Archaeology, poems by Joan Siegel

This new title is available on the Deerbrook Editions Website

Archaeology cov grab

Archaeology excavates the past in exquisite language. Its focus is family: Siegel’s own family and families far ourtside her personal sphere. Mothers and daughters especially come under her perceptive eye, three generations often missing each other in passing, sitting in silence, but also knitting together to create a skein of connection. These are poems of longing, loss and celebration, for what else to do when losing someone, but “sit with her all night and sing”? Animals, domestic and wild, move through these poems, both as their own mystery as a metaphor. Siegel knows that stillness is necessary for transformation–“a chamber for one/ where you disolve and grow /wings.”  Though mostly serious and contemplative, she has moments of wry humanity and always “Peers at darkness through the bright eye of the world.”

                              —Mary Makofske, author of Traction and World Enough and Time.

Other praise for Joan’s poems

Siegel knows how to go for the small specific details that illuminate even the darkest subjects. —Maxine Kumin

The tactile, the visible and even the invisible become like avatars in Joan Siegel’s poems.
—Diane Wakoski



Eurydice in the Underworld by Joan Siegel

I never tire of poems. A book of good poems lives on for new days and the reading experience can be fresh at every reading. The verse, language, new meanings triggered in the moment, all moments following since the last reading have taken on new life, new metaphor, can never be old. Poetry must be an expression of our connection to the universe in its movement and mystery, and its sadness.

Here is a poem for lovers of poetry, true lovers of poetry will not mind the distinction which is founded in love. In this poem is a true metaphor for love. The story of Orpheus, the poet musician, and Eurydice. In Joan’s poem there is a personalization to bring the metaphor closer, the magic of dream / myth origins are still closer as the voice could be our voice, our inner voice, the heart that experiences separation. I don’t really like describing a poem but am moved to express how poetry reaches  out, moves into me, and branches into memories and art forms.

From: Hyacinth for the Soul by Joan Siegel

Eurydice in the Underworld


The night before our wedding
I dreamed I woke in a forest of cypress:
all the oak were gone
the laurel
beech and hazel
all the linden
all the silver fir
as if you’d called them away
leaving only the cypress
the tree that mourns.

Far off I heard you singing.
The cypress prayed.

You sang my name
and I walked to the edge of the dream,
a meadow sunny with asphodel and phlox
and a snake sank its poison in my heel.
The cypress moaned.
The meadow went soft like a sea
and I drowned.


They say you’re coming back for me.

I must
grow flesh on my bones
cell by cell
rethread my veins   my nerves  my brain
make blood
make ears and lips
and eyes
open my eyes again
and walk into light with you.

I must be pieced together
a quilt of memories
stitched with words we used to speak.


It is all so new
this white flesh
the weight of breasts
how fingers bend.
I’ve lain beneath the roots of trees so long
the roots groan through my hair.

I try to remember
green that spreads above loam
what grows upward to the sky
the sky
the smell of the sky.

I try to hear your singing
that stills rocks    trees    wild beasts
my heart wild
to feel again the weight of you
your taste.

Instead I hear the sound
of mould spreading in the hollow
mouths of the dead.
My eyes are dry as bark.

Why make me desire
what I have lost forever
in this place where there is nothing
but silence
worse than anything you know
who can hear your own breathing
and the hum of poems about love & death.


I followed you through pitch and
limping from that old wound
up steep rocks slippery with lichen
dripping on hollow eyes below.

But even before we passed Avernus,
even before you looked back,
I saw the shaft of blue light
from the world I lost:

I had forgotten blue
how it smells of rain
how it colors wild lupine and
bellflowers of the field
the breast feathers of birds
the veins in my wrist
the sweet air where our life had been.
The light scorched my eyes.
It burned the new skin of my face.
All the while the dead
shrill in my ears.
I tried to speak.

Some thoughts came up.

There is a statue in Providence Rhode Island across the street from the RISD Museum of Art called Orpheus Ascending that comes to me reading this poem. It is a statue of three figures, Orpheus, Eurydice, and Charon, I suppose, I don’t really know, but I knew the sculptor, and I remember seeing the huge white plasters that went into this magnificent bronze by Gil Franklin. It sits in a little park opposite the school where people often go to sit and eat lunch or read or sketch or to just enjoy the day. I did this many times over the years when I lived in Providence, it being my home town. Bronze sculpture like this life-size fountain, it happens to also be a fountain, is very spiritual and creates a poetic atmosphere, and in this way through its color and temperature and scale, its rounded forms, its energy fills Frazier Terrace, and if  the reader has ever been there, you will know what I am trying to get at. The voice of a poem is spirit, too, and so there is a correlation which is compounded for me by the experience of knowing the sculptor and the process, and which in my memory is most like a dream.

So this has now become a tribute to the art of Gil Franklin, and to Joan Siegel’s poetry. There is a similarity of process, of strength in meditation and with nature, as an artist explores the idea of a myth and how it lives on through time and in our current imagination or even our current experience. In these ways it teaches us.

Furthermore, the importance of art and poetry together must be an ancient partnership. This was reinforced in me when I received the manuscript for Brushstrokes and glances from Djelloul Marbrook a little over a year ago. There was a shared passion between myself and Djelloul around this almost indescribable macrocosm of the human experience, and as I know for him, is related to the deep exploration into meaning of the work in his book.

The Fountain at Frazier Terrace

The Orpheus Ascending fountain at Frazier Terrace

Joan Siegel at Woodstock “Second Saturdays” Art Event in June

Woodstock Poetry Society & Festival ( as part of the Woodstock Arts Consortium is sponsoring the following poetry event as part of the Woodstock “Second Saturdays” Art Events. For a full listing of “Second Saturday” events, see:

Poets Joan I. Siegel and Mary Makofske will be the featured readers when the Woodstock Poetry Society & Festival meets at the Woodstock Town Hall, 76 Tinker Street, on Saturday, June 12th at 2pm. Note: WPS&F meetings are held the 2nd Saturday of every month at the Woodstock Town Hall.

The readings will be hosted by Woodstock area poet Phillip Levine. All meetings are free, open to the public, and include an open mike.


Joan I. Siegel – Joan I. Siegel is the author of two poetry collections. The first, published jointly with her husband, J. R. Solonche, is titled PEACH GIRL: POEMS FOR A CHINESE DAUGHTER (Grayson Books, 2001). Her first solo collection, HYACINTH FOR THE SOUL, was issued by Deerbrook Editions in Spring 2009.

Regarding HYACINTH…, former US Poet Laureate Maxine Kumin commented:

“These passionate, caring poems range seamlessly from personal lyric to public outcry, from a pair of well-turned pantoums of childhood memories to a poem that rewrites the liturgy of a responsive reading from the Passover service. Siegel knows how to go for the small specific details that illuminate even the darkest subjects.”

Her poems published in The Atlantic Monthly, The Gettysburg Review, Prairie Schooner, Commonweal, Raritan, among numerous journals and anthologies, Ms. Siegel is also recipient of the New Letters Poetry Prize and the Anna Davidson Rosenberg Award.

Professor Emerita of English at SUNY/Orange in Middletown, New York, she previously co-edited Wordsmith: a Journal of Poetry and Art, which featured the work of SUNY and CUNY faculty poets and artists.

Joan lives in the Hudson Valley with her husband and daughter and assorted cats.


Mary Makofske – Mary Makofske lives with her husband in a solar house in Warwick, NY, where they enjoy a view of a mountain and a large vegetable, fruit, and flower garden. She’s taught at Ramapo College of New Jersey and SUNY Orange, from which she retired in 2006.

Her poems have appeared in Poetry, Zone 3, Poetry East,  Mississippi Review, Modern Haiku, Amoskeag, Calyx: A Journal of Art and Literature by Women, and other literary magazines and in the anthologies In a Fine Frenzy: Poets Respond to Shakespeare (Iowa); Hunger and Thirst (City Works); Tangled Vines (HBJ); and Proposing on the Brooklyn Bridge and Essential Love (Grayson).

She is the author of The Disappearance of Gargoyles (Thorntree) and Eating Nasturtiums, winner of a Flume Press chapbook competition. Individual poems have received the Robert Penn Warren Poetry Prize (Cumberland Poetry Review), the Lullwater Review Prize, the Spoon River Poetry Review Prize, and the Iowa Woman Prize.


Here’s our 2010 schedule of featured readers:

January 9th, 2010 – Bruce Weber; Laurie Byro (at Woodstock Community Center)
February 13th, 2010 – Richard Boes Memorial (at Woodstock Community Center)
March 13th, 2010 – Philip Memmer; Roger Mitchell (at Woodstock Community Center)
April 10th, 2010 – Jacqueline Ahl; Joann Deiudicibus
May 8th, 2010 – Alison Koffler; Barry Wallenstein
June 12th, 2010 – Joan I. Siegel; Mary Makofske <<<
July 10th, 2010 – Carl Rosenstock; Richard Levine
August 14th, 2010 – Bert Shaw; Lee Gould
September 11th, 2010 – Dennis Doherty; James Sherwood (at Woodstock Community Center)
October 9th, 2010 – Amy Ouzoonian; Tyler Wilhelm
November 13th, 2010 – Lea Graham; Reagan Upshaw
December 11th, 2010 – Open Mike & Annual Business & Planning Meeting

Also, why not become a 2010 Member of the Woodstock Poetry Society & Festival?

Membership is a nominal $15 a year. (To join, send your check to the Woodstock Poetry Society, P.O. Box 531, Woodstock, NY 12498. Include your email address as well as your mailing address and phone number.)  Your membership helps pay for hall rental, post-office-box rental, the WPS website, and costs associated with publicizing the monthly events. One benefit of membership is the opportunity to have a brief biography and several of your poems appear on this website.