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Saturday, January 7, 2017

The beauty and 'flash' of poetry

“To feel most beautifully alive means to be reading something beautiful, ready always to apprehend in the flow of language the sudden flash of poetry.” John Albert Holmes

Born in January, 1904, John Albert Holmes Jr., was a poet, critic, and teacher – the profession he cherished as a 30-year professor at Massachusetts’ prestigious Tufts University.  There, he taught both literature and poetry, greatly admired by students and fellow faculty members. "When he taught," wrote Jerome Barron, "something magical happened. He made you want to write and understand poetry. He didn't lecture; he encouraged."   Holmes brought distinguished living poets to the Tufts campus long before poetry readings and poets-in-residence became a standard feature of academia. He organized workshops, summer conferences, adult education courses, but maybe even more important, parties, late night conversations, morning coffee—for poetry, poetry, poetry.

His own writings included 10 volumes of poetry and a book on writing poetry.  His final book, The Fortune Teller, came out shortly before his sudden death in 1962.     For Saturday’s Poem, here is Holmes’ short poem, written at age 25, and simply called,

       Noon Waking
All that long April morning while you slept
The poplar trees were dripping in the rain.
The room’s cool indoor darkness kindly kept
The quick dreams hurrying through your brain.
Lying so late asleep, you could not say
When the slow rainy wind began to stir,
Or when I rose in the dark and went away,
Or what the last three words I whispered were.

The flight of stumbling dream broke and stopped going –
You half sat up in bed to blink and listen.
You heard, like me, the wind in gray skies blowing,
And saw the three tall poplars drip and glisten.

Far on the rutted road when you awoke,
I heard, I heard, the shattered words you spoke.

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