What Only Poetry Can Do | 8'
Soprano, Mezzo, Tenor or Baritone & Piano
What Only Poetry Can Do sets four texts on writing by poets Barbara Crooker and Julie Kane. This piece was premiered at the 2016 unSUNg festival in Glendale, CA by Yayra Sanchez, soprano.
1. WHY WRITE?
Because I’m here, this late in the century,
looking at the ink-filled sky,
seeing the April comet, a luminous exclamation,
not believing, with the alternatives
of nuclear char or unchecked epidemic,
that anything from our time will last.
But still, I was here, on this rock,
this shaley hillside, violets blooming
in the grass, for a short time. I suffered,
I lived, I loved in the face of everything,
and I have to write it down.
2. USED BOOK
What luck—an open bookstore up ahead
as rain lashed awnings over Royal Street,
and then to find the books were secondhand,
with one whole wall assigned to poetry;
and then, as if that wasn’t luck enough,
to find, between Jarrell and Weldon Kees,
the blue-on-cream, familiar backbone of
my chapbook, out of print since ’83—
its cover very slightly coffee-stained,
but aging (all in all) no worse than flesh
through all those cycles of the seasons since
its publication by a London press.
Then, out of luck, I read the name inside:
The man I thought would love me till I died.
3. REJECTION SLIP
forefinger sliced open
by rejection slip:
the cruelest cut of all
4. WHAT ONLY POETRY CAN DO
Make us stop, in our harried multi-tasking modern
(or post-modern) lives, away from the ambient light
of electricity and all that follows, and look up,
into the great glass eye of night, gazing in dumb
struck wonder at the coded messages of the stars.