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Joanne Corey ’82

Alumnae Poet


Joanne Corey ’82 re-discovered her childhood love of writing poetry in her fifties, although she wonders if she would have written in her Smith days if the Boutelle-Day Poetry Center had existed then. Her first chapbook, Hearts (Kelsay Books, 2023), centers on her mother, concentrating on her final years living with heart failure. She currently lives in Vestal, New York, where she participates with the Binghamton Poetry Project, Broome County Arts Council, Tioga Arts Council, and Grapevine Poets. With the Boiler House Poets Collective, she has completed an (almost) annual residency week at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams since 2015. She invites you to visit her eclectic blog.

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Lessons from Mahler

In Sage Hall 5 at Smith, spring 1980, our music theory professor places the needle on the final band of the album of Mahler’s Rückert-Lieder. The voice of mezzosoprano Janet Baker emerges from the orchestra:

Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen...

I am lost to the world...

She weaves her way among the delicately orchestrated lines, answers the English horn, sings of how the world may think she is dead because she has set aside its tumult to rest in a quiet place. In serenity:

Ich leb’ allein in meinem Himmel,

In meinem Lieben, in meinem Lied.

I live alone in my heaven,

in my love, in my song.

As the English horn resolves a suspension at the final cadence, I look up from my score to see our professor weeping.

Analysis of

chromatic chords failed that day.

Tears taught me Mahler.

- This haibun first appeared in a slightly different form as part of the WHEN I HEAR THAT SONG series from Silver Birch Press.