CSM Connections Features Poets Glaser, Dwyer, April 3
A young woman pondering a piece of fruit hanging from the tree and the consequences of her act of curiosity shape Remembering Eden, the latest collection of poems from outgoing Maryland Poet Laureate Michael Glaser.
Glaser is the author of several poetry collections including Being A Father, A Lovers Eye and In the Mens Room and Other Poems, which won the 1996 Painted Bride Quarterly chapbook competition. He is the recipient of the Homer Dodge Endowed Award for Excellence in Teaching and the Columbia Merit Award. Remembering Eden has been nominated for the Conference on Christianity and Literature Book of the Year Award.
In addition to writing, Glaser is an active member of the Maryland Humanities Councils Speakers Bureau and has served as a Maryland State Arts Council poet-in-the-schools for more than 20 years. He holds a bachelor of arts from Denison University and master and doctorate degrees from Kent State University. He is a professor emeritus at St. Marys College of Maryland where he served as both a professor and an administrator for more than 35 years. Since 2004, Glaser has served as Marylands Poet Laureate.
As part of CSMs Connections Literary Series, Glaser will join fellow Maryland poet and CSM Professor Neal Dwyer in reading their latest poetic works. The reading will begin at 7:30 p.m., April 3, at CSMs La Plata Campus, Center for Business and Industry, Room BI-113.
In preparation for CSMs Connections program, Glaser discussed his latest collection Remembering Eden, Adam and Eve, revision and the importance of poetry and art in school and life.
CSM: Almost all of the poems in “Remembering Eden,” reflect upon Adam and Eve's banishment from the garden. Could you talk a little about what drew you to their story?
Glaser: Bible stories have fascinated me for a long time. Whatever else they may be, they are often profoundly interesting metaphors that can help us examine the human experience – our values and relationships, our actions and our understandings of how we might choose to live in this world. I began to focus on the story of Adam and Eve about 25 years ago when my eldest daughter and my wife proposed that we name our soon-to-be-born baby girl, Eva. Because in many traditions, Eve is blamed for “original sin” I thought it unwise and unfair to give a child her name. But we opened the Bible and read the story of Adam and Eve again. It is very short, of course, and leaves much to the imagination and, I think, to interpretative understanding. My wife and daughter quickly convinced me that Eve may well have been the first liberated woman – refusing to do what men wanted her to do just because they said so. She, and the story, are both, of course, far more complex that just that, but the possibilities started to claim my imagination and began a deeper consideration of such issues as free will, the nature of Good and Evil, indeed, the nature of what it means to be human – to be free to explore and question, to wonder and imagine.
CSM: Could you talk about your use of the images of light and shadows in these poems?
Glaser : The use of images of metaphors, all the tools of good writing, are things I study and note in others worksindeed learn about from studying others works, but they are not things I especially think about when I am writing. I write to explore, examine and discover. I wonder about the possibilities that might exist in a given situation. I wonder about how things will sound or feel if I write them this way or that. I like to probe. I like to play around with possibilities. I do a lot of revising. For me it is a part of the exploring and discovering, and I enjoy it. I enjoy writing as a way of searching for words or images or metaphors that feel exactly right that say to me Ah-ha! Thats it! It is that feeling of having discovered something that feels precise, accurate and true that I look for.
Many writers have talked about revision and concluded that a poem is never finished, it is merely abandoned. I was playing around with that notion recently, thinking about how it might apply to my own writing, and I realized that for me, revision is very similar to living. And I started exploring that notion in a poem I eventually called Never Finished. It has been through about 20 drafts so far, each one coming closer to helping me know what I truly think and what language choices can most accurately help me convey that. It probably still is not finished, but I think it is about ready to be abandoned because, for now, it comes as close to accurately saying what I want to say as I both know and can find language to convey. [See Sidebar]
CSM: In the poem, “Adam's Dream” you write ” I imagine myself/ a wiser Adam, still walking in the garden,/ still eyeing that succulent fruit/ I never dared to eat.” Do you think poetry and art would still exist if man never knew original sin?
Glaser: I am, of course, curious about what it might be like to live in a state of pure innocenceif we would experience that as bliss or notbut the reality is that we do not live in a state of innocence or bliss. The metaphor of banishment may be nothing other than a way of pointing to the reality of life as humans have known it since the beginnings of recorded history. So what does it mean to live – as we do – outside the garden? How do we live with both what we know and don't know? What questions must we ask? How can we live constructively and even joyously with the ambivalence and ambiguity of the universe as we experience it? How do we live responsibly on this shared planet with its fragile eco-system as it spins through dark space like an amazing blue marble? So once again the Story of Adam and Eve points me toward more and more questions. Remembering Eden might be thought of as a packaging of responses to some of the questions that the story of Adam and Eve raises for me.
CSM: You have served as Maryland's Poet Laureate since 2004. What does the job entail and what's your favorite part?
Glaser: My term as Poet Laureate of Maryland is coming to a close, and I have enjoyed the experience and opportunity immensely. I have had the pleasure of traveling to almost every county in this state to share my love of poetry with thousands of people and hopefully demonstrated how poetry can help connect us to what is both genuine and authentic. By inviting people to listen to the poetry of others as well as write their own poetry, I have been privileged to hear the stories of many Marylanders, both young and old.
I hope I have been an advocate for the idea that the arts are essential because they encourage us to examine our values and our vision for the diverse and vibrant communities we live in. The arts, indeed, provide us with a way to reflect on and engage in important conversations about the choices our lives face at this particular time in our history [and they] help affirm for us the central role of the human mind, spirit and heart in our dealings and interactions with each other.
CSM: As a Laureate and an educator, what do you think is the best way to introduce poetry to children and how should poetry be used in schools?
Glaser: I'd urge teachers and parents to read out loud to children. A poem to begin the day, a story to end it! I'd like to see every classroom have a good selection of age-appropriate poems available for students to pick up and read on their own and to share with others. I'd encourage teachers and parents to invite their children to write their own poems and stories.
Poetry is about giving voice to our experiences. Art itself is about learning to dance with the unknown. This, of course, is something children engage in from birth they have no choice! Introducing poetry, storytelling, music, painting and dance to young children is a natural extension of what they have been doing from early on. The arts provide windows and mirrors from which to see and understand and give voice. To help young people learn about the tools and develop the skills for doing that is a precious gift for parents and schools and curriculums and teachers to give to children to anyone!
Because schools so often categorize things, we often forget that the arts are about the whole of our lives, and thus, potentially, about all things our lives are engaged with. The arts provide wonderful doors for the adventurous and curious spirit that we are born with; they offer doors to lead us out as explorers and doors to invite us back in as discoverers.
I often think of William Meredith's statement, “Our job is to ask questions. If we ask enough good questions, we become entitled to one guess at an answer – and if it is a good guess, it will lead us to more questions.” I'd wish that schools spent far more time encouraging children to ask and explore good questions and less time on how to select right answers to improve test scores.
Life's questions, I find, are endless. And the exploration of them offers me an endlessly absorbing way to explore my choices, to examine how I might live kindly and with integrity, with purpose and passion. How, indeed, I might fully embrace this amazing gift of life we have been given. I would like all children to be exposed to the arts and to self-expression in a way that affirms and honors just such exploration.
Since 1990, the Connections Literary Series has held readings featuring national award-winning contemporary writers, poets and artists who share their work and time with residents of Southern Maryland. All readings begin at 7:30 p.m. The cost is $3, general admission. Tickets are available the night of each reading. For information call, 301-934-7864 or 301-870-2309, Ext. 7864 for Charles County; 240-725-5499, Ext. 7864 for St. Marys County or 443-550-6199, Ext. 7864 for Calvert County or visit http://www.csmd.edu/Connections/.
CSM's campuses are accessible to patrons with disabilities. Audio description for the visually impaired and sign language interpretation for the hearing impaired are available with a minimum two week advanced notice. If you are interested in these services, please contact the academic support/ADA coordinator at 301-934-7614.
A regionally accredited community college that provides programs and services with a special focus on local workforce development to maintain and grow a healthy economy and community, the College of Southern Maryland is a silver level recipient of the 2008 Maryland Performance Excellence Award. CSM, founded in 1958, is the fifth largest community college in Maryland with campuses in Calvert, Charles and St. Marys counties. For information about CSM, call 301-934-7765 or 301-870-2309, 240-725-5499 or 443-550-6199, Ext. 7765 or visit www.csmd.edu.
Poet Michael Glaser Compares Revision to Living
In his tenure as Marylands Poet Laureate, Michael Glaser has had the opportunity to speak to thousands of school children, teachers, literary groups and poetry lovers but it hasnt made him a perfect poet. Indeed, as Glaser describes it, poetry is all about constant revision and learning when to let the poem live out its course, whether it is wisdom or folly. Here Glaser shares his thoughts on finding the right words and works in progress.
A poem is never finished, it is merely abandoned
… variously attributed to Mallarme, Valery, Pound,
William Carlos Williams, C.S. Lewis and as
an old saying among poets.
And what is ever finished, really? Until the end,
isnt it all a kind of process, an exploration
of those small corners of curiosity that bring us
ever closer to that final leap?
Each beginning embraces its own tension,
the pulls and confusions that define ones unfolding
like a flower, say, letting go of a seed,
or a leaf being pushed from its limb.
Im not so sure abandoned is what Id call it
at least not until afterwards, when the seed has failed to find
the soil, the leaf fallen, or the body returned to dust.
When its over, its over, but until then
I want to embrace the unstoppable invitations
that call to us in every moment,
I want to explore the great hollow of our failures
and the contours of our human longings. I want to
know courage, the passions that stir deep within,
the storied intimacy of those who chase rainbows.
I want to know each of us as artists
stalking, as we do, the incorrigible dark.
– Michael Glaser, 2009, previously unpublished