May 21, 2013
We’ve just returned from a remarkable trip to Bermuda, where Samantha and I got engaged, and, frankly, we fell in love with the place.
The colors, the scents, the sounds, and the magical experiences we had — a bit like Alice in her Wonderland, actually, just took us deeper and deeper.
One such experience was meeting Tom Butterfield and Elise Outerbridge of the Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art, which has as part of its mission the repatriation of works created by world renowned artists in Bermuda.
When we were there, Tom was hanging a show of Brooklyn artist Ogden Pleissner’s watercolors painted at St. George’s on the far eastern part of the country.
He took us down into the archives to see Georgia O’Keefe’s charcoal of a banyan tree, and Winslow Homer’s “Inland Water,” which was painted not far from where we were staying in Warwick Parish.
Samantha challenged me to write poetry inspired by Bermuda — not easy to do after a month of writing a poem-a-day during the month of April. But when we got home, my notes proved to have some gems.
Here is the first that has emerged,
Light refracts off turquoise waters,
But “turquoise waters” sounds so trite
And cliché, until you see it’s true.
Not since Indonesia have I seen such a color.
Then there’s the colorful pastel houses
Of yellow and sea green,
Sage, russet, the occasional purple,
The coral pink ferry stops –
All with whitewashed limestone roofs,
Stepped and sculpted to channel and capture
Rain; the islands’ only source of fresh water.
These islands are awash with color–
Flowers from the tiny, purple-blue Bermudiana
To the brilliant red hubris of Chinese hibiscus,
Shrimp plant, with its shriveled crustacean-hued
Flowers stacked along the stalk,
And morning glories, a soft purple
Bruise against green skin–
Light is texture here, which is perhaps
Precisely why painters, especially
Watercolourists, have been so inspired
By this land- and seascape.
The island across the way from us
Was captured by Winslow Homer,
In the painting we saw at Masterworks.
The perfume of the air, frangipani
(Or was it something else?),
Which scents the towels during our stay.
We find ourselves exploring
All over Bermuda, drinking it in,
With our Dark ‘n’ Stormies.
We will leave a part of ourselves
Here, as we take back memories
Of being transported to the beginning
Of our beautiful engagement.
What a place for a proposal;
What a place to conjure
using all our senses,
and all of our sensibilities.
I studied with Gary and he had a big impact on my poetry, which I’ve written about elsewhere on this blog.
You won’t find traces of his influence in my work, stylistically at any rate; rather you’ll find it in my deep engagement of nature, in how I pay attention, and “be crafty and get the work done.”
Happy birthday Gary!
Here is Gary Snyder’s poem, “Old Bones”:
Out there walking round, looking out for food,
a rootstock, a birdcall, a seed that you can crack
plucking, digging, snaring, snagging,
barely getting by,
no food out there on dusty slopes of scree—
carry some—look for some,
go for a hungry dream.
Deer bone, Dall sheep,
bones hunger home.
Out there somewhere
a shrine for the old ones,
the dust of the old bones,
old songs and tales.
What we ate—who ate what—
how we all prevailed.
And here is a recording of Gary reading “Old Bones”: