Tuesday, April 1, 2008

A New England poem by a New England poet

Inspired by the current PRC exhibition, New England Survey, and a recent sharing of a Frank O'Hara poem (and perhaps my humble attempt to fill the vacuum left from the Poem of the Week), I share with you a poem by Amherst poet Robert Francis (1901-1987). This landscape photography show was inspired by Francis's poem "New England Mind" (you can read my essay and see images from the show here as well as check out the opening reception snaps here). In addition to his gentle approach to nature, Francis used rhyming, puns, and humor in his work, as demonstrated in the title of autobiography, The Trouble with Francis. Below, I present another Francis poem, the wonderful "The Two Lords of Amherst."

As Bruce is traveling often to Amherst for his memory panoramas and reading lots of Francis himself, I feel like I am getting to know this New England town and alternative to the other Amherst poet quite intimately. For those that aren't familiar with Amherst's town center, you might enjoy knowing that Francis is referring here to a tavern/inn and a church that are actually across a street from one another. Lord Jeffery Inn is named after the founder of the town, Jeffery Amherst; the "Jehovah" named below is Grace Episcopal Church. Both are still in operation today. Enjoy!

"The Two Lords of Amherst"

The two Lords, Jeffery and Jehovah, side by side
Proclaim that hospitality lives and Jesus died.

Jeffery in whitewashed brick, Jehovah in gray stone
Both testify man does not live by bread alone.

From sacred love to bed and board and love profane
One could dart back and forth and not get wet in rain.

How providentially inclusive the design:
Here are the cocktails, here the sacramental wine.

Here is the holy, here the not-so-holy host.
Here are the potted palms and here the Holy Ghost.

Tell, if you can and will, which is more richly blest:
The guest Jehovah entertains or Jeffery's guest.

- Robert Francis

"To make anything interesting," Flaubert says, "you simply have to look at it long enough."

For those interested, we're working with a local writing non-profit, Grub Street, to co-present a workshop in and about the current exhibition on May 3rd. Called Staring and Wonder, the workshop will discuss ideas of staring and looking in literature to kick start the day and then turn to the photographs in the shows for expository inspiration. I am terribly excited by the whole idea and intend to sit in on the first half of the day. More information here.

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