Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda

Poet, Artist, Educator




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In the Poet's Spotlight for June 2008:  Henry Hart

Henry Hart is the Mildred and J.B. Hickman Professor of Humanities at the College of William and Mary.  He received a B.A. from Dartmouth College and a D.Phil. from Oxford University.  He has written critical studies of Seamus Heaney, Robert Lowell, and Geoffrey Hill.  His biography James Dickey: The World as Lie was runner-up in nonfiction for the Southern Book Critics’ Circle Award in 2000.


 Dr. Hart has also published three books of poetry, The Ghost Ship (1990), The Rooster Mask (1998), and Background Radiation (2007), which was a finalist in the National Poetry Series.   His poems have appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry, The Southern Review, New Kenyon Review, The Gettysburg Review, and Best American Poetry, 1996, among many other well-established journals.


Currently, he is the Managing Editor of Verse, an international poetry journal started in Oxford in 1984.  Alice Quinn, the poetry editor of The New Yorker called Verse “the best magazine . . . that readers of poetry and editors of poetry can turn to to discover contemporary poets of the English language fully represented” (“Tribute,” April 8, 1994).

Index of Hart's Poems: Scroll down or click on Poem Title

Poems of Henry Hart (below)  © copyright Henry Hart, All rights reserved.

Pocahontas in Jamestown               


It was the wrong day to canoe along the James.

Brittle shells of ice still clung to banks.  Clouds

puffed from the power plant, radiant and deformed.


I wanted to get close enough to hear the stories

children pressed from metal boxes on the walks,

but the river scrambled words in breaking waves.


Aren’t origins all the same?  One tribe

killing another, then lying about the dead?

Statues never admit what lies in graves.


Pocahontas wears buckskin fringe she never wore.

Her bronze skin grows greener every year.

Pollen dusts her feathered hair to gold.


What did she think when she saw those first

shallops bob like black-backed gulls toward shore,

bearded faces muttering oaths at common shrubs?


Did she think, “Let’s beat them back to sea

with thorn-tipped clubs?”  Or did she lug

baskets of maize and squash to where they knelt?


Her tongue still sticks in bronze.  Final answers

decay in unmarked graves around her feet.

Her story lies with bones in an English plot.


Imagine her in London.  Fog and coal soot

curdling over sewers near The Belle Sauvage.

White ruff tightening around her neck like rope.


She died at Gravesend before her ship sailed home

The eroding James sank Jamestown’s fort in silt.

Fire sailed ash from roofs across the waves.


How do tourists read those voices children tease

from boxes on the walks?  How do they glean

what happened from a tour guide’s talk?


Her eyes point old questions at the sun.

Tarnished hands catch what answers light can give.

Wind numbs our ears with static, and we paddle home.


From The Rooster Mask

Back to Index   

The Hang-Glider’s Song


Up this high on the Blue Ridge,

only crows print the snow crust.

My father is small as a pebble

by his truck on the road below.


I tug the blue wing from its cocoon,

tighten tendons of wire to aluminum bones,

hold up a plastic wind gauge

to measure the force of what’s coming.


In my father’s binoculars,

I must be an Aztec girl

jumping from a pyramid of ice

into nothing but the valley’s erratic breath.


Harnessed to a new body,

I pass over him, feel

my way through the invisible

updrafts, ignore his warning hands.


My goggles tint the trees

to a different season.  Grass rolls

down trails like drumbeats.  A blue’s riff

hums through cords by my head.


When my father waves his binoculars,

I swoop beyond him

toward a town that sinks beneath a hill,

a pond of ice that quakes.


Buoyed up by what I know will let me down,

I zigzag in my own good time,

land with nothing more to give my father

than frozen tears and a mouthful of song.

Back to Index   

Last Painting                      


Wasn’t it March, late afternoon?

Held high to eclipse the sun,

your mother’s hand wavered before the god,

its bronze ankle wings shorn to stubs

above the pool’s carp and algae.


In the cemetery behind your house

we found her birth date and a hyphen

already carved on a gravestone, splinters

scattered by woodpeckers on the grass,

deer chewing yews to yellow ribs.


By the pool, unclipping plastic tubes

from her nose, she said, It’s just a pose,

then spoke of clouds impressing moods

on abandoned tobacco fields,

the light’s exotic tints on water.


Mottled like sparrow wings,

her hands stroked the elms

and god’s caduceus onto canvas.

Reclipping tubes from the oxygen machine

huffing by her easel, she laughed


that birds were actually colors:

Fuchsia was a cardinal, Mauve a finch,

Cobalt a blue jay.  She said she feared

slimming to a feather on hospital food,

never again being able to paint the birds.



From Background Radiation

Back to Index

Robert Frost in the Great Dismal Swamp                     

(Virginia, November, 1894)


I was the shadow in the corner of the dorm

when you knocked on Elinor’s door and offered

your butterfly book.  I winced when hinges

snickered in rust, winced again when I read

those first twilit poems.  Did you notice me

across from you on the train from Saint

Lawrence when its wheels kept breaking

your iambs on the rails?  I stood by you

on the steamer that cut a new line of froth

south of Boston to Virginia, heard you curse

the voice echoing from the moon’s gold ring,

the one that didn’t call you back or say good-bye. 

A light to no-one but yourself, you struck out

on the wagon road into the Dismal Swamp,

passed a cellar hole closing like a dent in dough,

a woodpile smokelessly burning with decay.

I followed you for hours through trees that seemed

to stretch to the edge of doom.  Thirsty, lost,

you found a tin cup hidden in the instep arch

of a cedar tree.  We knelt together, sipping water

tanned by fallen leaves, when something—white,

uncertain—shimmered beneath our faces.

Was it a fish skull, a piece of quartz, a star

fallen from the inner dome of heaven?

No bird answered from the center of the woods. 

Hunters crashed through brush with shotguns

cracked on elbows, hounds yelping at their feet.

They took us to their boat on the black canal.

On our trip north you told me how you’d dreamed

of white apples oozing on a grave, a groundhog crawling

from its shadow, dipping its claw in ink, and writing:

For the rest of your life you will sketch a map

of the Dismal Swamp on permanent snow.



From Background Radiation

Back to Index

The Man Who Never Said Much                   


Stepping from the stairwell in a backless, fuschia dress,

she snatched his breath and tucked it in her purse.

It was as if frost had plugged the oracles of summer.


In the living room, ice cubes stopped rattling.

Outside, peepers dropped their fiddles from the oaks. 

Trying to say something with his hands, he hit a mirror.


It didn’t get much better on the way to the river.

When he asked a question, mist smeared the windshield.

Fumbling for the heat vent, he got the radio’s hellfire preacher.


From the shore where night fishermen belched and threw

beer cans at catfish that wouldn’t bite, he watched a ferry

light up models of Jamestown’s ships. 


What had John Smith said to Pocahontas when they first met?

Something about weeks of salty food and Atlantic storms?

Suddenly cars revved their engines, an iron deck


creaked against the pier, a man shouted Holy Jesus….

He fidgeted like the river twisting on its spine,

talked about everything except the food and weather. 


He wanted to say:  The night is full and empty

 at the same time, look at the backlit clouds,

I will dry the rain like syllables from your lips.



From Background Radiation



Back to Index

Discover the work of other poets featured in the "Poet's Spotlight", 2006-2008.


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