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spring is like …


spring is like a perhaps hand
(which comes carefully
out of nowhere) arranging
a window, into which people look (while
people stare
arranging and changing placing
carefully there a strange
thing and a known thing here) and

changing everything carefully

spring is like a perhaps
hand in a window
(carefully to
and fro moving new and
old things, while
people stare carefully
moving a perhaps
fraction of flower here placing
an inch of air there) and

without breaking anything.

e.e.cummings

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An Eph Christmas Poem

American poet and journalist Eugene Field was a non-graduating Eph of the class of 1872. According to Leverett Wilson Spring’s A History of Williams College, President Hopkins is said to have ordered his withdrawal from the College because “he gave little attention to his proper duties” and “much disturbed the orderly life of Williamstown.”

According to Slason Thompson’s 1901 biography of Field, he frequently — but erroneously — referred to Christmas Treasures as his first poem:

I count my treasures o’er with care, —
The little toy my darling knew,
A little sock of faded hue,
A little lock of golden hair.

Long years ago this holy time,
My little one — my all to me —
Sat robed in white upon my knee,
And heard the merry Christmas chime.

Tell me, my little golden-head,
If Santa Claus should come to-night,
What shall he bring my baby bright, —
What treasure for my boy?
I said.

And then he named this little toy,
While in his round and mournful eyes
There came a look of sweet surprise,
That spake his quiet, trustful joy.

And as he lisped his evening prayer
He asked the boon with childish grace;
Then, toddling to the chimney-place,
He hung this little stocking there.

That night, while lengthening shadows crept.
I saw the white-winged angels come
With singing to our lowly home
And kiss my darling as he slept.

They must have heard his little prayer,
For in the morn, with rapturous face,
He toddled to the chimney-place,
And found this little treasure there.

They came again one Christmas-tide, —
That angel host, so fair and white;
And, singing all that glorious night,
They lured my darling from my side.

A little sock, a little toy,
A little lock of golden hair,
The Christmas music on the air,
A watching for my baby boy!

But if again that angel train
And golden-head come back for me,
To bear me to Eternity,
My watching will not be in vain.

Merry Christmas to all, and Happy Holidays!

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Seth Brown ’01 is poetry slam champ at Word x Word

The Pittsfield Word x Word Festival is a carnival of words in written, sung, and spoken form, both planned and improvised. Williams’ own prodigy of extempore, Seth Brown ’01, was the event’s Poetry Slam champion, so crowned on August 28 and reported in Berkshire Living. Wish I’d been there.

The week-long Word X Word Festival came to a rousing conclusion on Saturday night with the crowning of Seth Brown as the poetry-slam champion at Shawn’s Barber Shop, followed by a music-and-spoken word show featuring 2004 National Poetry Slam Champion Rives at the Colonial Theatre to bring the curtain down on the festivities.

[. . .]

It came as little surprise that Seth Brown won the Poetry Slam competition – anyone who has seen him recite, improvise, and freestyle before around town knows that he is a charming, funny and fleet linguist. He has the expressive face of a comic and poems – such as one about being a lover of books – that are tailor-made for a slam audience, and he has mastered the art of leaving space in some of his work for in-the-moment improvisation, including incorporating lines and references from other poets that have performed only minutes earlier. Brown is one to watch; he’s the Berkshires’ most likely to succeed in this exciting art form.

I haven’t seen Seth poetry slam since he improvised a rhyming slam of Pat Buchanan when he publicly debated at Williams in 2002. I have seen him shine in a comedy night in a Pittsfield bar, the last time I had the pleasure of being his guest. We share a board game hobby that I look forward to indulging again in an upcoming overnight.

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Tinywords

We just discovered Tinywords.

Run by Dylan Tweney ’91, Tinywords publishes micropoetry and miniature poetry of all kinds, including but not limited to haiku. The site will publish one poem per day, most weekdays. RSS feed here, Twitter here.

Today’s poem:

doesn’t matter
where I’m going –
autumn wind

—ISRAEL LÓPEZ BALAN

Oh, and if you text the word haiku to 41411 you’ll get a random haiku from 2000-2008. I just tried it. Here’s what I got:

Haiku spring:
white blossoms
on an old, black bough.

–d.f. tweney

Here’s a nice profile of Tweney and Tinywords by poet and publisher Norbert Blei

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Mayda Del Valle ’00 and O

Dell Valle

Spoken-word artist, Mayda Del Valle ’00  has been selected for the Oprah Power List.

Sharing company with the likes of  physicist Shirley Ann Jackson, four-star General Ann Dunwoody, artist Kara Walker, and comic Sarah Silverman, Del Valle is featured in the September issue of O Magazine.

The O Power List  is a tribute to “20 remarkable visionaries who are flexing their muscles in business and finance, politics and justice, science and the arts.”

The segment on Del Valle says:

“Mayda Del Valle doesn’t waste words. Or time. In 2001, at the age of 22, the Chicago native became the youngest poet and first Latino to win the Individual National Poetry Slam. Since then, her bracing style — informed by latin jazz and hip-hop —  has set off sparks on Russell Simmon’s Def Poetry HBO series and Broadway show; in May she performed at the White House at the invitation of the president and First lady.”

When O asked Del Valle to talk about what she does, she composed this poem:”

Read more

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Mayda del Valle ’00 at the White House Poetry Jam

Click here for much larger HD version:

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Self-Absorbed Art

I had assumed that Mayda del Valle’s ’00 Convocation speech would be excellent. She is a nationally recognized slam poet and has been entertaining young audiences for years. The Eagle reports:

And after Shapiro conferred the Bicentennial Award on the six recipients, Del Valle took to the podium, which is just slightly shorter than she is, which she jokingly pointed out.

She explained that she had agonized over her speech, holding up the nine page presentation that she had written. Of course, she said, she wasn’t going to use it.

Instead, she recited a piece of slam poetry that she had written during her senior year at Williams. Then she launched into a recounting of her years at Williams, her journey through several majors and questionable choices that left her depressed and confused by the end of the first semester of her senior year.

She told the audience that was when she intended to drop out.

“I was going to bounce — I didn’t like who I was,” she said.

But then she attended a performance at Mass MoCA with a friend that reminded her of her past in the south side of Chicago, where she had taken up performance art.

After that, Del Valle knew what to do. She proposed an independent study course on her love for the performance art form, and from then on her life’s path was clear.

In a voice loud with passion, clarity and a connection to the students in the audience, she said her plan made itself plain, that all her worry about what she should do with her life washed away.

“The plan appeared when I decided to do what makes me happy,” she said. “So don’t worry about the plan — it will appear. Do what you love to do. Listen to that little voice you have inside. It’s scary, and it’s not easy. You’re gonna have to do things that are difficult because you’re fighting to do what you love, fighting to be yourself.”

After another passionate and inspiring riff of slam poetry, the students, faculty, college officers and visitors treated her to a prolonged standing ovation.

Good stuff. The Record provides a similar report, but without quoting any students. Was everyone happy with the event? Alas, no.

Unfortunately, it was Mayda Del Valle ’00, the 2001 National Poetry Slam winner, who was chosen to speak. Perhaps she was chosen because she is a celebrated entertainer. My question is: celebrated by whom? To the greatest degree, by herself. The speech consisted of a 25-minute improvisation that included barely-intelligible performances of two of her pieces, one written at Williams. She started out with a confessional high-school-esque prelude, about how she sleeplessly attempted to write a speech and how instead she had decided to “wing it,” perhaps believing her self-perceived entertaining personality would do the trick. She discussed her college application process and struggles at Williams, encouraging us to “know ourselves” and “follow our dreams.”

Del Valle’s career success, unlike that of the others on the stage, relied completely upon self-centeredness and self-promotion. Keeping with this theme, she lacked the humility to recognize her fellow recipients in her speech, all of whom were better educated and had spent many more years than she had building their careers. Most importantly, all of them had been working to directly improve the lives of large portions of society, and, as a result, society as a whole. Del Valle, on the other hand, practices a self-absorbed art, a form of entertainment that appeals to a few, in which she is recognized for “knowing herself” and speaking of her struggles. A proud Latina, she often referenced the struggles of her ancestors. Eugene Latham ’55, through his organization, helped to provide care for 25,000 orphans in Latin America (people without ancestors). Instead of pondering the struggles of Del Valle’s relatives, I found myself wondering what the other medalists might have had to say to the class of 2009.

Harsh! It is one thing for Fiona Worcester ’09 to not like Del Valle’s talk. I sit through lots of talks I don’t like. But to feel strongly enough to write a letter to the Record? Wow. Question: How did other readers like about the speech?

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