Tag Archives: Inconsiderate Madness

National Poetry Month Spotlight: Helen Marie Casey

Two Hundred Words of Wanting

Hands cupped, I wait for the words which will not,

until I catch them, yield anything except hunger.

I wait for happiness, the taste of it a memory

anise-flavored. The plane drones overhead. I am with coffee,

my lips pursed, the words playing tag in someone else’s

lot. Meaning is never as luminous as Gabriel,

hint of a knee on the floor, Mary as bright as he was,

quick to comprehend every word that was not

laid between them, that was not etched

in anyone’s memory. The words I know are halt and lame.

They are not above begging. Sometimes I borrow

elegance, then kneel before a word like cartouche, ravissante,

or nougatine, knowing these words can never fit, knowing

some words are showy, like gypsies on Nevsky Prospekt, reaching

for the right line. I seldom keep them, the lazy words,

overripe, too easy for their own good, like ugly, stupid, dull.

No panache at all. Not like pondscum, blight-riddled,

addle-pated. Every phrase wants a little cilantro, a touch

of cumin, a saffron thread to whet desire, that fragile flame

that eats away all words, the aftertaste mango and lime.

(Poem originally published in The MacGuffin, Winter 2010.)

Q: Where is your favorite place to write?

A: I write most of my poetry at a simple wooden table in my bedroom. It faces a window that looks out into a forested area where deer and turkeys wander. In the summer I can watch a not very exotic garden grow and in the winter I watch the snow transform the landscape until crows and hawks become the most common visitors as the sky turns a silver gray and the branches grow weighted with whiteness.

Q: Do you remember the first poem you read that really blew your mind?

A: I have loved poetry for so long that it is hard to remember the first poem that overwhelmed me. Among the poems that have made an indelible mark is Ernest Dowson’s late-nineteenth-century decadent poem “Non Sum Qualis Eram Bonae Sub Regno Cynarae,” whose most famous line is: “I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion.” This poem is of a piece with the sinuous and sinister drawings of Aubrey Beardsley and encapsulates the ennui and despair so much displayed in the poetry and art of this period. I loved the poem when I first met it and continue to admire the longing and despondency of it.

Q: What is the most interesting thing that has happened to you in the last 12 months?

A: In the fall of the year I came under the spell of Michelangelo’s “Rondanini Pieta” in the Castello Sforzesco in Milan, Italy. The sun was setting as my husband and I stood entranced, the only visitors to this fairly abstract Pieta at that time of day. It was silent and sacred in the space filled by the Mother and the Son who has only recently been removed from the cross and placed in the Madonna’s arms. Michelangelo, who lived to be nearly 90 years old, had not completed this Pieta so a great sense of a work that is still in progress remains. It is as if the stone longs for the sculptor’s tools to return. It was the purest kind of gift to stand in the presence of such a work of art and it was a stunning reminder of the power of incomparable art.

Helen Marie Casey won the 14th National Poet Hunt sponsored by The MacGuffin and judged by Thomas Lynch. Her chapbooks include Fragrance Upon His Lips and Inconsiderate Madness, winner of the 2005 Black River Chapbook competition (Black Lawrence Press). Her newest book, a biography — My Dear Girl: The Art of Florence Hosmer – is due out from Black Lawrence in June of 2011.

Congratulations to Helen Marie Casey

We are very pleased to report that Helen Marie Casey won The MacGuffin 14th National Poet Hunt Contest, judged by Thomas Lynch with her poem “Sprung Rhythm”. Helen’s poem, along with Mr. Lynch’s commentary, are featured in the Winter, 2010 issue of The MacGuffin.

Helen Marie Casey is the author of Inconsiderate Madness, winner of the Fall, 2005 Black River Chapbook Competition.

Inconsiderate Madness is available from Black Lawrence Press and Amazon.

National Poetry Month Spotlight: Helen Marie Casey

MARY DYER’S COURTSHIP

She began to dream of death,

of how he would lie down with her,

close her eyes, taste her various parts.

She would awake believing him present,

believing he could not take his eyes off her.

She began to carry him in her heart,

speaking to him under her breath.

She began to think she loved him.

When he walked beside her, she felt herself uplifted.

She thought death held her hand in his.

She thought she heard the rat-a-tat of drums.

She thought her breath was leaving her body.

She had never been this happy.

Q: Do you remember where you were and what you were doing on the day you wrote the above poem?

A: If it took me only a day to write a poem like “Mary Dyer’s Courtship,” I might well remember the day. As it is, most of my poems are longer a-borning. I do remember that I was trying to imagine myself into the mind of a woman who was choosing to die for her beliefs. This led me to think of Mary Dyer and Death in courtship with each other. I recalled the medieval renderings of Death walking with his victim and invoked those images as well as the drums that actually sounded as Mary Dyer walked to the gallows. The eroticism in the poems comes from my thinking of Mary choosing Death as her lover. This poem was particularly challenging to write and I remain quite fond of it.

Q: What is the last book you’ve read that made you want to grab a pen and write?

A: The poetry collection of Ann Snodgrass, Fields Across Which No Birds Fly (Sheep Meadow Press), which I read two weeks ago, is so filled with a knowledge of literature, history, poetic form, and evocative strength, that it makes me want to work harder than ever to write such powerfully irresistible and deep poems.  Her work makes us ponder the question: How does the good writer put so much into so few lines?

Q: What is the most sublime meal you’ve ever eaten?

A: Sublime meal? On an abnormally hot day in Orleans, France, beside the path Jeanne D’Arc rode in her victorious march through Orleans in 1429, there is an outdoor café teeming with activity. I ordered a piece of melon, never dreaming that one-half of a cavaillon, a small cantaloupe-like melon, sweeter than any other melon I have ever eaten, would be served to me in a silver bowl filled with slivered ice. It was so refreshing that the single object, the cavaillon, remains in my mind as one of France’s sublime delicacies.

Helen Marie Casey’s poetry collection Inconsiderate Madness was a finalist for the Julia Howe Award and is available for purchase at Black Lawrence Press.

Three BLP Authors in Somerville

100_0435We understand. It was raining. It was rainig really hard. And there was also the wind. So maybe you didn’t make it out to the book fair on Saturday. If you had, you would have been able to meet the lovely folks pictured to the left. And they really are lovely. Here’s what you can do. You can check out their wonderful books and then, at the next book fair, stop by and say hello. From left to right: Jason Tandon, author of Give over the Heckler and Everyone Gets Hurt; Helen Marie Casey, author of Inconsiderate Madness and Norman Waksler author of Signs of Life.

Happy Reading (and Best Wishes for Sunnier Skies!)

-The BLP Team