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PHILADELPHIA POETRY: BY LEONARD GONTAREK (JANUARY)

In PHILADELPHIA POETRY, Leonard Gontarek selects and introduces some of our city’s most praiseworthy poets. For January, Gontarek discusses the work of Charlotte Boulay.

Courtesy Bethany Legg

Courtesy Bethany Legg

Charlotte Boulay keeps her finger close to the Refresh key, the original,
the new. She uses simple terms to explore complexity. From Aubade
with Whistle:

Birds scritching in the eaves
chuckling low

… and morning enters without a by-your-leave

I’ll take it now to stop the kettle
the greensounds

the train driving through my sleep

 

From the scritching through greensounds to the train driving through
her sleep, this poem covers a lot of ground. There is an elegant handling
of language. Precise: scritching. Inventive: greensounds. Sleep and train.
Doesn’t that depict the motion, the drama of sleep? Startling, wonderful.

 

At Night You’re Not Lonely

although the Morse tap of rain on the roof
is as indecipherable

as the staccato of a fly at the sill.

It’s late, and the radio rustles no new news:
abandoned horses roam the barren plains.

Something slips into the darkness –

the smell of beeswax, the imagining of sun
or a palm stroking your back, still hours until dawn.

There’s a hollowness even in turning the pillow

for the cool on your cheek, the migration a forced march
into another country.

Charlotte Boulay works as a writer at the Franklin Institute, the science museum
and center in Philadelphia. Her first book, Foxes on the Trampoline (if this sounds
like the title of a YouTube video, it should, because that is what it is) was a Poets
& Writers magazine top-ten debut poetry book of 2014. Water is everywhere in
this book, and flight. Immediately in the first poem, she is diving into a pond.
There are night birds. The poem concludes with a musician flipping his violin in
the air and catching it. In Dear Sailor, the final poem of part two, the speaker asks
of the figures moving underwater: Is it a trick of the light? Rejoice, is the reply.
A poem, Calenture, notes in its epigraph from the Oxford English Dictionary: A
disease incident to sailors in the tropics, characterized by delirium in which the
patient, it is said, fancies the sea to be green fields, and desires to leap into it.

Here is Luminary:

 

I dreamt a sailor. I dreamt

a sea so blue it stretched the corners
of my sight. Each day the boat, the wind,
the water. Each night the voice:

my little zephr we are
whistling in the dark.

I followed it. I left my lover
behind. This is not an allegory,
it’s an allegation.

Sing me a shanty, sing me
a lullaby. To forget you
I invented another.

 

Travel and flight and the maps of things are on this poet’s mind, as well as
how we measure passage, how we measure distance and closeness. In Migration Charlotte Boulay is weathered and ready to follow… as long as it takes, what she sees in her body’s memory looks like the shadow of a ship. In Dear Sailor there is clinging to the rudder where a castaway will phosphoresce, where feet leave the deck cleanly with eyes on what’s belowEven in Field there are startling currents and the shadow of the boat tracks itself like a hunter.

Migration is a good approximation of the movement of a Charlotte Boulay
poem. The move from one location and settling in another. The change of
position of atoms. The seasonal movement of animals. A highway of birds
in the sky… landing nowhere… desire splintering
.

Murmuration

The most birds I’ve ever seen.
What lives

the longest? Superlatives
are only sometimes useful. A sea of open beaks
and wing. Flip the quick one, melt the meticulous.

It’s sort of a trick that color,
that sun-in-a-cup, and the rush

has no signature. How can we measure
the velocity, the distance from one trestle to another –

leaving the ground is different. Banking

and rising all together, there’s no barre
at which to stand; the sandbank shifts underwater
as the clouds move correspondingly above.

Watch the birds: the sky parts and remakes itself

almost cruelly while we wait
for the next instruction:

now dance     now droop     now rest.

There are poems that are journeys, there are poems that are reports from journeys.
There are poems that attempt the difficult, maybe impossible: letters to the one
voyaging – these are the poems of Charlotte Boulay. Migration is moving away, it is, at the same time, a moving towards and coming together. In her search through signs and codes and correspondence, through relationships and transactions with one another, in these maps, this is what she finds.

 

Marriage

The lock on the door
is more than one hundred years old
and it almost got stuck the other day.

Someone used to bake bread in the oven
and lined shelves with gleaming preserves
and sweat every summer putting up

tomatoes, corn relish
and beans. You can see the ghosts
of footsteps in the cement

in the cellar, the depressions holding themselves
steady and each spring filling with water
as it seeps through the clay.

Someone fitted the tongue-and-groove
porch ceiling, then lay on his back
afterward with a cold bottle, admiring

his work. On the phone, my mother
says it’s time to get a new mattress.
She can see the outlines of my father’s body,

and hers, lying next to each other
every time she changes the sheets.

 

 

Charlotte Boulay is a seasoned, wise soul.

 

 

Leonard-300x200

Leonard Gontarek is the author of five books of poems, including, Déjà Vu Diner and He Looked Beyond My Faults and Saw My Needs. His poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, Poet Lore, Verse, Poetry Northwest and The Best American Poetry, among others. He is host of the Green Line Café Reading and Interview Series and conducts poetry workshops throughout the Philadelphia area.

 

Poems copyright © by Charlotte Boulay. Used by permission
of the author and ecco books, An Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

APIARY + HEAD & THE HAND PUBLISHING WORKSHOP!

head-hand

The Business of Words: A Workshop on Publishing: Buzzz on in for a honeyed lecture on how to get your work published in magazines and literary journals followed by a q & a.

Where? The Head and the Hand Press Workshop, 2012 Sepviva St.
When? February 5th, 2015. 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm.

Led by Prof. Tamara Oakman, executive editor and co-founder of Apiary Magazine. She teaches English, drama, creative and expository writing, and the humanities (film, philosophy) at several universities. She has awards for poetry, fiction, memoir and drama. She published fiction and poetry in Many Mountains Moving, Philadelphia Stories and Best of Anthology, Mad Poet’s Review, Fox Chase Review, Painted Bride Quarterly and many other online and in print journals. She has been a creative writing judge for Hidden River Arts–fiction and drama, Ursinus College–fiction, and the Mongomery Co. Poet Laureate competition–poetry. She was featured in The Philadelphia Inquirer, City Paper and other press. Look for her on WHYY Friday Arts in April 2015. Copies of Apiary Magazine will be available. Join the hive on Facebook: The Apiary Corp.

Snag a seat online at the Head and the Hand Press website!

THE WOMEN OF SLAM LAND AT THE PHILLY PIGEON

In case you missed the latest Philly Pigeon Poetry Slam (you made a big mistake, bub), we’re hear to catch you up! This month’s slam was an all women’s slam; the winner of this event earned a spot in the Women of the World Poetry Slam. The host of the Philly Pigeon, Jacob Winterstein, was kind enough to send us live footage of poets Abisola Kusimo, Jasmine Combs, and Individual World Poetry Slam Champion, Porsha O. These ladies will make you quake. APIARY

Abisola Kusimo performs “Fuckboy Poem.”

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