Thursday, August 16, 2012

Poet Lore Poet Kelley J. White on “The Crash Room”

On “The Crash Room”

By Kelley J. White


here is where I run in slow motion
clipboard as shield keys clanking
stethoscope banging breast with each beat
chanting the mantra of resuscitation: adrenalin
bretylium bicarbonate dopamine

and the door has flung open on a child
seizing a child
bleeding a child whose shoulders convulse
with electroconversion shock

a child burned a child
crushed a child struck torn broken fixed
pupils pinpoint dulled eyes swollen shut shut

and I will be the one at the ankle
threading a line
the one pushing chest
the one counting with an ear at the mouth
the one cutting
clothes the one pushing tubes
the one standing on the ceiling
watching her
spirit thrown

Poet Lore Vol. 97, No. 3/4

This is the urgency of Code Blue. Doctor Stat. Arrest. I was twenty-five years old, an intern in a crumbling inner-city hospital in a crumbling neighborhood in North Philadelphia. I’d chosen St. Christopher’s for its smiling apple logo and a fleeting sense that my peers would support me; that I just might be able to survive a three-year residency and then begin a life; that a dozen of us—new doctors in training, each issued two sets of scrubs, proud of not sleeping, arrogant with our beepers and bloodied shoes, clutching our cold coffee on rounds—could invent together a better way to fix lives. I was terrified. I was exhausted. I was dangerous and full of intolerant self-importance.

I hope that “The Crash Room,” written twenty years later, contains some of that terror, rushing—the stuttering footsteps down a dim hall, the stuttering heartbeat. I left the lines unstopped. Let there be the chopping rhythm of awful discovery. Let there be the eerie smoothness that comes with the loss after the adrenalin lets go. The momentary identification with the patient, as our chief resident taught us: at a code, ‘the first pulse to check is your own.”

“The Crash Room” published in Poet Lore in 2002, became part of my collection Toxic Environment, published by Boston Poet Press in 2008. Oddly, that manuscript also includes a later poem, “After performing CPR,” which appeared in Kalliope in 2003. It uses a similar non-punctuated enjambed strategy but is intended to have a slower pace, using the softer sounds of s’s and f’s, instead of the hard c’s and b’s of “The Crash Room.” It tries to remember the body experience of CPR—the way the rhythm stays with the body for days after the event, like dozing off after an evening of dancing a dark, desperate dance.


like skiing the white hills of sleep
following mountains all the bright chill
day the rhythm of falling in time with
a wind singing above the flight falling
yet never touching ground sweet sore
muscle learned and the child will breathe
will open her eyes this time will breathe

Thirty years later now, the experience stays with me. Though it’s no longer a frequent requirement in my work, where the major emergencies are ‘social’ (child abuse, foster care, substance abuse, mental illness, homelessness, kids falling into the criminal justice system), I still listen with a stethoscope and use an otoscope and opthalmoscope for exams. But I try more and more to see and hear with my eyes and ears and a thinking heart. I’ve come back to my little town in New Hampshire and found it every bit as much suffering, and more, for children in this pristine rural environment than in my ‘Toxic’ city. At the present, I am not writing many poems. I thought I’d write about nature here in the pine woods or spiritual life, gazing at white steeples. Perhaps, in another thirty years, my words will be shaped by the urgent sufferings of these children. It may be urgent that I write these stories before they are forgotten or I run out of time.

After 30 years of pediatric practice in inner-city Philadelphia, Kelley J. White now practices at a rural health center in her home state, New Hampshrie. She received a Pennsylvania Council on the Arts fellowship in poetry in 2008, which helped to support work on her most recent collection, TWO BIRDS IN FLAME, poems related to the Shaker themes, and published by Beech River Books.

A wide selection of Pore Lore volumes are available for purchase here.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Quotidian Theatre Company

This coming weekend is the last chance to see The Quotidian Theatre Company's productions of Afterplay by Brian Friel and A Little Trick by Anton Chekhov.  Performances are 8:00 p.m. August 17 and 18 and 2:00 p.m. August 18 and 19.

"What a wonderful little gem the Quotidian Theatre Company of Bethesda is. The vignette of A Little Trick was an all-around joy to watch. Jonathan Feuer as Ivan captivates your attention right off, and lends a mesmerizing performance. Sara Dabney Tisdale’s Nadya is incandescent and captivating. Concert violinist Christine Kharazian, as the wind, personifies the Russian winter and the characters’ emotional plight. Director Stephanie Mumford has led her team to generate not only “a little trick” but a mesmerizing, little slice of life. As in A Little Trick, the actors are very strong and captivating in Afterplay. The focus of the play is on the dialogue and discussion reactions, and both Osherow and Dubov provide engaging and outstanding performances for Director Jack Sbarbori"   - Connie Morris, DC Metro Theater Arts

"Sbarbori’s direction (of Afterplay) and the acting—David Dubov as Andrey and Michele Osherow as Sonya—is impeccable, bright and clean, performed with much elegance and sensitivity to the ebb and flow of the art of conversation, with things said and unsaid. Words, gestures and silences are finely handled, down to the nuance. The image-stories the actors evoke are marbled with gentle humor and not without the painful regret that can characterize a life half-lived. Dubov displays understated comedic talent in a charming and quirky portrayal of Andrey.

Osherow distinguishes Sonya with spirit and fortitude, and her gradual, understated transformation from assured administrator of her family’s estate to the bared, broken down prisoner to neglected passion is remarkable.

Preceding Afterplay is the short A Little Trick, based on a Chekhov story and directed by Stephanie Mumford. A Little Trick is a narrated memory play told from the point of view of a young man, Ivan, about a singular season spent with Nadya, an impressible young woman who he may have loved in his youth. Jonathan Feuer gives an assertive portrayal as the diffident Ivan... Sara Dabney Tisdale’s almost wordless performance as the painfully smitten Nadya makes the piece special. She must convey Nadya’s subtext in reaction to Feuer’s monologue, and does so ably, through movement and facial expression. John Decker’s set design for A Little Trick is imaginative and lively, evoking a wintry birch forest and a hilltop with a scarlet sleigh displayed for the audience like a totem idol. A Little Trick also features the vibrant strings of Christine Kharazian’s violin. - Roy Maurer, DC Theatre Scene

(In A Little Trick) "Tisdale and Feuer work beautifully together as the terrified Nadya and the proud and protective Ivan. As she nearly faints with fear, he whispers his love to her, causing her to want to take to the icehill again and again. The third character is the Wind (Christine Kharazian), who does not speak but plays Vivaldi's "Winter" from "The Four Seasons" on the violin. Stephanie Mumford's direction of this poetic, suggestive piece is deft and subtle, emphasizing its elusive nature as a play about perception and deception. Brian Friel's Afterplay imagines what it would be like if two characters in two of Chekhov's dramas met in a whole new setting. Sbarbori's sensitive direction, Osherow's and Dubov's talent and Friel's quirky sense of humor flourish in this theatrical gem." - Barbara Mackay, Washington Examiner

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

John Elsberg

We were very sorry to hear that John Elsberg, a poet, editor, and long-time friend of The Writer's Center, passed away on Friday, July 27.  We are posting an appreciation Board member Wilson Wyatt wrote for the Eastern Shore Writers' Association E-News. 

On John Elsberg

by Wilson Wyatt,

In July, we lost a fellow writer, a poet extraordinaire, and a friend. It is with sadness we write of the passing of long-time ESWA member John Elsberg.

John enjoyed the personal side of writing, quietly celebrating small achievements with other writers, to build something better, writing for a greater purpose, a step at a time. This was evident at “The Delmarva Review,” where he was the poetry editor and close advisor for five years. After editorial meetings, he would often say, with a pleasant smile on his face, “Let’s go have a glass of wine.” It was his way of ending business discussions to enjoy the camaraderie of others, in respect for every small effort to build the Review. He always took the long view, but he wanted to celebrate each step of progress.

John passed away last week after a bout with cancer. The great loves in his life were his wife Connie, their family, and writing. He was devoted to writing, both to his own poetry and the work of many others. He was an early member of the Eastern Shore Writers Association and became a founding advisor to help create “The Delmarva Review,” as a regional journal showcasing new literary work. His devotion to writers on the Eastern Shore included judging the regional arts councils’ poetry competitions and “open mic” poetry readings in Greensboro. In retirement, he was looking forward to moving from Virginia to his and Connie’s second home in Henderson, Maryland.

John was a highly regarded poet, reviewer, editor, and historian. The author of over 14 books and chapbooks of poetry, his work has been published in many anthologies. He started the open poetry readings at The Writer's Center in Bethesda, Maryland, and in the 1970's was fiction editor of “Gargoyle” literary journal. Since 1975, he was the editor and publisher of “Bogg,” a magazine of contemporary writing from America and the U.K. As a young man he taught at the University of Maryland and then spent many years as an editor/publisher of history books. In his professional life, he directed a publishing program for the U.S. government.

John is survived by his wife Connie, his son, Steve, and two grandchildren. The family requests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the Caroline County Humane Society, 407 West Bell Street, in Ridgely, MD 21660 (410-820-1600). You may send a note of sympathy to Connie Elsberg at 422 North Cleveland Street, Arlington VA 22201.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Thorpe Moeckel Doubles Back on "Wild Ice Cream"

On "Wild Ice Cream"

By Thorpe Moeckel

          “Wild Ice Cream” is the simplest kind of poem—a list poem—and it’s rooted in a particular time in my life. I wrote it in my late twenties, in 1999 or 2000. Our first daughter was a toddler then. We were reading her many stories and children’s books. I enjoyed these books, especially the alphabet primers, and I liked the ritual of reading—the togetherness. Things I enjoy—isn’t joy sometimes as destabilizing as grief?—tend to influence my writing.

During that time, I was adjusting to a more domestic life after ten years of leading outdoor trips on rivers and trails from Maine to Florida. Eating ice cream and reading these fun kid’s books helped with this transition. In other words, I missed the extended work in the outdoors (I had been leading 30-day trips before Sophie was born) for many reasons, one of them being the intimate contact with plants, critters, weather, customers, and landforms in beautifully various parts of the Appalachians and Eastern coastal regions.

Poetry has always been a means to synthesize various life-urges and passions. “Wild Ice Cream” is not only a blend of life forms from very diverse ecosystems—coral polyp and blue spruce, for instance—but it was also a way to stir some of my favorite life forms in the psychic mixing bowl that is a poetry draft—bugs, animals, plants, rocks, fruit, grains, music, the playful vibe of children’s books, as well as a nod and smirk at the designer ice cream industry. In a sense, it was a roll call for the things I missed living with day in and day out—things I hoped my young daughter would know, as well as an homage to Ben & Jerry for their willingness to make ice cream with creative flavors and great ingredients and tastes.

I appreciate the opportunity to look back at this poem because it makes me hungry for ice cream—which is a good thing—and also because when I look at poems from that period of life (and even from the present period), I become aware of certain yearnings that serve as predictors, road signs of sorts, for where life might take us, my family and me. I become aware, too, of how lucky we’ve been.

While teaching at Hollins University for the last seven years, I’ve also been helping my wife and kids work a little Permaculture farm/homestead, where among the many food/soil building systems, we raise a Nubian goat dairy herd. We make cheeses, yogurts, kefir, and ice cream from that goat milk. We don’t get too crazy with the flavors, and I doubt we’ll get into milking gorillas anytime soon, but in every line of this poem are at least two things we grow, raise, or wild-harvest (and then process and eat) from our 18 acres and the surrounding fields, forest, streams, and rivers. Today there was basil and walnut in the pesto we mixed into a chevre spread for lunch. And the pawpaw will be ripe before too long.

A last note: if I remember correctly, Ben & Jerry had a contest in the late 1990’s where you could send them flavor ideas. If they liked your flavor, you won a year’s worth of free ice cream. This poem was the entry I never sent.

Thorpe Moeckel is the author of three poetry collections, the most recent, Venison, was published by Etruscan Press in 2010. Making a Map of the River was published by Iris Press in spring 2008, and his first book of poems, Odd Botany, winner of the Gerald Cable Award, was published in 2002 by Silverfish Review Press. After years guiding trips on rivers and trails in the Appalachians, he earned an MFA in 2002 at University of Virginia, where he was a Jacob K. Javits and Henry Hoyns Fellow. A former Kenan Visiting Writer at UNC-Chapel Hill, Moeckel was awarded a 2010 National Endowment for the Arts Literary Fellowship in poetry. He teaches in the writing program at Hollins University, and lives with his wife and children in Western Virginia.


Dandelion sorbet, beechnut-chicory root,
persimmon, yellow dock-goat milk, crawdad-mulberry,
& elderberry-birch; we’ve got goldenseal-soynut,

marijuana-horseradish, sesame-carrot & blue spruce;
rhubarb-hemlock, coon-tongue-mayapple,
basil-walnut, & a periwinkle-kelp swirl. Or try

quartzite-yellowwood, a scoop of barnacle crunch,
ciderbug, waterstrider, black ant-chip.
Coral polyp, orb-weaver-lemon balm, tahini-prune–

there’s bluegill roe-watercress, poision ivy-touch me not,
& amanita-skullcap. Or beebalm, violet-crabapple,
galax-wintergreen. If none of that sounds good,

try jimson weed-sweet corn, roasted lime bean.
Here’s iris, carrot-sesame, & bee pollen-gorilla milk.
Even puffed quinoa, rugosa-cattail, pawpaw-bladderwort.


Poet Lore Volume 97, No 1/2, p 9

A wide selection of Pore Lore volumes are available for purchase here.