N E Ohio FOREPOETS: Alberta Turner

Inspired by Wompo (Women's Poetry Listserv), which has an occasional series called "Foremothers," I researched eight Northeast Ohio "Forepoets," some of whom I knew personally, some only legendarily. One was a surprise to me (Vachel Lindsay: he went to college here--who knew? The Hiram crew.)  In all cases, I tried to find out something new to surprise myself.

This first poet was very dear to me personally. We rode the Oberlin-Cleveland bus together one summer and stayed close ever after, so I found no surprises, but I hope I have one for you.

Alberta Turner (1919-2003)

Five facts you may not know about Turner:

·       While many famous poets were born in Ohio and left, Turner was born in New York, left to attend O.S.U., and stayed in Ohio the rest of her life

·       Long-time director of the ClevelandState Poetry Center, Turner conducted a very public poetry workshop that welcomed students, professors, street people, the novices and the published

·       Turner commuted to Cleveland from her home in Oberlin by bus for many years, writing and revising her poems during the ride

·       A poet, editor, critic, and textbook author, she also loved to make jewelry, and her favorite drink was an Old-Fashioned. Neat.

·       You can find out more about Turner here at Deep Cleveland, a wonderful Cleveland poetry repository coordinated by Nina Freelander Gibans .
This poem I wrote about Turner was published in my first book, A Tunnel of Flute Song (1980):
Feather for Alberta
"alias volat propriis"
They pronounce us together when they name
the ones who sing up here. I would sound
wilder except for the notes you lay.
Calling out territories, how you
terrorize the seventeenth-century wing
when you trill both Milton and Lowell.
Your thought flies straight as a crow
on a tangent. "That cat acted like a lamb
just to unnerve me." Sometimes I miss the take-off.
When you insist marriage takes a driver,
I am shedding my license into down
before your eyes warn, "Sorry. A Metaphor."
No one else leans over my desk
to have their nose stroked with my necklace
of grizzly chicken plumage. But you are
used to looking at things made of
shell and thread and feather
and knowing just what they are for.

ALL MONTH, CHECK OUT 30 DAYS READ/WRITE POETRY, a daily webpage I created and curated for the Cuyahoga Public Library for National Poetry Month 2014:


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