Louis Jenkins – 2nd Annual Pankake Poetry Reading



gorgeous spring day the pancake poetry series was founded so many events and poetry readings that she organized when she was and we decided when she retired that it was time to continue that tradition and so today's program is jointly sponsored by the libraries and the Friends of the university libraries and one a particular Milenka grant American literature in English literature librarian who helped put this all together and we're also most grateful for the Friends of the libraries for supporting programs like this and I know we have many of our board members and friends here today so glad you could join us also a special shout out to last year's future poetry reading general investigators here as well how often is it that you get a special request from someone to be the guest introducer however one is Michael Dennis Brown how can you ever say no Michael is one to Minnesota Book Awards published a long books and has inspired and nurtured virtually thousands of students in his 39 year tenure here at the university as a distinguished professor of English he has himself trace the library stage a number of times with poetry and most recently with a wonderful presentation on his collaboration with Lois Jenkins was born in Oklahoma City in 1942 he married in December 1970 40 years yes he writes poems and prose which is the French much better than prose Campos makes a lot more sense to me sometimes it is the only genre with an oxymoron for a title it has every device that uses every device of poetry except the library it's very free in its associations it leaps and jumps all over the place members for all histories return it to Ravens you have clouds that remind me the right of Genghis Khan and his followers you have Robert the Bruce lights you have crows firing themselves in wheel covers are deciding to sing arias very wonderful whiteness in Louis's right it wouldn't be so effective I don't think if he wasn't such a wonderful observer the readings of a real world Paulette watt says there's another world it is inside this one well Louis is passionate for that other world inside of this one is also very much of I meant to but she talks about the incident metamorphosis in his work being led somewhere sudden you've gone somewhere else you've slipped into a very very different gear it's a very subversive kind of way of looking at the world nothing is quite what it seems it's remarkably funny I hope it meets us some of my favorite funny ones I think of Lewis is a very brilliant and sorrowful kind of skeptic in a way there's a very relaxed sense of faintly fatalistic in these bones those are just a wonderfully strange humor would you read the one Lewis at some point some salt we've read that that helps to meet favorites there aren't standards and solving philosophies in this writing there's a strawberry sensible rootedness in the world and the validity agreement when big statements are made well the crows sing over and over here I am Jesus says here is the earth according to Lewis here is the earth here is the sky and now Paige says in his poem that the crows say Here I am the poem ends that's really all there is to say when we say it again and again I also want to say that with all these mixes of colleges a wild imagination that grief and humor it's also shoot huge tenderness of the writing talking about relationships about marriage the loneliness and the joys of companionship of marriage and parenting it's a wonderful mixture of things yet a point called green tomato in which I think his Mars appears early in the morning to play with him and the poem ends there is no point in my telling you too much of what makes me happy or sad I did not wait to find at this moment in this unlikely place thank you Michael he makes it sound and I want to echo saying I'm very honored to be anything I was thinking about this and thinking about some of my old friends are here Carrie and now what a great place Minnesota was to grow up as a poet I grew up in Oklahoma and came here as I got to know lots lots of other poets and particularly mr. Robert Bly who was the kind of guy who nurtured us all and we had a great time we traveled all over the state doing different things and built all the ones one of our gang and genres merci lots of others that anyway it's a great place I thought to start out by reading a few newer poems this is called napping near the sucker river this dream goes on and on babbling and blathering about something it knows nothing about it's like listening from your bed as a child to the haha mumble murmur of adults in the other room if you listen the way you did then the river as well will put you to sleep the river says everything goes down down soon everything that happened will die it has been a very long time since you checked the oil in your car and a long time since you called your mother everything you used to think was important wasn't important what you're told was important wasn't what you think is important now isn't important only what you think is unimportant only what you could never think of only what you could never think of our never imagined is important but not very I seem to be writing a lot of poems about getting older this one is called basement there's something about our basement that causes forgetting I go down there for something say a roll of paper towels which one group in a big box down there and as soon as I get to the bottom of the stairs I've forgotten what I came down it happens to my wife as well in shades of paint because we could not get the color right extra dishes bicycles the washer/dryer a cider press the piano jars of screws nails and bolts it boggles the mind my wife believes it over a ton here's another one this is called exercise here is a Zen inspired exercise for all you older guys dress comfortably in your shorts and a t-shirt hold your trousers in front of you with both hands you will need to bend forward somewhat in order to pull your pants at knee level or below then while balancing on your right leg lift your leg left leg and insert into the left pant leg repeat this process lifting your right toes on your left see if you can do this without tipping practice without using a chair or other support this exercises more domestic homes called a suitcase I keep my clothes in the suitcase I haven't been anywhere and have no plans to go anywhere but these days you never know and besides it gives me a focus for my anxiety and for my occasional moments of unfounded excitement and anticipation every morning I take out clean socks and underwear etc throw the dirty clothes back in the suitcase once a week or so I take the suitcase down to the washer and dryer in the basement and sit around and make idli that's about it once in a while I see old friends tired they say why the long face this is sandals I never real really feel comfortable wearing sandals they don't seem right for this normative climate up here we are always expecting it to turn cold we never go anywhere without a jacket so when it gets warm enough to wear sandals usually four or five days of early August it feels as though I'm taking a big risk to do so sandals make me realize how vulnerable I am nothing at all to protect my toes from falling rocks or scalding hot water if you wear sandals your feet are available to the ski toes and wood ticks and other vermin you don't want to walk in the woods wearing sandals you don't want to play soccer or rugby I feel more at ease in boots wool socks but every summer I wear my sandals once or twice as an indicator this is called stories you tell there are worse things than being human I suppose you could be a politician for instance the only compensation for being human is that you can make up a good story but good stories require a good audience one that is patient and quiet you could try telling a story to a cow you'd want to hear the story to your audience once upon a time I walked over by the fence and I stood there for a long time chewing listen often with great enthusiasm but they don't really good no good with monkeys but which means you are pretty much stuck with other human beings as your audience you spend a lifetime getting the stories just right and you begin once upon a time I walked over by the fence and the listener stares into space chewing maybe you decide to know it's a bad idea maybe you meet accidentally with Joanie and you have a few drinks to talk about all the times and later engage in sex you know it's a bad idea there's way too much fat salt sugar and alcohol it isn't that you want to do these things you don't even know there will be consequences you don't want to but you have to and if it turns out that it's not as much fun as you had expected or even if it is you still have the compensation of bucket of bolts my grandpa had the first car in town the 1904 Auburn with the car developed engine trouble and stopped running there was no one in town who could fix it so they pushed the car into the blacksmith shop and carefully removed the engine and put each bolt they removed into a bucket then they created up the engine and shifted by train back to the manufacturer in Indiana in a few weeks the crate came back with a note that the engine had been repaired at no cost to the owner the problem now was that no one could remember how to put the engine back in the car there was much discussion everyone had a theory the barber the druggist even the minister had a few thoughts finally the project had to be abandoned the car never ran again but the engine sat in it's great in the blacksmith's shop for years people went on to other things births yes new cars but a thing like that can persist beyond a lifetime or two beyond any memory of this its existence lying in a field somewhere like weekís going around you could stumble over it this is called breakfast now that the fun is over maybe it's time to take yourself away to a hermitage in the mountains to become a contemplative NS feet but what does it want to rush into something like that it's difficult once we stayed out all night drinking under the summer stars and at 2:00 a.m. said someone said let's drive to Aspen great idea we don't do that what's left there I think breakfast perhaps a bowl of oatmeal with raisins a soft-boiled egg named the sun is shining a touch of fall in the air and coffee is ready the other morning's of old friends cold people I haven't seen in 50 years people with whom I have nothing in common we just got married we're in town on our honeymoon ridiculous well hell I said come on over we'll have some coffee some bacon and eggs we'll talk about protein and carbohydrates talk about distance speed gas mileage this is called banana imagine he's unfairly right with a touch of green still on the skin firm and delicious there though there are those who prefer them a little more ripe a few black speckles on the skin a little softer but sweeter but I think he being the first woman like them still a bit green and very fresh imagine he's slowly peeling the banana and opening her luscious old lips her perfect texture and Adam watching all the while with his eyes hanging out never even needed to bite this is called you have a poem you've got a poem some idea that sprang up in the dark like a mushroom you have no idea what it is really it could be deadly poison it could kill you and your entire family your wife and your sweet little baby but you can't stop yourself you say let me share this with you it's about my life my childhood my mother it's about grief and loss and the gentle caress watch out this could turn out to be called phone call I was sound asleep when my daughter Jo Ellen called just to see how I was getting along and after she hung up I thought I haven't slept this soundly since Marjorie died the clock said 834 so I got out dressed and had a bowl of frosted mini-wheats I was just about to put the coffee water on when I noticed that it was getting dark outside at first I thought a rainstorm was coming then it came to me it was night I had thought it was morning I realized that I had been asleep for an hour so joke with joy ones call woke me up no wonder I slept so soundly damn it jo Ellen ought to know by now and have to call in the middle of the night Michael asked me to read one color so and my book here actually has an index so I can look it up some children did handsprings or cartwheels those of us who were less athletically gifted that what we called some songs really a kind of forward roll head down in the summer grass a push with the feet then the world would upside down and around your feet which had been behind you now stretched out in front it was fun and we did it laughing again and again yeah as fun as it was most of us at some point quit doing somersaults we had more serious matters to attend to and so over the years we lost the knack but only recently someone an evening rest managed care for seniors discovered with potential value of somersaults is physical and emotional therapy a recapturing of the use of perhaps every afternoon during the summer and early fall weather permitting the old people despite their people protests when the wind is right – you could hear even at this distance I wrote a little few years ago we were lucky enough to be able to travel to Europe and stay for four and a half months so we went all over the place one of the places we went was Sweden we we had the idea that we'd look up where our ancestors were from so and that combined with another little story I heard it's called my ancestral home we came to a beautiful little farm from Florida as I've seen and I knew this was the place the house and barn were painted in the traditional fallow red tribute white it was nearly midsummer the trees and grass lush green when we arrived the family was gathered at a table on the lawn for coffee and fresh strawberries introductions were made all around grandpa's fan bars Olaf and Marie Eric and gudren cousin Inga and her two children it made me think of a Carl Larsson painting but of course it was all modern the Swedes are very up-to-date Lars Olaf was an engineer for Bohol and they also spoke perfect English and except for grandpa and there was a great deal of laughter over my attempts at Swedish we stayed for a long time laughing and talking it was late in the day but the Sun was still high I felt a wonderful kinship it seemed to me I had known these people all my life and even they even look like family back in the States but as it turned out we had come to the wrong TV stations it is best to turn on the set only after all the stations have gone off the air and just watch the snowfall this is the other life you've been promising yourself somewhere back in the woods 10 miles from the nearest town and that just a wide place in the load with the tavern and a gas station so when you drive home have commitment half drunk the roads are treacherous and your wife is home alone worried looking anxiously out of the snow this snow has been falling steadily for days so steadily the snowplows can't keep up so you drive slowly carry down the road and there did you see it just at the edge of your headlight piece something a large animal or a man oh stop there he is among the perches a tall man wearing a white suit isn't the man whatever it is it motions to you and all the most human gesture and then retreats farther into the woods these tops and motions again the snow is piling up all around the collar are you coming there's another woman that's kind of all the point around at first he refused to deliver junk mail because it was stupid then he began to doubt the importance of the other male he began to randomly select after he had finished his mail glue each day he would return home with his hand full of letters and put them in the Attic he didn't open them never even voted it was ancient of fate capricious and blind in the several years before he was caught friends vanished marriages failed business deals fell through toward the end he began to feel he'd been born in the wrong era if only he could have been a Pony Express rider galloping into some prairie town a runner from marathon collapsing in the streets of Athens places for everything mm-hmm it's so easy to lose track of things a screwdriver for instance where did that put that I had in my hand a minute ago you wander vaguely from room to room having forgotten by now what you were looking for staring into the refrigerator the bathroom some objects seemed to disappear immediately while others never want to leave here's a small black plastic gizmo with a serious demeanor that turns up regularly like a politician of other functions it seems to be an integral part a kind of switch with screw holes so that it can be attached to something larger nobody knows what it probably went with something that was thrown away years ago this thing's use has been forgotten but it looks so important that we are afraid to throw it in the trash it survives by bluff like certain insects my father owned a large three bladed grass propeller that is saved for years it's worth was obvious it was just that it lacked an immediate application since we did phone the boat that lived hundreds of miles from any propellor survival ostriches and sweepings living like royalty a life of lonely privilege this is gold thunderstorm warning the National Weather Service has issued a severe thunderstorm warning effective until 2 a.m. viewers should expect heavy rain hail damaging winds dizziness nausea and fainting disorientation uncertainty loss of direction and questioning of deeply held beliefs persons in the warning area should seek shelter immediately it has hired more narrow more treacherous than we imagined and here we are in a spot where there's no going back point of no return it has become too dangerous to continue as we have we simply are not as sure-footed and nimble as started out there's nothing to do but sit down carefully traveling the rock what's seated I'm going to turn slightly and hand the bag of burgers back to you then I'm going to scoot ahead a few inches and turn again if you then lean forward carefully and hand me the bag you will be able to move ahead to the spot I previously occupied it's a miserably slow process and we still have the problem of the steep descent on the other side but if we are patient by love I believe we will arrive safely on the ground again a few yards this is called the fishing lure I spent a great deal of my life fretting over things that most people wouldn't waste their time on trying to explain things I haven't a clue about it's given me that worried look that wide-eyed staring look if the look that wild animals have sometimes deer for instance standing in the middle of the highway trying to make sense of the situation what is their motion was transfixed it's the same look that's on the base of the fishing lure stupidity terror what is the right bait for these conditions high cirrus clouds a cold front moving in it's all a trick anyway what is this thing supposed to be you know a lot of gaudy painted folks all over it's like bleached blond hair and bright red lipstick nobody really believes it there is no way of the world backed by nothing but am i swimming just this is called change all those things that have gotten of your life blue boots TV trays in the Soviet Union that seemed to have vanished I really only changed dinosaurs did not disappear from the earth but evolved into birds and crockpots became bread makers and then all the bread makers went to rummage sales along with the exercise bike everything changes it seems at times nothing is the same as it used to be except you haven't changed it's more difficult nowadays to deal with the speed of change disturbing to suddenly find myself brushing your teeth with what appears to be a flashlight essentially you were the same as ever constant in your instability this is called corn Ottawa spending some time in Arizona one year we went to the cornado came up from Mexico in search of the device with the imagination the Zuni said Oh God Coronado soomi's were lying on the ground with cornmeal and said okay cross that line but of course he crossed the zoo he said Seven Cities of Gold go see the boy blows so on he went but the great cities did not appear only mud houses the Pueblo said oh we have seven cities of gold there over northeast way over so we set out again there was nothing day after day no gold no silver not even an ATM Coronado was a determined man who knew that hard work and patience would be rewarded but when he got to Kansas he realized his head of joke instead of an idea of name comes to you a name that no longer has any connection with the owner of the name it comes a sound rhythmic musical exotic and forward to here's a sound full of distance of mystery a name such as Desmond Tutu you forget the names of acquaintances and the name of your first true love but this name comes to you it repeats like a tune in your head it refuses to go away becomes a kind of mental rumbling you say it to yourself over and over this is your mantra Boutros boutros-ghali then as suddenly as it came the name vanishes deep in the night long after your own name is flown away a voice makes you from a sound sleep a voice clear and certain there's a voice that summoned Elijah Michael mentioned that over his personal history one has a feeling of having not lived life to its fullest having not really accomplished anything and at the same time there is a feeling of regret for past sins those things one would like to undo and all the while the years passing passing turning to decades centuries civilizations of rise and fall think of the Hittites at one time they were the hottest power in the world a practical down-to-earth people but one that did little finally to advance human civilization what would a hit time say if you met one on the street listen I'd like to apologize for all those unwanted advances I think it was a long time nevertheless I feel uneasy about it it was rude and selfish of me it's just that you were so it's okay really I can honestly say I never this is called flight past mishaps might be attributed to an incomplete understanding of the laws of aerodynamics or perhaps to an even more basic failure of the imagination but were to be expected remember this is solo flight unencumbered by bicycle parts aluminum and nylon or even wax and feathers a tour de force ability there's a lot of running and flapping involved and as you get older and heavier a lot more huffing and puffing but on a bright day like today with a strong headwind blowing up from the sea when having slipped the surly bonds of common sense and knowing she is watching waiting and breathless anticipation you send yourself hurtling down the long green slope to the cliffs who knows you might just a few more it's a diner the time has come to say goodbye our plates empty except for our greasy napkins comrades you on my left balding middle-aged guy with a ponytail and you left me there on my right with a pack of cigarettes roll into a t-shirt sleeve though we found they spoke a seal our kinship who were steadfast and passing the ketchup the song and ever no man could ask prove it opinion lunch is over the cheeseburger cheeseburgers and fries the Denver sandwich the counter nearly empty now you must go our separate ways not a fondant race but perhaps a hearty handclaps no well then farewell it is unlikely I'll pass this way again unlikely we will all meet again on this earth to sit together between the beneath the neon and fluorescent calmly sipping our coffee like the sages sipping their tea beneath the willow sitting quietly putting two more this is the body in the soul long ago I was told that the body was the temple of the soul a temple dwelling for the eternal soul I suppose the body could be thought of as a dwelling it has plumbing and electricity it groans and creaks in the night I think in most cases however it's more like a modest bungalow in the temple and the house idea does not accommodate human mobility perhaps a motor drives the body here there the back and forth to work off to the seashore for the Rocky Mountains but the soul is a bad driver so often distracted dwelling on higher things pondering moving slowly up the past traffic backed up behind for miles the soul gazes idly out the windows eyes paying no attention whatsoever to the road and is in danger of sending the entire metaphor plunging it's called the afterlife older people are exiting this life as if it were a movie I didn't get it they're saying he says he didn't seem to have any hello she says it seemed like things just kept coming at me most of the time I was confused and there was way too much sex and violence it was not much for character development either most the time people were either shouting or mumbling then just when I when someone started to make sense and I got interested they died then a whole lot of new characters came along and I couldn't tell who was who the whole thing like so some of the scenery was nice they walk along in silence for a while it is a summer night and they walk slowly stopping now and then as if they had no particular place to go they walk past a street lamp where some insects are hurling themselves with the light and then on down the block fading into the darkness she says I was never happy with the way the lighting was been and I was no good at dialogue

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