Book Notes: Alice Fogel Wins Award for Poems Inspired by Bach’s ‘Goldberg Variations’

Friday, April 10, 2015
Like Johann Sebastian Bach’s famous G oldberg Variations, New Hampshire Poet Laureate Alice B. Fogel’s new collection of poems, Interval, begins and ends with the same verses, titled Aria , and tucks 30 variations in between.

Fogel has transformed Bach’s music into language. She probes the intervals between changes in her 31 poems, using musical form to explore such spaces as those between creation and death, the coming of spring and birth, clay and pot, actor and role.

“What I really liked was the structure of the music and the full-length piece really worked for me,” Fogel said during a telephone conversation while traveling.

Fogel has been awarded the first Nicholas Schaffner Award for music in literature for Interval: Poems Based on Bach’s Goldberg Variations (Schaffner Press). The award celebrates the life of publisher Timothy Schaffner’s brother, Nicholas Schaffner, who was a poet, musician, biographer and music critic.

Interval was selected for the award because the poetry captured not only the spirit within Bach, but transformed it into a celebration of life itself, much as the Variations do upon the listener’s ear, a news release about the award says.

“Nicholas, who devoted his life to music and literature about music, died at the age of 38,” Timothy Schaffner says in the release. “I have created the award to celebrate his legacy in order to encourage those emerging writers whose lives and writing have been similarly influenced.”

Fogel, who lives in Acworth, N.H., and teaches creative writing at Keene State College, was seeking a form for her poetry when she choose the Goldberg Variations, she said this week.

“The poems have a theme ... how we identify ourselves and the tension between physical self and the true self — images that structure emotion at every level,” said Fogel, who has classical music training.

“It is hard to grasp, least of all by any mental logic, how the mathematical manipulation of sound into a structure of combined and ordered pitches can break one’s heart,” Fogel wrote i n the preface of the book.

“What makes a certain interval between notes, a certain pace or tempo, a subtle inversion after repetition, rip open the range of human emotion?”

Fogel was able to gain a grasp of what Bach was trying to do in the Variations because of her background in classical music and with the help of a research fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Bach’s Variations were integral to writing the book, but they are not essential for reading, although they make nice background music, Fogel said this week.

Fogel will read from Interval at the Norwich Bookstore on Wednesday, May 13, at 7 p.m. To reserve a spot, call 802-649-1114.

Strafford author David Grant reads from his new book at the Norwich Bookstore on Wednesday at 7 p.m.

The Social Profit Handbook: The Essential Guide to Setting Goals, Assessing Outcomes, and Achieving Success for Mission-Driven Organizations offers those who lead, govern and support mission-driven organizations and businesses new ways to assess their impact in order to improve future work. To reserve a spot, call 802-649-1114.

Gallery owner and poet Dave Celone will discuss visual poetry on Wednesday, April 29, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Converse Free Library on Union Street in Lyme.

In addition to being a poet and visual poet, Celone is a translator of poetry from Czech to English. He has a master’s degree from Vermont College of Fine Arts. He also has degrees from Vermont Law School and Quinnipiac University. He has worked at Dartmouth and the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth and now owns and operates Long River Studios and Gallery in Lyme.

PoemTown Randolph organizers are celebrating poetry in Randolph throughout the month of April, National Poetry Month, with posters displaying poems by Vermont poets in the storefront windows of local businesses. Plastic eggs containing poems have been hidden at some of the town’s businesses.

Organizers also are holding special poetry events and poetry readings throughout April in several venues in town.

Tonight, there’s the “We Are Randolph” concert at Chandler Music Hall, 802-728-6464, featuring a lantern parade at 6:30, music and poetry by middle school students and professional musicians at 7:30. On Sunday afternoon, poet Gary Margolis reads his poetry at One Main Tap and Grill on Merchants’ Row at 12:30. On Wednesday evening, there’s a starter poetry writing workshop open to the public with poet Ina Anderson at the Allen House on the VTC campus in Randolph Center at 7.

Monday, April 20, evening, Bethel poet Carl Russell is reading his farm-themed poetry at 7 at Black Krim Tavern on Merchants Row. Call 802-728-9402 for reservations. On Sunday night, April 26, poet Danny Dover, composer and pianist Dorothy Robson and guitarist Greg Ryan read and perform at the Chandler at 7. And on Wednesday night, April 29, six Upper Valley poets will read from their work at the Kimball Public Library on Main Street at 7.

For more information contact Janet Watton at musbird@gmail.com or call 802-728-9402.

Poets Partridge Boswell, of Woodstock, and Peter Money, of Brownsville, will read selections from their work, and their readings will be accompanied by the music of guitarist Whit Van Meter at the AVA Gallery in Lebanon on Thursday, April 30, at 7 p.m.

Boswell’s book of poems, Some Far Country, received the 2013 Grolier Discovery Award. His work has recently appeared in a number of publications, including The American Poetry Review; it has also been aired on Vermont Public Radio. He is a co-founder of Bookstock: The Green Mountain Festival of Words and was previously the director of arts organizations in New Hampshire and Vermont.

Money’s books of poetry are numerous and include the poetry/music collaboration Blue Square (2007); he has also collaborated with the cartoonist Rick Veitch in Bear Panel/Top Down. His poems have appeared in many publications, including the City Light s anthology Days I Moved Through Ordinary Sounds; they have also been aired on Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac. A student of Allen Ginsberg, Money has taught at Lebanon College and at the Center for Cartoon Studies.

Guitarist Whit Van Meter is a graduate of Berklee College of Music and Vermont College of Fine Arts.

The performance is free and open to the public and will be followed by a book signing and reception.

Authors Peter Forbes and Helen Whybrow are speaking at Norwich Bookstore on Friday, May 8, at 7 p.m. Their new book, A Man Apart, tells the story of Forbes and Whybrow’s deep-rooted friendship with back-to-the-land pioneer Bill Coperthwaite. The book is not only the story about the life and death of a man who embodied the ideals of intentional living and self-reliance for nearly 50 years on a remote homestead of the coast of Maine, but also about the power of mentorship.

Whybrow grew up in Plainfield and was an editor at Countryman Press in Woodstock before she and her husband, Forbes, moved to Waitsfield, Vt., and started The Center for Whole Communities and a sheep farm.

Warren Johnston can be reached at wjohnston@vnews.com or 603-727-3216.