Debbie Allen, Frances Fisher and Daphne Zuniga read the work of Peggy Freydberg
At an age when most people still breathing are deep into retirement, Peggy Freydberg started writing poetry. She’d already published five novels and penned a memoir, “Growing Up in Old Age,” at 80. At 90, no longer feeling equal to long-form challenges, she re-channeled her creativity into verse.
This Sunday, in a fitting start to National Poetry Month, actresses Debbie Allen, Frances Fisher and Daphne Zuniga read from “Poems from the Pond: 107 Years of Words and Wisdom,” a collection published shortly after Freydberg’s death in 2015 at age 107.
“The Pond” was Stonewall Pond, adjacent to Freydberg’s house in Martha’s Vineyard, where she’d moved with second husband Nicholas Freydberg in 1968. (She outlived him, as she had her first husband, a literary talent scout with whom she lived in 1920s Paris.) Speaking with the Vineyard Gazette in 2003, she described writing as “an absolute need … to express myself and express experience.”
Imbued with empathy and wonder at nature, Freydberg’s poems sometimes suggest a cultured woman un-bottling herself after decades of being known chiefly for her beauty.
“Call Me But Love and I’ll Be New Baptized” recounts an early moment in her affectionate relationship with her second husband: “Then all at once,/ Instead of body, I was fountain./ I was not woman,/ I was water with another name./ With perfect, innate delirium,/ I was a torrent/ sparkling from the earth/ up to the sky.”
In “Chorus of Cells,” making a bed becomes an affirmation of life, as elderly “hands that trust beginnings” smooth away “dreams disclosed by tangled sheets.”
As Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Geraldine Brooks wrote, Freydberg’s poetry “proves that there is no date stamp on creativity: Our masterpieces may be yet to come.”
— Bliss Bowen
Readings from “Poems from the Pond” begin at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, April 2, at The Broad Stage, 1310 11th St., Santa Monica. Tickets are $50 to $75. Call (310) 434-3200 or visit thebroadstage.com.