Elizabeth Boleman-Herring’s Poetry

Claire Bateman

Claire Bateman Weekly Hubris Banner 2017

“Boleman-Herring took up poetry before she could write, and gave it up, for all intents and purposes (jazz lyrics excepted), after reading Auden. How does one, why should one (she says) follow an act like Auden’s? For the most part, these days, she writes prose, but admits to being an ardent follower of The New Formalism, and admires such living younger poets as Alicia Stallings and Glyn Maxwell.”—By Claire Bateman

Speculative Friction

By Claire Bateman

Elizabeth Boleman-Herring. (Photo: Robin White.)

Elizabeth Boleman-Herring. (Photo: Robin White.)

Claire Bateman

GREENVILLE South Carolina—(Weekly Hubris)—February 2019—Elizabeth Boleman-Herring, Publishing-Editor of Weekly Hubris, considers herself an Outsider Artist (of Ink). A poetry student of Coleman Barks, at UGa, James Dickey, at USC, and Henry Taylor, at AU, and an office mate of Claire Bateman and Susan Bartels Ludvigson, Boleman-Herring took up poetry before she could write, and gave it up, for all intents and purposes (jazz lyrics excepted), after reading Auden. How does one, why should one (she says) follow an act like Auden’s? For the most part, these days, she writes prose, but admits to being an ardent follower of The New Formalism, and admires such living younger poets as Alicia Stallings and Glyn Maxwell. Among lyricists, she worships at the altars of Cole Porter and Johnny Mercer. The most recent of her 15-odd books is The Visitors’ Book (or Silva Rerum): An Erotic Fable, now available in a smoking third edition, on Kindle. Thirty years an academic, she has also worked steadily as a founding-editor of journals, magazines, and newspapers in her two homelands, Greece and America. Three other hats Boleman-Herring has at times worn are those of a Traditional Usui Reiki Master, an Iyengar-Style Yoga teacher, a HuffPost columnist and, as “Bebe Herring,” a jazz lyricist for the likes of Thelonious Monk, Kenny Dorham, and Bill Evans. (Her online Greek travel guide is still accessible at www.GreeceTraveler.com, and her memoir, Greek Unorthodox: Bande a Part & A Farewell To Ikaros, is available through www.GreeceInPrint.com.) Boleman-Herring makes her home (along with jazz trumpeter, Dean Pratt, leader of the eponymous Dean Pratt Big Band, in her beloved Up-Country South Carolina, the state Pat Conroy opined was “too small for a republic and too large for an insane asylum.”

Not on Dover Beach, But on Daytona
By Elizabeth Boleman-Herring

Not on Dover Beach, but on Daytona,
the century has turned, and turned again, since Matthew Arnold.
That poet mourned the passing of the sea of faith
while this one marks the dying of the sea itself.
I ask my therapist (she hears me out on Thursdays)
that in the light of what is just ahead
(Anthropocene extinction) what is this little life, this death,
my bleating on our ever-darkling plain?
She’s young, my counselor, and I am old,
but neither of us (true to one another)
has joy, or love, or certitude, or light
(and search for rhymes here and you’ll search all night).
The sand beneath our feet in Florida is fine.
No cliffs here beetle over us; no moon-blanch’d land behind.
Instead, a rainbow in the æther arcs above:
first left, it dips; then right: no godhead’s signature.
We’re looking neither up nor down for miracles
or coded messages, or help for pain.
They’re conversational, our poems now:
just a kleine nachtmusik as Rome goes up in flames.
I turn my face to Rachel and I meet her eyes.
Listen! Sophocles is here today as well,
and Arnold; even Anthony Hecht (he of “The Dover Bitch”).
The sacred and profane, we stroll together, damning our species’ eyes
but mostly our blindness. Here on Dover Beach, and on Daytona,
our lights are winking out; the seas are rising;
the ice dissolving; and the methane bubbling;
the whales expiring; and the storms increasing;
as ignorant armies clash by night by the Aegean, as by the Caspian;
Pacific, and Atlantic; Indian . . . and Adriatic.
Ah, Friend, let us be true to one another.
Let us be, a little longer, to savor these sounds,
these seas, these little silences,
so various, so beautiful, so few.

Falling Down the Stairs at Fifty-Five
By Elizabeth Boleman-Herring

I came down the attic stairs
a toboggan of flesh
(with bone for ballast);
a myopic kestrel,
stooping on stone;
feet (which never touched wood) first;
then, headlong, lateral;
a Möbius Strip, stripped;
a nude descending;
screaming, not waving.
(A lot of my poems these days
deal with Calamity,
which is what befalls one in middle age
when one was as fleet of foot,
as lithe, as flinty and
as much of a circus act
as I was in youth.)
If, and I say if (my husband now declines to)
you looked at me from the back,
I’d seem to have risen up, just,
from some mechanic’s floor
where implements had been left lying
in pools of long-spent motor oil.
From the front, where those twelve,
narrow, T.-Capote-foot-wide stair steps
did not apply their tongues and grooves,
I am my pink, mid-50’s self.

And the stairs?
Pristine. No blood, no gore,
no yanked-out tufts of hair;
and even the sliced-off end
of my ring finger,
which held on for the ride,
was bitten off, recycled,
as I lay there crying—
crying very softly, as we do
when we’ve just had the bejezus knocked
out of us.
The stairs?
I might as well never have been
up, nor down them.
“It all happened so fast,”
they might say.
But, if the Universe is like that,
if after careering through it for half a century
or more—or hell, if even for much less—
there’s no sign one’s been here,
well, I intend to commence hollerin’
and bleedin’ and breakin’ stuff
from now on out
as I head on through.

 

Editors Note: Not on Dover Beach, But on Daytona first appeared in The Huffington Post; Falling Down the Stairs at Fifty-Five was first published in The South Carolina Review.

To order copies of Claire Bateman’s books Scape or Coronolgy from Amazon, click on the book covers below.

Bateman Scape

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Claire Bateman

About Claire Bateman

Claire Bateman’s books include Scape (New Issues Poetry & Prose); Locals (Serving House Books), The Bicycle Slow Race (Wesleyan University Press), Friction (Eighth Mountain Poetry Prize), At The Funeral Of The Ether (Ninety-Six Press, Furman University), Clumsy (New Issues Poetry & Prose), Leap (New Issues), and Coronolgy (Etruscan Press). She has been awarded Individual Artist Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Tennessee Arts Commission, and the Surdna Foundation, as well as two Pushcart Prizes and the New Millennium Writings 40th Anniversary Poetry Prize. She has taught at Clemson University, the Greenville Fine Arts Center, and various workshops and conferences such as Bread Loaf and Mount Holyoke. She lives in Greenville, SC. (Please see Bateman's amazon.com Author's Page for links to all her publications.)
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4 Responses to Elizabeth Boleman-Herring’s Poetry

  1. Avatar Anita Sullivan says:

    Oh, these are such doughty poems, so reinforcing, a reminder of the solidity of pure spirit — ! So very, very appropriate to hear from Elizabeth Boleman Herring right now, out front and out loud instead of just competently humming away in the background, helping the rest of us sing and shine. Hooray for “commence hollerin'” I’m with you all the way, honey!

  2. Elizabeth Boleman-Herring Elizabeth Boleman-Herring says:

    Anitamou, I’m gratified still to be read! Not much “emerges” these days: I’m happier to orchestrate, out here, than to take up my own kazoo. And I have the great Anglo-Irish bards humming in my own head, so perfectly, so beautifully, always. All I do, I think, is respond, over and over again, to Matthew Arnold….. Love you!

  3. Avatar Jerry says:

    Beautiful, beautiful and yes, damn the torpedo stairs, I will be smashing and crashing along with you!

  4. Elizabeth Boleman-Herring Elizabeth Boleman-Herring says:

    Thank you, Jerry! And thanks to Claire Bateman for compelling me to “populate with poems” her own column space this month!

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