1047: To The Stone-Cutters

1047: To The Stone-Cutters

1047: To The Stone-Cutters


MAJOR: This fall, I spoke with listeners at the Twin Cities Book Festival about the place of poetry in their lives. This week, we’re sharing their stories.

MORGAN: I'm Morgan LaRocca. I live half in Minnesota and half in Baltimore, Maryland. I'm super lucky because poetry is a huge part of my daily life and my daily practice. I am a poet and I love to just write poems to my friends, to my grandma, to the natural world around me. I write in and out of Italian into English so that everyone that I love can read my poems. Um, so in my daily practice, it's really just a nourishing way of telling someone that you love them and that you're thinking about them and what they mean to you in your life and how they create a network of joy around you.

I started with small rhymes in Italian. My dad's from Italy and so I was always raised bilingually and it, it felt like a touchstone to understanding a culture that I couldn't live in. So I got these poems that my dad would recite in elementary school 'cause it was part of their tradition in Italy to recite fundamental poems. Um, and so they kind of became a prayer in like a way that I could connect to a place that I couldn't be in presently all the time. And then in high school, shout out to my 12th grade English teacher, Meekah Hopkins, who taught me basically that it is a space that you can enter in. She taught me that I could also write creatively. I didn't just have to recite things that came before me.

I love the ways that poets gather us together around that fire and tell...stories and acknowledge their lineage and speak to that and also speak to the future. And I think that literary events like the one that we're at right now is how we get people excited about poems off the page, and really remember that it was always an oral tradition. And that being said, I think that I love also seeing things on the page and the ways that like we get to invent language as poets and reconstruct it, and then challenge people say, hey, read this poem that might like look all over the page or read, like in couplets, and see how that works in your body somatically. And that’s why I love The Slowdown is, is it takes me back to the page after hearing a poem and helps me re-imagine what a poem can be. There's no right way to engage in this. It's somatic, it's on the page, it's — for you wherever you are right now.

MYKA: I’m Myka Kielbon, producer of The Slowdown.

I’ve never been to Italy, or Greece. But across the U.S. I’ve seen plenty of replica Greek and Roman architecture, like the monumental columns on my brother’s fraternity house, or, like much of the architecture in Washington D.C.

Standing at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial, it’s hard to believe that human beings crafted those structures from their own two hands. I feel that way, too, when I crack open a book to a monumental, cornerstone poem — or even a poem that, although obscure, feels like it reaches out directly to me, across the distance of many decades.

Our listener, Morgan, found writing poetry to be a tool to connect not only with their father’s homeland, but to connect with the people in their life, with their poetic lineages, with the body, and with nature.

By focusing on the way poetry feels in the body, Morgan reminds me of a route to access language that sometimes feels insurmountable. Today’s poem, at first, leans into the cynicism of the Romantics, into the truth of mortality. But as it turns, it finds solace in what we create.

To The Stone-Cutters
by Robinson Jeffers

Stone-cutters fighting time with marble, you foredefeated
Challengers of oblivion
Eat cynical earnings, knowing rock splits, records fall down,
The square-limbed Roman letters
Scale in the thaws, wear in the rain. The poet as well
Builds his monument mockingly;
For man will be blotted out, the blithe earth die, the brave sun
Die blind and blacken to the heart:
Yet stones have stood for a thousand years, and pained thoughts found
The honey of peace in old poems.