Featured Poet: Pam Bernard, Walpole
Pam Bernard, a poet, painter, editor, and adjunct professor, received an MFA in Creative Writing from the Graduate Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College, and BA from Harvard University in History of Art. Her awards include a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Poetry, two Massachusetts Cultural Council Fellowships, the Grolier Prize in Poetry, and a MacDowell Fellowship. She has published three full length collections of poems, the latest of which is a series of poetic narratives about the Great War, entitled Blood Garden: An Elegy for Raymond. Ms. Bernard teaches writing at the New Hampshire Institute of Art and River Valley Community College.
From the introduction to Blood Garden:
My father called them nighthorses, ghastly dreams that plagued him until the day he died. The cries of a puling, terrified animal form my first memory of him. My mother would try to comfort us when we spoke of hearing him, saying it was just the war. But even as a young child I knew to listen to what was beneath the surface. The decade it took me to write this book on the Great War was always about that searching for truth amid deceit. And as if I needed to be assured about the horror and human waste that war is, I have students now, home from Iraq and Afghanistan, who are damaged beyond any reasonable repair. God help us if we refuse to learn this lesson.
Excerpt from Blood Garden: An Elegy for Raymond
The lucky ones are sent back
to Scotland, to Craiglockhart, where
nurses float in and out of sparkling light
from high windows and the food
is hot and plentiful, where
a gramophone blares John Peel
to block out the men’s screams—
D’ye ken John Peel with his coat so gay,
D’ye ken John Peel at the break of day,
D’ye ken John Peel when he’s far away,
With his hounds and his horn in the morning.
One boy has stopped clawing his mouth; thus
begins his rehabilitation. First,
he is instructed in the homely art
of weaving, the loom a kind of primer
for the small boy he has become. Nurse stands
behind him to guide his hands, warp to woof,
with comforting regularity, a soothing
message to his poor excitable limbs.
In a few days, after he is helped
with his breakfast porridge, a small
piece of cloth is placed on his lap, pierced
with a few large stitches from a saddle needle
and heavy thread. Nurse croons to him,
though she is weary of it, that he can
do this too if he will just hold still.
More days of practice and he is brought
to the barley field to help harvest the crop,
the next day to the cow barn and shown
how to grasp the teat firmly but gently, and then,
after a time, when he gets the milk to flow,
he learns again how to hoist the rifle
just so with both hands steady,
and then to kill again.
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