Earlier this fall, acclaimed poet D. A. Powell offered a Sunday afternoon reading at the Visitors Center. He read previously-published poems as well as a selection of new work, including one poem dedicated to Bernheim, where he spent his month-long residency, held in cooperation with and Sarabande Books. The title of the poem he has given Bernheim is Grove of Beeches.
Critic Stephen Burt, writing in the New York Times, said of D. A. Powell “No accessible poet of his generation is half as original, and no poet as original is this accessible.”
Grove of Beeches
They need each other underneath
these sisters whose tangle of roots
goes so far down as to fix the uberous
soil in place. They hold the mushroom
earth its clay in place its dark matter
where the organisms that feed are
humble things suited to what
provenance the tree provides.
They share the light as sisters share
close enough to make a sound together
like one child containing one heart
and one wind. You, Tityrus—so
begins the first eclogue of Virgil—
dallying under the canopy of beech.
It is a good opening for a book. Beech
bark was the papyrus of the Sanskrit
poets, its root gave us an Old English
word that meant both book and tree.
Poetry spoke first from an idle place
recumbent under just such leaves.
Under the overstory we sung.
Those who sit in speckled umbrage
of the limbs can hear the wood thrush
send down its double reed. Broods
of 17 year cicadas screech in high heat.
All the notes are there. They teach
these weird sisters a wildness of song.
It is older than anything you’ve heard.
D. A. Powell is the author of five collections, including Useless Landscape, or A Guide for Boys, which received the National Book Critics Circle Award in poetry. His honors include the Kingsley Tufts Prize in Poetry and an Arts & Letters Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts & Letters, as well as fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.