Airs & Voices
WHO MADE HIS NAME
given in abbreviated form above:
In selecting Airs & Voices for the Ciardi Prize, poet and critic Mark Jarman said,
The voice in Airs & Voices is fresh and original. Though the poet never labors to be significant, even the slightest poem lingers in memory. Wallace Stevens's thoughtfulness is present, but so is his playfulness. Kenneth Koch's playfulness is here, but so is his thoughtfulness. Whether speaking as various snowmen in "New Song" or as parts of a household in "Domestic Opera," the poet finds just the right expression for the subject, with a warmth and good humor that are in short supply nowadays. Sometimes the compassion is startling, as in "Elegy for an Unlikeable Sister-in-Law." Yet an austerity can take hold as well. "The Voices" makes us listen again to the things we said in response to 9/11. Finally, to paraphrase one of the most moving poems in Airs & Voices, "History and a House," this poetry is "so good. It must have happened before." And yet it all seems brand new.
This is an enchanting book. Page after page, Paula Bonnell's poetry is full of fresh sightings, sure phrasings, and a capacity for giving and taking delight. She can also deal subtly with painful or touching things, as in "History and a House." John Ciardi would be glad that so vital a book has received the prize which bears his name.
-- Richard Wilbur
-- Maxine Kumin
--X. J. Kennedy
Paula Bonnell says:
Better than a poetry reading is an ensemble presentation by people with talent for acting, public speaking, theater.
Other presentations could be extracted from Airs & Voices including:
BIOGRAPHY OF A CAT. This selection includes "Serving Two Cats", which won a Sue Saniel Elkind prize from Kalliope, where it was first published in the Summer 2006 issue, some others from the book, and several not in Airs & Voices.
OF BIRDS AND THE RIVER. The river that runs through it is the Neponset, the southern boundary of the city of Boston, flowing into the Boston Harbor; the birds include songbirds, crows, geese, a woodpecker, a mockingbird, and anonymous birds who "speak with the breeze."
THE WEIRD ONES: Time, Love & Space, drawing on poems that share the willingness of animated films to play with reality by seeing from unusual perspectives or condensing and conjoining elements of ordinary reality to communicate aesthetic or emotional truths.
Any of these -- and probably others as well -- could be done as ensemble theatrical presentations, and I would welcome opportunities to work with any college, university, or high school theater group -- or amateur or professional theater group interested in venturesome alternative material -- to put together a rewarding evening or afternoon of poetry presented by people with a gift for performance. Modest compensation and the opportunity to sell books could lure a living writer to your campus, school or theater. See Quick Links to contact me and explore such possibilities.