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30 DECEMBER 2017

Searching for Sappho: The Lost Songs and World of the First Woman PoetSearching for Sappho: The Lost Songs and World of the First Woman Poet by Philip Freeman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Engaging, often revelatory, solidly-documented yet clearly-worded–this book by Philip Freeman now rests on my “indispensable” shelf. SEARCHING FOR SAPPHO is neither the daily journal of an archeologist digging in Greece, nor a volume of commentary on Greek poetry presented by a literary critic. Instead, it is a rich itinerary for the amateur detective inside all of us; it is an irresistible field guide for anyone who relishes the challenge of scavenger hunts. Deploying a wealth of existing literary and historical artifacts, clues, citations, testimonials, and translations, Mr. Freeman invites us along as he correlates the subject matter embodied in Sappho’s surviving poems to some reliable deductions about the geography, culture, domestic life, religion, and political events of the region that Sappho called home in the seventh century BC. Most fascinating to me were his evidence for, and conjectures about, the female predicament–how Sappho lived her life as wealthy daughter, sister to three brothers, prominent wife, devoted mother, passionate lover, respected ceremonial poetess, and role model for women of later centuries. I recommend this worthy book for a wide audience.

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10 NOVEMBER 2016

Today, my duty as a poet-citizen is to memorize this immediately necessary poem (excerpt), to learn it by heart. I will do so.

by Seamus Heaney

Human beings suffer,
They torture one another,
They get hurt and get hard.
No poem or play or song
Can fully right a wrong
Inflicted and endured.

The innocent in gaols
Beat on their bars together.
A hunger-striker’s father
Stands in the graveyard dumb.
The police widow in veils
Faints at the funeral home.

History says, Don’t hope
On this side of the grave.
But then, once in a lifetime
The longed-for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up,
And hope and history rhyme.

So hope for a great sea-change
On the far side of revenge.
Believe that a further shore
Is reachable from here.
Believe in miracles
And cures and healing wells.

Call miracle self-healing:
The utter, self-revealing
Double-take of feeling.
If there’s fire on the mountain
Or lightning and storm
And a god speaks from the sky

That means someone is hearing
The outcry and the birth-cry
Of new life at its term.
It means once in a lifetime
That justice can rise up
And hope and history rhyme.

(excerpt above re-typed here by me, poet Therese L. Broderick, reproduced from my own copy of the anthology POEMS TO LIVE BY IN UNCERTAIN TIMES (Beacon Press, 2001), edited by Joan Murray. If anyone reading this post would like to have a complimentary copy of that anthology, I will purchase and send you one.)


I am deliriously happy and proud to make this announcement:

NEW CHAPBOOK by Albany poet Therese L. Broderick, entitled Green-Weak, is now published online by Red Wolf Editions. Praised as “elegiac familial poems” that “honor the perfection of imperfections.” Includes a meditative sequence on Therese’s practice of cutting grass with scissors. Click HERE for a free, online copy or a free, PDF download. In the coming months, hand-stitched hard copies will be made available by Therese at open mics, readings, and elsewhere.

29 OCTOBER 2016


Dar A Luz

~to give birth, to give light


November summons us to furnish a shrine

In memory of neighbors who once lit our city’s

Stoops, porches, and doorways

Hanging oil lamps or lanterns, garlands or candles.

Dar a luz.


For the owners, tenants, landlords, and renters

Who mopped their thresholds clean,

Who daily swept their windblown steps

And rinsed off yellow welcome mats,

I set down this photo—

My great-grandfather’s own shining home.

Dar a luz.


Beside it, place a vase arrayed with the stems

And blue blossoms of late-autumn asters;

Then drape it with a necklace, links glistening

With polished crosses, stars, crescents, ovals.

Dar a luz.


Now in honor of valiant mothers,

Who among us can spare a glossy cookbook

Or a scrawled recipe for lemon pudding?

On behalf of brave children

Some spinning tops, shimmering marbles?

Dar a luz.


Lastly, for the sake of peace: someone provide

A few stark silhouettes—newspaper clippings

Of young men headed to Albany Armory,

From their sidewalks waving farewell

To best friends, cousins, brothers, baby sisters.

Dar a luz.


Tonight, windows aglow with brand new batteries

Illuminate our view of Pearl Street,

The beaming port, the valley’s glimmering river.

They magnify our gifts, swelling dim to bright

In time with the waxing, orbiting moon.

Dar a luz.


Let us behold—let us stand with—let us stand for

And occupy every fresh reflection, reluciente, reborn.




poem composed by this blogger, Therese L. Broderick

for public readings in Albany and Schenectady, NY

October and November 2016

for Breathing These Words, sub-project of Breathing Lights


(date and photographer unknown)



26 OCTOBER 2016


A poem being composed for Breathing These Words, a sub-project of Breathing Lights.


How and Why I Revised Parts of My Poem



Instead of developing my initial choice of a governing metaphor (a bold light that streams persistently, arcing broadly across the sky from horizon to horizon), I switched to a different metaphor—a softly pulsing light, a gentle ebb and flow more similar to the graceful swells, dim-to-bright, of the Breathing Lights window installations. So, I revised several of the verse lines by adding internal commas, punctuation that provided more pauses where the poem could take a breath. Moreover, I added some phrases that included conjunctions (and, or) in order to introduce a few two-part alternating currents.


At one of the October meetings of my weekly critique group, a friend suggested that the sound of my poetry would benefit from more occurrences of ‘’the rhythm of three’s.” I agreed, but I added examples sparingly, just enough to dance with the existing two-beat pulses, but not enough to overpower those pulses.



Another of my critique group friends suggested that I expand the poem’s thematic ending, opening out to wider symbolic resonances. So, I re-directed and disciplined the total flow of the poem, its progression from one image (light) to the next, from threshold at our feet to celestial cosmos. One reason that the poem’s final imagery highlights heavenly bodies is that, during my period of revision, the Earth was visited at night by a rare “supermoon” Harvest Moon.



Selecting words within my poem to render in Spanish required careful consideration. The Spanish words are integral elements of the poem’s architecture, crucial to the proportions of each stanza. After much re-arranging, I decided to place most of the Spanish words at the ends of stanzas in order to function as steady markers, moments when the sound of English turned off and another language turned on. Also, I selected Spanish words that would re-state, perhaps slantingly, preceding words in English; and that could be understood in context (with the clues provided by shared Latin roots) by English-only speakers. In addition, because many Spanish words are pronounced with the primary accent on the penultimate syllable, that regularity established yet another predictable pattern of pulses.



The overall tone is crucial in any poem destined to be read aloud in a public forum. Many of my revisions concerned the poem’s tone of voice, its subtle emotional ”colors” and shifting moods. In early versions, I adopted a tone which was lofty and surging, a tone more suitable for sweeping searchlights or streaks of sunbeams. In later versions, I softened and slowed the tone—more suitable for gently lapping domestic window lamps.


Also, because I had previously attended the Breathing These Words public poetry readings that took place on the streets of Troy, I came to realize that my own performance voice—perhaps not loud enough to be heard by an audience over noisy city traffic—could be enhanced by a paper version of my poem, a handout for by-standers to follow along with. So, at my Albany reading, I’ll distribute free, printed copies of my poem.



In early versions, I assumed a more formal—perhaps even stuffy– point-of-view. I employed the communal ”we” and ”our” and “us.” In later versions, I replaced the impersonal with a personal ”I”. As soon as I made that switch, I felt more intimate with both the people in the poem and the intended audience. As a result, I started to tuck into the poem some details from my own father’s memoir and family photographs. (My father grew up in an old house in Watervliet, a small city between Albany and Troy.)


21 OCTOBER 2016


revision #6

of a poem by Therese L. Broderick

to be read publicly on November 4th and 5th

for Breathing These Words

(a sub-project of Breathing Lights)


Dar A Luz

~to give birth (literally, to give to light)


Here at our feet we endow a shrine

in honor of the many generations who alighted from

this Clinton Avenue threshold

bearing hand-held candles, lanterns, lamps,

flickering & garlanded luces de Navidad,

flashlights, cameras, the first iPhones.


For the seamstress, carpenter, clerk or barber

who once cleansed this spot with broom and mop,

for tenants who swept away autumn’s samaras

and owners who shoveled snow—

I now place here a silver frame with photograph

of immigrants inhabiting their new porches.

One of you may wish to add by hand

an amber beer or soda bottle rinsed

and filled with the brief-blossoming stems

of curbside roses. Another may wish to unveil

a polished golden cross or a necklace glistening

with storied pendants—stars, crescents, ovals.

Medialunas, estrellas, cruces, óvalos.


And for the sake of Peace, someone must retrieve

a few stark silhouettes—newspaper clippings

of young recruits headed to the Albany Armory,

soldiers, sailors, pilots, nurses who from these steps

had kissed their loved ones farewell.

On behalf of wartime’s brides and embattled widows

which  one of us can spare

an old cookbook, scrawled recipes for lemon pudding?

Who can bequeath to fatherless girls and motherless boys

some rubber balls & jacks, gleaming marbles?

Canicas relucientes.


Tonight, in truce, we illuminate from floor to roof

this house with a clear view, casa con vista, of Pearl Street,

the beaming port, our valley’s glimmering river.

Windows glowing from a new century’s

battery cells & diode strips

magnify our gifts as they swell from dim to bright,

nearly timed to the moon waxing above us, globe

fertile with reflections. May we occupy this moment’s

rebirth. All of us, todos, ocupemos la luz.

13 OCTOBER 2016

Revision #5 of the poem which I’m writing for Breathing These Words, a sub-project of Breathing Lights.


Dar Luz

~to give birth (literally, to give light)


We gather to remember the generations

who alighted this Albany threshold

with hand-held candles, lanterns, lamps,

flickering garlands.

Luces de Navidad.


For the seamstress, carpenter, or barber

who once cleansed this space with broom and mop,

who swept away autumn’s samaras

and in winter brushed off the glittering snow—

let us nestle at our feet a shining shrine.

Un santuario centelleante.


Set down here some old gold

picture frames—photos of children posing

for street parades, seated on gleaming ponies.

Set down some stark silhouettes of new recruits

who from these steps had kissed their mothers

farewell. Soldiers, sailors, pilots, nurses.

Las enfermeras, los enfermeros.


One of us may wish to place here

a wine or soda bottle, rinsed and filled

with the blossoming stems

of curbside roses. Another may drape

a necklace strung with a single polished cross

or star, crescent or oval.

Medialuna, estrella, cruce, óvalo.


Which one of us can spare

on behalf of those brides and myriad widows

an old cookbook, scrawled recipes for lemon pudding?

Who can bequeath to tomorrow’s children

rubber balls & jacks, shimmering marbles?

Canicas relucientes.


These windows glowing with a new century’s

battery cells magnify our gifts. Light strips swell

from dim to bright, timed to the moon

waxing above us, sphere fertile with reflections

of distant undying flames.

Otra luna, otro sol, otras llamas.


We must occupy rebirth: this threshold

given light, this doorway in clear view

of Pearl Street and our glimmering river.

La calle de las perlas. Las perlas de nuestro río.


by Therese L. Broderick