a sampler of poems from Marrow of Summer by Andrea Potos

Imagine spending a stimulating Saturday evening visiting Gertrude Stein’s famous Paris salon at 27 rue de Fleurus. You’d wile away the hours hobnobbing with the likes of Picasso, Hemingway, Matisse, Fitzgerald, and other artistes et écrivains d’avant-garde célèbre.

Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas with Matisse, Hemingway, and Picasso (Brett Kaufman/bkbiography)

Alice B. Toklas might serve her famous Mushroom Sandwiches with Clear Turtle Soup, a lovely Violet Soufflé, and A Fine Fat Pullet, followed by a Tender Tart or even Custard Josephine Baker (what, you were hoping for Haschich Fudge?). 🙂

Wisconsin poet Andrea Potos revels in a similar scenario with her whimsical poem, “Imagining Heaven,” just one of the many finely crafted gems from her latest poetry collection, Marrow of Summer (Kelsay Books, 2021).

In some ways a companion to Mothershell (Kelsay Books, 2019), where Andrea lovingly distills fond memories of her mother Penny, Marrow of Summer is written “For all the beloveds, gone on,” honoring not only Penny, but her grandmother, father, and lost friends.

With intuitive insight, Andrea captures small revelatory moments, where gratitude, joy and hope eclipse the weight of loss and longing. It could be the whirring of hummingbird’s wings, the somber sound of the cello, or the startling flame of cardinal feathers: she is always fully present to wonder and willing to embrace the miraculous. 

John Keats portrait by Joseph Severn (1821-23)

A fascinating aspect of Andrea’s work is how she cultivates a romantic, ever blossoming interior landscape — fertile ground where art, music, history, travel, and literature happily commingle to inform her poetic process. Her affinity for John Keats, the Brontës, Emily Dickinson and Renoir makes it easy to picture her thriving in a century gone by.

19th century colorized engraving of Charlotte Brontë by William Jackman

I thought it would be fun to share several poems from Marrow of Summer that speak to her writing and the beloved creatives who inspire her. I thank Andrea for sharing a little backstory for each poem along with personal photos. I must admit, her idea of heaven is pretty close to mine. 🙂

*

Alice and Gertrude at 27 rue de Fleurus, Paris
IMAGINING HEAVEN

     after Paul Zimmer

I am sitting beside Shakespeare
in Gertrude Stein’s studio.
We are listening to John Keats
recite an ode.
The mullioned windows are flung open --
brightness unheard of gushes in --
one nightingale perches
on a particular beam of sun.

Just now, Emily D. glides in,
arms linked with the other Emily.
Charlotte follows close behind,
the sequel to Jane Eyre in her hands.

Renoir sets up his easel, a cigar
hanging off his lips, while Emerson and Jung
smile from the settee.
Johannes and Clare settle close
on the silk-draped piano bench,
their fingers nearly touching.

Outside, Satchmo and Dizzy
are warming up in the gazebo.
Mozart chats on the lawn with Frida Kahlo.
Just now, Monet arrives
offering a bouquet of water lilies splashed
with water and light -- a gift from our Hostess
who is everywhere
though unseen.

Andrea:

I often start off my writing sessions by reading the work of other poets; I am often inspired that way.  I discovered that the ancient Chinese poets called this way of creating poems “harmonization.”  I love that word!  

“Imagining Heaven” came about through just this process.  I’d read the poet Paul Zimmer’s wonderful poem “Zimmer Imagines Heaven” which starts out with Joseph Conrad sitting in Monet’s garden, and listening to Yeats chant his poems.  I knew Paul Zimmer was onto something. My idea of heaven wholly involved art and poetry, music and light and summer.  So I started a list of my own. . . The poem was such fun to write!  I’m sure I left out some beloved creators, but that leaves room for a future poem. . .  

*

Andrea at Keats House in Hampstead, assuming his pose in the Severn portrait.
CONVERSING WITH KEATS

       200th anniversary celebration, Hampstead

Waiting for visitors, he stood
in his study at Wentworth Place
and welcomed me in: Hello Madame.
I gave him news of a poem:
a most beautiful title he told me.
We conversed of the burgeoning spring
beyond his windows, the nightingale he’d been relishing
at dusk these past days; the inkpot on his desk,
and the rustlings
of his pen like tiny creatures of inspiration
as he pins thoughts on paper scraps left laying around.
And when he asked of me, From where does
your inspiration arrive? I blurted: From you of course!
I swear I caught slivers of light in his eyes
before his gentle modesty translated into a bow, before I floated
away from him and out of the room.
Study at Keats House

Andrea:

“Conversing With Keats” was born after our last trip to London in 2019.  I had visited the Keats House in Hampstead several times before, but this trip happened to coincide with the 200th anniversary of Keats’ “Living Year” 1819, the year he composed his great Odes.  

To celebrate, the house had real actors on the premises, representing Keats and his love Fanny Brawne, talking with visitors and reciting poems.  The actor who played Keats was a man named Matthew Coulton; he was fabulous!  Wandering into the study, I found him alone, idle and waiting, as if to chat; he was very receptive and gentlemanly.  I felt transported, as if I were talking to the beloved man himself.  A swoonworthy adventure for me indeed!  

Outside Keats House

*

Dickinson Bedroom via The Boston Globe
STUDIO SESSIONS

     Emily Dickinson Museum

     This is a mighty room/within its precincts         
      hopes have played -- E.D.

Two hundred dollars for one hour
may be nothing for the chance
to sit (given one small table and chair)
breathing the air of her room.
Surely some atoms of her being still
linger, though the counterpane
would be new, the lace curtains
pristinely laundered since her touch.

With only pencil and paper (no touching
of the furnishings allowed), how would it be to live
in the aftermath of her? Would she guide
my hand across the modern page?
Could I float along the lost thermals
of her thought? Would ambition keep me
stalled, forgetting how it was
the nobodies she favored.

Andrea:

“Studio Sessions” came to me after I received a notice that the Emily Dickinson Homestead in Amherst had started a new fundraising program, whereby one could “buy” an hour or two to sit in her bedroom, writing, dreaming, meditating or whatever.  The idea of it intrigued me enormously, although I doubted I would pay the money to do so.  No pens allowed, no cups of coffee either–two essentials for my writing process. 🙂  And I wondered if I would feel under too much pressure to compose something great while sitting there, if I would be able to lose myself in the “lost thermals of her thought,” or if I would be able to sense her presence, which would be my greatest wish of course. . . . sigh.   

*

The famous white dress.
WRITING AT HOME WITH EMILY D.

The quiet with a presence
as if stillness were its spine --
a discipline erect
that grants me moments
and words as eternity.

Andrea:

“Writing at Home With Emily D.” is my dream of a writing practice; one where quiet and stillness reign, and concentration is no effort at all.  One feels in the flow with the muse, where each moment feels timeless.  I think of Emily at work in this way.  On my best days writing, this can happen, and when it does, it feels like a pure gift.

Dickinson Homestead in Amherst, MA

*

🍷 SALON DE CORNELIUS 🥖

Monsieur Cornelius was so impressed by Andrea’s book that he wanted to host his own Saturday night salon. After Frida Kahlo and Claude Monet read aloud from Marrow of Summer, the guests mingled freely with bread, wine, cheese, sweets, lots of laughter and splendid repartee. An evening to remember!

M. Cornelius hosts his own salon.
Emily D. (who came out of her shell), impresses Monet and Warhol with her tea pouring skills. Emily to Andy: “Got soup?”
M. Cornelius jamming with Mozart and Satchmo.
Leonardo and Vincent debate over whether “Mona Lisa” or “Starry Night” is the greater masterpiece.
Dali, Hemingway and Picasso discuss Paris, Cubism, women, and short sentences.
Emily D. asks George Washington Carver whether she should plant peanuts.
Surprise appearance by a doctor poet: “To mask or not to mask, that is the question.”
Ernest, Emily D., and Claude wonder about the whereabouts of Gertrude and Alice.
Mozart to Cornelius: “Do you know Yo-Yo Ma?”
After such an inspiring evening, Blue Bear is inspired to pen his own masterpiece!
Parting words from Wolfie: “Which of us has the better bun?”
Frida: Perhaps you should write a symphony about my unibrow.”

*

Coda: enjoy this bonus Andrea poem — a meditative blessing:

“The Meadow” by Claude Monet (1879)
WHEN BEGINNING THE POEM

may there be a listening
rather than a making

curiosity over expectation,

lightness and ease,
no straining
toward some glut of air.

May you step aside
like a watcher at the meadow’s edge
as the doe
finds her way to the center.

*

Thanks again, Andrea, and Happy Writing to All!!

*

MARROW OF SUMMER
by Andrea Potos
published by Kelsay Books, March 2021
Poetry Collection, 70 pp.

*

The lovely and talented Catherine Flynn is hosting the Roundup at Reading to the Core. Mosey on over to check out the full menu of poetic goodness being shared around the blogosphere this week. Have a nice weekend!

*


*This post contains Amazon and Bookshop affiliate links. When you purchase an item via either button, Jama’s Alphabet Soup may receive a small referral fee at no cost to you. Choose Bookshop to support independent bookstores. Thank you!

**Copyright © 2021 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

34 thoughts on “a sampler of poems from Marrow of Summer by Andrea Potos

  1. What do I think? I think this post is practically perfect. My goodness, Jama. I was transported by Andrea’s process description and poetry. Wow! And, she answered a poetry question I’ve had for some time. Yay! Thank you for your playful arrangements of creatives…how DO you manage such fun and creativity that’s different each week?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Now I’m curious about the poetry question Andrea answered. It’s always interesting to learn backstories of poems, don’t you think? 🙂

      Like

  2. Thank you for the introduction to Andrea and her collection, Jama. The little backstories she provides for each poem are next level awesome. And I’d love to be a guest at “SALON DE CORNELIUS”! In my opinion, Frida is ‘bun-stoppable’ because her bun is paired with her unibrow. I love how she OWNS her look! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bun-stoppable!! Love it! You are the punniest punster ever, Bridget. Feel free to join the Salon de Cornelius at any time, that is, if you don’t mind low brow entertainment. 😀

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  3. Andrea’s experiences connecting to the poems are ones to dream about, Jama. The internet can take us to those places, thank goodness, though not the same, better than nothing. And your own imaginative scenes made me smile over each one. I especially love “Imagining Heaven” after Paul Zimmer because I know his poems and have enjoyed them for a long time. I guess “imagination rocks” in this post today, minds whirling. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I haven’t read much of Zimmer’s work, but now I will. It’s wonderful how one thing leads to another . . . I, for one, was swooning over Andrea’s encounter with Keats — so civilized and gentlemanly.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. So so much richness here. I headed into the second book I have by Andrea, and was wondering what I’d read next and you have solved that question. Just ordered. I love so much in this blog — the Keats visit, and of course Emily. Will never forget Burleigh Muten hosting a reading in that bedroom. (and free, though the 200 seems worth it — though I understand the pressure!) I read through too hastily but will come back tonight. I’m reading the novel Libertie which is beautifully written, but painful — last night reading was hard — and this will be the perfect balance. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Burleigh’s reading must have been magical! Wow! I think I would feel too pressured sitting in that bedroom too — probably would have used the time just to ponder and soak up the Emily vibes, imagining the heavenly smell of her bread baking downstairs . . .

      Like

  5. Your last image with all our artist, musician, and poet friends in a state of awe on Andrea’s book describes perfectly how I feel about your magnificent post! Thanks for sharing this intriguing new poetry book, I love the time travels she takes us on. And your image of Emily’s white dress feels like she’s here with us. I love all the artists gatherings and celebrations too! ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks for sharing some of Andrea Potos’s poems with us.( Potos is so close to pothos, a yearning for the past–and a yearning to return to an archetype.) I love that first poem, especially the last lines about the the Hostess. Just beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Interesting observation — Potos and pothos — seems to apply to Andrea’s MO, doesn’t it? 🙂 I agree it’s a terrific last line!

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  7. Love these beautiful, powerful words and images. Thanks, Jama, as ever, for broadening my world as you explore its fascinating details.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. You think you and M. Cornelius had a bit too much fun with this post? (Jamais trop! C’est impossible!) A wonderful soirée with some wonderful poetry, Jama. Thank you for the introduction to Andrea Potos. It’s comforting to know that she and I share a similar process in how we find our inspiration to write.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Now M. Cornelius wishes to move to Paris. I keep telling him Gertrude Stein won’t be there now. Glad to hear you and Andrea are on the same wave length with process. Filling the well!!

      Like

  9. John Keats, the Brontës, Emily Dickinson and Renoir? Sign me up. This post is an utter joy, Jama. What fun to peek behind the scenes of each poem, too, via your conversations with Andrea. I’ve got to get this book.

    And SALON DE CORNELIUS? Another spot on idea of heaven.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Thank you for another inspiring and fun post, Jama! I love Andrea Potos’s poems, especially the bonus poem. Every line contains truths that I need to remember, including this: “curiosity over expectation.” Yes!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Jama — As always, I don’t know where to start with your post. Always a feast for the senses. Living not too far from Amherst, my husband had pondered gifting me an hour in dear Emily’s bed-chamber. At the time it was less by maybe a half. We regretted not jumping at the chance (not the bed, of course!) at the time. You also used to be able to donate to the Thoreau Society for not too much for a day’s work in Henry’s birthplace farmhouse. I’ve toured it, and if they start that up again, post-COVID, I may take them up on it. https://www.thoreausociety.org/home. Thanks for all the beauty (including Dr. Fauci) you share with us each and every week. Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

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