Sunday, October 28, 2018

Football poem "Before the kickoff"

Poetry before a football game? Well, of course!
I had the chance on Friday to introduce the North Andover HS and Westford Academy teams with a poem.
Thank you to Sara Durkin for being open to the idea of a football poem before the game. The Scarlet and Black chorus were lined up to sing the national anthem - and she gave me the mic:
"Two teams will take the field - Scarlet Knights, meet the Grey Ghosts.
To the captains - are your teams ready to give their most?
First honor sportsmanship, first honor fair play.
Then seek to be champion, then seize the day.
Both teams come here to compete,
both teams come here to win.
One will leave the field with the banner,
may all leave the field as friends.

The idea for this little poem all happened last week. On Tuesday night, Gayle Heney, a past Poet Laureate of North Andover, handed me the email address of Ray Ahern, a cameraman for NA Cable Access. NACAM records and broadcasts the HS football games, and Ray thought it would be cool to have a poem at the coin toss. So I wrote these lines over the next few days. 

I arrive early to find Ray (who I had never met) before the game. As I talked to him, it was now clear that this was his idea only, nobody else there was on board. Like the PA announcer or Athletic Director or anybody. But he did have a good idea. And I had my little football poem. So now what? 

I needed Sara Durkin, NAHS Chorus Director. I knew that reading it before the national anthem would be perfect. Would Sara be ok with it? Since I'm on the board of the North Andover Music Association, the music booster group, she knew who I was.  So I headed to the HS auditorium, and found her with the chorus where they had just finished rehearsing. I explained what I wanted to do...she was a little confused until I said I was North Andover's Poet Laureate. Then it all made sense to her! She gave an enthusiastic yes. Thank you Sara. Should I do one for this Friday's next playoff game? (PS I did!)

Sunday, October 14, 2018

The Word from the Corner - Among the Names

The Word from the Corner Poets have an unfair - if not completely undeserved - reputation as a depressive, inward looking lot. You know, "We're all going to die...hey...I think I have an idea for a poem..." That line of thought. But if you come out to a poetry night (say on October 23rd at 7PM at the Tuesdays4Poetry open mic at Stevens Memorial Library), you'll get a very different take. Besides insight into what makes someone tick, you'll hear a lot of wry observations and social commentary. Funny stuff too. Really. But going with the depressive theme, at this time of year my thoughts turn to...cemeteries. My wife and I went on a tour of the 1st burial ground in North Andover on Academy Road. Stone by stone, historian Richard Hite walked us through the cemetery, and talked about those buried there who were involved in the witch trials of 1692. The graves of many are there - from the "afflicted", to the accusers, the accused, and the many people who came out publicly to oppose the charges. This opposition led directly to bringing the witchcraft crisis to a close by early 1693. The tour was hosted by the North Andover Historical Society. Here's a poem that I wrote a few years ago standing in that same grassy field. Like many poems, it took a turn of its own. Enjoy. _______________________________________________ Among The Names Standing on this cold field Surrounded by stones and names We get cold feet Unsure where we stand in this world Or the next Among the stones and names All we can do is listen, and stand in the quiet Among still grasses, standing stones, fallen leaves Among the dead Grateful for any message Unsure what we’d do if one came Still we listen Among the dead There’s an inside joke, perhaps a nod, an unseen wink An elbow in the ribs A stifled laugh, a quieting hand to shush the lips A secret smile They can no longer laugh out loud But they get the joke They get it For they saw the whole show Bought the ticket, paid full price too Standing among the names Their hushed unspoken message This message that they earned Silently is heard Ok, it’s ok Your time, enjoy This cold field, enjoy Your cold feet too Until you get the joke Until you find your name Among the dead Grateful be --October 2015 --Old Burial Ground, Academy Road --North Andover, Mass. --by Mark Bohrer ____________________________________________

Monday, October 8, 2018

The Word from the Corner - Still I Rise

The Word from the Corner

I spent the weekend up at a church retreat for the environment in Crawford Notch NH, at the AMC Highland Center. Great location, wonderful community of the spirit, powerful topic. Rev. Jim Antal was the keynote. Amazing speaker and leader. Look up his book. 

At the retreat, gave out a booklet of my favorite nature poems. One of those was by Mary Oliver. I was going to share that poem today.

But after the week that was, I can't do that. There have been very few times in my life when I wake up at 5AM and the first thought that comes to my head, there lying in bed, is the awful thing that those in power have just done. But that is the dark cloud that I'm under, and I know many others are feeling it too. Yes, I woke up thinking about the awful Brett Kavanaugh hearings, and the final approval by the Senate. The Senate did not do their job of "advice and consent".

Because of that, this week's poem is another one that I shared at the retreat. One by Maya Angelou. Just because it's a long road, doesn't mean that you turn back, or that you stop going forward. I have a list of my personal commandments, and my first one is "Thou Shalt Not Give Up."  #9 is "Vote". May it be so. Peace.

PS I included a link to the Mary Oliver poem below because we need that too.


Still I Rise


You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?

Why are you beset with gloom?
’Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,

With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?

Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?

Don't you take it awful hard
’Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,

You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?

Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame

I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear

I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

Maya Angelou, "Still I Rise" from And Still I Rise: A Book of Poems.