Vivian Shipley has published 10 books and has a list of dozens of awards and dozens and dozens of poems published in journals. So do McNair, Chin, Straight. When they face the audience in the garden, however, it's their words alone - well, OK, you can ascribe a little to the magic of the summer evening and the mockingbird in the trees - that win the listeners over, or don't.
JUNE 12 YUSEF KOMUNYAKAA
Yusef Komunyakaa, a professor at Princeton as well as a poet, believes poetry to be "a kind of distilled insinuation. It's a way of expanding and talking around an idea or question." The listener on the lawn on the Sunken Garden's opening night might hear him, for example, read the powerful poem that draws on his Vietnam War experience, as he faces the memorial in Washington: "Facing It."
My black face fades,
hiding inside the black granite.
I said I wouldn't,
dammit: No tears.
I'm stone. I'm flesh. ...
The brief poem takes the listener through a shocking memory of the war - in which Komunyakaa served - to a surprisingly gentle and nurturing finish. Other poems are tougher. "There's a sameness about American poetry that I don't think represents the whole people," Komunyakaa says. "It represents a poetry of the moment, a poetry of evasion...I believe poetry has always been political."
Guy Davis, the evening's musician, has got "some Blind Willie McTell and some Fats Waller, some Buddy Guy and some Taj Mahal...some Zora Neale Hurston, some Garrison Keillor, and some Laura Davis (his one-hundred-year-old grandmother)" in him, says a writer for Red House Records. Red House distributes "Butt Naked Free," his CD that got its name because of the way Guy's son Martial felt when he heard one of the instrumentals on the album.
JUNE 26 VIVIAN SHIPLEY
Vivian Shipley is the editor of Connecticut Review and is the (that's right, there's only one) Connecticut State University Distinguished Professor. You might hear this soar out above the darkening garden:
Stooped at seventy two, I calculate the dead weight.
You were my son's 4-H leader, took nightly strolls
on the green with Dylan, your yellow lab. As October