Featured Poet: Patricia Fargnoli, Walpole
During the month of April, I am honored to feature Patricia Fargnoli, the New Hampshire Poet Laureate from December 2006-March 2009, and the author of four books and two chapbooks of poetry. Her first full-length book, Necessary Light (Utah State University Press, 2000) won the May Swenson Book Award judged by Mary Oliver. Her second, Duties of the Spirit (Tupelo Press, 2005) won the Jane Kenyon Literary Award for a book by an Outstanding New Hampshire Poet and was a semi-finalist for the Glascow Award. “Pat’s” published well over 200 poems in such literary journals as: Poetry, Ploughshares, Cimarron Review, Nimrod, Mid-American Review, North American Review et. al. In 2008, her poem, “Prepositions Toward the Definition of God” received a Pushcart Prize nomination from The Massachusetts Review. She was a Macdowell Fellow
and has taught at The Frost Place, The New Hampshire Institute of Art (where she was awarded an honorary B.A.) and in the Lifelong Learning Program at Keene State College.
She currently teaches private classes and tutorials.
Of her featured poem, Pat writes: For many years, in the poetry world, there has been an unwritten rule that certain words aren’t acceptable in contemporary poems either because they have become clichés or because they are too “poetic” or “sentimental” ect. Until recently, one of those words was “soul.” What I was taught was: you can’t use the word “soul” without defining it. In the following poem, I’m attempting to do just that.
On the Question of the Soul
It is not iron, nor does it have anything to do
with the fleshy heart. It does not quiver
like feathers, nor the arrow shot from the hunter’s bow,
is not the deer that runs or falls in the snow.
It hunkers down in the invisible recesses
of the body--its closets, scrolled bureaus,
the ivory hardness of the chest,
or disperses through every cell. And also it flies
out beyond the body.
Someday watch smoke travel through the air.
Someday watch a stain spread out to no stain
in the ocean. The soul does that.
It doesn’t care whether or not you believe in it.
It is unassailable and contradictory: the dog
that comes barking and wagging its tail.
It is not, I am certain, biology.
Not a cardinal or a heron, not even a thrush or wren,
but it might be a praying mantis.
It is the no color of rain
as it sweeps a field on an August morning
full of fences and wildflowers.
It is the shifting of light across the surface
of any lake, the shadows that move like muskrats
across a mountain whose shape mimics the clouds above it.
Weighed down by the vested interests
of the body it, nevertheless, bears us forward.
(from the forthcoming book, Then, Something, Tupelo Press, 2009)
Photo by John Hession