May 27, 2011

Still Life with Poets

Ever since I got home from April's travels, I have been living quietly--enjoying the calm before the storm of DKTBG's July publication. So it was a real treat to take a Tuesday afternoon and drive up to Silver Spring to visit my friend Hailey Leithauser's house. Well, okay, driving on the Beltway at 3 in the afternoon was not a treat. But everything that followed was--seeing her chic new bath (she's redoing the house a room at a time); assembling a light dinner of smoked salmon over seaweed, sides of antipasti (marinated elephant garlic and cherry peppers: who knew they were so good together?), and quick-grilled corn on the cob; splitting a lovely bottle of a chardonnay/viognier blend; chatting as we watched her hound dog, Folly, chase rabbits in the backyard. 

But Hailey's not just a friend--she's a poet. A really good one. As much as I love her for her Hawaiian shirts and vintage pin-up art collection, I love her more for her gift of wordplay. She's the kind of woman who riffs off obscure dictionary definitions, or gets interested in complex palindromes and goes "yep, I could do a book's worth of those." So we looked at a poem draft, traded Bread Loaf gossip, talked about places to send. This is such an isolated and isolating art sometimes. Having friends, local friends, who are writers strikes me as an incredible gift.

And the funny thing is, we kind of keep pace for each other. We were both in Best New Poets 2005, which for me felt like a big break--probably less so for Hailey, because she'd already won the Discovery/The Nation award the year before.  We end up as neighbors in a lot of journals (Meridian, Cave Wall, AGNI online).  Below is Hailey's poem from The Best American Poetry 2010, "The Old Woman Gets Drunk with the Moon," which first appeared in Pleiades. I also had a poem in this volume, "Unit of Measure," which was first published in a July/August 2009 issue of POETRY that had, yep, poems from Hailey too. We were both thrilled to be chosen for BAP by Amy Gerstler; I remember back to 2006, sitting on a couch in my studio at the Millay Colony and finding inspiration in the poems from Gerstler's Bitter Angel. This poem is part of a series of Hailey's that deserves to be published in a full-length collection. I wish I could wave a magic book-wand and make the right things happen for deserving people.


The moon is rising everywhere--
The moon's my favorite rocking chair,
My tin pot-top, my green plum tree,
My brassy buttoned cavalry
Tap-dancing up a crystal stair.

O watch them pitch and take the air!
Like shoo fly pies and signal flares,
Like clotted cream and bumblebees,
The moons are rising.

How hits-the-spot, how debonair,
What swooned balloons of savoir faire,
What purrs of rain-blurred bright marquees
That linger late, that wait for me,
Who'll someday rest my cold bones there
In moons that rise up everywhere.

~Hailey Leithauser

For more info on her work, check out Hailey's page at the Poetry Foundation.


Maureen said...

I especially enjoyed hearing "Was You Ever Bit by a Dead Bee?" at the Poetry Foundation site. Thank you.

Greg said...

Nice post! Thanks for sharing that lovely poem and give my best regrds to Hailey.