Poems Spoken by the Author



Readers of my poetry, attendees at talks about and recitations of it, friends, and family have suggested for years that I record at least a selection from the volumes published so far: Gathered from the Wild: Poems of a Wanderer, The Poetry of Earth, and Natural Gifts. In addition I believe that good poems only reveal their full expression if spoken aloud. So this selection, Natural Voice, responds to these desires and will I hope whet listeners’ appetites for more of my poetry by including new verse from a fourth book nearing publication, Illuminations. In effect this compact disc offers a generous sample of my work to date. Listeners who use texts from the books to follow these recordings will notice that small changes have been made here and there. In this way I’ve taken the opportunity to incorporate revisions which would otherwise have to wait for revised or second editions of the published volumes.
As in the short introductory notes to the books, let me mention here for the sake of new listeners that the mountain range called Shawangunk is spelled Shongum sometimes and often pronounced SHONG-gum locally. I have always used this two-syllable form in my poems. It’s concise and – in the term Shongum grits, localspeak for the proper geologic mouthful, Shawangunk conglomerates, naming the ancient crown rocks of the range – rings with genuine toughness, like the work
song of gypsy craftsmen in Verdi’s “Anvil Chorus” from Il Trovatore.
When I retired from the opera and concert stages in 1996, I knew that I was not done with song. The singing line I’d long cultivated offstage in sonnets, ballads, and other rhymed and unrhymed forms would fill my free time, I assumed. And how. As a country person returning for good to rural life, I did not lack stimulation and inspiration from the natural world I called my muse. Further, as one whose soul mate shared passions for gardening, foraging, botanizing, wild woodcraft, and other skills demanding leisure and muscle, I soon realized that I had no free time. The compensation, the more I’ve adopted these older ways of living from the land, has been a sharper poetic focus not merely on making sense of Nature, but on my place in it. A serious occupation indeed.
Yet no sooner do I write these words than I recall, for instance, serendipitous and even amusing moments that eventually led to “Wild Apples,” “Juneberrying,” or “A Flower for All Gardens .” Poetic credos come and go, in short, and I wouldn’t want to be consigned to one fixed formula. But I hope any approach to poetry, for all its proper seriousness, wouldn’t rule out a twinkle in the poet’s eye. In fact, I’d say some of the best poems exude that delicious sense of serious fun. Or, as I’ve often expressed it in poetry talks:
In making sense of life on Mother Earth,
I use in part the ways of song and mirth.
Roger Roloff, April 2008
ROGER ROLOFF narrowly avoided a career in academia by taking a chance on his first love, singing, which became his profession. For 21 years on major stages worldwide, he made his living as a baritone in leading opera roles – mainly German and Italian – and concert parts. Meanwhile, his academic training was put to good use in refining poetic skills he used offstage – though these, like his singing voice, were apparent at an early age. Wagner’s shoemaker, poet Hans Sachs in Die Meistersinger was probably his favorite role, but villains such as Scarpia and Iago helped him pay the bills and were in their ways enjoyable, too. New Paltz, New York has been the real life home that he and his wife, musicologist Barbara Petersen, have shared for more than two decades. There they indulge their interests in and careful use of Nature year-round, like thrifty homesteaders of an earlier day.


The Open Road

Laundry Day

To a Fellow Gardener

The Long Views

Wild Apples

Beyond the Grave

Shongum Gift

The Maples in a Drought Year

A Rattler Speaks Its Mind

The Climber


A Woodcutter's Prayer of Thanks

Winter Tulips

The Secret Pond

Organic Matter

The Ice-Cold Boiling Spring

The Silent Harvest

Made from Compost

Reaping What a Mountain Sows

An Unclimbed Mountain

To an Old, Dear Friend

Firefly Hours

A Persistent Thought

My Winter Guest

Autumn Witchcraft

Plum Blossom Time

Forever Open

Crossing a Covered Bridge

Keeping a Sixth Sense

Time Travel

October Light

Love's Labor

January Caprice

Going for Gaywings

A Song for Songbirds

Out-of-Season Favors

October Daybreak

Autumn Farewell

A Flower for All Gardens

MSR Classics