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Beyond Risk-Taking: A Poetic Conversation

Anne Dalke's picture

Beyond Risk-Taking: A Poetic Conversation
Alice Lesnick and Elizabeth Catanese
November 2007

During an series of conversations about risk-taking in the academy and beyond, Elizabeth McCormack invited participants to look at a series of images of pyramids and flocks. Inspired, in that presentation, by Jody Cohen's thoughts on self-luminosity and "doing as being," Alice Lesnick wrote a poem called "Beauty." In response to Alice's poem, Elizabeth Catanese wrote "Pertaining to that Falling Tree in the Proverbial Forest"; in response to Elizabeth's poem, Alice revised her thinking about risk in a second poem, called "Starling Flock: Lit From Within." Any responses (in poetry or prose) are welcomed!


The bird flock there
Is what it is, it is
What it is about --
No flight from doing to being.

While this pyramid, perverse icicle,
Is an echo of loss,
at a remove
As long as it lasts
from its sources and reception.

Index of time, waste,
A pyramid's a symbol of course,
Also a last rite
And an oppression.

Vitality, you see, is with the starlings --
But what do you know?
Their mandala, if so it be,
Is lost on me. Not for my eye its elegance.

In the end it's dull to watch while birds,
However well coordinated, mill around.
Pharoah's great folly is handy,
Its beauty close as dust.

--Alice Lesnick

With thanks to Jody, Liz,
and Paul for the idea

Pertaining to that Falling Tree
in the Proverbial Forest

Descartes who thought
and therefore was
might once, in being, have seen
the majestic loosening of old roots
at the slight touch of woodpecker's
feet on a far up branch,
and heard
the internal wooden crack,
the upright body's slow drop
towards a bed of tree leaves.

The tree was surely beautiful
the next morning
when the sun shone upon a patch of
green moss on its rough surface.
Eventually, the inside core, not brain
but useful rot
made a home for an old
and watchful racoon.

The question I have
in my absence
is not whether or not the tree
made a sound,
but why, in all of my years
I have failed to be present
and listen

--Elizabeth Catanese

Starling Flight: Lit from Within

Taken together, their flock moves
not as the crow flies and not as the shortest distance between points
(beads or mines, crops or hands)
not as arrow, not as pointer tapping to the blackboard

but something else – in itself:

here, there
bound, free
clear, vague

its eventual passing
over a dark pyramid
discloses openings

--Alice Lesnick



Webpage  by Anne Dalke

For a similar conversation, see
Aesthetics: An Exchange
Between  a Poet and a Dramatist


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