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Arts & Artists  

New Hampshire Poet Showcase
From NH Poet Laureate, Walter E. Butts

At my request, the NH Arts Council is providing me with a link to the poet laureate page on their website in order that I may continue to showcase poems by a number of New Hampshire Poets. The poets will be by my invitation only, but I plan to include those who are seriously working at their craft from many areas of the state.

Featured Poet: James Harms, Henniker, NH and Morgantown, WV

James HarmsJames Harms is the author of eight books of poetry including two forthcoming volumes, What to Borrow, What to Steal (Marick Press, 2011) and Comet Scar (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2012).  He directs the low-residency MFA Program in Poetry at New England College, and is Professor of English at West Virginia University.  His awards and distinctions include a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, three Pushcart Prizes, and the PEN/Revson Fellowship.  

I love the song “A Wooden Horse” by the brilliant band British Sea Power (I’ve made it the ring tone whenever my wife calls), so the poem began as a response of sorts, a way of answering one work of art with another.  It quickly became an excuse to fool around with a bunch of anachronistic details and names, something I think poems are particularly adept at doing.  Naturally, like British Sea Power, I’m using a classic trope to explore contemporary notions, but in my case the poem eventually evolved into a quiet (I hope) statement on immigration policy, something poems are not particularly adept at doing.  Oh, well.  By the way, “The Ballad of Queenie and Rover” is another wonderful song, this one by the great Australian singer/songwriter Paul Kelly.  The poem also references Cavafy, Salinger and Stevens, but I hope not in ways that are particularly noticeable.  

A Wooden Horse         

We tied ropes and pulled.
It rolled a little, and then enough
to cross the drawbridge,
which we drew back shut and locked
with iron rods.  Nick and Sally
climbed the tower and crouched
low behind the parapet to take
their turns watching the east,  
from whence cometh nearly
every one we’ve ever hated.
We’d heard the rumors and
knocked.  But the thing was
all echoey and empty, though
inside we found flowers
and enough red wine to
tip the town into dreams
of poppies and fair
weather.  Salvador sang
“The Ballad of Queenie
and Rover” while Ted sliced
the ham and spread mustard
on bread, and Evangeline
for once let down her black
braid and taught the kids
the cha-cha.  We were ready
when they charged, daisies
behind our ears.  “Whosoever
steals will be blinded,” Jamal
cried, as if reading from
the dictionary.  Salvador
kept singing and we offered
the immigrants leftover
salad and what little
ham remained.  “It was better
before we were barbarians,”
Franny whispered.
But they’d given us the wine
and wrapped it in wood,
and sent us a hollow horse
to hold our dreams in case
our hearts, at last, were full.

"A Wooden Horse" was published originally in New England College's literary journal Tygerburning, and is forthcoming in my book Comet Scar (Carnegie Mellon University Press).

For more information about James Harms visit:





Click here for a list of previous Poet Showcases

Last updated: December 21, 2010

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