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Poetry Moment: Paula Closson Buck and 'Damselfly'

WPSU Poetry Moment Paula Closson Buck
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Poet Paula Closson Buck

Poetry Moment on WPSU is a program featuring the work of contemporary Pennsylvania poets. Host Shara McCallum is this year’s Penn State Laureate.

Today’s poem is “Damselfly” by Paula Closson Buck.

Paula Closson Buck is the author of three books of poetry, including most recently You Cannot Shoot a Poem, from which today’s poem is drawn. Closson Buck is also the author of a novel, Summer on the Cold War Planet. She has received fellowships from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, the Fulbright program, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Closson Buck moved to Lewisburg, Pennsylvania 22 years ago and, until her recent retirement, taught creative writing and served as editor of West Branch literary magazine at Bucknell University.

Today’s poem is a fitting one to close my time as host of the first season of Poetry Moment. The mating ritual of the Damselfly is something we witness at this point in the summer all across the Commonwealth. Closson Buck brings the damsefly into sharp focus through the chiselled language of her poem. “Damselfly” is a lyric meditation on the titular figure, who comes to represent various spiritual guides, including that of the poet. I believe there are as many definitions of what poetry is as there are poems written. The definition Closson Buck offers for poetry in “Damselfly” is tied to the nature of metaphor itself. Closson Buck suggests that poetry helps us ‘read’ what the world wants to tell us, a language few otherwise remember.

Here’s—

Damselfly

She makes her drollerie
at the margin of the river—
slender stick of a body
in colors costly
to a monk’s scriptorium:

scarlet, indigo, veridian.
Prehistoric, diminished
from the size of a hawk,
she’s light as stained air—
flies clumsy, her glassy
wings leaded. No angel

she takes one mate
and another, so the male
must gaff and scrape her
of a rival’s sperm.
Must lift her, exhausted
from the water when it’s over.

Poet with no heart,
she wears her eyes on her sleeve.

Saint with no soul,
she sees in mosaic, passes
millennia. What the sky
wants to tell us
is written in Damselfly,

a language few now living
remember how to read.

That was “Damselfy” by Paula Closson Buck.

This is my final episode as host of Poetry Moment—though I’m delighted to announce that Poetry Moment will continue. After a brief hiatus, a second season of Poetry Moment will begin and will be hosted by Penn State Altoona Professor and poet Todd Davis.

And with Poetry Moment on WPSU, for the last time, I’m Shara McCallum. Thank you for having shared so many moments of poetry with me this year.

Shara McCallum was the 2021-22 host of "Poetry Moment" on WPSU.
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