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Three Short Poems

A thank you to supporters of Curtis: Three poems that have been set by three Curtis alums. 

Then, Now

At first

      arms ache for having—

And now

      arms ache for letting go—


          Set by Ya-Jhu Yang, 5 Minahan Songs


All I Ever Think About

The nudging tide of why

(tumblers of polar ice, fistfuls of shale).


Empty nets; blight.

Stars alight in the too bright night.


Fisticuffs, keening,

on dry land.


Dawn breaks, even so, even so.

Tempest, calm, of us.


That small boat offshore,



          Set by Michael Djupstrom, Oars in Water


The Interpretation of Dreams

If I told you my dream

(the one on a boat);

if I told you how I read

your dream with a cello:

a new laugh

an old hush.


          Set by Jennifer Higdon, The SInging Rooms


Five Minahan Songs

Ya-Jhu Yang's evocative setting of five poems, recorded on stage at Curtis, featuring Ya-Jhu Yang, piano, Jean Kim, cello, and Dennis Chmelensky, baritone.

The Blue Dory - A Film/Poem

Balázs Böröcz and Miklós Váli created the stunning film/poem The Blue Dory.  For more of their work, check out the LINKS page. 


The Blue Dory


They anchored

the old dory

beside the painter’s studio

in a field of lupins

lavender, pink, rose, yellow, blue,

on a hill that calls out

each morning   each evening

to the sea.


We went there together.


That knowledge

is the catch in my throat

which stutters now

like an oar caught in an oarlock.

Sometimes you make a circle

with your oar in the air

before you find the water.

Sometimes you gasp

but cannot breathe.

Sometimes you’re the dory

or the heaving heart within it,


Sometimes, now,

you’re the sea.

The Singing Rooms Preview

In this preview, soloist Jennifer Koh, New York Choral Society music director David Hayes, and composer Jennifer Higdon speak about the creation of The Singing Rooms and its New York premiere at Carnegie Hall last April. 

Last Letter

Rene Orth's setting of "The Courier's Last Letter" premiered in Philadelphia, March 31, 2014.  Soprano Elena Perroni performed with the Curtis Chamber Orchestra conducted by Kensho Watanabe. As you will see in this link, the piece features haunting, intermittent video as well.


The Courier’s Last Letter

I know you can’t find me. Look. Look. No more.

I am the envelope torn open, ripped,

window-flung, on the side of the road. Too dead

for the Dead Letter Office. Underground. Unread.


I wanted to arrive intact. No more

mishandling. Earn a bundle—carry a stash.

Find you a room with a door, mailbox, a house.

A yard with no needles, a lawn, green grass.


So much is harmless. We all need money.

One customer, one route, one haul, they said.

Pony express. But the shipment’s not free.

Ink smells of blood. Now God must deliver me.


They said it was just like carrying the mail.

Write to me: I was my own last letter.

Rain Out at Sea

I. What It Would Be: To See You Never 

II. A Tale

Once upon a time

there was a man and a woman

but it’s all downhill after that.

You put a potato in a sauce too salty—

What goes in a tale too sad,

too full of tears?


Poem by Jeanne Minahan 

Music by Ya-Jhu Yang

Sarah Shafer, soprano

Rebecca Anderson, violin 

Field Concert Hall, Curtis Institute of Music, Philadelphia. Ya-Jhu set six of my poems in her piece Rain Out at Sea.  You can read the complete setting in Poems - Sequence Settings. Painter Imogen Schilling created the installation behind the performers. 

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