Friday, October 23, 2015

Poem in Honor of Vermont Arts Council's 50th Year

 As it happens, my passing the torch as Vermont Poet Laureate to the gifted Chard deNiord is contemporaneous with the celebration of the VAC's existence for half a century. I will read the following poem on November 2, when, at the Vermont College of the Fine Arts in Montpelier, Chard is invested and a variety of governor's awards for excellence in the arts are presented. The Council has, of course, been deeply involved in all these matters.

It's been a joy and a privilege.

                                    Mixed Figures:
           A Salute to the Vermont Arts Council in its 50th year

A certain girl once longed
                                                to dance, and likewise a boy.
She does, he does. There were women
                                                and men who ached to sing
or play or compose. They do.
                                                Writers and painters and sculptors
and actors all follow old urges.
                                                With every step or word 
or note or dab of color,
                                                each tap of a mallet, each weld,
our mountains record a thrill
                                                along their spines, a throb
that thrums as far to the east
                                                as the long tidal river and westward
to great Petonbowk, the lake
                                                we call Champlain. Our slopes
and intervals arrange
                                                themselves as a series of circles, 

each wider than one before,
                                                and at length as a single circle
around Derby Line and Dorset,
                                                Bondville, Bloomfield, Barre,
Cabot, Cuttingsville.
                                                St. Albans, Saxton’s River.
The rest.  How I mix my figures!
                                                I’m a man at greater loss
for persuasive words than ever ,
                                                seeking to render a force
beyond his skills at depiction.
                                                I jumble our commonwealth’s map,
muddle even the simplest forms,
                                                all that I yearn to capture
so vast and varied– the sounds,
                                                the phrasings, the light, the movement.
Yet my failings don’t really matter.
                                                As King Lear’s blind Duke said,
“I see it feelingly.”
                                                Don’t all of us feel and see it
in this room, this town, this state,
                                                that ineffable amalgam
of Vermonters’ multifold spirits,
                                                which surge through the artist’s existence?
And those who honor that artist–
                                                it’s every bit as alive 
in them. They come from every
                                                walk– every flight of life.
They glide silent into the voices
                                                of horn and string; they shine,
however unnoticed, in brilliance
                                                of marble or metal or pigment; 
their indiscernible steps
                                                enliven the steps of the dancers;
they mutely charge an author’s
                                                forays into expression,
all of us fired and braced
                                                by this crucial collaboration.


  1. Syd, this piece is just beautiful. I felt every word of it. I'll miss your posts. All the best!
    Ed W.

    1. Thanks, as ever, Ed. I may keep the bloggoing. Haven't decided yet. All best, Syd