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The Poetry of Aging: “Thou Hast Thy Music Too” – A Symposium

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This event is co-sponsored by Chesterwood Arts Alive! and Stockbridge Library Association.

In many ways, aging is at the heart of poetry. It brings, more immediately, a bittersweet
awareness of transience. In Keat’s “Ode to Autumn” he asks, “Where are the songs of spring? Ay, Where are they?/Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—” Aging brings a longer perspective on life, an appreciation of mortality, its own music.

This symposium will feature four poets who live, or have lived, in or near the Berkshires. They will each read works that highlight certain aspects of aging—both the challenges and the wisdom it brings. Caring for the elderly, dementia, eros and aging, loss, illness, the challenges of coherent identity, and the ingathering of a long life. The poets will also speak on their relationship to poetry and writing and how their relationship to their writing has changed as aging appears on a less distant horizon. Dr. Robert Abrams, Professor of Psychiatry in Geriatric Medicine, will discuss these themes through the poetry of these poets.

Robert C. Abrams, MD, is Professor of Psychiatry in the Division of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York.  At Weill Cornell he maintains a clinical practice devoted to psychiatric conditions in older adult patients, and at the affiliated medical college he is engaged in research in old-age depression, psychoses and dementia, as well as elder abuse. Since 2016 Dr. Abrams has been a frequent contributor of film reviews and other essays to the Arts and Media blog of the British Medical Journal/Medical Humanities and to other leading journals of geriatrics, psychiatry and narrative medicine.   He is also the author of Staring Night: Queen Victoria’s Late-Life Depression, published by Psychoanalytic Books, Inc., New York, 2020.

Doug Anderson has written four books of poetry, mostly recently Undress, She Said. The Moon Reflected Fire received the Kate Tufts Discovery Award. He has also written a play, Short Timers, (produced at Theater for the New City in NYC in 1981) and a memoir, Keep Your Head Down: Vietnam, the Sixties and a Journey of Self-Discovery. His book of poems is Horse Medicine, from Barrow Street, was published in 2015. His work has appeared in The Massachusetts Review, Poetry, Ploughshares, the Virginia Quarterly Review, the Southern Review, Field, and other publications. His critical articles have appeared the New York Times Book Review, The London Times Literary Supplement, and the Boston Globe. He has received fellowships and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, Poets & Writers, and other funding agencies. He has taught at Emerson, Smith Colleges, U. Mass, Pacific University and Bennington. He is an affiliate of the Joiner Center for the Study of War and its Social Consequences at UMASS Boston.

Owen Lewis, author of three collections of poetry, Field Light (Distinguished Favorite, 2020 NYCBigBookAward; 2021 “Must Read”, Mass Book Awards), Marriage Map and Sometimes Full of Daylight, all from Dos Madres Press, and two chapbooks. Best Man was the recipient of the 2016 Jean Pedrick Chapbook Prize of the New England Poetry Club. Prizes include: 2023 Guernsey International Poetry Competition, 2023 Arts & Letters Rumi Prize, and the 2016 International Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine. He is a professor of psychiatry, Columbia University where he teaches Narrative Medicine in the Department of Medical Humanities and Ethics. (Stockbridge)

Martha Rhodes is the author of five poetry collections, most recently The Thin Wall (University of Pittsburgh Press). She is a member of the faculty of the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College and also teaches at conferences around the country. She is the publisher and executive editor of Four Way Books in New York City. (Sheffield)

Gail Thomas has published six books, most recently Trail of Roots and Leaving Paradise. Her poems have been widely published in journals and anthologies. Among her awards are the Charlotte Mew Prize from Headmistress Press for Odd Mercy, the Narrative Poetry Prize from Naugatuck River Review, the Massachusetts Center for the Book’s “Must Read” for Waving Back, the Quartet Journal’s Editor’s Choice Prize, and Seven Kitchen Press’s chapbook award. She has been a fellow at the MacDowell Colony and Ucross, and several poems have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She teaches poetry with Pioneer Valley Writers’ Workshops, visits schools and libraries with her therapy dog, and works with immigrant and refugee communities in Western Massachusetts. (Northampton)