The first week of August hangs at the very top of summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in turning. — Natalie Babbit
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I’ve reposted this because there are still a few bugs to work out in the transfer to my new-to-me machine. I’m hoping to be here to host, but if I’m not, you now know why!
Please forgive the pun – it was irresistible. The ‘dames’ are four Western Hemisphere women poets who were born in the first week of August: .
Aline Murray Kilmer, born August 1, 1888
Anne Hébert, born August 1, 1916
Allison Adelle Hedge Coke, born August 4, 1958 .
While their backgrounds are very different, in each case, their writing has been influenced by loss and hardship.
. by Aline Murray Kilmer . WHY don't you go back to the sea, my dear? I am not one who would hold you; The sea is the woman you really love, So let hers be the arms that fold you. Your bright blue eyes are sailor's eyes, Your hungry heart is a sailor's, too. And I know each port that you pass through Will give one lass both bonny and wise Who has learned light love from a sailor's eyes. . If you ever go back to the sea, my dear, I shall miss you–yes, can you doubt it? But women have lived through worse than that So why should we worry about it? Take your restless heart to the restless sea, Your light, light love to a lighter lass Who will smile when you come and smile when you pass. Here you can only trouble me. Oh, I think you had better go back to sea! .
“Light Lover” is in the public domain
Aline Murray Kilmer (1888-1941) American poet, children’s book author, essayist, and from 1908 until his death in 1918, the wife of Joyce Kilmer, a poet who is mainly remembered for his poem “Trees,” and for dying young in the ‘War to End All Wars.’ She was the mother of five children, but their oldest daughter was stricken with infantile paralysis and died at age four in 1917, shortly before her husband was deployed to France. He was killed in 1918 at age 31 by a sniper’s bullet at the Second Battle of the Marne. Aline Murray Kilmer turned to writing children’s books and publishing her poetry to support her four remaining children. Her second son, Michael, died at age 11 in 1927.
. by Anne Hébert . All it took was one light note One fingertap By one calm slave . A single note a supple instant For the muffled clamor of offense Tucked at the back of black veins To rise and burst into the stirless air . The master knowing not what to do Before such tumult Commands that the piano be closed Forever .
– translated by A.Z. Foreman
. Il a suffi d'une note légère D'un seul doigt frappée Par un esclave tranquille . Une seule note un instant tenue Pour que la clameur sourde des outrages Enfouis au creux des veines noires Monte et se décharge dans l'air immobile . Le maitre ne sachant que faire Devant ce tumulte Ordonne qu'on ferme le piano A jamais .
“The Piano/LePiano” from Anne Hébert: Poems, © 1975 by Anne Hébert – Musson Book Company
Anne Hébert (1916-2000) French Canadian poet, novelist, and short story writer. Her father was a poet and literary critic, and she began writing poetry at a very young age — by her early 20s, her poems had been published in several periodicals. Her first poetry collection, Les Songes en Équilibre (Dreams in Balance), published in 1942, won Quebec's Prix David. Much of her poetry reflects the tragic early deaths of her sister and a cousin. Hébert earned a living in the 1950s working for Radio Canada, and the National Film Board of Canada. She won Canada’s top literary honor, the Governor General’s Award, three times, twice for fiction and once for poetry. Her best-known work is her 1970 historical novel Kamauraska , a classic of Québec and Canadian literature. Kamauraska won the Prix des libraires de France, and the Grand prix of the Académie royale de la langue françaises de Belgique. Hébert died of bone cancer at age 83 in January, 2000.
. by Lorna Goodison . She was the nameless woman who created images of her children sold away from her. She suspended her wood babies from a rope round her neck, before she ate she fed them. Touched bits of pounded yam and plantains to sealed lips, always urged them to sip water. She carved them of wormwood, teeth and nails her first tools, later she wielded a blunt blade. Her spit cleaned faces and limbs; the pitch oil of her skin burnished them. When woodworms bored into their bellies she warmed castor oil they purged. She learned her art by breaking hard rockstones. She did not sign her work.
“Praise to the mother of Jamaican art” from Collected Poems, © 2017 by Lorna Goodison – Carcanet Press
Lorna Goodison (1947 - ) Jamaican poet, writer, and painter; she was born in Kingston on the first day of August, which is Emancipation Day in Jamaica. "I don't think it is an accident that I was born on the first of August, and I don't think it was an accident that I was given the gift of poetry, so I take that to mean that I am to write about those people and their condition, and I will carry a burden about what they endured and how they prevailed until the day I die." Goodison was the first woman to be appointed as Poet Laureate of Jamaica (2017-2021). She has been honored with the 1999 Musgrave Medal by the Institute of Jamaica for literary contributions, the 2018 Windham-Campbell Literature Prize in Poetry, and the 2019 Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry; her poetry collections include I Am Becoming My Mother; Oracabessa; and Supplying Salt and Light. Goodison is also a talented painter, and the covers of her books are usually illustrated with her artwork.
for Stephanie . by Allison Adelle Hedge Coke . Right across Turk Street, south side intersection Hyde, in the tenement where 911 won’t summon up a blue, a man beats his woman, the twentieth time or more, their kids bawling. Over here, in this flat up on the third, above blazing red neon signs highlighting the Triple Deuce Club low below, I listen while wired white hippies move furniture across checkered tiles other side my sister’s arched plaster ceiling till way past 3 a.m. Shuffling with a sofa as if rearranging the heavens in my mind. . Me, I sleep. Or try to. Nothing else I can do. Each day I slip off and out looking for work, gliding into the Streets of San Francisco winding, curving, like turbulence. Daybreak brings sweet Cambodian street children out into a Feinstein-era playground, still filled with hypes, winos, yellow-green from the night before, still smelling like piss and lizard. . These kids though, they climb atop steel swing-set bars, fifteen, twenty feet high, as if they’re walking joint lines in concrete. Easy balance, Mohawk grace. Their sisters provoke a paper war in the street, closed-off block party. Paper flying by, I catch a piece, fold it origamically, create a mock financial pyramid, toss it back, watch little girls with black shiny ponytails make confetti for this ongoing ticker-tape parade, right across Turk Street, intersection Hyde. .
“Street Confetti” from Off-Season City Pipe, © 2005 by Allison Adelle Hedge Coke – Coffee House Press
Allison Adelle Hedge Coke (1958 - ) American poet and editor born in Texas, raised in North Carolina and Canada, of mixed Native American and European heritage. She dropped out of high school to be a field worker and sharecropper in North Carolina, but earned her GED, and took some classes at North Carolina State University, before fleeing from domestic violence to California. She later earned an AFAW in creative writing at the old Institute for American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, and an MFA from Vermont College. Her poetry collections include Dog Road Woman , winner of the Before Columbus Foundation’s American Book Award, Off-Season City Pipe , and Blood Run. She has worked as a mentor and teacher on reservations, in urban areas, in juvenile facilities, mental institutions, in prisons, with migrant workers and at-risk youth. She also founded and directed youth and labor outreach programs in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.