Thursday, June 15, 2017

Poetry is Not a Luxury - "Bartram's Garden" by Eleanor Stanford

Our June, 2017 selection is Philly poet Eleanor Stanford's
Bartram's Garden. Eleanor will be joining us for the discussion!

From Brazil’s Bay of All Saints to Philadelphia, from Florida’s brutal humidity to the drought-scorched Cape Verde Islands, Bartram’s Garden takes in the pulse and ache of the natural world: the bittern balanced in the swamp, cashew fruit’s astringent flesh. With a gardener’s eye for color and motif, and a mother’s open-hearted sensibility, these poems explore vivid landscapes both intimate and foreign.

Eleanor Stanford is the author of the new book of poetry, Bartram's Garden (Carnegie Mellon University Press), a memoir, História, História: Two Years in the Cape Verde Islands (Chicago Center for Literature and Photography) and of the poetry collection, The Book of Sleep (Carnegie).

Her poems and essays have appeared in Poetry, Ploughshares, The Harvard Review, The Georgia Review, The Massachusetts Review, Brain, Child Magazine, and others. She is a 2014-2015 Fulbright Fellow to Brazil where she is researching and writing about traditional midwifery in rural BahiaShe is the recipient of a Hadassah Brandeis grant and  was a Henry Hoyns fellow at the University of Virginia, where she earned her M.F.A. She lives in the Philadelphia area with her husband and three sons.


All live wonders of the world--humans, plants and animals--are citizens of meaning in these poems. Each poem is a tesseract which reveals the intimate connections between things seemingly at great distance in time and place."
Kazim Ali

"Sometimes we hurry to grow up too soon, Rilke suggests in the Duino Elegies, and so we may find ourselves suddenly exiled from childhood as from a place we've called 'garden' and have forever lost. Yet such a garden...might still exist if only we could perfect a language to intuit it. Eleanor us that language, by turns synesthetic and elliptical, utterly transportive, reacquainting us with the deep mystery of our lives lived in the womb of the world, attuning us to its sweetnesses as well as its astringencies and to our great arduous task of finding one within the other."
Gregory Djanikian

Flora, fauna, the wild and the domestic, these poems sing gorgeously "with their glowing throats / and feathered tongues."
Moira Egan

As luck and timing would have it, I come to Eleanor Stanford’s Bartram’s Garden just as a seemingly infinite number of Brood XXIII cicadas have emerged from their hidey holes in western Kentucky. I can’t imagine a better book to read to the accompaniment of the music of the spheres, as I keep calling the rattling surround sound produced in the resonant abdomens of the male cicadas clinging to the leaves of every tree, bush, and flower in our neighborhood. The last time I heard it — exactly thirteen years ago, in accordance with the periodicity of Brood XXIII — my children, who are now both almost out of the teenage years, were the same age as Stanford’s young children. If the home is a kind of garden, those are the years of near absolute retreat into its sanctuary.  keep reading
 Ann Neelon


Late sown, they grow
thrifty; in this narrow
rowhouse kitchen,
we set their two-pronged
hearts in jars of water
on the windowsill.
We have little sun,
less earth, and yet
I want my sons to know
that what feeds them
grows from light.


In candle-lit flickering, you trace 
rib’s slope. Your bed
of dark strata, each seam a deeper
face. Not far from here, a town
built on a mine caught fire
fifty years ago and is still 
burning. Beneath the overburden
of those other lives—friable surface
where residents of small hope
and coal smoke make peanut butter 
sandwiches or bicker, or sing 
their coal-tinged lullabies—we move 
in upcast shadow. Lampless 
and luminous, breath crumbles again 
in the smoldering, the bitumen,
the glittering ore body.

With J., Discussing Grammar in the Anarchist Coffee Shop, West Philadelphia

There is only one kind 
of sentence, you insist:
declarative. Meaning,
when you ask—our hands 
conjugating each other 
across the table—do you
love me, what you are saying
is you love me. Meaning,
the basic unit can only be
affirmative: the soft 
gray rain fogging
the windows. Palm
on palm. Black coffee
in a small tin cup.

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