“It’s time to stow the snow boots and give spring a great big hug,” said the late Bliss Morehead, in anticipation of a previous April poetry reading at the Library, a program she founded more than a dozen years ago to celebrate National Poetry Month. It’s an irresistible invitation, and so very Bliss.
Please join Island veterans of the perennially popular readings in a memorial to Bliss Morehead on the 25th Anniversary of the nation’s salute to poetry — virtually, via Zoom — in a special “Friday Night Dialogues” Memorial Poetry Reading at 7 p.m. on Friday, April 16.
“Poems of Memory and Desire — Breeding Lilacs out of the Dead Land,” which draws its title from the second line of “The Wasteland.” T.S. Eliot’s most celebrated poem, includes readings from the works of Bliss’ favorite poets: W.H. Auden, T.S. Eliot, Thomas Hardy, Amy Lowell, Alfred Lord Tennyson and W.B. Yeats among them. All were chosen by Bliss in her planning of an April 2020 poetry reading that was canceled due to the pandemic.
The Library’s Jocelyn Ozolins and The Poetry Round Table’s Karen Kiaer completed production; author and Reporter columnist Robert Lipsyte will host the program, which Bliss’ husband, Mike Zisser’s memories of Bliss, as well as remarks and a poem by George Nemeth, whom she mentored, in addition to the readings.
“Bliss Morehead was an advertising executive, a city-loving, urban creature with a BA in English from Barnard when her fiancé, Mike Zisser, coaxed her onto a ferry bound for Shelter Island,” wrote Charity Robey in a 2018 profile in this newspaper.
Having decided to pursue her interest in poetry, she earned a Masters of Fine Arts degree from Warren Wilson College in North Carolina, began to write and publish her own work and set about sharing her new-found love with her new-found friends and neighbors on Shelter Island in the strong belief that great poetry deserves to be read aloud.
Or, as she put it in the introduction to one of the programs she curated, “The magic that happens when a room is filled with passionate poetry readers and listeners is indescribable.”
Bliss’ concise and erudite introductory remarks were masterpieces that enlightened as well as delighted; for instance: “It is said that poets write for the ear, more to be heard than read; works designed, in fact, to be read aloud,” noting that the earliest poetry, of course, was oral; it was chanted, sung, recited, whispered and shouted — full of sounds and rhythms — and enlightened and delighted readers and listeners through centuries.
Her work to celebrate poetry out loud attracted an ever-growing audience of Shelter Islanders — those she invited to come armed with a favorite poem to read or to just listen to friends and neighbors and cheer them on; those who met regularly (The Poetry Roundtable); and those in The Poetry Project, which she founded with the goal of presenting great poetry year-round, read by Shelter Islanders.
In addition to National Poetry Month, (“Always Marry an April Girl” and “Poets Look for America”), readings have celebrated holidays, seasons and a variety of diverse themes, including “All You Need Is Love” (Valentine’s Day); “Cartas Apasionadas” (Spanish-language poetry in translation); “A Soldier’s Heart” (Memorial Day); “Beast” (animal poetry); “Answer Me, Earth” (agrarian poetry); “Muse to Muse” (poets on painting); “Friends of Frank” (Frank O’Hara and the poets of the New York School) and many more.
Join us to remember and celebrate the life of a special Islander as we continue this tradition in her honor with a reading of some of her favorite poets.
“Friday Night Dialogues” is free, with donations gratefully accepted. As noted, this program is virtual — on Zoom — and attendees should register 30 minutes in advance on the library website, shelterislandpubliclibrary.org and may contact Jocelyn Ozelins; [email protected] or 631-749-0042 with questions.
Up Next: A classical chamber music concert by Twin Forks Musicivic, a local chamber music project committed to delivering social, cultural, educational and compassionate vitality through art music experiences in the Twin Forks area: “Friday Night Dialogues,” 7 p.m. on May 14.