Local Poet Extols Belmont’s Spirit of Place

When poet, writer and editor Elizabeth Spencer Spragins of Fredericksburg travels the globe, her antennae are tuned to sacred echoes in the natural and manmade world, the consequences of which are the very personal and lyrical Celtic verse forms that spring from her fertile mind. Her poetry is so sparing and yet so rich with imagery that it takes more words to define what a bardic verse is than what it takes for her to construct one. Belmont, Gari Melchers Home and Studio, has inspired evocative poems which appear in two of her latest publications, The Language of Bones; American Journeys Through Bardic Verse and With No Bridle for the Breeze, both published in 2019.

Upon learning of the discovery of dinosaur prints in the garden paving stones at Belmont,  Spragins composed Thunder Lizards, written in a class of bardic verse from the 14th-century Welsh poetic form called a Cyhydedd Hir:

Thunder Lizards

Winter solstice burns                                                                                                                            Rocks among the ferns.                                                                                                                          Canny eye discerns                                                                                                                                A print unknown.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      As the day unseams,                                                                                                                              Reptiles rove my dreams                                                                                                                      Olden jungle teems                                                                                                                                With beasts that hone

Tooth and claw on fright.                                                                                                                      Sunset slants the light;                                                                                                                          Phantoms fade from sight                                                                                                                    In search of bone,

Children run unshod,                                                                                                                            Armed with goldenrod-                                                                                                                        Thunder lizards trod                                                                                                                              Upon this stone.

The poems in With No Bridle for the Breeze are based on the tanka form, which originated in seventh-century Japan. Tanka are defined as untitled five-line poems that pivot on the third line, and they typically have syllable counts of 5-7-5-7-7 or less. The pivot line concludes an “upper poem” and also begins a “lower poem.” Tanka usually contain no capitalization, and punctuation is limited to an occasional dash. This collection breaks with tradition by including a title for each poem.

Gari Melchers’ Studio at Belmont, still lovingly preserved with a fine collection of the artist’s paintings, furnishings and tools, inspired elegant lines that, despite the temporal vacancy of the room, evoke the lingering presence of the famous painter and the daydreams of the poet:

The Vacant Studio

the spattered sill sags                                                                                                                            beneath a box of brushes-                                                                                                                    heart of pine splinters                                                                                                                            into so many colors                                                                                                                                in the darkness of my dreams.

Spragins has memorialized many other familiar local sites, such as Fairview Beach, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, Chatham, Appomattox Courthouse, the Rappahannock River and much further afield!

Check out her beautiful books of poetry!


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