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Unread 12-30-2014, 02:59 PM
Alex Pepple Alex Pepple is offline
Join Date: Dec 1999
Location: San Jose, CA
Posts: 4,732
Blog Entries: 114
Default Rachel Hadas

After an extended interlude, we now bring you a brand new podcast, just in time for the New Year!—a Distinguished Performance from Rachel Hadas, an acclaimed poet and translator who has also been a Distinguished Guest here at Eratosphere.

Rachel Hadas studied classics at Harvard, poetry at Johns Hopkins, and comparative literature at Princeton. Between college and graduate school she spent four years in Greece, an experience that surfaces variously in much of her work. Since 1981 she has taught in the English Department of the Newark (NJ) campus of Rutgers University, and has also taught courses in literature and writing at Columbia and Princeton, as well as serving on the poetry faculty of the Sewanee Writers’ Conference and the West Chester Poetry Conference. She has received a Guggenheim Fellowship in Poetry, an Ingram Merrill Foundation grant in poetry, and an award in literature from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters.

Rachel Hadas is the author of many books of poetry, prose, and translations. A memoir about her husband's illness, Strange Relation, was published by Paul Dry Books in 2011. A new book of poems, The Golden Road, was published by Northwestern University Press in the fall of 2012. The poems in this podcast are from her forthcoming book, Questions in the Vestibule, which will be published by Northwestern University Press, with a projected publication date of early of 2016. More information is available at her website.

The videos of the poems here are by Shalom Gorewitz, a video artist and digital filmmaker who has been working on the cutting edge of media for more than 40 years. His work is included in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art and many prestigious private and public collections. He has received grants and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, and many others, including two recent Fulbright Residencies in Ghana. He is a professor of Video Art and New Media at Ramapo College of New Jersey and lives in NYC. More information is available at his website. Gorewitz and Hadas have collaborated on ten "expanded" poetry/videos in the last several years. More can be seen at their collaborative website, or look them up on Vimeo.

Your comments about this Distinguished Performance are welcome! And now, the presentation ... enjoy!



Poem List:
  1. "Slow Green"
  2. "Parents"
  3. "Breathing Invisibilities"
  4. "Cento"
  5. "Equipoise"

Slow Green

The elements were stark: a winter wall,
snow, ice, snapped wrist. Through the break
I could just glimpse the color of the bone.
But cold and white, the January crust,
weren’t the whole story. Seasons turn,
bones knit, a secret stirs beneath the snow.

I told myself
my cast, like winter, wouldn’t last forever.
But there was no way to envision this
country of velvet silence on the far
side of a gate I had unlatched in sleep.
A nameless angel’s finger to his lips:

unscaffolded by language, hold the thought?
Not thought, not words. Rather breath. A vow.
Sunlight this late August afternoon
tips its slow green syrup to the lawn.
Mercy so deep I never knew till now.
The break is ended. Here I am with you.


Form and content want to be each other,
wrote a poet now two decades dead.
Purpose beyond the play of light and color?
Nope, there is none, my beloved said.
He is a father and I am a mother,
he of a daughter, I a son, both grown.
But also now we nurture one another,

My joy, my heart, my self in you, our own
astonishing discovery, the mind
now yours, his, whose possession we forget.
Silent colors throbbing on a screen:
face to face lips and eyes, no words, give light
steering us past the arid paths we knew.
My soul slides out of me and into you.

Breathing Invisibilities

In what used to be a vegetable garden
but this year is a wilderness of perennials,
a garter snake pours itself into a clump of bee balm.
The tail end vanishes. What else to see?
Breathing invisibilities.
Eyes behind the trees.
Deer bear cougar fox coyote fisher cat
(raccoons and skunks and chipmunks are less shy):
breathing invisibilities. The trees themselves—
that stand of maples networked
by plastic capillaries
to catch the sap in season—
how is it that I never sensed before
their strong roots probing downward,
their branches yearning up
through goldenrod and brambles to the sky?
Their spines, poise, courage, trust,
those long ardent arms?
Where was I all those years?
Limited to the scrim of what I saw.
Now carrying home a fraction of the hillside’s
Bounty, apples, berries,
and freighted with the double cargo life
gifts us with when we’re lucky,
I look at what is watching me behind
the leaf screen; try to pay
attention to the season,
the golden afternoon, that shifting cloud,
the rustle of a snake
all but invisible through pregnant silence.
Breathing invisibilities:
Whose were those eyes? What was the thrumming music
behind the trees? The train
barreling through the tunnel
toward light again.
Dream myth narration archetype
allegory pilgrimage frozen section:
stop. Anatomize.
Go with a burst of music.
Fireworks. Again. Again.
Stop: the light of joy
exploding in the dark.


I didn’t just dream you into being.
I drowned in the fire of having you, I burned
in the river of not having you, we lived
together for hours in a house of a thousand rooms
and we were parted for a thousand years.
I will need to be young until I’m old.
I have resolved to keep from looking back
to that ignorant age when the want
was unknown, when I could live without you.
Necessities I never knew I knew
until meeting you a few days
or many lifetimes ago—
but who am I to find a solution?
It’s an impossibility to map the mind.
You can’t remember
where it is you’re supposed to be
or if there is even anywhere
other than here.
I need water and food and air
and someone who loves me never to leave.

We were running round and round the garden.
High walls: could joy escape?
A thick tree root bursting through a concrete square.
Could we get out? Did we want to?
We wanted to taste each other.
Mouths open each other up in their collision.
We recognized a flavor
that in those thousand years apart
we hadn’t quite forgotten.
You change and change
and keep on changing
and none of it matters.
No time to be everything to each other,
no time to be less than everything.
Oh absent and oh present,
necessities I never knew I knew.
I have resolved to keep from looking back.

Set me as a seal upon thine heart,
as a seal upon thine arm,
for love is as strong as death.
Two winds are blowing.
The death wind may be easier;
the gusts of love force people to make choices.
Here we stand at the crossroads.
Garden, red and green and rich brown earth
from which what tree will grow?
I woke two months ago
to newly fallen snow.
It seemed we were about to cross a threshold.
I am not whole without you. See this crack?
How did I break it? Going through the gate.


Early light slants low across the lawn.
Cuplike, this little valley brims with sun.
Pages fill and empty. In the mist
of a still morning, nothing’s out of reach.
Decades fade, the past glides into range,
recoverable, a pristine cobweb caught
motionless in one slat of morning light.
You’re on your daily walk uphill and back.

Summer’s end balances autumn’s start.
One apple falls without a breath of wind,
But fruit past counting’s hidden
in the tall grass. Like this valley now,
my heart is full. I start to climb the hill
toward you. My soul flies out
to greet you coming down.

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Unread 12-30-2014, 03:58 PM
Michael Juster Michael Juster is offline
Distinguished Guest
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: Belmont MA
Posts: 4,802

Terrific idea, and terrific poems from a terrific poet. I caught her orally substituting "murky" for "arid" in one of them, which led to an interesting internal debate about that choice.

Just so you don't think I've gone too rah rah, it may just be me with my tinnitus, but I found the background news of the videos distracting me a bit from Rachel's spectacular scalpel-like voice.

Alex, thanks for adding this feature.
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Unread 12-30-2014, 08:47 PM
Alex Pepple Alex Pepple is offline
Join Date: Dec 1999
Location: San Jose, CA
Posts: 4,732
Blog Entries: 114

Hi Mike,

Thanks for that great review! Rachel reads her accomplished poems well indeed. The videos and the effects included in them are from Shalom Gorewitz who collaborated with Rachel on these and other poems. I've just edited the post to add his bio in the introduction.

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Unread 12-31-2014, 06:47 AM
Maryann Corbett's Avatar
Maryann Corbett Maryann Corbett is offline
Join Date: Feb 2006
Location: Saint Paul, MN
Posts: 9,634

Much enjoyed, Alex. Thanks, and our thanks to Rachel and to Shalom Gorewitz.
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Unread 01-02-2015, 09:49 AM
Gregory Dowling Gregory Dowling is offline
Join Date: Nov 2004
Location: Venice, Italy
Posts: 2,395

Yes, thanks, Alex, and thanks, Rachel and Shalom. Like Michael I caught a couple of minor changes, and wondered whether they were deliberate:

"The break is mended" in the reading and "The break is ended" in the written text. "Mended" seems to make more sense in the context.

"In the tall wet grass" in the reading and "in the tall grass" in the written text.

Greatly enjoyed - both the visual effects and the reading. Thanks again.
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Unread 01-20-2015, 12:29 AM
Charlotte Innes Charlotte Innes is offline
Join Date: May 2011
Location: Los Angeles
Posts: 3,263

Just saw this! I want to note now--and will say more later--that Rachel and Shalom are coming to Los Angeles in March. I'll be hosting them both at Beyond Baroque. They have also graciously agreed to come to the school where I'm teaching to perform for the students.

More to come! Meanwhile, thanks so much for posting these, Alex. I think I have seen them all already--they are great, aren't they?

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Unread 01-29-2015, 04:44 AM
Catherine Chandler's Avatar
Catherine Chandler Catherine Chandler is offline
Join Date: Oct 2004
Location: Canada and Uruguay
Posts: 5,843
Blog Entries: 33

Wonderful. Thanks, Alex.

I think the word "ended" in the last line of "Slow Green" should read "mended". At least it sounds like that in her reading.
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Unread 04-29-2015, 11:42 PM
ross hamilton hill ross hamilton hill is offline
Join Date: May 2013
Location: Sydney, Australia
Posts: 2,238

I only came upon the last poem, Equipose, I noticed in that the poet changed the wording slightly, and you could discern a slight pause, as if subconsciously the flow of the poem had prompted the change rather than it being a thought out decision. Others have noticed a change in another poem, this often happens I think, the spoken word changes what is written.

I love hearing the voice behind the words, especially in an accent so unfamiliar to me.
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Unread 05-11-2015, 09:38 AM
Wendy Sloan Wendy Sloan is offline
Join Date: Jun 2005
Location: New York, N.Y. USA
Posts: 1,086

These are lovely.
The words flow gracefully, and the videos flicker beautifully along ...

Bravo, Rachel & Sholom!
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breathing invisibilities, cento, distinguished performance, equipoise, parents, podcast, poems, rachel hadas, slow green

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