• picture
  • picture
PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Earth Poetry

Air Date: Week of May 14, 2010

stream/download this segment as an MP3 file

Natasha Trethewey (Courtesty of Natasha Trethewey)

William Wordsworth wrote that poetry is emotion recollected in tranquility. Poet Natasha Trethewey opens the door to a memory of her mother, in her poem "Liman." And poet Ross Gay celebrates the redbud tree.

Transcript

YOUNG: We’ve been occasionally featuring some poetry inspired by—or reflecting—Nature on our program in the last few weeks. Today, we have two poets—we’ll hear Ross Gay reading his poem “Red Bud”, but first here’s Natasha Trethewey with “Liman”.

TRETHEWAY: It began for me one day hearing a woodpecker outside of my house and how that sound carried me to another place. A place in memory, in which I recalled my mother doing some domestic work out in the yard. And what’s interesting to me about this poem was the discovery of a word I hadn’t known. And a liman is the actual threshold of a door, but it’s also the threshold to an emotional or psychological state. This is “Liman”:

All day I listen to the industry of a single woodpecker worrying the Catalpa tree just outside my window. Hard at his task, his body is a hinge, a doorknocker to the cluttered house of memory in which I can almost see my mother’s face. She is there again, beyond the tree, its slender pods and heart-shaped leaves, hanging wet sheets on the line. Each one a thin white screen between us. So insistent is this woodpecker I’m sure he must be looking for something else, not simply the beetles and grubs inside, but some other gift the tree might hold. All day he’s been at work, tireless, making the green hearts flutter.

GAY: I grew up in the Northeast and for some reason I never saw red buds, and I’m not sure how much they are around there, but where I am now in Indiana there’s just a ton of red buds. And they call them Judas trees out here, and they’re so beautiful. Ode to the red bud:

You trilling hallelujahs, you jump up silly and scream, you luscious, you luminous, you firebrand blazing, you sugar knot and swagger, you bird hive, you TnT, you blood stream’s thousand tons, you hemoglobin ton boat and gut throttle, you, you teeth dragged across a scapula, you pelvic, you pushing down and howling up, you florid muscle of the mouth and pink house, you slick dream and holler machine, you lap for washing my face clean.

[Christian Scott “Isadora” from Yesterday You Said Tomorrow (Concord Music 2010)]

YOUNG: As well as writing poetry, Ross Gay teaches creative writing at Indiana University at Bloomington. Natasha Trethewey is a professor of English at Emory University—where she also holds the Phyllis Wheatley Distinguished Chair in poetry.

[Christian Scott “Isadora” from Yesterday You Said Tomorrow (Concord Music 2010)]

YOUNG: Coming up: E O Wilson’s novel observations on society—both ours and ants—that’s just ahead on Living on Earth.

 

Links

For more on Natasha Trethewey Click here

Click here for more on Ross Gay

 

Living on Earth wants to hear from you!

P.O. Box 990007
Prudential Station
Boston, MA, USA 02199
Telephone: 1-617-287-4121
E-mail: comments@loe.org

Donate to Living on Earth!
Living on Earth is an independent media program and relies entirely on contributions from listeners and institutions supporting public service. Please donate now to preserve an independent environmental voice.

Newsletter
Living on Earth offers a weekly delivery of the show's rundown to your mailbox. Sign up for our newsletter today!

Major funding for Living on Earth is provided by the National Science Foundation.

Committed to healthy food, healthy people, a healthy planet, and healthy business.

Innovating to make the world a better, more sustainable place to live.

Kendeda Fund, furthering the values that contribute to a healthy planet.

The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment: Committed to protecting and improving the health of the global environment.

Contribute to Living on Earth and receive, as our gift to you, an archival print of one of Mark Seth Lender's extraordinary hummingbird photographs. Follow the link to see Mark's current collection of photographs.