The bare (brindled) word of it word enough; brim-rhyming as it runs                              alongside reverie-bank (all rindled roots) and order.

                                                                                     by Atsuro Riley

Magnolia and Irises, designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany

This Saturday marks the first Piedmont Laureate/North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences collaboration, “Find Your Muse on the Millpond.”

Pardon the pun, but it’s a natural connection. Everything about the sciences seems to lend itself to poetry: the wonders you find beneath a microscope lens or at the far end of a telescope; the ways nature constructs, deconstructs and reconstructs itself; the miracles of human bodies and bodies of water.

So on Saturday, we’ll take our human bodies (via kayaks) onto a body of water, a pond that looks less like a flat reflective pan beneath the sky and more like a meandering cypress stream. In the November afternoon sun, bundled up against the cold, we’ll create poems on the pond. We’ll stop periodically to collect names of trees and natural history, to magnify bark and leaf, to listen. And as the words and sounds accumulate, we’ll borrow from the flow of the water to create currents on the page, pausing toward the end to let our words settle onto the page like sediment, before releasing them to float on the waters we’ve paddled.

We aren’t the first to compose poems on the wonders of water, and we won’t be the last. In honor of the poems we’ll be writing, I offer you some that have come before us.

Cypress Swamp, Eliot Porter

The Pond
Cold, wet leaves
Floating on moss-coloured water
And the croaking of frogs—
Cracked bell-notes in the twilight.

by Amy Lowell





A Walk in the River
A few companions had been doing too much talking beside the purple water. The troupe, panic-stricken, ran away, and I found I was incapable of following them. I stepped into the water and the depths turned luminous; faraway ferns could just be seen. The reflections of other dark plants stopped them rising to the surface. Red threads took on all sorts of shapes, caught in the invisible and doubtless powerful currents. A plaster-cast woman advancing caused me to make a gesture which was to take me far.

by René Magritte
Translated from the French by Jo Levy

Fireflies Over the Uji River by Moonlight, Suzuki ShonenBlack River – by Joe Hutchison
You believe you must be beginning again.
The river opens to accept your first step,
and you’re into it up to your knees—
the water’s wrestle brotherly, bracing.
You start across, shouldering goods
you believe you’ll need on the far side.
Waist-deep now. Feeling for rooted stones
through sopping boots. Surely this is where
you crossed before; there are no unknown
channels, no abysses, though the current
does seem swifter than you remember,
and darker (of course, it’s only dusk
coming on, staining the air and water;
and the river—you believe—only seems
to be growing wider). Chest-deep now.
Icy water races past your racing heart,
under raised arms that ache to balance
whatever you carry, what you must (you
suddenly understand) be willing to let go.
Chin-deep. Perched on a slippery stone
that shifts with each shivering breath.
No choice but to take the next step—
deeper into the black river, farther
toward the shore of ink-black pines
over which the feverish stars have risen
and the cold comfort of a bone-white moon.

New York Water (Osgood Pond), Roe Ethridge


River Rhyme
The rumpled river
takes its course
lashed by rain

This is that now
that tortures
skeletons of weeds

and muddy waters
eat their
banks the drain

of swamps a bulk
that writhes and fat-
tens as it speeds.

by William Carlos Williams


Elk River Falls, Jasper Nance, flickr

Elk River Falls
is where the Elk River falls
from a rocky and considerable height,
turning pale with trepidation at the lip
(it seemed from where I stood below)
before it is unbuckled from itself
and plummets, shredded, through the air
into the shadows of a frigid pool,
so calm around the edges, a place
for water to recover from the shock
of falling apart and coming back together
before it picks up its song again,
goes sliding around the massive rocks
and past some islands overgrown with weeds
then flattens out and slips around a bend
and continues on its winding course,Clearwater, Michael B
according to this camper’s guide,
then joins the Clearwater at its northern fork,
which must in time find the sea
where this and every other stream
mistakes the monster for itself,
sings its name one final time
then feels the sudden sting of salt.
by Billy Collins

[IDAHO-B-0003] Clearwater River - Ahsahka, photographer unknown


River, by Atsuro Riley
The Pond, by Amy Lowell
A Walk in the River, by René Magritte
Black River, by Joe Hutchison
River Rhyme, by William Carlos Williams
Elk River Falls, by Billy Collins

Magnolias and Irises, designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Cypress Swamp, Florida, by Eliot Porter, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Six Tamagawa Rivers from Various Provinces, by Utagawa Hiroshige, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Fireflies Over the Uji River by Moonlight, by Suzuki Shonen, Metropolitan Museum of Art
New York Water (Osgood Pond), by Roe Ethridge, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Elk River Falls, by Jasper Nance, flickr
Clearwater, by Michael B, flickr
Clearwater River – Ahsahka, by photographer unknown, flickr