The Hocking Hills Festival of Poetry



by Alan Cohen


Putting the Power of Poetry together every year is a new adventure. I usually fall into the trap of thinking it will somehow be easier as I have gained experience from past efforts. Of course there are always new complications and problems to deal with in order to get everything to happen as planned. I then realize that the joy and value in any challenge is not necessarily attaining the goal, but the struggle to reach something new within myself.

As Sigmund Freud said, “Everywhere I go, I find a poet has been there before me.” Whenever I begin a new enterprise, be it poetry festival or trip into the actual wilderness, I am reminded of a poem of Edward Abbey’s that addresses new undertakings in a unique way. Abbey was a curmudgeonly desert rat who wrote brilliantly about the raw and heartbreaking beauty and destruction of the southwestern United States. His poetry usually does not achieve the high standards of his prose, but Benedicto, written before embarking on a river trip on the Colorado through the Grand Canyon is possibly his finest poem: 

Benedicto: May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous,

leading to the most amazing view.

May your rivers flow without end,

meandering through pastoral valleys tinkling with bells,

past temples and castles and poets' towers

into a dark primeval forest

where tigers belch and monkeys howl,

through miasmal and mysterious swamps

and down into a desert of red rock,

and down again into a deep vast ancient unknown chasm

where bars of sunlight blaze on profiled cliffs,

where deer walk across the white sand beaches,

where storms come and go

as lightning clangs upon the high crags,

where something strange and more beautiful

and more full of wonder than

your deepest dreams waits for you--

beyond that next turning of the canyon walls.

                                  Edward Abbey