Featured Poet: Rick Agran, Plymouth
Rick Agran (most recently of Plymouth, New Hampshire) grew up in Brookline, New Hampshire on Lancey Brook and has loved water ever since, in all its guises, with all its voices. He teaches aspiring fine artists to write and chairs the Liberal Arts Department at New Hampshire Institute of Art in Manchester. Author of Crow Milk and Pumpkin Shivaree, he's also at work on another children's book and a collection of poems with the working title, A Short History of Longing. He writes for Artscope and The Wire on the fine arts and theatre beats.
Of his poem, "Mud Revolver", Rick writes: Mud Revolver is a collage of inspirations. The poem had a quirky birth on a spring day in the White Mountains. A flood on the Mad River caused an ice jam and a riverside pine grove I visited was filled with blocks and slabs of turquoise-blue ice. I shared the woods with a pair of crows, a lone jay, and an early sparrow. In the branches above me, the four flew large swirly circles. That evening a friend learning Spanish and midwifery in Taos called and spoke of crows as las angelitas negras. That lent me two parts of the poem's inspiration. Also, I'd recently seen Robert Bly at three NH readings. I followed him from place to place. I loved what he was saying at reading about the power of declaration in ancient Persian poetry. I also loved what he's said in the past about mud and darkness as pregnant with possibilities. A comment he made about global turmoil lent me the idea of the currency I've used in the poem. That's another part.
Next, I'd been speaking with Becky Rule and David Carroll (both whose works I love) at a writer's gathering. We traded laughs about epigrams and epigraphs and all jokingly quipped, "No one ever quotes ME..." I decided to write each of them a poem and "quote" them. I remembered an image David shared in "Swampwalker's Journal" about coming upon a shrieking frog skinned by a marsh hawk. That seemed to offer something to the poem about the ineloquence of violence. Lastly, the new war had terrified me to some degree and I wanted a way to talk about "following" as an anesthetic or paralyzing experience. Relieved by grief and song we invent new possibility or become keenly aware of our forgotten potential.
like a crow's vow to find
new mud to leave her footprints in
let's mint that print
onto all the world's moneys
onto all the thresholds of all the world's doors
who'd take the chance
to fly at all, even with las angelitas negras
if not for gravity's promised landings
bow-legged hop hop hop
skitter skip and stumble
soft green tussock of marsh grass for landing
quickly pluck the leopard frog
from his skin, turn his chirrup
inside out, leave him crying in his undershirt
no more eloquent than a handful
of mud wrapped in silver duck tape
some mud revolver, earthy thumbprint
at your temple, on the temple's stone step
two-legged hop of crow’s touch-down
sparrow, little amnesiac, follows crow prints
through new snow, drawn like blue
to glacial ice or a raindrop to a dust cradle
by the Mad River's water-tangled weeds
grapevine and spruce bough, sparrow's lost
four-toed tracks disappear, her song's
a little heartbreak aria in blackberry bushes
then she remembers she can fly
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Photo credit: Sofia Piel