Thursday, May 25, 2017

A Poem by Wallace Stevens

We had a big rain shower and now, just as twilight falls, it's over and the grounds here are so green and serene.

This is a much more calm post than my previous one.  I am praying for that whole situation.

Have I ever said how much I love the poetry of Wallace Stevens?

I keep coming across poems of his that fill me with admiration and wonder.

The other day I was looking for a poem that contained the word  interior, and this one appeared:

Final Soliloquy of the Interior Paramour


Wallace Stevens, 1879 - 1955


Light the first light of evening, as in a room

In which we rest and, for small reason, think

The world imagined is the ultimate good.


This is, therefore, the intensest rendezvous.

It is in that thought that we collect ourselves,

Out of all the indifferences, into one thing:


Within a single thing, a single shawl

Wrapped tightly round us, since we are poor, a warmth,

A light, a power, the miraculous influence.


Here, now, we forget each other and ourselves.

We feel the obscurity of an order, a whole,

A knowledge, that which arranged the rendezvous.


Within its vital boundary, in the mind.

We say God and the imagination are one...

How high that highest candle lights the dark.


Out of this same light, out of the central mind,

We make a dwelling in the evening air,

In which being there together is enough.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Agonizing over "The Keepers"

This is a tv documentary seven part series about a horror that occurred at a high school in Baltimore in the late sixties and early seventies.

I didn't teach there then. Then, it was Archbishop Keough High School.  In 1988, it merged with Seton High, and was renamed  The Seton Keough High School.  I taught there from 1988-1996.

I didn't know about this terrible atrocity until 1994, when the victims filed a lawsuit against the offending priest, the school, and the archdiocese.  Even then, I didn't know the details or extent of it.

I didn't know that until now, when I began to watch "The Keepers"  I've only seen the first two episodes, but they are enough to give me nightmares.

The Sister in the photo is Sister Cathy Cesnik, a School Sister of Notre Dame, who taught there in those days and who was murdered, ostensibly to shut her up.

The priest, Maskell, was truly a man who hated women and who degraded and abused the young women who came to him for counselling.  A true predator, he focused on the girls who had already been victims of abuse before they came into his clutches.   He's dead now, so he has faced the judgment of God.

Here is how the school looked in the late 60's:

In the meantime, this series has had a terrible impact on many women who went to the school, even decades after the whole thing.   Here are some of their posts from Facebook:

Comments on the Facebook page:

*I just watched episode 5. Woah. That was a big can of worms opened. I think there was money involved and a major "cover up" happened

*For the last two nights after watching This documentary I woke up sick to my stomach and wondering how could something like this be ignored for so long? How could good people (and I DO believe the Catholic Church is FULL of good people) let this happen? How could no one stand up? But mostly, Sharon May, the woman that just made it SO much harder for abuse survivors to come forth, either from past abuse or current abuse, who had more than enough to open a case, 30-100 women come forward of grueling incidents that they were frightened to even think about, and she just dismissed it? Like it was nothing, like it was legitimately laughing and rolling her eyes about the accusations. This woman is what's wrong with this world and I truly believe could've helped solve this case. Sad excuse for a woman

*Just finished binge watching The Keepers on Netflix. I'm guessing the archdiocese will bulldoze Seton Keough to the ground any day now.

*Just watched this series and I can't express my sadness for the victims of the monster Mascall. These individuals' suffering is exactly why statutes of limitations for these crimes should be extended substantially. Let there be no rest for the wicked perpetrators who prey on the fear of those they abuse.


*Archdiocese spokesman Sean Caine said the church of 2017 is "a very different place" from when Joseph Maskell was a priest. "We work very hard every single day to make sure that the church is a safe place...and we will do everything we can in our power to ensure something like that never again happens."

*in the second episode, when jean described confessing and feeling guilty about being abused by her uncle and then the things that father maskell, magnus and others did to her and the other poor girls disgusted me and broke my heart. i'm not religious so i don't fully understand. did they twist religious teachings to fit and justify their evil doings? it seems the girls were so brainwashed by the religion and the godlike status that the priests held that they did whatever they... said to be "forgiven by god".

and then when the the allegations made by charlie about maskells abuse was completely denied.. that also struck me to the core.
so many unanswered questions and missing documents. how can this be?? does a church really have this much power? sharon may also seemed shady and i felt she portrayed an indifferent attitude.. as if she didn't care if justice was served or not.. as the head of the sex crime division. sicken
*I attended Keough and was there when it merged with Seton. Also a former student of St. Clement's. I have to say this documentary shed an eerie light on the history of two schools I attended. Oddly St. Clement' closed and Seton Keough will be closing at end of this school year. I will be glad as perhaps this is full circle for a school that had a horrible history. The women who endured the abuse were incredibly brave. Shame on the church for not protecting them. Sad to know this happened at places that shaped my childhood. What it shaped in others is terrible and unfair. May the women and Sister Cathy find peace in knowing their story mattered and people do care.



Vikki Boateng Kristen Lynn in a way the closing ( of Seton Keough) to me is so overdue after all that happened there. I can't tell you how terrible it is to know everything that took place in that building. Sadly I had a good experience there as the teachers were great all I had. Can't say enough what those girls went through should have stopped and been taken care of from beginning. Burning down wouldn't be enough.

Kristen Lynn Ironic that it's happening now though. That's karma!

Vikki Boateng I know. I wouldn't be at all surprised if decision to close was due to documentary coming out. Easy to brush it all under carpet and let people forget.

Karen McKenny Olson I graduated in 1992. Never knew a thing about what happened there until recently.

Vikki Boateng Same here. Although some of us were talking about how there was a bad vibe down hallway by Library. Never knew why. This explained it all.

Sandra Winkles I attended Seton before it merged with Keough. We didn't have a priest on staff, but if we had I can certainly see that abuse such as what took place at Keough could have occurred at Seton. T The atmosphere at Seton was repressive, cold, stifling, ignorant and unenlightened to say the least. Priests and nuns were held up as Godlike and infallible, never to be questioned for any reason. I am appalled at the extent and depth of the cover up of this entire situation by the Baltimore archdiocese - they are responsible for all that happened since they knew of Maskell's behavior in 1967 and elected to move him to another school rather than see that he was removed from the priesthood and charged with crimes. This is yet another example of what happens when men and a church hierarchy think they are infallible and can do no wrong. If priests were allowed to be married, normal men, I don't think the priesthood would have become such a haven for all these monsters. I now attend a church which is Anglican/catholic and a parish of the personal ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter (a former Episcopalian church which joined the Catholic Church but the former Episcopalian priests are married and the church retained much of the traditional mass and music. Our priests are so different - normal, none of that infallible superior attitude that has prevailed in the Catholic Church for years. This documentary makes me sad, angry, disgusted, etc. I pray that light is finally shed on this appalling tragedy and that the truth is finally discovered for the sake of all concerned. Glad this school is closing - it should have been closed and burned down years ago - what went on there for so many years was horrific and nothing can make up for the torture experienced by these poor girls!

Lynn Kuennen Absolute power leads to evil with no consequences. The government should have stepped in and charged those breaking the law.


Jenny Divver I'm up to #3. Do you guys remember what his office was used as when we were there? I don't remember ever going anywhere between the library and convent. I don't remember what it was and am curious.

Stephanie Lippman They show it in a sketch on the show. It was on the first floor, the room next to that green carpeted chapel that av club used to film in. If memory serves, I don't remember that door ever being unlocked.

Kelly Davis Morton I just finished tonight. So incredibly heartbreaking I know Jane Doe and her family very well. They are some of the nicest people you'd ever meet. I hate that horrible things happen to good people😢

Stephanie Lippman I drove by SK the other day while I was heading out on tour because I figured it'd probably be the last time I'd see it. Sad to see it go out like this but it should definitely be killed with fire, so to speak. Too much hypocrisy, injustice, scandal and shame.

Holly Basta He was protected by them and others in power. I was told as a student what those rooms were. We filmed our morning reports in the office next to the library. Always felt extremely uncomfortable there and in the chapel. Sr. Joyce told me what her office used to be was also where much of the abuse took place because it is kind of secluded. She was well aware and probably knew much more

Holly Basta I do believe the sale of the property may be part of the settlements. It's worth a great deal of money, the archdiocese probably needs to pay the victims. It is quite coincidental that the three places tied to the abuse are all being closed -- NOT.


Jenny Divver I visited a few weeks ago, so my old memories are getting mixed up. They moved the chapel to his office, I believe, or right next to it. The office at the end near the door is now the heritage room with old uniforms, etc.

Rachael Swann Thomas Many catholic grade schools in my area have closed. Not many have been bulldozed yet. I think SK was slated to go regardless of the Keepers.

Yearbook photo of the Keough administration in the late 60's:

I keep wondering about the faculty members of that time: didn't they suspect something ?

Some of them were still teaching at the school after the merger, when I was there. I never heard a thing about it from any of them.

Seton Keough when I taught there, was a good school where most of us, teachers and students, didn't know about that dark shadow from the past.


Not only the damage to the abused women, but the
 rage at the larger Catholic Church that this whole thing has generated just breaks my heart.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Maze poem

I came across this one yesterday and decided to post it:

Reflections on Walking in the Maze at Hampton Court

Published in British Magazine, 1747, author unknown


“What is this mighty Labyrinth – the earth,

But a wild maze the moment of our birth?

Still as we life pursue the maze extends,

Nor find we where each winding purlieu ends;

Crooked and vague each step of life we tread, —

Unseen the danger, we escape the dread!

But with delight we through the labyrinth range,

Confused we turn, and view each artful change –

Bewildered, through each wild meander bend

Our wandering steps, anxious to gain the end;

Unknown and intricate, we still pursue

A certain path, uncertain of the clue;

Like hoodwinked fools, perplex’d we grope our way

And during life’s short course we blindly stray,

Puzzled in mazes and perplex’d with fears;

Unknown alike both heaven and earth appears.

Till at the last, to banish our surprise,

Grim Death unbinds the napkin from our eyes.

Then shall Gay’s truth and wisdom stand confest,

And Death will shew us Life was but a jest.”


Friday, May 12, 2017

from wood to field to sky

Here is a very puzzling and enigmatic poem by the great British poet Stevie Smith:



Why is the word pretty so underrated?

In November the leaf is pretty when it falls   

The stream grows deep in the woods after rain   

And in the pretty pool the pike stalks


He stalks his prey, and this is pretty too,   

The prey escapes with an underwater flash   

But not for long, the great fish has him now   

The pike is a fish who always has his prey


And this is pretty. The water rat is pretty

His paws are not webbed, he cannot shut his nostrils   

As the otter can and the beaver, he is torn between   

The land and water. Not ‘torn’, he does not mind.


The owl hunts in the evening and it is pretty

The lake water below him rustles with ice

There is frost coming from the ground, in the air mist   

All this is pretty, it could not be prettier.


Yes, it could always be prettier, the eye abashes   

It is becoming an eye that cannot see enough,   

Out of the wood the eye climbs. This is prettier   

A field in the evening, tilting up.


The field tilts to the sky. Though it is late   

The sky is lighter than the hill field

All this looks easy but really it is extraordinary   

Well, it is extraordinary to be so pretty.


And it is careless, and that is always pretty

This field, this owl, this pike, this pool are careless,   

As Nature is always careless and indifferent

Who sees, who steps, means nothing, and this is pretty.


So a person can come along like a thief—pretty!—

Stealing a look, pinching the sound and feel,   

Lick the icicle broken from the bank

And still say nothing at all, only cry pretty.


Cry pretty, pretty, pretty and you’ll be able   

Very soon not even to cry pretty

And so be delivered entirely from humanity   

This is prettiest of all, it is very pretty.                                                          Stevie Smith

I am writing about this poem for a presentation at a critical seminar on Stevie Smith at the West Chester Poetry Conference in early June.  

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

End of the Semester

It's exam week.  I've finished grading all the papers, and now am beginning to grade the finals.

In other words, it's a busy time.

Here are a few cartoons/memes about this time of year:


Wednesday, May 3, 2017

All on a May Morning

I have never been so glad of May!   Not sure why, but it is true.

Today I was thinking of all the old folk ballads set in May.  Most of them tell stories of lost love, but they are beautiful.

Here are a few:

Banks of Claudy

'Twas on a summer's morning all in the month of May
And through some flowery gardens I carelessly did stray
I overheard a damsel in sorrow to complain
All for her absent lover that ploughed the raging main

I steppe'd up unto her and put her in surprise
I swear she did not know me, I being all in disguise
Says I, My handsome maiden, my joy and heart's delight
How far must you then wander this dark and dreary night

Just to the Banks of Claudy if you'll be pleased to show
Take pity on a fair maid, it's there I have to go
In search of a faithless young man, and Johnny is his name
And on the Banks of Claudy I'm told he does remain

These are the Banks of Claudy, young maid whereon you stand
But do not trust your Johnny for he's a false young man
No do not trust your Johnny, he will not meet you here
So come with me to the meadows and nothing need you fear

If Johnny he were here this night he'd keep me from all harm
But he's in the field of battle all in his uniform
He strives in the field of battle his foes he will destroy
Like a royal king of honour that fought on the banks of Troy

'Tis six long years or better since Johnny left this shore
He's cruising the main ocean performing billows roar
He's cruising the main ocean for honour and for gain
But I'm told his ship was wrecke'd on the cruel coast of Spain

Oh when she heard this dreadful news she fell in deep despair
A-wringing of her milk-white hands and a-tearing of her hair
If my Johnny he be drownded no man alive I'll talke
Through lonesome groves and valleys I'll wander for his sake

When he saw her love for him no longer could he stand
He flew into her arms saying, Patsy I'm your man
I am your faithless young man who you thought lay slain
Now since we met on Claudy Banks we'll never part again

As sung by Alex Campbell




On A Bright May Morning

Top of FormBottom of Form

As I roved out on a bright May morning
To view the meadows and flowers gay
Whom should I spy but my own true lover
As she sat under yon willow tree

I took off my hat and I did salute her
I did salute her most courageously
When she turned around well the tears fell from her
Saying, "False young man, you've deluded me"

A diamond ring I owned I gave you
A diamond ring to wear on your right hand
But the vows you made, love, you went and broke them
And married the lassie that had the land

If I'd married the lassie that had the land, my love
It's that I'll rue till the day I die
When misfortune falls sure no man can shun it
I was blindfolded I'll ne'er deny

Now at nights when I go to my bed of slumber
My thoughts of my true love run in my mind
When I turned around to embrace my darling
Instead of gold sure it's brass I find

And I wish the Queen would call home her army
From the West Indies, America and Spain
And every man to his wedded woman
In hopes that you and I will meet again

on Amazon Music

Padstow (the May Morning Song) by Rankin Family

Unite and unite, oh let us all unite

For summer is a'coming today

And whither we are going, we all will unite

In the merry month of May.

Oh, where are the young men that now here should dance

For summer is a'coming today

Well some there are in England and some are in France

In the merry month of May

Oh, where are the maidens that now here should sing

For summer is a'coming today

They're all out in the meadows a flower gathering

In the merry month of May

The young men of Padstow they might if the would

For summer is a'coming today

They might have built a ship and gilded it with gold

In the merry month of May

Oh where is Saint George, oh where is he oh

He's down in his longboat upon the salt sea oh

Up flies the kite, down falls the lark-o

And Ursula Birdwood, she had an old ewe

And she died in her park-o

With a merry ring and joyful spring

For summer is a'coming today

Oh happy are the little birds and merrily do they sing

In the merry morning of May

Unite and unite oh let us all unite

For summer is a'coming today

And whither we are going we all will unite

In the merry month of May

In the merry month of May




 and of course,  Barbara Allen:


Twas in the merry month of May
When green buds all were swelling,
Sweet William on his death bed lay
For love of Barbara Allen.

He sent his servant to the town
To the place where she was dwelling,
Saying you must come, to my master dear
If your name be Barbara Allen.

So slowly, slowly she got up
And slowly she drew nigh him,
And the only words to him did say
Young man I think you're dying.

He turned his face unto the wall
And death was in him welling,
Good-bye, good-bye, to my friends all
Be good to Barbara Allen.

When he was dead and laid in grave
She heard the death bells knelling
And every stroke to her did say
Hard hearted Barbara Allen.

Oh mother, oh mother go dig my grave
Make it both long and narrow,
Sweet William died of love for me
And I will die of sorrow.

And father, oh father, go dig my grave
Make it both long and narrow,
Sweet William died on yesterday
And I will die tomorrow.

Barbara Allen was buried in the old churchyard
Sweet William was buried beside her,
Out of sweet William's heart, there grew a rose
Out of Barbara Allen's a briar.

They grew and grew in the old churchyard
Till they could grow no higher
At the end they formed, a true lover's knot
And the rose grew round the briar.

Image result for painting    green buds swelling

Monday, May 1, 2017

Catholic Imagination Conference

I returned from this conference yesterday afternoon.  It was the first time I had been to New York City since 2008 -    overwhelming for this country bumpkin!  

The conference was located at the Lincoln Center campus of Fordham University.  The weather was beautiful and the campus was amazing to me:  so much nature and loveliness amid the skyscrapers.
Here are some photos of it taken by my fellow poet, Kate Bernadette Benedict:

The hotel where most of us stayed was the Empire Hotel, just two blocks from the conference. Across the street was Dante Square!

We ate our meals in the little atrium in the same building as the conference:

I was on a panel on "Women's Voices"  with Kathleen Hill, Mary Gordon, and Angela Alaimo O'Donnell:

and read a poem of  mine at the kickoff to Presence - A Magazine of Catholic Poetry:

Dana Gioia was there, and read a poem of his, too!

All told, it was a splendid weekend!