This is a discussion of Georgia Popoff’s new and wonderful book Psalter: The Agnostic’s Book of Common Curiosities. We focus particularly on two poems, Name Inconsequential and the Agnostic Parses It Out.
The reading is here: Discussion of Georgia Popoff’s Psalter.
Participants in this discussion are Phil Memmer, Executive Director of the Syracuse YMCA Downtown Writer’s Center (DWC); Jasmine Bailey, author of the chapbook Sleep and What Precedes (Longleaf Press, 2009) and Alexandria, winner of the 2014 CNY Book Award for poetry; and me, Bob Herz, founder & editor of Nine Mile Magazine, and publisher-editor of the Nine Mile Press. Nine Mile is sponsor of these programs.
Georgia Popoff is a person of many parts: poet, teacher, editor, professional development specialist, Workshops Coordinator, and—I love this phrase—community poet. Her books include Coaxing Nectar from Longing, The Doom Weaver, and most recently Psalter, The Agnostic’s Book of Common Curiosities. A Poet-in-Residence in numerous school districts, she also teaches adult writing workshops in community-based organizations, and is currently the Workshops Coordinator for the YMCA’s Downtown Writers Center’s adult curriculum and its youth program, the YMCA Young Authors Academy. It is an incredible and impressive resume, which speaks volumes of her commitment to the act and profession of poetry. She is also a very fine poet.
The poets under discussion in this podcast are:
(Reuters) – A meteorite streaked across the sky and exploded over central Russia on Friday, raining fireballs over a vast area and causing a shock wave that smashed windows, damaged buildings and injured 1,200 people.
All the clever waiting, this standby life.
A blank face just beyond a terror curtain;
an undefined skittish cloak, thick as oatmeal,
invisible womb for meteors shuttling
in a chaotic tumble, a palpable and futile electricity.
The tenacity to await the Leonids for a year
and then be tricked again, by the fickle
neglect of weather.
Wood is resistant, unlike the boundary of skin.
Wood is inert. Wood holds silent things
together in small boxes and terse cupboards.
What is this notion of future? A stalled execution?
Tattered sweaters and lone sneakers, the lost wife
of a glove, ceiling bulbs dangling frayed strings,
flypaper spotted and brittle with death.
Surely there is a wizened face behind that confounded
curtain? Surely there is a tongue spewing answers.
If not, meteors have no value and trees bend for nothing.
This is my hammer heart pounding courage into wood,
joining strangers, an arranged marriage of right angles,
flaunting a disregard for the open space of love.
Surely these are the corners in which ghosts
whisper tender threats to the living.
Soon we will be together.
Soon you will understand.
The Agnostic Parses It Out
Unlike dread, matter dissolves like sugar, or salt on a wound.
A child challenges the slow unfolding of butterflies.
I just don’t get it! How does that happen?
If there are so many animals, where are all their dead?
She tried to capture Thor’s bolt in her own small hands
to answer these long-burning questions.
We come from nothing into this world. And here,
the quandary—how to reply to an innocent’s honest question?
None of us can really know. Wonder is answer enough.
Earth is in constant redefinition. When we witness truth,
an apple, perchance, no sacrifice is too much to die for.
An oscilloscope of goldfinches monitors dusk.
Apostrophes at the feeder. Their streamlined little bellies
defying gravity, a seed at a time.
Her oracle, a clement chirp.
Joy is beside herself. The punctuation of birds
opens her revelation cupboard, the chatter as
day slips from grasp, a bubble down the drain.
There’s a story behind each shoe littering
the highway how it was stolen
by some odd vortex of open window.
We fear returning to that place stars define as home.
The coordinates of where God resides.
The morning Joy turned compost defined how the Sphinx
got buried in the first place, a greater feat than wind
could manage. In a flash, it all made sense.
Organisms feed on each other. Joy suddenly sees no horror.
The dust around us is dead skin, sifting off
as we drink coffee, mow the lawn, sit to sew, or write a poem.
Ashes to ashes, an inevitable collection of knots and bones.
Note: Name: Inconsequential was in Comstock Review; The Agnostic Parses It Out appeared in Corresponding Voices.