Lahna Diskin was a born poet. We discovered Edna St. Vincent Millay together when we were girls and sang her songs aloud throughout high school and college years. We knew her poems by heart. I think Edna has found her equal in Lahna's lyricism, intelligence, craft and soul. A lifelong friend to poetry, and teaching, Lahna shares her gifts now here with us. -- Grace Cavalieri
Lahna Diskin was born and grew up in Trenton, New.Jersy. She has lived for many years in southeastern Pennsylvania. She holds degress from New Jersey State Teachers College at Trenton (now The College of New Jersey), Middlebury College, and the University of Michigan. She taught English for over forty years in public school but principally at her first alma mater where she was chair of the English Department and later associate dean of arts and sciences. As professor of English she specialized in teacher education, modern poetry and fiction. She has made a special study of the work of W. S. Merwin, Italo Calvino, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Ursula K. LeGuin and Theodore Sturgeon. She has long been a practicing poet with poems published in Graham House Review, Pulpsmith, The Third Wind, Santa Barbara Review, Academic Medicine (perhaps strangely enough) and elsewhere. She loves classical music and surealism in art and literature. She is also an avid collector of antique porcelain and glass. Since her retirement from teaching in 1999, she has dabbled in jewlery making.
Lahna: When we were young and rosy-eyed, we loved Edna for her lyricism and romantic take on love and the world. We loved that she flaunted convention and the college administration when she danced naked in Vassar's fountain and was expelled. We loved that she hung out in Greenwich Village with other artists. Truth is she was a wretched human being -- drug addict, alcoholic, jealous, and mean-spirited. She went public about her disdain for Elinor Wylie, the poet and woman (Wylie committed suicide). But I think Wylie was Millay's equal as a poet. Anyway, All these many years later, I think I can separate Millay the woman from her verse. Just as I separate myself from Picasso the womanizer to extol his art and Wagner, full of meanness and anti-Semitism, from much (not all) of his majestic music. I have a harder time making that separation with Ezra Pound maybe because I don't like his poetry all that much.
Orpheus: Oh, no! Just the right weight to keep down to earth. Until now I was too light. I floated. I bumped into furniture and people. My arms were stretched too wide. My fingers were losing their grip. . . . How funny it is, and how lightly experts make their calculations of weight! I’ve just realized I was short of exactly your weight to make me part of the atmosphere.
Reflections in a Silver Eye
Unless man is free inwardly, the dance will always be a cocktail.. . . I still would be willing to sell my soul to the devil for a nice Argentine to do the tango with.
Beatrice Wood (1893-1998), Mama of Dada
into my head. What a campy fellow! Old Guard
a la Latin America by way of a Hollywood ballroom.
Picture Zorro or, if you’re old enough,
the vamp Valentino. He claps his hands
to start the tempo. He snaps his fingers to dress me
in veils of melody, harmonies unlocking
my heart without giving it away.
We’re under an unsavory sky, a ghostly brew
like frozen fire. He owns that sky.
Outcast he owns himself. He owns this hour,
unpredictable and fabulous.
Not everything in the dream is strange
and puzzling. We dance in my own backyard,
double lot big enough to embrace our embrace
and wide enough for our promenade -- stride
stride stride -- then pivot and turn. With every turn
my partner changes faces -- mask under mask
under mask. Fresh from The Book of Weird!
And each new face turns up his spirit.
I play along. Machismo in his staccato steps,
exhilaration in mine. Yearning in my eyes, audacity
in his. And the energy that drums below
the waist is the cure for common gravity.
The music is inside my skull and everywhere.
Around the trees rhythms of guitar and clarinet
and drums. In the open spaces the metal sting
of the bandoneon. My partner owns this air.
It surrounds us profane and forbidden.
Raw if not romantic.
Like his voice all insolence, city heat, city sex.
Contracheck is more than a move; it’s his attitude.
He tells me, “This tango guards, as does all
the really real, a secret.”* Not original *Jorge Luis Borges
but true. He says, “We have opened our lives
in the open air. I’ll come back.
In the meantime,” with a smirk on his latest face,
“let the sun peep inside your house at your solo
frenzy to radio music. Music how many times
removed -- mazurka and funny jigs and fandango.
I’ll come back in your sleep. And teach you different
moves -- feather steps and whisks and scattered sashays.”
© Lahna Diskin, all rights reserved