Last week the Marin Poetry Center cosponsored an event called “Stump the Laureate,” at which volunteers from the audience recited poems, and Dana Gioia, the California poet laureate, alternated with the audience, poem for poem. The idea was to keep going until we or he ran out of poems. But I don’t think he would have run out for a very long time. It was such fun, with many voices and many poems. Dana was going t6o recite sort of chronologically, but wound up often echoing a poem by the same author or time period as the reciter who preceded him. Pretty nice trick!
Here’s a lovely poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay that was part of the recitation. We all agreed she is undervalued.
Love is not all: it is not meat nor drink
Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain;
Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink
And rise and sink and rise and sink again;
Love can not fill the thickened lung with breath,
Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;
Yet many a man is making friends with death
Even as I speak, for lack of love alone.
It well may be that in a difficult hour,
Pinned down by pain and moaning for release,
Or nagged by want past resolution’s power,
I might be driven to sell your love for peace,
Or trade the memory of this night for food.
It well may be. I do not think I would.
Edna St. Vincent Millay
The woman who recited it said she was home from college and talking about poetry with her father, and started reciting this to him, but he joined in and said it with her–a treasured memory.