of taking what we know in nature and making it new.

Three Before the Fall


Tree Frogs

The tree frogs dim
their evensong. Mornings
in summer, asters

outside the kitchen window—
the radiant of each
bears a small green jewel,

vanished when the sun repairs
to a southerly room of sky.
Fix each one with the eye

of a Nikon, find the odd
bloom shared by two.

waking to find the day
shedding its velvet cloak, and you
centered in petals.


Because Even the Crows Know

You shut the book,
wait for the voices to die.

There is only space,
crows filling it, the wind

blowing dust from the maple’s many hands.
Dry August. In the grass

you espy something shiny.
But the sun keeps walking

and it seems you were wrong.
Because the shade plays

tricks on the afternoon light
you are not convinced.

The crows know,
and they’ve stopped talking.


Last Frog

He winds the clock
work of his croak
until taut

Audible only
the applause of alders
before the fall

And one more bird
he cannot name


against the granite sky

by Ronda Broatch
**Note: the original poem has much nice spacer and can be seen here at DMQ Review


After a brief intermission with plates of pumpkin pie and sky-high whipped cream (okay, that was just my plate) Jeannine Hall Gailey read from her book Becoming the Villainess.

Jeannine said to us later at dinner, "Aren't you all becoming bored of my poems? You've heard me read them so many times..." The answer is an overwhelming no. Jeannine is one of those readers whose voice adds so much to her work. It is a treat to hear her read. She is right in the moment, quite prepared, and smooth flowing with no mistakes as she reads to us about Wonder Woman, Cinderella, the Evil Stepmother.

She ended the reading with newer poems. I appreciated how Ronda and Jeannine did this. As an audience member, I always love to learn what other poets are working on and where their poems are going.

I have lost count how many times I have heard Jeannine read and I have never been bored or distracted at one of her readings. Here's a link where you can hear Jeannine read.

Here's one of my favorites that she read--

Stepmother, at the Wedding

I did the best that I could
and she turned out okay, didn't she?
It could have been a lot worse.
These shoes are killing me.

You don't understand how ard it was,
those greasy children
with their lentils, their field mice,
always playing with fire,

their clinging fingers wrapped
around locks of their mother's hair,
how many apples I feed them,
how many times I send them into the woods.

They never blame their father
who brought me here, to a house
full of strangers, where even the servants
worship images of the dead.

I say, make room for the new.

Jeannine Hall Gailey
from Becoming the Villainess


When she read that line about the field mice, I laughed out loud.

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