Christal Ann Rice Cooper

Christal Ann Rice Cooper
Christal Ann Rice Cooper March 2017

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda: The Highlights of a Published Poet


Christal Cooper – 1935 Words
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Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda:
 The Highlights of a Published Poet


Contrary Visions
Scripta Humanistica, 1988.  Published under the name, Carolyn Kreiter-Kurylo

“My first book, Contrary Visions, falls under the umbrella of polar opposites.  Many of the poems were written during graduate school in response to writing assignments.  As Peter Klappert insightfully notes in the book’s introduction, ‘It is in . . . [the] Blakean sense of Contraries—the dynamic, constructive opposition of equally true alternatives that lose validity without their counterparts—that Carolyn Kreiter-Kurylo titles her first book Contrary Visions.’  There are quite a few poems written during this period of time that I left out of the book, regardless of whether they had been published or not.  The pieces simply didn’t adhere to the book’s focus.”


Touching a Stained-Glass Window
in Gloucester Cathedral

            For Eddie

Blind boy, I could be particular
and tell you how the design is made,

how faces, folds of drapery
are drawn, then baked in kilns

to flux the paint to the surface.
But how much truer to run

your fingers over colors, to say:
yellow, the imperial crown warms

your palms.  Blue, cool fire
of a scepter calms your spirit.

Touch scarlet to understand anger:
not the red of robes that sparkle

with jewels, but flames that angle
and lash through a slate sky.

Feel the power of black where lead
strips give strength to the panes.

Fill your own darkness with soft
winds that rise from the sea, whitecaps

warm as milk lapping your skin.
Let the waves flow to you.  Take them

into your heart where everything’s
aglow with color and light.

Gathering Light
SCOP Publications, 1993
e-version, Northampton House Press, 2013

A portion of my dissertation, Gathering Light: A Poet’s Approach to Poetry Analysis, treats the subject of revision.  Included are three essays which detail, draft by draft, my meticulous revision process.  Back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the process of writing a poem began with the germ of an idea, followed by research, if necessary.  I produced the initial drafts on a legal pad of paper and then moved to the typewriter.  Every time I altered a word, phrase, line or typographical arrangement, I retyped the entire poem until it flowed rhythmically.  In those days I could churn out drafts relatively quickly.  While organizing poems for inclusion in my second book, I noticed the overriding treatment of light and decided to call the collection Gathering Light.”

The Hibiscus
On the anniversary of my father’s death, July 12, 1993

Twelve straight days of this hot spell,
the roses, flat red, broken-down beauties,
morning just up, warming itself.

A week, I have waited for the hibiscus
to flower, wondering its color and whether
all this heat has kept it from opening—

when suddenly, there it is:  red
blossom of your heart beating,
a sign like rain letting down a veil

of berries, the plink, plink as rhythmic
as your words; or the sun, orange giant,
waiting for me near the horizon;

or cypress, sun-glazed steeple, standing
straight up, as you said I should do
whenever sorrow, overabundant, hurt me.

O, my father, I could grieve, but a breeze
says don’t, and heat clings to me
like honey, the moisture on my skin lemon-

silk, and the voices of birds, bursts
of yellow, spun, spun through heavy air.
In my palms, I cradle your heart,

a blessing.  At night when this piece
of you falls off its branch, I will
place it in a chalice of water

and wait for the hibiscus to flower
again.  O, Father, for me summer has
always been these blooms, these blooms!

Death Comes Riding 
SCOP Publications, Inc., 1999

       Death Comes Riding offers a perspective on spiritual growth.  As the book’s cover statement explains, the poems are ‘set against a background of death, history and myth’ and treat both contemporary and historical characters, ‘some precariously close to death, others speaking from the grave.’  This collection also focuses on my near-death experience and how it altered my perspective on life.   While writing this book, I knew where I was headed.  Stacy Tuthill of SCOP Publications, Inc. and her Editorial Board offered helpful critiques, which tightened the final version.”

Stones

You have just risen from night-
sleep.  Opening a window,
you float above the city,

hear your lover cry out.
Startled by a brisk wind,
you remember a friend

stilled by cancer, how later
a stone filled your chest.
It’s true, the mind says,

some stones carry magic:
Stone of Scone, Black
Stone of Mecca, even though

the hard mass extracted from
you held no spirits.  It says,
the body made a terrible

mistake no hands can reshape.
You look at your hands, wonder how
they’ve taken marble, fashioned

a god so like the man who lowers
your gown and kisses the dark
scar, holds you all evening

while you rise above monuments
and touch his heart carved
deep in the crystal sky.

Greatest Hits: 1981-2000
Pudding House Publications, 2001
Currently available from Kattywompus Press


Greatest Hits: 1981-2000 is part of an invitational chapbook series which, in the publisher’s words, ‘celebrates poetry’s place in our culture and honors the artists whose lines elevate America’s poetic sensibilities.’  I was asked by the press to select poems which had appeared in anthologies or received prizes or special citations.  I was also asked to write an introduction about ‘the lives of the poems.’  The tight-knit focus of this series narrowed the list of poems I could include in the chapbook.”
      
Among Cedars

a flute maker whittles.
Thick red slivers fall,
their scent so powerful
I’m again a young girl
opening the family’s wooden
chest to savor a fragrance
that does not die out--
like the breath of the carver’s
new flute becoming canyon
wind, rain burrowing
into corn’s soil, flood water
paving rainbow’s way.
The rough-hewn cedar
sings, and I take this
as witness of ancestral
presence, for I have come
to this grove to ask
my parents, long dead,
for a sign, that was here
all along in the stir of night.

River Country
San Francisco Bay Press, 2008

After moving to Eastern Virginia, my husband and I established a Wildlife Retreat, certified by the National Wildlife Federation.  We devoted hours to feeding and caring for birds and other creatures—all while observing their habits and features.  We spent time kayaking in creeks, an activity which introduced us to ospreys, eagles, herons, and egrets.  I attended university lectures on environmentalism and observed the habits of farmers and watermen.  All along, I was writing poems, based on my close observations of this area and its lush beauty.  In time, I started paying close attention to the environmental ills.  Poems about these subjects came together naturally in River Country.”

Nest Building

“There are some enterprises in which a careful
disorderliness is the true method.”
       Herman Melville

The osprey soars through a cerulean sky,
scumbled with oyster pinks and whites. 

Industrious, he scavenges insect carcasses,
sticks, seaweed, swells of twine, drops them

between the branches of a dead pine.
Melon light slides over his widespread wings,

over talons lowering twigs into the lopsided
nest.  Shifting his weight, he shelters a jumble

of crosshatched twigs while house sparrows
flit in and out of leafy nooks.  Back and forth

they zip, the hawk oblivious to the goings-on
in the basement, to the halo of bugs—ticks,
      
mites, larvae, drawn to fish-guts leftover
from a noonday meal.  Back at shore, he shakes

off tawny flecks of matter before gathering
cornstalks to plump up his bulky home.

Four feet deep this week.  Deeper next,
he boasts to himself, content to live

by the river’s edge where trout are plentiful.
Puttering packrat, he’ll forage again tomorrow.

His random collections tug at the soul,
call him back to this thriving creation,

aflutter with wiggles and squeals.  Lit up
like spooned honey, he zeros in to land.


The Embrace: Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo
San Francisco Bay Press, 2013

Diego and Calla Lilies
*Note:  This poem can be read three ways – the italicized version, the non-italicized version, and line-by-line version.                    

Kneeling on a petate mat,
The basket, deep enough,
an Indian woman sits upright,
supports our long, firm stems.
her unclothed frame scented.
We settle into clots of dirt.
Is it sandalwood?  Mahogany?                           
Like absinthe, we intoxicate
I paint her broad shoulders:
the artist who shapes the woman’s arms
       earthy dabs of nutmeg, hyacinth      
with the mastery of sun
       so she can thrive like the flowers,      
so she can embrace us.
       so she can feel the florets swell.
Her hands, smelling of freesia,
       Soon, she will rise out of shadows
reach out to our trumpets blaring
       to gather bluets, yarrows.
as though she hears a mariachi horn,
       What is happiness, if not this need?      
feels our desire to return to marshes,
       See how she rests—a saint—holding
watery fields, shallow pools far from
pearls, luminous as fire?      
the lover who approaches a street vendor—
       Now, maybe you understand who I am.
scissor snips ringing through the market,
       In the city, in the valleys,
fleshy tubes and arrow-shaped leaves
       I wander in search of legends
rolled into wrapping paper, sold for a few pesos,
       to begin anew.  Oh, these calla lilies!
the blooms’ swanlike hearts pounding.

In a Certain Place, edited by Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda and Alice Tarnowski
SCOP Publications, Inc., 2000
       In A Certain Place is a poetry anthology, which I co-edited, to highlight the work of accomplished writers in the Washington, D.C. area.  The book contains an introduction by award-winning poet, Br. Rick Wilson, T.O.R. Franciscan.”

You Don’t Need Binoculars to be a Birdwatcher

Take Lake Nakuru in Kenya, the vast number
of flamingos.  What greater bird than the Lesser:
carmine-red, the legs startle the water.

Perched on stilts, it slips
its bill beneath the surface, flips
its tongue into place, then dips

for algae.  Outnumbered, the Greater towers
to six feet, feeds on mollusks, then clears
the lake, soars over tiers

of yellow acacias glinting in pure
sun.  Rock-strewn hills, every detour
opens up on pelicans, seems an overture

to the view at the top:  pink slides from sky
like a rainbow into your eyes
mesmerized by the flight.  You ask why

there are so many birds rushing
to earth.  Don’t waste time looking
through binoculars.  Start running

to the lake’s edge for a closer view.
Look into the liquid heart where the blue-
green pulsates, red beaks sucking, then spew-

ing out water.  Follow the pelicans’ snow-white
ascent into the flamingos’ flight.
Be like the birds.  Lift.  Ignite.


Four Virginia Poet Laureate: An Anthology & Reader’s Guide, edited by Sofia Starnes
Cedar Creek Publishing, 2013
         Four Virginia Poets Laureate 2004 – 2012 – An Anthology & Readers Guide is edited by our current poet laureate, Sofia Starnes, and includes my work, along with that of three sister laureates, Rita Dove, Claudia Emerson, and Kelly Cherry.”


Hurricane

Where was fairness the night
your buckling gales snapped
the still-green trees?

Where was fairness
when woodland squirrels
wailed like brash screech

owls and deer lay paralyzed
in the heartless dark?
Was it fair to dream

of iridescent fields while
deafening whirlwinds
pillaged the land?

Fair to suffer a hurricane
twice:  first as a frightened
child and again in autumn’s rill?

Fair to rebuke you, tumbling
on your unwieldy path,
pushing turgid waters inland?

Fair to mull over your anger:
the jungle of pines, remnants
of homes washed to sea?

Fair to name you consagrada
a Dios?  I remember squirrels
scampering in a flurry, their hurl

through branches of surviving oaks,
the unexpected, dawn-struck glory
bowed to this thriving earth.

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