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Poetry

By Heidi Sutton

Walt Whitman Birthplace Association State Historic Site in Huntington Station hosted a time capsule ceremony on Aug. 5 in honor of Walt Whitman’s 200th birthday. Conducted by the WWBA’s board of trustees and WWBA Executive Director Cynthia Shor, the historic event was attended by many public officials on state, county and town levels, members of the chambers of commerces, Walt Whitman personator Darrel Blaine Ford and members of the public. Guest speakers included Long Island Parks Regional Director George “Chip” Gorman, NYS Assemblyman Steve Englebright and Town of Huntington Deputy Supervisor John McCarron. 

The event also celebrated the life of William T. Walter, Ph.D. (1931-2020) who served on the WWBA Board of Trustees in 1980 and was Trustee President from 1980-1984 and again from 2010 to 2020. Described as “a visionary” at the ceremony, Walter was instrumental in the creation of the WWBA Interpretive Center which opened in 1999. He also served as the Chairman of the Town of Huntington Beautification Council for over 40 years. Walter’s widow, Sukey, her three sons and family were in attendance for the event. William R. Walter spoke fondly of his father and recited Whitman’s poem “From Montauk Point.”

The idea for the time capsule was initiated by WWBA Trustee Jo-Ann Raia in recognition of Walt Whitman’s 200th birthday in 2019. A committee consisting of Raia, Dr. Maria Basile and Mark Nuccio was formed and funds were obtained from the Town of Huntington’s Cultural Affairs Division with no additional cost to taxpayers. The COVID pandemic sidelined the event until now. 

When buried in the near future, the 12” by 12” stainless steel time capsule will contain Whitman memorabilia including a mug and medallion, a boxed original Nathan Hale bicentennial coin from the Town of Huntington along with a photocopy of the original wax seal from the establishment of the Town of Huntington signed by Supervisor Ed Smyth, two coins honoring Long Island State Parks staff, a copy of the Suffolk Hotel Motel bill sponsored by Assemblyman Englebright, manuscripts commemorating the life of William T. Walter, written historic texts and books along with newspaper articles of the current times reflecting a significant economic, political, or social news event and a scroll containing all the names of the event’s attendees on acid-free paper. The time capsule itself has a shelf-life of 200 years.

“The historical materials that we have put into the time capsule tell the story of the Walt Whitman Birthplace Association. It is a story of our success in bringing to life the voice and values of “The Good Gray Poet” for generations to come,” said Trustee President Jack Coulehan, MD.

A boulder donated by WWBA Trustee Steve Gittelman will be placed at the site with a commemorative plaque inscribed: “I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love, If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.” — W.W., Song of Myself, Section 52. The time capsule will be opened during Walt Whitman’s 250th birthday celebration in 2069 and then every 50 years henceforth.

“It’s really an incredible cultural asset that we are here to support and to make sure Walt Whitman is remembered 50 years from now when this time capsule is opened. I don’t think anyone is going to forget Walt Whitman. He is one of the literary giants of Western civilization. He is America’s poet,” said Englebright.

Barred owl

By John L. Turner

A great joy from spending time outdoors emersed in nature is the opportunity, afterwards, to share the experience with others. Directly recounting a memorable nature experience with a friend or family member, say, of an osprey successfully plunging from fifty feet high, with talons flaring, to hit the water and seize a fish, or a more gentle scene of watching a pair of monarchs dancing around a buttery yellow blossoms of seaside goldenrod is, of course, the most common way to share.  A more lasting way is through painting a favorite landscape, thereby providing a permanent record of beauty, wonder, and illumination.  And then, there’s the very popular alternative of sharing taken photographs.

Another way to share a memory is with the pen or keyboard and that’s where my favorite way to memorialize a nature experience comes into play: writing a haiku about it. A haiku is a short poem typically structured to have three lines with the first and last lines containing five syllables and the middle containing seven, for a total of seventeen syllables. Haiku developed in Japan as far back as the ninth century but really took hold several centuries ago as a way to remember and celebrate nature.

What I’ve always enjoyed about writing haikus is that it requires your mind to distill the experienced moment into its essence, jettisoning extraneous material. This is, I find, not so easy to do. After all, you have but seventeen words to tell a story. Oh, the value of discipline!  

Any subject in nature can be the focus of a haiku.

I find birds to be an especially appealing subject: 

Hidden in white pine,

An owl hoots from the darkness,

With North Star above.

 

Barn and tree swallows,

flit, dash, and turn in sunlight, 

flashing metal tints.

 

Overhanging branch,

Reflects bird in still water,

Belted Kingfisher

 

A woodcock spirals,

Toward the belt of Orion,

With love on his mind.

 

Bluebirds in rapture,

Tumble from a perch of oak, 

The sky is falling. 

 

With sun as loci, 

Red-tailed hawk pair pirouettes, 

Fanning brick toned tails.

 

From a city tree,  

House finch song sweetly echoes,

Off brownstone buildings.

 

Miniature forms,

These metallic hummingbirds,

Are other worldly.

 

Woodpecker on tree,

Hammering of bill wears wood,

Like water does stone.

 

Red knots on mud flat, 

hemispheric globetrotters, 

bind us together.

 

Noisy blackbird flock,

Descends to ground from treetops,

Tossing leaves to feed.

 

Next to birds I’ve probably written more haikus involving the ocean than any other topic: 

Miles from Island’s end,

Leviathan surfaces,

Birds flock and fish leap.

 

A lone sanderling,

Searches for food in wave foam,

Along the sea’s edge.

 

A fishing boat plows,

Through strong wind and crested waves,

Wearing cap of gulls.

 

A grey green ocean,

With waves made angry by wind,

Hurls against the shore.

 

Devonian forms,

Pairs of horseshoe crabs spawning,

Bathed in bright moonlight.

 

Mysterious sea,

With implacable surface,

Teems with life beneath.

Plants can be great haiku subjects too: 

Spring dogwood petals,

Floating in woodland gloaming,

Like lotus on pond

 

A gift from a tree,

A yellow and red leaf falls,

Autumn has arrived.

 

Splitting sidewalk crack, 

bursts of chicory purple,

the power of plants.

 

The smooth bark of beech,

Ripples like animal skin,

An elephant tree.

 

A fragile flower, 

Unfurls like spreading fingers, 

Of an upturned hand.

 

Under crisp blue sky,

Orange pumpkins dot brown earth,

A field with freckles.

 

On white pine sapling,  

The weight of a wet spring snow, 

makes the tree curtsy.

 

A goldenrod field,

Filled with bright yellow flowers,

Sunshine concentrate.

How about insects?

Monarch butterfly,

With Mexico on its mind,

Flutters over road.

 

In warming spring sun, 

A mourning cloak butterfly flits, 

Over forest leaves.

 

And then there’s miscellany:

Strand of orange sky,

The sun has fallen again,

The earth spins through space.

 

An orange sliver,

The western sky glows brightly,

Soon stars will appear.  

 

Grasses look like hair,

On hills that look like muscles,

This animal earth. 

 

Snowflakes rock downward,

On to a whitening earth,

Hiding all things.

 

A snowy blanket,

Covers everything in sight,

It is quiet and hushed.

 

Why not give haikus a try?

A resident of Setauket, John Turner is conservation chair of the Four Harbors Audubon Society, author of “Exploring the Other Island: A Seasonal Nature Guide to Long Island” and president of Alula Birding & Natural History Tours.

 

Maggie Bloomfield will be the featured poet on Jan. 9.

The Second Saturdays poetry series will be returning to historic All Souls Church in Stony Brook on Jan. 9 from 11 a.m. to noon. To maintain “social distancing,” the program will be delivered virtually in an interactive forum via ZOOM. The readings will be hosted by Suffolk County Poet Laureate Barbara Southard.  The featured poet will be Maggie Bloomfield.

Maggie Bloomfield is an award-winning poet and essayist, Emmy-winning lyricist for Sesame Street. Chapbooks include Trains of Thought, published by Local Gems Press, and a new collection, Sleepless Nights, by Finishing Line Press. Maggie and Susan Dingle performed their one-act play, BREAK OUT! As part of 2017 LI Fringe Festival, and Maggie’s one-act, The Dispatchment Society was part of NYC’s New Works Emerging Artists Festival in 2019. Maggie co-hosts Poetry Street South, a monthly poetry venue in Southampton, NY.

An open-reading will follow the featured poet; all are welcome to read one of their own poems.  For more information, please call 631-655-7798.  Participants can access the program through the All Souls website https://www.allsouls-stonybrook.org/

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Last year’s cover of the Pens & Pencils pull-out section featured artwork from then eighth-grader Samantha Margulies.

Every year The Village Times Herald publishes Pens & Pencils, a pull-out section featuring selections of art, prose and poetry provided by the elementary, junior high schools and high school in the Three Village school district.

In the past, we have relied on the English and Art departments of the schools to select and forward those art and writing projects they feel are worthy of inclusion. However, with remote learning due to the coronavirus pandemic, we are asking our readers to submit their children’s creative work.

We will try to include — space permitting, as always — as many representative samples as possible from grades K through 12.

Please understand that we have always received more submissions than would fit in the available space, so we can’t make promises to any students that their work will be included in the supplement. However, we do our best to publish the remaining submissions in the Arts & Lifestyles section of the TBR newspapers throughout the summer.

Submissions may be emailed to [email protected] or mailed to 185 Route 25A, Setauket, NY 11733. All submissions must be received by 5 p.m. Wednesday, June 10, to be considered for this future pull-out section.

Two friends on the staff of the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum in Centerport are engaged in a poetry-photo challenge. Their goal is to lift the spirits of their quarantined colleagues.

Ed Clampitt has been a member of the Museum’s security staff for four years. He challenged Ellen Mason, a volunteer tour guide for 14 years, to write poems inspired by his photos. Clampitt, who also has written some of the poems, likes to record seasonal beauty at Eagle’s Nest, the spectacular 43-acre Vanderbilt Estate that is also home to the Vanderbilt Museum and Reichert Planetarium.

Ellen Mason

“During discussions about our upcoming children’s book, Ellen discovered her previously untapped talent for writing poetry,” Clampitt said. “I enjoy being her muse and inspiring that wonderful talent to blossom!”

Mason said, “Ed suggested that he take photographs at the Vanderbilt and challenged me to write poems to correspond to them. He surprises me with the photos and gives me no prior information. And I surprise him with the poems.”

Then the creative partners email the results to the Vanderbilt staff and members of the Board of Trustees. Their responses: delight and gratitude.

“It’s such a pleasure to receive their poems and photos,” said Elizabeth Wayland-Morgan, the Vanderbilt Museum’s interim executive director. “Ed and Ellen’s creations remind us of how lucky we are to work in such beautiful surroundings, especially now when we cannot physically be at Eagle’s Nest. Their pictures and words are inspiring.”

Ed Clamplitt

Clampitt, a Huntington resident who also has worked for Stop & Shop supermarkets for 40 years, is a front-line worker during the COVID-19 pandemic. He is also co-creator and author of Team Dawg, a character-education program and children’s book series that has been widely used in elementary schools throughout Long Island.

Mason, a Stony Brook resident and retired Centereach High School English teacher, leads tours of the Vanderbilt Mansion. She tells visitors stories about the Vanderbilt family and provides details on the Mansion’s architecture and centuries-old art and furnishings. During summer Living History tours, she and the guides dress in 1930s costumes to portray famous summer guests of Rosamond and William K. Vanderbilt II.

Here are two of Mason’s poems and one by Clampitt, with four of Clampitt’s photos taken on the Vanderbilt Estate:

Separation

By Ellen Mason

Wrought iron gates / Now closed to us;

No sound of car / Or van or bus.

 No children shout /Or laughter rings

Amid the trees /Where birds still sing.

The empty paths / And courtyard bare

Of visitors /A sight so rare.

A vista /Just around the bend,

Might give us hope / And chance to mend.

To breathe the air / At Eagle’s Nest,

Would lend our hearts / And souls some rest.

The day will come / When we’ll return,

To hug and share / Our lessons learned.

We’ll walk the paths / Blue sky above,

And celebrate / This place we love.

Night in the Museum

By Ellen Mason

The grounds are dark, /And silence reigns;

No traffic noise / On roads or lanes.

No human sounds /Disturb the night,

As paths are bathed /In pale starlight.

Within the hushed /Exhibit halls,

Some species stir /On floors and walls.

With restlessness, /They shift and shake,

And move their eyes, /And try to make

Some sense of what / Has come to pass:

No students here / With friends and class,

In lines of two, / With cell phones poised,

They used to laugh /And make loud noise

Where are the folks, / The steady band,

Who climb the stairs / With map in hand?

The whale shark swings / Both to and fro,

To catch the sight: / No one below.

The polar bear, / Now wide awake,

Believes there must be / Some mistake.

In the museum, / High on the hill,

In quiet rooms, / Alone and still,

The sharks, the eels, / The manatee,

Hang, waiting for /Humanity

Their vigil here, /Throughout the night,

Continues on / In morning light.

And so they wait, / And hope to learn,

Why we were gone, / When we return.

The Plan

By Ed Clampitt

 She’s still hard at work, / Preparing this place,

For the day coming soon, / When we meet face to face.

Each day brings new changes, /Some larger, some small,

She knows in her heart, /We feel blessed by them all.

Mother Nature the Wonder /Signs of hope that abound,

Just trust in her plan / What’s been lost will be found.

Karl O’Leary with his sons Cooper (left) and Cameron (right) at the Walt Whitman Birthplace ceremony this May. Photo from Karl O’Leary

By Stacy Santini

Most of us can look back on our lives and remember one person who impacted our journeys in such a profound manner that they will never be forgotten and their influence comes alive over and over again as we carry on with our daily activities.

For the pupils at Mount Sinai Middle School, that person is certain to be Karl O’Leary. An English teacher fascinated with poetry since the age of 7, O’Leary holds close the teachings of Walt Whitman and is dedicated to cultivating enthusiasm for life and thinking way outside the enclave of his classroom.

The cover of Testimonial Tales. Photo from Karl O’Leary
The cover of Testimonial Tales. Photo from Karl O’Leary

Coaching his students to take life on he says, “It is good to experience life and go beyond the boundaries; school is not just within four walls but about challenging themselves not for a grade but who they are, who they want to be.” O’Leary knew rather early that he couldn’t just preach this Whitmanesque philosophy. He had to and wanted to live it, to be tangible proof of his convictions. He embraces the simple life and dwells among nature as often as possible, albeit hiking Long Island’s Paumanok Path or camping for several weeks in rural New Hampshire with his family.

O’Leary is committed to the poet he admires so much by seeing, observing and listening, finding simplicity in a noisy world. He also involves his students in the numerous workshops and activities The Whitman Association offers at Whitman’s Birthplace in Huntington, encouraging fundraising and giving back.

O’Leary has published a book of poetry entitled “Testimonial Tales,” which is an ode to his wife Melanie. Meeting her through a friend, it quickly became apparent that she was “the one.” As with so many other enchanted lovers, O’Leary states, “When you know you just know.” Filling a small bed and breakfast in Cape Cod with immediate family members, they quietly exchanged their vows and began building a life together in the Village of Belle Terre. They started a family and today have two children, ages 3½ years old and 15 months.

Karl O’Leary with his wife Melanie. Photo from Karl O’Leary
Karl O’Leary with his wife Melanie. Photo from Karl O’Leary

The collection of poems documents their lives together — milestones, relationship transitions and daily rituals.  The message is simple but strong and unalterably beautiful. O’Leary wrote Melanie a poem every week since their courtship and felt it was time to share his sentiments with the rest of the world. When he is asked specifically why he decided to publish the book, he boldly states, “For one, Melanie deserves it, my wife is everything, and two, I tell my students to be proud of their work and get it out there in the world. How could I tell them those things if I did not do the same?”

O’Leary’s goal for the future is to certainly write more, and he is eager to put together another collection with poems and prose he has written over the years. For him, publishing his work is not about fame or money but to fulfill himself, to look back and be content with himself that he did indeed try. Give of yourself, celebrate yourself were essential themes for Whitman and apparently for Karl O’Leary too. Students pay attention.

‘Testimonial Tales’ by Karl O’Leary is available at Barnes and Noble stores and at www.amazon.com.

Valedictorian Seth Brand. Photo from Mount Sinai school district

They volunteered countless hours, participated in numerous activities and have taken more than 40 Advanced Placement courses combined, so it should come as no surprise that Seth Brand, Brendan Zotto and Tiffany Ong are at the top of Mount Sinai High School’s 2015 graduating class.

Seth Brand
With a GPA of 102.399, Seth Brand graduates as this year’s valedictorian and will head to Harvard University in the fall.

The varsity soccer and basketball player said he plans on studying biology, but is still undecided as he wants to explore and see what he is most interested in.

“I think I’m going to find what I really want to do upon going to Harvard,” he said.

Brand added that he knows whatever he ends up doing, it will involve making a difference in others’ lives.
Over the course of his four years at Mount Sinai, Brand took a total of 24 AP classes and exams — 13 of which he self-studied for — and passed every single one.

In addition to playing sports, Brand served as class president in 10th and 11th grades, and as president of the National Honor Society. He was also vice president of the school’s Environmental Out Reach club, coordinating beach cleanups and collecting recyclables.

Brand reflected fondly on his time as a Mustang and said he benefited from being in small school. He also gave a shutout to his teachers and the friends he has made.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better place to go.”

Brendan Zotto

Salutatorian Brendan Zotto. Photo from Mount Sinai school district
Salutatorian Brendan Zotto. Photo from Mount Sinai school district

In addition to being the Mustang’s senior class president, Brendan Zotto is also this year’s salutatorian, graduating with a 101.213 GPA. He heads off to Stony Brook University in the fall and will major in computer engineering.

Zotto said a programming class he took as a freshman spurred his interest in the subject. After taking the AP Physics C exam, which he self-studied for, Zotto said he realized he was interested in computer hardware as he learned about circuitry, and electricity and magnetism.

“I’m hoping college is an experience like that, where I learn one thing and it leads me to something else,” he said.

In his spare time, Zotto, a member of the cross country track team, said he enjoys running.

His favorite memory from high school, he said, was participating in the National Honor Society’s Video Game Tournament, where students played Super Smash Brothers Melee and raised money for the group.

Zotto, who is also vice president of the Computer Club and treasurer of the Science Club, said he hopes to one day make and improve on current computer hardware.

The salutatorian said college would offer him the “experience to learn more about myself and about what I’m studying.”

Tiffany Ong
Tiffany Ong rounds out the top trio and is this year’s senior class poet. Ong is graduating with a 101.146 GPA and will head to New York University in the fall, where she’ll major in nutrition and dietetics.

Senior class poet Tiffany Ong. Photo from Mount Sinai school district
Senior class poet Tiffany Ong. Photo from Mount Sinai school district

Ong said she picked the major because she has a passion for the sciences, health and food.

“I just love how we can take care of our bodies and be athletic and still have a healthy lifestyle,” she said.

The student government secretary said she stays active in a few different ways. She played varsity tennis until her junior year and currently spends much of her time dancing at Backstage Studio of Dance.

While Ong’s dream job would be to dance for a living, she said she understands how challenging that is and will explore creating a major at NYU that combines her passions for dance and nutrition.

“Hopefully, I can help dancers in the future, or any other athletes.”

The senior also has a love of art and music. She is an accomplished violin player, having served as concertmistress of the high school’s orchestra, ensemble leader of the chamber orchestra and a section leader in the Long Island String Festival Association.

Ong said she enjoyed attending Mount Sinai because it is a small school where you get to know everyone, but she is also excited for new experiences college will bring.

“I’m looking forward to seeing new people, being on my own, growing up really fast, especially being in the city.”

Jean Linzee will portray Emily Dickinson. Photo from the WMHO

In honor of National Poetry Month the Ward Melville Heritage Organization will host a live dramatic performance titled “Artists & Poets,” showcasing iconic American poets, Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman, at the Educational & Cultural Center, 97P Main St., in Stony Brook Village on Sunday, April 19, from 2 to 5 p.m. The event will  feature Jean Linzee as Emily Dickinson and Darrel Blaine Ford as Walt Whitman.

A former Long Island biology teacher and world-traveled ornithologist, Ford not only has a striking physical resemblance to Walt Whitman but a personal affinity with him since childhood, when he was given a copy of “Leaves of Grass” and was “hooked ever since.” He has been recreating Whitman’s persona for over 30 years and continues to maintain his legacy today by visiting schools and libraries as the famous poet.

Linzee is a Yale graduate and has taught English and theater at The Stony Brook School for over 20 years. Her experience includes not only teaching but also acting, directing and writing. She has conceived, written and performed in many of her own one-woman shows, as well as William Luce’s “The Belle of Amherst,” based  on the life of Emily Dickinson, which she has performed in England, Poland, Switzerland and throughout the United States.

There will be a special interaction with the audience and the actors, who will perform in an impromptu skit embodying the personas of Dickinson and Whitman as if they were meeting for the first time. The performance is $20 per person and will include refreshments.

There will also be a free art exhibit on site including works by Pat Solan, Flo Kemp and members of the Stony Brook Photography Club. Additional dates for the free art exhibit are April 16, 17, 18, 20 and 21.

For further information, please call 631-689-5888 or visit www.stonybrookvillage.com.