Rhode Island

In 1987, Rhode Island established a state poet laureate position, which is currently held by Tina Cane, who was appointed to a five-year term in 2016. Cane is the founder and director of Writers-in-the-Schools, Rhode Island, and is the author of Once More with Feeling (Veliz Books, 2017).

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Rhode Island poet laureaute
Tina Cane

Tine Cane was born in New York City. She received a BA from the University of Vermont and an MA in French literature from Middlebury College. She is the author of Once More with Feeling (Veliz Books, 2017), as well as the chapbooks Dear Elena: Letters for Elena Ferrante (Skillman Avenue Press, 2016) and The Fifth Thought (Other Painters Press, 2008), a book-length poem. The recipient of a Fellowship Merit Award from the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts, Cane is the founder and director of Writers-in-the-Schools, Rhode Island, for which she works as a visiting poet. She has taught French, English, and creative writing in public and private schools throughout New York City and Rhode Island. In 2016 she was selected to be the sixth poet laureate of Rhode Island. She lives in Providence. 

Read about Tine Cane’s 2020 Poets Laureate Fellowship project.

Tina Crane. Photo credit: Mike Salerno.

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Rhode Island

Here at the seashore they use the clouds over & over
again, like the rented animals in Aïda.
In the late morning the land breeze
turns and now the extras are driving
all the white elephants the other way.
What language are the children shouting in?
He is lying on the beach listening.

The sand knocks like glass, struck by bare heels.
He tries to remember snow noise.
Would powder snow ping like that?
But you don't lie with your ear to powder snow.
Why doesn't the girl who takes care
of the children, a Yale girl without flaw,
know the difference between lay and lie?

He tries to remember snow, his season.
The mind is in charge of things then.
Summer is for animals, the ocean is erotic,
all that openness and swaying.
No matter how often you make love
in August you're always aware of genitalia,
your own and the half-naked others'.
Even with the gracefulest bathers
you're aware of their kinship with porpoises,
mammals disporting themselves in a blue element,
smelling slightly of fish.  Porpoise Hazard
watches himself awhile, like a blue movie.

In the other hemisphere now people
are standing up, at work at their easels.
There they think about love at night
when they take off their serious clothes
and go to bed sandlessly, under blankets.

Today the children, his own among them,
are apparently shouting fluently in Portuguese,
using the colonial dialect of Brazil.
It is just as well, they have all been changed
into small shrill marginal animals,
he would not want to understand them again
until after Labor Day.  He just lays there.

At the Providence Zoo

Like the Beatles arriving from Britain,
the egret's descent on the pond
takes the reeds and visitors by storm:
it is a reconstructed marsh
environment, the next
best thing to living out your wild life.


Footbridges love the past.
And like the Roman questioner who learned
"the whole of the Torah while standing on one leg,"
flamingos are pleased to ignore us. It is not known
whether that Roman could learn to eat upside-down,
by dragging his tremendous head through streams.


Comical, stately, the newly-watched tortoises
mate; one pushes the other over the grass,
their hemispheres clicking, on seven legs
in toto. Together they make
a Sydney opera house,
a concatenation of anapests, almost a waltz.


Confined if not preserved,
schoolteachers, their charges, vigilant lemurs, wrens
and prestidigitating tamarins,
and dangerous badgers like dignitaries stare
at one another, hot
and concave in their inappropriate coats.

Having watched a boa
eat a rat alive,
the shortest child does as she was told?
looks up, holds the right hand
of the buddy system, and stands,
as she explains it, "still as a piece of pie."

Decompose: Of Immaterial Things

A hope of leaves and hollows,
a breaking nest, a crest of granite
and unquarried moss. It’s soft
wintering a shade between green
and gray. The hope of colors for
which there is no word develops and
then fades. Uncaptured and un-impressed
in a kind of precision in dissolution.
Or in silence and the desire to trespass
and hold where the roots’ incision splits. Some
inevitable gesture or quantity in monochrome
and grateful light. And still the distance
between tongue and sight contained
in each body and measured as a factor
of attempt. Approach. Carefully mantained
first to shimmer and then break at the horizon.
Where the eye seeks motion, a threshing up
or fluttering, or blurring of wings and leaves.