Starting out in Providence

45 years ago, in 1970, at the age of 18, I arrived in Providence, Rhode Island, from my home town of Minneapolis, Minnesota, to go to college.  I've been here (except for a brief spell, roughly 1973-1976) ever since.  Now I'm about to move back to Minneapolis.  I've spent a lot of my time in Rhode Island scribbling poems.  One of them, a long poem called Stubborn Grew, was published by Spuyten Duyvil Press in 2000 - pretty much to the sound of no hands clapping.  You can still find copies of the SD edition here and there, or you can buy my self-published spin-off, or you can read it for free on the web.

There's a lot of Providence in Stubborn Grew.  It's a kind of mock-epic (the first volume of a trilogy, actually, called Forth of July).  & since I'll soon be pulling up stakes & heading back to the midwest, and since I now own one one of these fancy telephone things that takes pictures, I thought I might try a little experiment : illustrate this local poem with a few excerpts and we-were-there photos.

We'll see how this goes.  I won't start from the beginning, exactly, but from my living room : this is a passage from a chapter called "Once in Paradise", which follows a previous chapter, "Ancient Light", which is set in London.  With "Once in P." I have returned to Providence from a trip to England.  ("Shakespeare's Head", by the way, is a building in Providence.  I will try to illustrate this soon.)  So here are the initial stanzas of the opening passage, with a photo of "Lucky", my mother's little boat, still there (for a short time) by the couch :

from Once in Paradise


There was a garden behind Shakespeare's Head. 
A long time ago, before you were born.
Before you were born, before you were born,
a garden there was, behind Shakespeare's Head.


Home again from London, I lay near Lucky;
a man on the sofa, nearly lucky, I lay.
A man of clay, eyes open, looking out at the sky.
As though the blurred porch window held the key.

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