Any accounting of Pittsburgh poets must give its due to Judith Vollmer; she is a writing professor at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg and co-editor of 5 AM. She has won fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, as well as residencies at the American Academy in Rome, Yaddo, Centrum, Blue Mountain, and Vermont Studio Colony. She has four collections of poetry to her credit: Level Green, winner of the Brittingham Prize, Black Butterfly, The Door Open To the Fire and Reactor. The Water Books is due out later this year.
More important to me is her passion about revision, and her willingness to give of herself to the global community of poets and artists who address issues of importance to the planet and all of its inhabitants. She once encouraged me to continue revising right up until poems are published or read--to make every minute you have count in the evolution of your work--something I'll never forget. Vollmer was a reporter for the Pittsburgh Press, and she continues to report the human news in each one of her poems with a jazzy blend of her classical education and pop culture--no matter what subject she is addressing. Here is a sample from one of my favorite poems from Reactor that was recognized by the 2005 Public Poetry Project: "Coffee With Narrative:"
Voltaire's 70 cups to my 2,
what does that make me, though
his we think were demitasse and mine
are big as small dogs. How no one
smokes anymore, sad, I open my pack
here in the night kitchen and out comes
the exotic Mlle. Teuer, laughing, black cat
on her shoulder, and I rivet on her cup
of sugar-tar while she smokes into the night
and regales me with her vanished minor opera-
star years, drops of holiness wetting her smock.
If I run my hand along this shelf I slide into a farm-
stead where I drank the green, the black teas,
organic leaves picked from bushes silvered under
rain in far places no longer fat. But the beloved sister
to merlot & cognac, to mountain water over matching
ice cubes would be the gift of Ethiopia
that would transmogrify Earth.
Dear red berries who made goats dance about,
dear leaf veins standing turgid & erect, how
the little goats in their happiness peed
on those bushes, thus deepening the primal
blend from Dante to Beauvoir;"
I can't wait to read her forthcoming book. And after I do, you'll here more from me about Judith Vollmer, one of my top ten favorite Pittsburgh poets and one of my favorite living writers from anywhere.
Friday, April 20, 2012
My Top Ten Pittsburgh Poets: Judith Vollmer
was born in the Midwest, grew up in New Mexico, and has lived in the San Francisco bay area for over a decade. Terry has published in numerous literary journals, including Best New Poets 2012, Crab Orchard Review, Green Mountains Review, Great River Review, New Millennium Writings, and The Comstock Review. His work has garnered six Pushcart Prize nominations. He is the winner of the 2014 Crab Orchard Review Special Issue Feature Award in Poetry. His chapbook, Altar Call, was a winner in the the 2013 San Gabriel Valley Literary Festival, and appears in the Anthology, Diesel. His chapbook, If They Have Ears to Hear, won the 2012 Copperdome Poetry Chapbook Contest, and is available from Southeast Missouri State University Press. His first full-length collection of poems, In This Room (CW Books, 2016), is now available, and his second, Dharma Rain, was released by Saint Julian Press in October of 2016. Terry is a 2008 poetry MFA graduate of New England College, an assistant editor at Trio House Press, and a free-lance poetry consultant. For more information about him and his work see www.terrylucas.com