Tuesday, November 27, 2012

See the SAGE Exhibition!

I know. I have been kind of quiet on the blog front but I learned a very important thing since I last posted up.

It is hard to be in a creative frame of mind while icing a herniated disk in your neck.  

But in spite of (or perhaps inspired by) pain medicine and muscle relaxants, the Bartram Boxes Remix project is marching along.  The 'Journeys' poems are completed and I have my poetic nose to the grindstone to deliver the "Storms" batch to creative partner Claire Owen by December 15th.  So I promise a new poem posted up soon but in the meantime...

Check out the virtual exhibition of SAGE that was at the Chicago Botanic Garden this summer.  Shout out to photographer, Joe Rynkiewicz, and to the staff at the Garden for all their help with bringing the exhibition to reality. 

Buy a gift copy of SAGE for that poetry lover in your life....or plant lover...or herb-loving chef!

Poetry is History! Thanks to Ken Finkel for including my poem "Taking Down the South Street Bridge" on his recent phillyhistory blog

That should keep you busy for a while!  More poems soon, I promise.

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Journey Begins...

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

When I left you in June, we were diving in to the Bartram Boxes Remix (BBR) project.  (Check out the June posting below to refresh your memory.) Starting a new project is daunting and complicated since, while I have an intention of where the poems should end up, I am not always sure how to get there.  (Anyone who has driven with me knows I am directionally-challenged but I get to where I need to go eventually.)

So I procrastinated.  Cleaned my desk.  Did some laundry.  Took a lot of walks. Bought post-it notes and a nice green highlighter. Circled my big blank sketchbook like it was a threatening animal with sharp teeth.  Take it from me.  Nothing is as scary as a big, blank, white page.  I did this for quite a while.

Then I started my research which is less scary than actually writing and just as important.  I read a lot of letters and journals by John and William Bartram.  I did research about the characteristics of the trees.  Claire and I went to the Library Company of Philadelphia and looked at commonplace books. I decided to write the poem for the Paper Mulberry Tree for the box entitled "Journeys".  I wrote my papermaker friend Melissa Jay Craig and asked her favorite thing about mulberry paper.  I thought about letters and maps and sketchbooks and journals and envelopes filled with seeds.

The journey starts...


Dear -

Because scarlet hibiscus cannot survive
  the northern winter.

Because rivers and mountains shift
  shape with the falling light.

Because seeds overflow my palms
  like a broken string of beads.

Because alone, I cannot make sense
  of all that is unfamiliar

Because I miss conversation.

Because you lend the inner layers,
  strands and strands entwined.

Because everything is captive in eyes
  and fingertips unless released, received.

Because nature sows generations
   in the cycle of seasons.         
Because we search the terrain,
  mark our journey, fill the vessel

that holds the crimson ink -

Saturday, June 16, 2012

New Project! New Poem!

First, thanks to everyone who has bought the SAGE book and sent such warm notes as you read your way through my words.  It is more than a little nerve-wracking to finally launch a project out into the world so it is gratifying to hear all of your comments.  You can still get a copy of the book here.

Onward and upwards to a new project.  My creative partner, Claire Owen and I, have been curated into an upcoming exhibition entitled "Bartram's Boxes Remix" (BBR).  BBR is a collaborative project between the Center for Art in Wood and Philadelphia's Bartram's Garden, home of the famed 18th century explorers and botanists, John and William Bartram.

The title of the project references Bartram's boxes containing seeds, plants and curiosities that he sent all over the country and the world to 'seed' New World gardens.  Claire and I are among the artists invited to 'remix' history, materials and inspiration from 13 trees felled in a 2011 storm at Bartram's Garden.  We will be creating our own boxes that will include three 'commonplace books', an ancient tradition that is sort of a cross between a field guide, journal and collection of famous quotations.  You can help by checking out the new web page for this project and adding your favorite Bartram story or quote.  Check it out here.

To get you in the mood, here is a sample of one of the poems I wrote as part of our exhibition proposal; this one for the Tulip Poplar (photo above) one of the trees lost in the storm.  It includes a cast of characters including patriarch John Bartram, his most avid English plant collector, Peter Collinson, and a narrator who could be one of the many un-named, un-famed, Bartram women.  We will keep you posted as the project develops.

Tulip Poplar

Europe coveted tulips –  couleren, rosen, violetten
named to exalt admirals and generals, even as the plague took

sisters and children.  They wanted petals of flame
perhaps to remember, perhaps to forget, until they lost

all reason, buying nothing but futures of air
and empty promises.

Collinson writes, Send the cones of the Tulip Tree
and whatever else thou thinks well of –

John writes, This is what you need to know
root it in rich, deep soil and it will grow to 100 feet,

yield honey to sweeten your bread.  Its wood will
plane smooth and true to fit the pipes and valves

of an organ for you who praise your God with song.
It will make a coffin.  It will give you shade.

This is what I would write, When it catches
the breeze, each leaf will capture the light,

flutter of its own accord into brightness.
In autumn, it will be transformed into

a goblet of gold.   As for its flowers,
they will blossom –yellow, orange, red –

too high for us to see but we imagine them,
much as we imagine heaven.

(c) Beth Feldman Brandt 2012

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

SAGE is here! Buy the book!

Yes, it has arrived.  It has been quite a journey -- close to three years since I wrote the first poem.  Thanks for your enthusiasm, patience and undying support from all corners. 

You can get the final product by clicking here.  You then have the option of paying online and having it shipped or choose "pick it up from Beth" and email me to find a time to connect for hand-delivery by the poet.  Cash and carry works too!

Just to whet your appetite, here is one more poem selected from the "Summer" section, headed up with Claire Owen's stunning painting on the left.  Sometimes one bit of a found poem (below in italics) was enough to kick off its companion piece.  I send "Saffron' out to Linda Williams, exquisite chef at Ragdale and extrraordinary human being, who nourished me in so many ways while I was writing this book.



The whole essence
is in the number.

“If I tell you…

   …the dream where I am walking through

   rows of crocuses, petals spread saucers,

   each offering three threads, three words.

“If I tell you three times…

  …how thousands fill the basket
  and still they are too light,  but how
  detached, bruised, heavy with scent.

“If I tell you three times, it’s true.”

  …how I search for three to pull
  from the tangle, three to swell with ink,
  three words that are not  I love you.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

SAGE Sighting

I swear I am not making this up.

To your left, my ace design team from Art 270 who helped us navigate the complicated production and printing process for SAGE.

Art 270 guru Carl Mill (he's the one on the right) wholehearted took on our project as his poetry contribution of the year...along with his dog named...wait for it...Sage.

Good karma for sure!  Thanks Art 270!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

SAGE Featured for National Poetry Month!

I am thrilled to share that the SAGE project is featured on the terrific "Library as Incubator Project" website today as part of National Poetry Month. Click here to see it!

SAGE would never have been imagined without the people and resources at the Lenhardt Library of the Chicago Botanic Garden. Leora, Ed, and Stace represent all that is inpiring about how libraries and librarians can be open to new ways to connect people to books. Even as we speak, they are getting ready to present "Rare Seeds, Creative Harvest: Artist Books Inspired by the Rare Book Collection", an exhibition that will feature not just the SAGE books but the process by which they came about. The exhibition opens May 18th. so any Chicago folks --check it out for me and report back! I'll be out in July with Claire Owen to teach some workshops.

Go out and say thanks to your favorite librarian!

Oh, and SAGE will be in our hands on Monday. Thanks for your patience and watch this space to get yours in the mail.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Invasive Biology

First, thanks for your patience as we wait for SAGE to come back from the printer. Thankfully, living in the nonprofit world has prepared me for troubleshooting on a budget! But really, it is AT THE PRINTER and it's not too late to pre-order a copy by emailing me here. These folks will get first dibs, hot off the presses in the next few weeks.

Last time, I wrote about how I write poems but didn't tell you that my real muse is Morning Edition on NPR right as the alarm goes off. More than a few poems have been inspired by that semi-awake state and an intriguing story on the radio. So with apologies to my friend and naturalist Liz Bradfield who will no doubt know that this image above is probably not the real English grass in the poem, here my somewhat abashed confession on this environmental conundrum.

Invasive Biology

I know I should be appalled
that English grasses are growing
in Antarctica --appalled
or at least alarmed -- how once more

humans have upended nature, bur
latched to pant leg, seed fallen
from the pages of a paperback last read
in a backyard in Surrey -- alarmed

or at least dismayed -- how tufts of green
cricket lawns dot this white island where
they decidedly do not belong -- dismayed
or at least concerned.

I should be appalled but instead I am
awed, mesmerized, uplifted -- how life
makes life wherever it finds itself,
the power of the faintest pulse.

How can I be dismayed when this is
what I want -- thaw in deep winter,
improbable color, the chance to inhale,
embed, enfold the exotic other.

(c) Beth Feldman Brandt 2012

Sunday, February 12, 2012

SAGE Sightings! Add Yours!

You know how once you get a thing in your head, you start to see it everywhere?

So I was playing Scrabble with my mom, looked down and there was SAGE. I swear I did not even re-arrange them. They just appeared.

There's someone in South Philly who tags SAGE on buildings. Keep an eye out and send a picture if you see it. And any other cool SAGE sightings! Email your photo here.

Which reminds me that it is not too late to pre-order SAGE which should be out in March. Just email me here to get your order in.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

SAGE- Pre-Order the Book!

At long last, we are getting ready to send Sage to the printer in the next month or so. Little did I know that actually writing the poems was only one step on this long, but gratifying, road to a finished book with my collaborative partner Claire Owen.

We've decided to tackle the printing and distribution ourselves partly because we are control freaks, partly because we are on a deadline for the May 2012 exhibition at the Chicago Botanic Garden, and partly because poetry publishing is such a crap shoot, even for a book that isn't four-color, an unusual shape, and based on an 17th century botanical reference book.

It would be great if you can email us and let us know if you are planning to buy a copy (for about $20) so we can figure out how many to print. We hope to have the book in hand by late March. You can email me directly here.

Sage moves from the innocence of childhood and spring (see the opening poem, Air, in my December 2010 post) to the realities of winter, aging...and regret. Here is the poem that opens the last section of the book.


All the words we regret
rise on waves of our own heat,
gather in dark clouds,

In winter, they fall.
Each unique --
the chilling remark,
the harsh denial.

They murmur outside
the bedroom window,
slick and treacherous
blocking the last way

(c) Beth Feldman Brandt