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Old 07-30-2010, 12:36 AM
Alex Pepple Alex Pepple is offline
Join Date: Dec 1999
Location: San Jose, CA
Posts: 4,263
Blog Entries: 71
Default Catherine Chandler

We continue with our Distinguished Performance series with Catherine Chandler. She's an accomplished poet and one of our most widely published Eratosphereans. Catherine brings you a podcast she's titled People Places and Things.

Catherine, a dual United States and Canadian citizen, is a teacher, translator and university financial administrator. She holds a Master of Arts in Culture and Values in Education from McGill University, and a Bachelor of Arts in French Literature and Spanish. She has lectured in Spanish at McGill and Concordia Universities in Canada, her country of residence since 1972.

Catherine's poems and English translations of Spanish and French formal poetry have been published in numerous print and online journals, magazines and anthologies in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia. A Pushcart Prize nominee and finalist in the Howard Nemerov Sonnet competition, Catherine is the author of For No Good Reason (The Olive Press, 2008).

Catherine lives in Saint Lazare, a small equestrian town in southwestern Quebec, and spends the Canadian winter months in Punta del Este, Uruguay.

Your comments about podcast are welcome! And now, enjoy Catherne's fine reading in this podcast.



Poem List:
  1. "Missing"
  2. "Oneironaut"
  3. "The Loiterers"
  4. "Lines"
  5. "Susquehanna"
  6. "Ushuaia"
  7. "Ruins"
  8. "New Hampshire Interval"
  9. "Fatuity"
  10. "I Had Some Things"
  11. "Bequeathal"
  12. "The Wonderful Boat"


     For Cédrika

It started out like any other day.
You got up early, telephoned your friends,
had breakfast, waved good-bye, then sped away
to Parc Chapais. And there your story ends.
They found your bike. Some girls described a man
who claimed he'd lost his dog the day before.
You would have felt his loss, though others ran.
It's been so long. They don't search anymore.
A wild imagination's unforgiving . . .
sometimes I almost hope that you are dead.
Yet there's the slimmest chance you're somewhere. Living.
The case is cold, not closed. And so, instead
of granting sad conclusions long foregone,
I leave the door unlocked, the porch light on.


It's said that 'lucid dreaming' tames
recurring nightmares. What the bleep—
it's worth a try, like counting sheep.
And as I gave my monsters names,
the unknown landscape backed off, blurred.
I soared across the Seven Seas,
flew past the rising Pleiades,
pulled into port and slept.
                A word,
however, of advice: beware.
Though humdrum dreams may come to lull
the simmering inside your skull,
it's merely a device. The bear,
the bug, bamboozled, may revive.
Sniff out the ruse. Eat you alive.

The Loiterers

Each morning at exactly nine o'clock,
our fellowship of grizzle-headed men
meets at McDonald's, métro Frontenac.

We take our customary seats, and then,
despite the posted warning, PAS DE FLÂNAGE,
drink discount coffee for an hour or two.

Surrounded by a motley entourage
of East-End Montrealers, we outdo
each other with our lively poppycock.

Long since returned from distant Neverlands,
we turn a deaf ear to the ticking clock.
The manager is kind. He understands

our joie de vivre, our order of the day;
refills our cups, and grants that it's no crime
to hold our own, and though we overstay,

to squander what we've left of change and time.


     For Manon

The shop floor foreman hasn't got a clue
to where the new employee's coming from—
the incense and the ice of Xanadu,
the flame and fury of Byzantium.

He knows for sure she doesn't give a shit
about the piecework in her packing crate—
she checks the clock; at five, she's first to split.
It's no damn wonder that she can't make rate.

He's noticed, too, the woman can be seen
each morning, scribbling in a steno pad,
an island in the boisterous canteen.
Whatever's eating her, she's got it bad.

He's right. Her day job's pretty hard to take
with grace and grit; and she won't last too long,
demanding honey-dew on coffee break;
for no good reason, bursting into song.


     For Wilkes-Barre

The Susquehanna runs its ancient course,
passing by and passing up my town.
Being a river, it carries no remorse
for flood, for mud, or for the tumble-down.
Being a river, it has a total lack
of reverence for triangles of stars,
or for those aged breaker boys with black-
choked lungs drowning their pain in local bars.
And in its rush to reach the Chesapeake,
it sweeps to Maryland; it swirls, it pulls,
not knowing it was once an upstate creek.
The Susquehanna has no truck with fools
like me who spurn its blighted, brown advice,
wavering near its waters. Thinking twice.


In search of the exotic I had flown
as far as Ushuaia. I would see
the penguin and the lenga, for I'd grown
accustomed to the birch, the chickadee.
I crossed the Beagle Channel, met the prince
who sails upon the air, immersed my mind
in images I trusted would convince
myself I'd left the commonplace behind:
the Southern Cross at midnight, and the way
the cordillera bears from west to east,
how wind and weather shift throughout the day;
a poet's fodder, at the very least.

And yet, in retrospect, what I recall
most often when I need the proper noun
is not Olivia or Martial,
but intimations of a downhill town:
a bleak, forsaken prison, silent bogs,
a landscape ravaged by the beaver, frail
impromptu housing, countless scrawny dogs,
a monument to the Malvinas, stale
abandoned factories that bear the brunt
of empty promises, a roadside shrine
to plaster saints, a tourist's waterfront,
complete with tourists from the steamship line.

Though many miles from home, this land would show
that there is really nothing new, indeed,
under the sun, beyond the point of no
return, beyond the calafate seed,
beyond all hemispheres, beyond each pole,
beyond the boundaries nations call their own.
The dogs of Ushuaia hound my soul
and gnaw upon it, as they would a bone.


I pause to rest beside the temple of
Antonius and Faustina. All this stone
and sunlight, mingled with the leaden drone
of tour guides, the oppressive push-and-shove

of camera-wielding pilgrims, makes me search
for sanctuary; and an olive tree,
September 12, 2001 A.D.,
provides the hushed asylum of a church.

This peaceful corner that the tour left out
might tempt another traveler, by and by,
to view the Forum with a quiet eye
and think it something to write home about;

as I am doing now; except I scrawl
Wish I were there on postcards that portray
an artist's sketch of Rome before the fall,
its temples shining in the brilliant day.

New Hampshire Interval

     Upon first visiting The Frost Place, Franconia, New Hampshire

He'd just returned from England, heartened, heady;
he thought he'd make a go of it—he'd farm
and write. This little house was full of charm:
his Morris Chair stood by the woodstove, ready.

But woods and mountains intervened; they pined
to cultivate the farmer's friendship, and
he asked them in. For, though he turned the land,
he turned to them when harrowed, undefined,

as often was the case. He did not stay
for very long—the winters were too rough,
and by the second year, he'd had enough:
a summer place it would remain. Today,

I follow others on the footpath where,
nine decades later, one can sense him still,
tapping the frosted trees near Sugar Hill,
speaking to God about the world's despair.


She stood behind me in the check-out queue
last Saturday. She mentally weighed in
on items in my shopping cart. I knew
her thoughts: It's no small wonder she's not thin
like me. Look at that junk food - cookies, chips,
that pint of Häagen-Dazs, those salted nuts . . .

She sized me up and down from head to hips,
and measured both our budgets and our butts.
Clairvoyant she was not. Had she but seen
as with the scanner's unassuming eye,
she might have figured out a lifetime lean
and hard. Before I wheeled my week's supply
of relish out into the parking lot,
I whispered, Lady, this is all I've got.

I Had Some Things

     A cento from Emily Dickinson

I had some things that I called mine—
I asked no other thing—
I lost a world the other day—
I years had been from home—

I thought that nature was enough—
I took one draught of life—
I watched the moon around the house—
I could not drink it, sweet—

I felt my life with both my hands—
I gave myself to him—
I could suffice for him, I knew—
I think I was enchanted—

I was a phoebe, nothing more—
I stepped from plank to plank—
I learned at least what home could be—
I am alive, I guess—


Unlike the lilac bush that knows
its spikes will weather winter's snows,
I've yet to find the wherewithal
to rightly come to terms with fall.

In forests full of empty nests,
withered boughs, November guests,
I seek but find no feathered thing,
no green remembrances of spring.

All that I have, now summer's gone,
are love notes from a lexicon;
my gift to you, this fragile bud,
inheritance of ink and blood.

The Wonderful Boat

     Translated from the Spanish "La barca milagrosa" by Delmira Agustini

Prepare a boat for me, as big as thought,
then name her "Star" or else "Obscurity".
The whimsies of the wind and hand must not
command a craft as bold and fair as she!
She'll move to the pulsation of a heart
incarnadine with fierce vitality.
She'll make me strong as in the arms of God;
trimmed to the wind her sails must always be.
I'm loading all my sorrow in my boat;
with no set course, a lotus flower, I'll float
along the vague horizon of the sea.
O Boat, my Soul-Mate, what uncharted land,
what unexpected truths may lie at hand?
This life, these dreams, shall be the death of me.

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Old 07-30-2010, 02:04 PM
Neil Jackson Neil Jackson is offline
Join Date: Dec 2008
Posts: 895

Catherine, I don't venture into these areas of the Sphere very often, but how glad am I that I just did. I am quite simply blown away by your pod cast, your poetry, your reading voice, in fact everything.

This is all quite superb, and even though I have the temerity to crit you, I just want to say thank you for what is your brilliant contribution to poetry. I may sometimes give you some feedback in a thread, but I can assure you that in each and every single poem you post I take much much more from your work, both as pleasure and as lessons too.

Please know how much I appreciate your podcast and your work in general. One day, perhaps, I may get on the bottom rung, and if I ever do, it will be because of poets like you who share so much, so skilfully and so generously.

Best wishes. Neil
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Old 07-30-2010, 04:52 PM
Marcia Karp Marcia Karp is offline
Join Date: Apr 2005
Location: Outside Boston, Mass
Posts: 1,030

How beautifully you read, Catherine. You serve your poems well.

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Old 07-30-2010, 05:07 PM
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John Beaton John Beaton is offline
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Catherine, this just brightened up my morning. Your reading voice is rich and clear, and the readings are spiced with fine French and Spanish pronunciations. All the poems drew me in, each offering rewards for listening.

Congratulations on a fine podcast.

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Old 07-30-2010, 08:51 PM
Tim Murphy Tim Murphy is offline
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Join Date: Oct 2000
Location: Fargo ND, USA
Posts: 13,831

It's a wonderful tape, and the funny thing is Catherine had to do it twice. First time she discovered to her horror that her dog was softly snoring all through the reading. Well, Cathy, Feeney has been known to snore through my readings too!

I'm really pleased with this new series.
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Old 07-30-2010, 10:46 PM
Michael Cantor Michael Cantor is offline
Join Date: Oct 2001
Location: Plum Island, MA
Posts: 10,633

Wonderful reading!
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Old 08-01-2010, 04:49 AM
Adam Elgar Adam Elgar is offline
Join Date: Sep 2006
Location: UK
Posts: 3,954

Beautiful work, Catherine, beautifully performed.
There is no doubt how far you've "left the commonplace behind".

What's so striking is how strongly you address challenging material, while never leaving beauty behind. That's really remarkable.
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Old 08-01-2010, 07:40 PM
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Catherine Chandler Catherine Chandler is offline
Join Date: Oct 2004
Location: Canada and Uruguay
Posts: 5,664
Blog Entries: 33


Thank you for the lovely introduction and for giving me the opportunity to read some of my poems in the podcast series.

Neil, Marcia, John, Tim, Michael and Adam, thank you not only for listening, but also for your very kind words. Your feedback means so much to me.

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Old 08-15-2010, 01:45 PM
Jeff Holt Jeff Holt is offline
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Join Date: Jun 2004
Location: Plano, TX USA
Posts: 267

Catherine, these poems are remarkable. I just listened to your podcast, and I'm struck by the wisdom in your poems. It is often a wisdom involving grief, but a grief that is affirming of life at the same time, which is part of what creates the beauty in the work. Thank you so much for sharing these.

And thank you, Alex and Tim, for keeping these wonderful podcasts coming!
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Old 08-16-2010, 11:27 PM
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Rick Mullin Rick Mullin is offline
Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: Northern New Jersey
Posts: 7,715

Beautiful reading. I am familiar with most of the poems, having read them here and there. But it’s great to hear you--you have a wonderful reading voice. Hopefully you will be bringing it back to Carmine Street, wherever Carmine Street ends up being, some time soon.

I especially like the evocation of Pennsylvania in the poems of place, by the way. To paraphrase Sarah Palin, I can see Pennsylvania from my house.
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