Monday, May 22, 2017

Jeremiad: A Triptych, by Phil Fitzpatrick and a Heads Up About Wednesday's Dylan Fest Poetry Event

Phil Fitzpatrick @ Homegrown
Last night's Dylan Trivia Contest at Carmody's included the following somewhat challenging question:

1. What local poet first saw Dylan live while he was attending Harvard in the 1960s?
a. Barton Sutter
b. Stephen Burt
c. Phil Fitzpatrick
d. Louis Jenkins

I'll concede that it was unfair for out-of-towners who didn't know our local poets, but my purpose in asking the question was to set up a couple events for this week's Dylan Fest in Duluth. They are the Poets of the North Country on May 24, Dylan's birthday, and Poet/Dylanologist Phil Fitzpatrick's presentation at Karpeles on Saturday from 3-4 p.m.

Sheila Packa, former Duluth Poet Laureate
Wednesday's Poets of the Northland is a free event from 6:00 p.m. till 8:30 p.m. at the Spirit of the North Theater upstairs at Fitger's, to be followed by the Basement Tapes Band at the Rex downstairs afterwards. The first half hour will be a reception that includes birthday cake, beer from Carmody's and music by Andrew Lipke. The event itself will be hosted by Karen Sunderman of The PlayList. We again have a great cast of poets reading including Duluth Poet Laureate Ellie Schoenfeld, past Poets Laureate Jim Johnson, Sheila Packa and Deborah Cooper and 2013-14 Wisconsin Poet Laureate Max Garland. After a brief break in the action there will also be readings by eight select local poets.

Sponsors for this event include Fitger's, The Boat Club Restaurant & Bar, Duluth Poets Laureate Project and Carmody's (Thank you, Eddie.)

Phil Fitzpatrick will himself not be present to read Wednesday. Instead, he will be at a 50th class reunion at Harvard making a Dylan presentation there regarding the influence Dylan's Northland roots have had on his world-changing career. It's been a privilege getting to know Phil through these Dylan circles. In addition to writing poetry and teaching, he has authored an entertaining book titled A Beautiful Friendship: The Joy of Chasing Bogey Golf.

The following is the poem Phil performed at the May 1 Homegrown Festival poetry event at Sacred Heart.

Jeremiad: A Triptych

Chester Creek fulminates
explodes past mafic walls
repositioned basalt boulders
and brittle uprooted trunks
centuries of hammering
by relentless cataracts in
their gnarly seasonal race
a high-pitched kree
a gull strays inland
glances down eyeing
the shiny object an unruly dawn
unveils on the path below
angry crows gather on a conifer
a four-legged bandit snorts
among refuse in the bracken
from drab twigs
no greening buds yet peek in this
apocalyptic gray expanse


an’ a voice says, “Why so glum, Pal?”
this guy’s just standing there;
leaning on a walking stick
looking like George Carlin.
I say, “What?” an’ he says,
“What’s the trouble?”
I’m in a bad mood: “Jesus!”
an’ he gets down like this
an’ says, “How’d you know?” He’s making funny eyes
like George Carlin, too!
“Know WHAT?”
I gotta get going.
“My name,” is all he says.
He picks up
the crumpled Hamm’s can
on the ground
“This what’s eatin’ you, Pal?”
I shake my head
“Bummer, eh?”
“Yeah . . .”
“Well, just pack it out.”
“Wait, who the hell are you?”
“I already told you, I mean - you told me.”
“Yeah, maybe that’s your NAME, but . . .”
“Does it really matter, Pal?”
and he hands me the can.
“And bring a bag next time.”
Then he starts up the trail.
“Hey,” I yell. He turns.
“Um, is anyone else coming?”
“There’s a few waiting,” he says.
“But I jumped the line;
I’d keep my eyes open.”


word has just come down today
spring’s been cut back
as a concession, we get to keep
Saturday, April 22, Earth Day
yard work, robins, t-shirts
open windows, laundry on the line
deep breaths and long looks
everything drying out
above the great sapphire lake
nothing at all to compromise
enjoying what’s been given
the earth giveth . . . now, it’s our turn
before the earth taketh away
my bag is already half full, but it’s not heavy;
I hoist it over my shoulder
and head on up the trail
keeping my eyes open

* * * *

Meantime, life goes on all around you. Engage it. 

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