Marie Harris

(NOTE: To accompany this interview, I've chosen poems I wrote in collaboration with other artists or on commission. They are not arranged in any particular order. MH)

 

Sunapee Mandala


Cast Concrete, Clay and Granite Emile Birch, sculptor Sunapee NH State Park, 1986 LEAVE YOUR SHADOW HERE ON THE LONG MEMORY OF ROCK THAT YOU MAY NUMBER AMONG THE FRIENDS OF THIS PLANET WE ARE ONE IN SUMMER WOODS OVERFLOWING WITH WINGS, IN THE FIRES KINDLED BY ORANGE LILY STRUCK AGAINST FERN FLINT, ONE WITH THE MUSIC OF WIND PLAYED ON ICY BIRCH BONES, AND THE PROMISE POLLEN SPELLS ACROSS THE WATERY MIRRORS OF OUR FUTURE.

 

Night Swim in Scruton Pond Barrington Children's Playground Diane St, Jean, illustrator Acrylic on plywood Mars floats upside down in the midnight pond as though the lacquered sky tipped by our angle of vision let slide that one planet while the stars still depend on the stems of their constellations.

 

Manny Skating

“The Shoes of Rochester” Art Esprit project: City of Rochester Larry Reynolds, illustrator He's at the far end of the frozen pond, looping and dipping, arms locked behind his back, bending and shifting on long, supple legs. To watch him skate is like following a swallow's flight. To watch him roller skate! waltzing around the indoor rink through a smog of pink lights, a pretty girl on his arm, weaving her through the fabric of slower couples like a tailor’s needle.

 

STONES: A History

Art Esprit Project, City of Rochester

“If These Rocks Could Talk” Diane & Ron St Jean, artists Glacier (retreating) Notches (clawed) Low coastal hills (beating sea, glacial till) A tombolo of sand and rocks (tumbled) New land (Dreamland) (rising) Above high water hot summer stones for Piscataqua to dry fish striated stones under the boots of tall ship sailors flattened stones for Sunday skipping Among stones the purple mussel wampum shell sea glass (rum & medicine & Coke bottles, old car blinkers) twists of polypropylene plastics like beached jellyfish

 

New Year, New Hampshire On the occasion of the inauguration of Craig Benson as the 79th governor of New Hampshire

January 2003 “Few have ever had anything more of a choice in government than in climate?” John Adams; Thoughts on Government The Hunger Moon draws icy tides upriver heaving gray-green slabs of seawater onto the salt marshes. Inland, a house rides snow swells into evening while inside the householder, satisfied in the knowledge of a well-provisioned root cellar, a woodshed stacked with even cords, pulls the shutters to, turns from the darkening window. And still, quarrelsome winds bay down the chimney. The urge to retreat to hearth and leatherbound studies of certainty is as strong as the pull of the moon; but there are times when what we may need most are the rude and raucous disputations that sputter and spark like bonfires on frozen ponds, attracting a quorum of neighbors.

 

Note Written in Revlon's "Fire and Ice " Lipstick Zinman Urinals, Univ. of Pennsylvania, 2003 I think I secretly wanted to be the girl you dreamed about as you stood staring at the phone number smeared on the tiled wall by the stalls in a basement jazz club in Greenwich Village back when Monk or Mingus or Miles could have been standing beside you between sets dreaming of a number... and here's my chance.

 

(Ekphrastic Poem)


Dear Mrs Dewing


Iris at Dawn, 1899

Maria Oakey Dewing


The first thing I have to say is that I am a writer. And I have already decided that I'm going to be a writer for the rest of my life. I told this to my Great-Aunt Helen who visits our family for a week every summer. (My father says she only has one lung which is why she talks and walks quite slowly.) She gave me this box of blue notepaper (my last name is the initial in the middle) as a birthday present. Also a new ink pen that uses cartridges. I have selected a blue-black color which I like very much. Great-Aunt Helen asked me to write to her on a monthly basis with news of my daily life and she would write back with her news. She said this would be an epistolary relationship. Also she has asked me to choose a person whom I admire to write to as well. She gave me some suggestions and I have chosen you. It's okay that you're dead because as I said I'm a writer so I can easily imagine writing to someone in another “place.” You probably don't know this about me but I am a flower lover like you. Daffodils are my favorites but really all flowers make me happy and so when artists paint them the way they actually grow in nature like those irises (did you really get up at dawn to paint them?!) I feel somewhat the way I do when I find the exact word to say what I want to say which must be how you feel when you get just the right shade of purple or the best green. Does that make sense? Also, Great-Aunt Helen said that artists like you are very, very interested in Beauty with a capital “B.” Me too. One more thing we have been writing to each other about and that's how lots of really good women artists don't get the same kind of importance as men artists. G-A Helen told me that you stopped painting portraits because your husband was a pretty famous portrait painter and that sometimes he asked you to put your flowers in the background of his portraits which I would say isn't really fair. I will ask you more about this in my next letter.


Well, goodbye for now.

Your admirer,

Marie Harris, Writer

(age 10 ¾ )

 

(from Voices and Visions Project: Working the Piscataqua; Charter Weeks, photographer)


Fish Crow

Corvus ossifragus

croaking bone-breaker


grind of purple clam shell and

chew of rusted rocker panel and

spit of mussel hinge and

caw caw whistle of rising drawbridge

rattle of pebbles behind retreating wave

caw whistle caw of descending bridge

and hoot hoot horn foghorn fog

folding dark wings over encroaching night

clatter of anchor chain

mutter of moon light on shiny black

 

(Epithalamium lyrics: MH; Music: Basil Harris)


Aubade: Wedding Morning

for Kirsten & Dave

Mountain and morning drenched in the mist,

Shadows the dawn will softly kiss,

Still the hour, fresh is the day

Into whose light you're walking.


Refrain:

Necklace of coal, of diamonds.


Pack your histories, balance them well,

They are the stories you will tell.

Keep this hour, carry this dawn

Into the lives you're joining.


Necklace of coal, of diamonds.


Greet the morning bursting with light,

Promise each other dreams of flight.

Full the hour, ageless the hope

Into the world you're borning.


Necklace of coal, of diamonds.

 

(Poem commissioned by the UNH Office of Sustainability & the UNH Center for the Humanities for The Soul of Agriculture conference 2002)


Prayer to Saint Isadore

Retablo illustration: Theresa Montoya


A patron saint is just like us: ordinary, approachable.

A patron saint is not like us: mysterious, distant.


Thus Saint Isadore, Laborer:

a suitable patron for those who toil

at composting and tilling and mulching,

at watering and dusting, at picking, gleaning and sorting,

at putting up and putting by.


Like us, he turned the soil.

Like us, he cared for animals.

He worried that the rains would not come,

or that locusts would...or hail, fire, earthquake.


Unlike us, as he knelt to pray in his fields,

angels drove his oxen down row after straight row.

Unlike us, in times of drought

he struck the ground with his goad

and caused springs of fresh water to gush forth.


Saint Isadore, Laborer,

shelter us from … and bless us with …

intercede for whom you can.

This is (after all) all we ask (and, oh!

sun and rain in proper measure).

 

(State laureates were commissioned by North Dakota Poet Laureate, Larry Woiwode to write a poem commemorating the 200th anniversary of the Lewis and Clark expedition, 2005)


Western Grebe

Aechmophorous occidentalis

Sun-setting spear-bearer


On any one of his long-strided walks

near the Mandan settlement that first fall,

Meriwether Lewis encountered all manner of shorebirds

and ducks plying the sloughs.

Naturalist, explorer, he shot one of each.

Taxidermist, he sent specimens back East.

Diarist, he described each one shot to the last pinfeather.


I write in my journal

(a letter to you from the West)


...the wind that flattens the tall grass prairie

and keeps blackbirds and meadowlarks low,

deafens foraging waterfowl

to my slow advance.


I am seeing for the first time


for the first time! imagine!


long-legged, blue-legged avocets

giddily spinning phalaropes

the thin-necked grebe with its sharp bill and red eye


So would you, reader,

be my correspondent,

my accomplice?


My Jefferson.


 

Marie Harris was New Hampshire Poet Laureate from 1999-2004. She is the author of five books of poetry, several chapbooks, and three children's picture books. She was awarded fellowships by the National Endowment for the Arts and the NH Arts Council. She served as Visiting Writer and had numerous residencies at the Vermont Studio Center. She has worked as editor, anthologist, travel writer and copywriter. She moved to the mountains of North Carolina in October.