Irene Sipos

February 19, 2020

One of the first poets I heard read in Buffalo was Irene Sipos. She was celebrating the release of her collection Stones (NFB Publishing, 2018) at one of my favorite bookstores, Talking Leaves on Elmwood Avenue. Between the poems she was reading and the way she presented them, the experience was a full-on delight.

“If stanza means ‘room,’ then there is perhaps no better form for Irene Sipos’s intimacies than these rooms of her own making, these lines of verse that hold — that host — family and friends. The poem in her practice is a hospitable act, inviting to the table as equals the newborn and the departed, welcoming memories of one, and hopes for the others.” — Andrew Rippeon, Visiting Assistant Professor of Literature, Hamilton College.

As you shall see, however, Sipos reaches beyond her immediate family and friends to a world we all recognize, sometimes with joy, sometimes with its opposite. In talking about the collection, she says “These are mostly poems of quotidian events sometimes illuminated by a flash of sunlight or darkened by a passing cloud. Some are laments for a broken world or meditations on how we could do better. All are invitations to look and listen.”

Here are three poems from Stones.

Election 2016

I

Maples leaves flutter gold, pin oak leaves

shimmer red, sun shines brightly, Bekah exclaims

that the air has turned iridescent pink.

.

At the corner we greet our friend and her daughter,

walking on their way to vote at the Unitarian church.

They wear borrowed pantsuits too big, floppy, at first

.

we don’t get it, then we laugh.  We also voted with

confidence this morning for our first woman president.

We hug and wish each other well.  By nightfall our

.

optimism is slipping.  Through the evening we worry

more, we wait anxiously for the final count at 3 a.m.

Next morning we startle awake from the nightmare that has just begun.

II

I lit three candles

in glass jars inviting fire.

The past is never dead

.

said Faulkner, it’s not even past.

We carry the weight and we repeat

mistakes: as a poster held high at

.

the Women’s March on Washington

read My arms are tired from holding

this sign since the seventies.

.

Sea salt & ginger, frosted snow, balsam

& cedar, I like diversity even in candles

whose gentle glow brings a memory of the

.

small fireplace in our carriage house 1977

which was framed by a mysterious fresco.

Vines dripped from the ceiling, owls and snakes

.

peered out from brown entangled branches.

The artist, we were told, had studied in Florence.

No heat or electricity, the blaze from this fire

.

warmed us through the famous blizzard.  We

concocted cowboy chili on the hearth where

we later curled up in sleeping bags, dreaming

.

as wind howled and embers crackled, of the

progress we believed to be unfolding in our time,

finally, toward social equality and peaceful compassion.

.

Forty years ago, dear marchers, what did we know?

.

Globe

We bought a globe at a bookstore

but did not anticipate that on the ride

home, salt water oceans would slosh

against the car doors, or that the spin

of the earth’s axis would make us dizzy.

.

that we would have to open the windows to try

to catch our breath.  I was impressed by how you

kept on driving in spite of the weight of the

tectonic plates as we changed lanes, how you

held lightly to the steering wheel regardless of

.

the shifting migration of mantles and how calmly

you turned on a classical radio station to take

the edge off negotiating traffic while we were

experiencing the axial tilt of our oblate spheroid

and my excitement in holding the world on my lap.

.

Stones

I place a small

stone on my father’s

marker flat to the ground

to say, your memory lasts

solid and enduring.

.

I place a small

stone on my father’s

flat to the ground

to say, rest peacefully

no need to ache and wander.

.

I place a small

stone on my father’s

marker flat to the ground

to say, this pebble, your name,

is carried in God’s sling

.

as long ago the stones of shepherds

tallied with the numbers

of the flock for safe-keeping

across mountain tops. I catch

strains of an ancient song as

.

I place a small

stone on my father’s

marker flat to the ground, that says,

There are men with hearts of stone

and stones with hearts of men.

.

As always, I look forward to receiving your comments at kfhastings (at sign) mac (dot) com.

Published by Katherine Hastings

Katherine Hastings is the author of three collections from Spuyten Duyvil Press (NYC): Shakespeare & Stein Walk Into a Bar (2016); Nighthawks (2014); and Cloud Fire (2012), as well as several chapbooks. Poet laureate emerita of Sonoma County, CA, Hastings edited Know Me Here — An Anthology of Poetry by Women; Digging Our Poetic Roots — Poems from Sonoma County; and What Redwoods Know — Poems from California State Parks, published as a benefit for the California State Parks Foundation when 70 parks were faced with permanent closure. Her work has appeared in numerous anthologies, including The Book of Forms — A Handbook of Poetics (University Press of New England, Lewis Putnam Turco, editor); Verde Que Te Quiero Verde — Poems After Federico Garcia Lorca (Open Country Press, Natalie Peeterse, Editor); Changing Harm to Harmony — Bullies & Bystanders Project (Marin Poetry Center, Joseph Zaccardi, editor); Beatitude — Golden Anniversary (Latif Harris and Neeli Cherkovski, editors), among others. She hosted WordTemple on NPR affiliate KRCB FM from 2017 — 2017 and founded the WordTemple Poetry Series in Sonoma County (2006 — 2017) where she also taught craft-focused poetry workshops. Following the October 2017 wildfires, Hastings moved with her partner to Western New York in 2018. "Shakespeare & Stein Walk in to Bar is animated by the two most rewarding and replenishing of poetic forces: dexterous formal diversity and a fierce, unflinching searching..." — Malachi Black "Rooted in what Hastings calls the "momentary forever," these marvelous poems, so rich with detail and so full of duende, explore the paradoxes of transience. Yes, the poet reminds us: 'The alarm is set and ticking' for each least thing in the living world..." — Susan Kelly-DeWitt On Cloud Fire: "Lovely...it's your veiled history." — Lawrence Ferlinghetti "For Katherine Hastings, 'The mirror is a lake of longing'. Her poems are told us by 'a woman with a moon in her chest;' their surprising images embrace close observation, deeply dramatized love and losses, and have the power of crossing boundaries of spirit to reveal truths otherwise unseen." — Daniel Hoffman, US Poet Laureate, 1973 — 1974

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