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This is part two of a three-part series on nature and poetry by guest Daniel Roessler. If you’d like the opportunity to be a guest on this blog, send your ideas (and a little about yourself) to email@example.com.
In my first post of this series, we investigated how to freshen up nature themes in our poetry by focusing on the changing role of nature in our lives and world. Another way to bring a unique perspective to our nature poems is by considering parallels with human, social and urban themes.
For example, have you ever had a boss who slithered into your office like a snake and spewed venom your way? Okay, maybe that example isn’t the most pleasant, but it gets the point across that nature offers great material for us to compare with other aspects of our life experiences.
Nature and Human Emotion
One of the most obvious examples is human emotion. Who hasn’t felt the joy of a sunny day warming their heart? Or been angry and lashed out with the fury of a thunderstorm? Or after a long week at work felt as free as an eagle soaring across a cloudless sky when quitting time arrives on Friday?
Even if we haven’t felt these specific things ourselves, we can still see how they make sense. While these may be simplistic examples, they highlight the point that many elements of nature are easily relatable on a basic human emotional level.
Nature and Social Interaction
This is also true of how we as humans relate to one another in social interactions. For example, we might describe a schoolyard bully as a tiger stalking his prey. Or we may compare a parent’s love to fertile soil that allows a child to take root and grow like a Redwood.
The possibilities are endless and our relationships with others often mimic connections that occur in nature.
Nature and Urban Themes
In a similar vein, urban themes can bring distinct elements to our nature poems. Maybe we liken a salmon swimming upstream to a man racing against the flow of sidewalk traffic in New York City. Rather than a simple comparison, we might even consider writing a poem with a back and forth exchange between an urban component and the natural environment.
For instance, we might live in a small studio apartment that has no windows, which we describe in one quatrain, then depict a natural cavern in the next, and so on. This method allows our readers to alternate between an urban and nature world, empowering and compelling them to draw the comparisons and contrasts themselves.
We have discussed a few methods and examples here but there are many more. Nature topics are not limited to natural resources but also include topics like weather, wild animals, etc. The wonderful thing about nature is that it is a tremendously broad canvas.
However, bringing human, social and urban themes into our nature poems can infinitely expand the boundaries of our work to create something wonderfully unique.
Daniel Roessler is an author and poet who recently placed 4th in our Writers Digest SIJO competition with “Drowning” and 5th in our Triversen competition with “The Eulogy”. He is also the author of one non-fiction book, seeking representation for his recently completed novel, and has two poetry chapbooks in progress. For more information on Daniel, visit his website at www.danielroessler.com.
First off, the final results are not yet finalized for all the days. That’s my fault. While I secured guest judges, I alone took on the burden of whittling down each day’s poems to a short list. Next year, I plan to recruit a team of readers to help with that narrowing.
That said, I do have some final results to share and will update as the rest of the results are returned. I’m going to hold off on sharing Top 10 lists for days that still don’t have a winner–since I want the guest judging to be completely blind.
Here are the April PAD Challenge results for each day:
The winner is highlighted; the top 10 is in no particular order; an asterisk (*) denotes a poem that “almost” won. If you notice any errors (including your byline), please send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org to get it corrected as soon as possible.
“cathedra,” by Barton Smock
“Learning Italian,” by emmaisanOwl
“When your domesticated coyote,” by Lara Eckener
“Movement Through Spacetime,” by Sara Doyle
“Taking My Time,” by Cati Porter
“I cannot begin to tell you,” by Taylor Mali
“The Truth Itself Takes Care to Make Eyes,” by LGordon
“In Diminuendo,” by Richard Fenwick
“Restoring Beauty,” by James Von Hendy
“Thorn Bones,” by Taylor Graham
Day 2: Prompt: Voyage Poem Guest Judge: Neil Aitken
“sedoka,” by StewartC Baker
“Canada Geese,” by TheFlawlessWord
“Riding the ATV to the Mailbox in Early Spring,” by Kit Cooley
“Midnight Voyage,” by Margie Fuston
“as if the windshield wipers,” by alotus_poetry
“Progress Takes Its Own Voyage,” by Barb Peters
“Georgia O’Keefe Hitches a Ride to Abiquiu,” by susanjer
“Here I Am Holding,” by iris dunkle
“The Journey,” by ehorowitz
“Between Neverland and Oz,” by Walt Wojtanik
Day 3: Prompt: Message Poem Guest Judge: Shaindel Beers
“Belle Boyd, Confederate spy, imagines a letter from her Shadow Sister, by Kathryn Stripling Byer
“Message,” by Eleanore D. Trupkiewicz
“Wish You Were Here,” by shethra77
“Large Puddle in the Street…,” by Hannah Gosselin
“The Post,” by Sara Doyle
“for violet,” by brandon speck
“Sticky Note,” by James Brush
“Tell Me Again How Family Is So Important,” by Kelly Ramsdell Fineman
“When Smoke Gets In Your Eyes,” by Kimiko Martinez
“Written in the Wind,” by Emma Hine
Day 4: Prompt: “Since (blank)” Poem Guest Judge: Vince Gotera
“Since I Am Taking a Break From Facebook,” by k weber
“Since October,” by Richard Fenwick*
“since you left,” by drwasy
“since the last time i heard your voice,” by Fatima Hirsi
“Since I Gave Myself Permission,” by Elizabeth Weaver-Kreider
“Since the pear I for days let ripen,” by Genevieve Fitzgerald
“Since you split my lip,” by PKP
“Since My Poems Broke Up With Me,” by Jacqueline Hallenbeck
“Since the Last Snow,” by Bruce Niedt
“Since Fukushima,” by Tracy Davidson
Day 5: Prompt: Discover Something Poem Guest Judge: Patricia Fargnoli
“Hubris,” by Sharon Fagan McDermott
“Discovery,” by Carol J Carpenter
“Xox,” by hohlwein
“The End of Things Before They Begin,” by David Walker
“Divinum Mysterium,” by Jane Shlensky
“An entomologist after an apocalypse,” by amaranthe
“Attempt #4, Saturday morning,” by Taylor Emily Copeland
“Agate Tides,” by Mokosh28
“Found Alive (Berlin 1945),” by dianemdavis
“Discovery in the Woods,” by Bucky Ignatius
Day 6: Prompt: Night Poem Guest Judge: Andrew Hudgins
“how to live in the country dark,” by Barton Smock
“Summer Night,” by mimzy13
“523.4,” by ina
“We Are Brighter in the Dark,” by Lydia Flores
“Night,” by Elizabeth Weaver-Kreider
“Of the Night,” by Mark Windham
“Sea Monkeys Have an Expiration Date,” by iris dunkle
“Moon Monologue,” by David Walker
“Night of the Sea Monkeys,” by Taylor Graham
“Good Night,” by William Preston
Day 7: Prompt: Self-Portrait Poem Guest Judge: January Gill O’Neil
“Self-Portrait as the State of Minnesota,” by susanjer
“A Look Inside,” by Scott Jacobson
“In the Louvre with Rembrandt’s Selfie,” by Margie Fuston
“Self-Portrait,” by Linda G Hatton
“My eyes are sunflowers,” by P.A. Beyer
“Self-Portrait,” by Cameron Steele
“April Self Portrait,” by Eileen Moeller
“Self Portrait,” by Roderick Bates
“51,” by Brian Slusher
“I Am a Crazy Quilt,” by Linda Voit
Day 8: Prompt: Violent and/or Peaceful Poem Guest Judge: Tom C. Hunley
“A Taste for Pain,” by Yerma Skyflower
“To the Woman Who Called at 7:15 AM to Break Up With Her Man,” by pamelaraw
“The Threat of Butterflies,” by Mokosh28
“The Prisoner’s Dilemma,” by P.A. Beyer
“Broken,” by iris dunkle
“Under A Box of Matches,” by flood
“My Father Kicked Dogs,” by Courtney O’Banion Smith
“This time, he didn’t make it home,” by Kendall A. Bell
“Unreported,” by Taylor Emily Copeland
“Papers on Top of More Papers,” by Bruce Niedt
Day 9: Prompt: Shelter Poem Guest Judge: Kelli Russell Agodon
“Shelter,” by Cameron Steele
“Home Before the Tornado Hits,” by drwasy*
“Ocean’s Voice,” by LCaramanna
“The Niche,” by Linda Hatton
“Shelter,” by Roderick Bates
“Surviving the Storm,” by cam45237
“Thin Shelters,” by carolecole66
“Snow Globe,” by beale.alexis
“Sonnet for the Family Living in Their Car,” by C. Lynn Shaffer
“House,” by donaldillich
Day 10: Prompt: Future Poem Guest Judge: Nate Pritts
“What Comes,” by alana sherman
“Intrada,” by Khara House
“To shame the orphan,” by J. Lynn Sheridan
“An Affair in Chicago,” by hwerther
“Uneasy Laughter After Dessert,” by Linda Voit
“Futuro,” by Patrick J. Walsh
“Woman Hollering Creek,” by Kathryn Stripling Byer
“kenning,” by Barton Smock
“The Future Without Me,” by C. Lynn Shaffer
“An Unfinished Sentence,” by AleathiaD
Day 11: Prompt: Make Statement Title of Poem Guest Judge: Joseph Mills
Results to come.
Day 12: Prompt: City Poem Guest Judge: Victoria Chang
Results to come.
Day 13: Prompt: Animal Poem Guest Judge: Daniel Nester
Results to come.
Day 14: Prompt: “If I Were (blank)” Poem Guest Judge: Jericho Brown
Results to come.
Day 15: Prompt: Love and/or Anti-Love Poem Guest Judge: Barbara Hamby
Results to come.
Get your poetry published!
Use the best all-around print publication on the planet for publishing your poetry, the 2014 Poet’s Market, edited by Robert Lee Brewer. This annual book includes hundreds of listings for book publishers, magazines, contests, and more! Plus, there are articles on the craft, business, and promotion of poetry, poet interviews, poetic forms explained, and new poems!
At the moment, this book can be had for more than 70% off retail in the Writer’s Digest Shop for only $7.99!
Day 17: Prompt: Pop Culture Poem Guest Judge: Mary Biddinger
Results to come.
Day 18: Prompt: Weather Poem Guest Judge: Nin Andrews
Results to come.
Day 19: Prompt: Pick Color, Make Title of Poem Guest Judge: Thomas Lux
“Aubergine,” by Sara Doyle
“Violet,” by Julie Germain
“Orange,” by Brian Slusher
“Prussian Blue,” by Joanne M. Clarkson
“Vermilion,” by Jerry Walraven
“White,” by G. Smith
“Yellow,” by susanjer
“Burnt Umber,” by Eibhlin
“Mandarin Orange,” by pamela raw
“Gray Matter,” by James Von Hendy
Day 20: Prompt: Family Poem Guest Judge: Scott Owens
Results to come.
Day 21: Prompt: Back to Basics Poem Guest Judge: Deborah Ager
Results to come.
Day 22: Prompt: Optimistic and/or Pessimistic Poem Guest Judge: Lawrence Schimel
Results to come.
Day 23: Prompt: Location Poem Guest Judge: Erika Meitner
Results to come.
Day 24: Prompt: “Tell It to the (blank)” Poem Guest Judge: Kristina Marie Darling
Results to come.
Day 25: Prompt: The Last Straw Poem Guest Judge: Erica Wright
Results to come.
Day 26: Prompt: Water Poem Guest Judge: Amy King
“Fair Enough,” by k weber
“Ice,” by uneven steven*
“Housewife,” by Amy
“Seasick,” by Dana A. Campbell
“Swamp Water,” by Daniel Roessler
“Thirst,” by De Jackson
“Memento Mori,” by carolecole66
“Water,” by Daniel Paicopulos
“One Hydrogen, Two Oxygen,” by Phil Boiarski
“Dirty laundry needs to soak,” by Kimmy Sophia
Day 27: Prompt: Monster Poem Guest Judge: Jeannine Hall Gailey
Results to come.
Day 28: Prompt: Settled Poem Guest Judge: Sandra Beasley
Results to come.
Day 29: Prompt: Realist and/or Magical Poem Guest Judge: Adam Fitzgerald
Results to come.
Day 30: Prompt: Calling It a Day Poem Guest Judge: Jillian Weise
Results to come.
Whew! I know the results are still coming in, but the poets who’ve made those top 10 lists should be extremely happy with their work. I read through more than 21,000 comments and 5,600 pages of poems and encouragement.
Only 300 of those made the top 10 lists–or less than 1.4%. In other words, around 1 poem for every 100 comments. That’s crazy!
To be named winner, of course, is barely one-tenth of one percent.
In other words, people who made the lists above should be happy-happy-happy. Poets who didn’t make the lists should still feel happy as well. Beyond the subjectivity of the judges (especially me), there’s just the sheer numbers.
Many great poems made it past the first cut only to be trimmed before the top 10 lists were finalized. And well, the goal of this challenge isn’t making a list or being named winner: It’s to create 30 new poems!
Congratulations to everyone who participated and worked toward the goal of creating new poems!
As many poets who’ve participated in the April PAD Challenge in the past know, I like to hand out a few extra awards, including the Poet Laureate of the Poetic Asides blog. So let’s start with that…
This year’s Poetic Asides Poet Laureate is the first ever repeat laureate. That’s right, William Preston has been named to his second consecutive term as the Poetic Asides Poet Laureate. He’s not only a wonderful poet, but he’s a constant source of inspiration and encouragement in April and throughout the year. In fact, he was still commenting on April poems well into May after the dust had settled on the challenge.
I want to award a Top April Poet award (separate of the Poet Laureate honor), but there are a few that seem to be leading the pack. So I’m going to wait for the final results to all make it in before naming one (or maybe even a tie).
Look for updates over the next couple weeks, and I’ll be sure to publish a notification post when everything is set in stone.
Poem Your Heart Out
Poems, Prompts & Room to Add Your Own for the 2014 April PAD Challenge!
Words Dance Publishing is offering 20% off pre-orders for the Poem Your Heart Out anthology until August 1st! If you’d like to learn a bit more about our vision for the book, when it will be published, among other details.
Robert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and author of Solving the World’s Problems. Every day, he was amazed at the talent, creativity, and energy poets brought to the table in April. Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.
The late Chilean writer Roberto Bolaño is of course best-known as a novelist, the author of ambitious, sprawling novels like The Savage Detectives and 2666. But before turning to prose, Bolaño started out as a poet; in fact, he often said he valued poetry more highly than fiction and sometimes claimed he was a better poet than novelist. His work is marked by a deep and abiding fascination with poetry and the people who write, read, and teach it. As Ben Ehrenreich wrote several years ago in an essay for the Poetry Foundation, “through his legions of fictional poets (some more fictional than others), through their political compromises, their self-betrayals, their struggles and feuds both petty and grand, Bolaño built a world.”
Ehrenreich is surely right about the importance of poetry, and fictional poets, to Bolaño’s oeuvre, but the critical discussion of this element of Bolaño’s work thus far has mostly remained on a general plane, instead of connecting his writing to particular poets and poetry movements. However, with the recent publication of his unfinished novel Woes of the True Policeman and of his complete poetry in TheUnknown University, Bolaño’s rather surprising links to a specific poetry movement — the New York School of poetry — have come into sharper focus.
It is common for readers to link Bolaño to Latin American and Spanish literary influences, to European avant-garde movements, or to other fiction writers. But Bolaño clearly read and absorbed the New York School of poetry and painting, along with a truly astonishing range of other sources. Although commentators on his work have barely mentioned it thus far, the New York School plays an important role in his work. It flickers just on the margins of Bolaño’s fictional universe, a ghostly example of the kind of poetry — as well as the type of intimate avant-garde community of like-minded others — that continually beckons and frustrates Bolaño and his characters.
Bolaño’s preoccupation with poetry can perhaps be seen best in his wonderful novel The Savage Detectives, which is actually a novel about poets. At its heart is a semi-fictional movement of young poets Bolaño calls the “Visceral Realists” (loosely based upon his own youthful involvement in a coterie called the Infrarealists). Throughout the remarkable opening section of the novel, this group — with all of its subversive energy, its iconoclasm and playfulness, its goofy, idealistic naivete, romanticism, and tragic flaws — reminds one of a host of other avant-garde communities, including the Surrealists, the Beats, and the New York School.
But it is more than just a novel about poets. The Savage Detectives is a moving meditation on poetry as a horizon of possibility and disillusionment. In fact, it’s one of the most exhilarating, devastating, exhausting, and revealing accounts of avant-garde poetry — and the movements and social worlds that sustain it — that I have encountered. It portrays the avant-garde as dream, as tragedy, as farce, as inspiring coterie and impossible community, tantalizing potential and heart-breaking, inevitable failure. In this, Bolaño echoes one of the hallmarks of the New York School itself: an intense, often ironic awareness of the paradoxes inherent in any avant-garde community, both its allure and its limitations.
Larry Rivers, “The Athlete’s Dream” (1956) Source: Luna Commons
However, The Savage Detectives contains few direct references to the New York poets themselves (except for a passing reference to poets Ted Berrigan and John Giorno). Traces of the New York School stand out more prominently in the recently published book Woes of the True Policeman, one of the many (and perhaps the last) of Bolaño’s posthumous works that have appeared in recent years. At the novel’s center is a Chilean university professor named Óscar Amalfitano who falls in love with a young Mexican artist whose specialty is making forgeries of paintings by … Larry Rivers, of all people. Rivers, of course, was Frank O’Hara’s close friend, collaborator, and sometime lover, and the painter who is perhaps most closely allied, both socially and aesthetically, with the New York poets. This unusual detail — and the figure of Rivers himself — becomes a significant thread in Bolaño’s novel. The young artist, Castillo, explains that he sells the forgeries to a Texan who “then sells them to other filthy rich Texans.” When Castillo informs Amalfitano that Rivers is “an artist from New York,” he replies “I know Larry Rivers. I know Frank O’Hara, so I know Larry Rivers.”
Soon after, as Amalfitano meditates on the strangeness of this situation — the amateurish Rivers’ forgeries, the Texans who buy them, and the art market in New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas — Bolaño writes:
“he immediately pictured those fake Berdies, those fake camels, and those extremely fake Primo Levis (some of the faces undeniably Mexican) in the private salons and galleries, the living rooms and libraries of modestly prosperous citizens… And then he imagined himself strolling around Castillo’s nearly empty studio, naked like Frank O’Hara, a cup of coffee in his right hand and a whiskey in his left, his heart untroubled, at peace with himself, moving trustingly into the arms of his new lover” (58).
Near the end of the book, the Rivers plot culminates with a strange and funny anecdote about running into Larry Rivers himself at an exhibition of his work.
The novel also features an amusing collection of Amalfitano’s “Notes for a Class in Contemporary Literature: The Role of the Poet.” This takes the form of an almost Buzzfeed-ready list that consists of items like “Happiest: Garcia Lorca,” “Banker of the soul: T.S. Eliot,” and “Strangest wrinkles: Auden.” Among other names cited in this rather crazy, irreverent list, one finds several important figures of the New York School – Frank O’Hara, Ted Berrigan, and Diane Di Prima — getting top honors in some strange categories: “Biggest cock: Frank O’Hara,” “Best movie companion: Elizabeth Bishop, Berrigan, Ted Hughes, José Emilio Pacheco,” and under “Biggest nervous wreck: Diane Di Prima”.
Signs of Bolaño’s interest in poets of the New York School can be found elsewhere across the body of his work, as when Frank O’Hara pops up in a short story collected in Last Evenings on Earth in which two poets meet, share poems with one another, and discuss their influences: “We talked a while longer, about Sanguinetti and Frank O’Hara (I still like Frank O’Hara but I haven’t read Sanguinetti for ages).” In the newly published collection of his complete poetry, The Unknown University, Bolaño’s connection to O’Hara is considerably more substantial. He not only uses a passage by Frank O’Hara as an epigraph to a poem, but the (untitled) poem itself closely echoes O’Hara’s work:
I listen to Barney Kessel
and smoke smoke smoke and drink tea
and try to make myself some toast
with butter and jam
but discover I have no bread and
it’s already twelve thirty at night
and the only thing to eat
is a nearly full bottle
of chicken broth bought this
morning and five eggs and a little
muscatel and Barney Kessel plays
guitar stuck between a
rock and an open socket
I think I’ll make some consommé and
then get into bed
to re-read The Invention of Morel
and think about a blond girl
until I fall asleep and
(translated by Laura Healey)
With its “I do this, I do that” narrative conjuring up an ordinary but melancholy-tinged everyday moment, its references to listening to music, and jazz at that (Barney Kessel), its intimate and conversational tone, its lack of punctuation and its headlong rush, Bolaño’s poem seems to intentionally evoke O’Hara’s signature style.
In another poem in The Unknown University, Bolaño chronicles his experience of reading Ted Berrigan’s 1963 book The Sonnets.
16 years ago Ted Berrigan published
his Sonnets. Mario passed the book around
the leprosaria of Paris. Now Mario
is in Mexico and The Sonnets on
a bookshelf I built with my own
hands. I think I found the wood
near Montealegre nursing home
and I built the shelf with Lola. In
the winter of ’78, in Barcelona, when
I still lived with Lola! And now it’s been 16 years
since Ted Berrigan published his book
and maybe 17 or 18 since he wrote it
and some mornings, some afternoons,
lost in a local theatre I try reading it,
when the film ends and they turn on the light.
(translated by Laura Healey)
The poem portrays the speaker’s formative encounter with Berrigan’s ground-breaking collection of experimental sonnets, but also hints at the frustrations or limitations of his exposure to it: the “lost” speaker, who may also have recently lost his lover (Lola), merely tries to read the book. He seems to long for the energy he seems convinced Berrigan must have had so many years ago when he wrote those poems. The poem also underscores both the cosmopolitan nature of Bolaño’s imagination and the international reach of the New York School of poets. Berrigan’s book The Sonnets, like this sonnet itself, crosses time and space, speaking across 16 years, and sliding across boundaries and nationalities: written in New York, circulated around Paris by a Latin American poet who is now in Mexico, read by a young 26 year old Chilean poet in a movie theater in Barcelona.
Bolaño of course read voraciously, immersing himself fully in a wide range of 20th century avant-garde writing and art, but as the final pieces of his work appear in translation, it has become clearer than ever that he seems to have had a special connection to a poetry movement that sprouted from a place far from Santiago, Mexico City, Barcelona, and other key points in his own geography — the world of Frank O’Hara, Larry Rivers, Ted Berrigan, and other New York poets.
Poetry — especially the kind of poetry the New York School produced, and even more so, embodied, in its example and its ambivalent attitudes about community — seemed to exemplify Bolaño’s guiding belief about art in general: that it always promises us shimmering possibilities and perpetual disappointment at the same time.
, I ask a simple question: what’s more important / writing a poem / or building a bridge…
At least, the question starts off simple enough, but then it continues to spiral out into giving thanks, stocking chairs, delivering chairs, managing systems, and so on. But there are times when I waste time worrying about which really is more important. There are times when I wonder, “What am I doing here?”
Here being writing poems and devoting a tremendous amount of time and energy to a poetry blog. After all, there’s not a lot of money in writing poetry–even for a publisher like Writer’s Digest Books. But there’s more to measuring value than dollars and cents, isn’t there?
Why Am I Saying Any of This?
Every so often, there’s some kind of “death or uselessness of poetry” post or article that runs all viral on the Internet. So I’ve been meaning to write a post on why I think there’s value in poetry for a long while, but it was still simmering in me until I received this message on Facebook from Aleathia Drehmer, a poetry advocate who lives in New York:
I just wanted to say thank you for everything you do with the PAD challenges. The one in November helped me get over the death of my cousin and brought me back to writing after a year of near silence. This challenge is helping me get over the death of my mother. She passed in January and this is her birth month.
I actually don’t care if I ever get published again. Life has taken on a new meaning now and I honestly am getting back to the roots of writing when I was a little girl. Just writing because my heart says so, because it is a way I can communicate my little slice of the world with my dad and any friends that care to read.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for giving me back something I had lost and thought I would not find again. Grief can be a great eraser sometimes. I’m just glad it hasn’t erased me yet.
Have a great day.
Aleathia is not the first person to send me a message like this, and I know she won’t be the last. But for me, this displays exactly what the value of poetry is, and it’s something more important and primal than shelf space at a brick-and-mortar bookstore or an online sales ranking.
Poetry is something deeply human.
What Does Poetry Mean to My Life?
Anyone who’s read this blog for a significant period of time knows that I’m not afraid to get personal, but let me get really personal. Poetry has helped me get into relationships, deal with break ups, absorb deaths, and other feelings. For instance, I was sexually abused over the course of two years as a child, and poetry helped me unbottle all those emotions and feelings that I had bottled up from that period of my life.
In college, I went so crazy on poetry that I burned out on it. In fact, I’d convinced myself that I was a horrible poet and that I should just focus on fiction, a genre in which I was actually winning some awards (and money). So I kinda wrote some poetry, but mostly I didn’t. That part of me fell dormant, and I thought I’d never get it back.
Then, I separated from my wife and my uncle died, and I had these huge gaping holes in my soul. I tried running some of the emotions out of me, but what ultimately helped me conquer these developments was poetry. The act of writing poems helps me tap into parts of myself that often don’t make sense until they’re down on paper.
What Does Poetry Mean to YOU?
I’ve shared what poetry means to me. It’s helped me deal with anger, frustration, heartbreak, headache, hopelessness, isolation, depression, and more. It’s helped me be human. That’s the true value of poetry as far as I’m concerned. Everything else is icing.
What does poetry mean to you?
Robert Lee Brewer
Robert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and author of Solving the World’s Problems. In addition to editing Poet’s Market, he manages the Poetic Asides blog, writes a poetry column for Writer’s Digest magazine, edits a free weekly WritersMarket.com newsletter, and more. He’s married to poet Tammy Foster Brewer, who helps him keep track of their five little poets (four boys and one princess). He’s given up trying to figure out which is more important between writing a poem and building a chair; it’s really a chicken-egg argument, because both are necessary and valuable. Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer
Learn how to get your poetry published with the latest edition of Poet’s Market. It’s filled with articles on the craft and business of poetry. Plus, it contains hundreds of listings for book publishers, online and print publications, contests, and more!
Hip hop has influenced a generation of poets coming to prominence, poets I call “The Inheritors of Hip Hop.” Signaling how the music serves as a shared experience and inspiration, they mention performers and songs as well as anecdotes from the genre’s development and the artists’ lives, while epigraphs and titles quote songs. The influence of hip hop can be heard in the work of many poets including (but certainly not limited to): Kevin Coval, Erica Dawson, LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs, Matthew Dickman, Major Jackson, Terrance Hayes, Dorothea Lasky, John Murillo, Eugene Ostashevsky, D.A. Powell, Roger Reeves, and Michael Robbins.
In no particular order, here are my five favorite hip hop references in poetry:
(1) Kevin Young, “Expecting”
To capture the experience of first hearing his child’s heartbeat during a sonogram exam, Young develops a wildly inventive simile followed by metaphors borrowed from hip hop:
it is: faint, an echo, faster and further
away than mother’s, all beat box
and fuzzy feedback. You are like hearing
hip-hop for the first time–power
hijacked from the lamppost–all promise.
You couldn’t sound better, break-
dancer, my favorite song bumping
from a passing car. You’ve snuck
into the club underage and stayed!
(2) Rowan Ricardo Phillips, “Mappa Mundi”
Describing his hometown of the Bronx, Phillips combines Wu Tang Clan’s Raekwon’s verse in “Triumph,” “Aiyyo, that’s amazing gun-in-your-mouth talk,” and Samuel Coleridge’s “Frost at Midnight,” “the redbreast sit and sing”:
Whether red birds sit and sing from rooftops
Or rappers cypher deep into the night,
The gun-in-your-mouth talk of a ransomed
God, nature is a lapse in city life.
(3) Harryette Mullen, “Dim Lady”
Hip hop is nearly everywhere in Mullen’s earlier collection, Muse and Drudge, but my single favorite reference in her work to hip hop appears in “Dim Lady,” collected in Sleeping with the Dictionary. The prose poem rewrites and updates Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130. In the place of Shakespeare’s lines,
“I love to hear her speak, yet well I know / That music hath a far more pleasing sound,”
“I love to hear her rap, yet I’m aware that Muzak has a hipper beat.”
(The poem’s ending always makes me laugh, “And yet, by gosh, my scrumptious Twinkie has as much sex appeal for me as any lanky model or platinum movie idol who’s hyped beyond belief.”
(4) A. Van Jordan, “R&B”
A subgenre of poems about hip hop criticizes the music. A rare exception to the ignorance such work typically show (see, for instance, Tony Hoagland’s “Rap Music”), “R & B” offers a well-informed, thoughtful critique. “Listen long enough to the radio, and you’ll think / maybe C. Dolores Tucker was right,” the poem opens and an endnote reminds readers of Tucker’s significant contributions to the black civil rights movement.
(5) Michael Cirelli, “Dead Ass”
“I am not afraid of dope lyrics,” Michael Cirelli writes in “Dead Ass.” Several poems in Lobster with Ol’ Dirty Bastard retell moments from hip hop history. To describe teens grooving to the music, “Dead Ass” borrows from Oakland slang, “hyphy,” meaning “crazy” in a good sense, “hyphy / music makes their bodies dip up and down / like oil drills.” (My favorite line in the book, though, describes eighties pop, not hip hop, “We danced incestuously to Michael and Janet that night.”)
(6) Adrien Matejka, “Wheels of Steel”
“I got me two songs instead of eyes,” the poem opens then swaggering quotes five songs in twenty-seven lines.
How you’ve lived saying nothing
save the same words each day
is a kind of freedom or beauty.
Please, tell me I’m not lying to us.
David Caplan is Charles M. Weis Chair in English and Associate Director of Creative Writing at Ohio Wesleyan University. He is the author of Rhyme’s Challenge: Hip Hop, Poetry, and Contemporary Rhyming Culture. His previous books include Questions of Possibility: Contemporary Poetry and Poetic Form and the poetry collection In the World He Created According to His Will.
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Image credit: turntable spinning. Photo by Tengilorg, 2005. CC-BY-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
Whatever else we think of poets, we don’t tend to see them as heroes.
There are exceptions, of course – Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon famously won the Military Cross, and some three hundred years earlier, Sir Philip Sidney was praised for his dash and gallantry at the Battle of Zutphen; then there’s Keith Douglas from World War II, one of the few deserters ever to abandon his post to get into a battle, who was killed shortly after the D-Day invasion.
It’s not a long list, and those on it performed their acts of heroism in, so to speak, their time off. They were heroes who happened to be poets as well. Poetry, by and large, is a solitary craft: it’s not easy to perform acts of derring-do when you’re hunched on your own over a desk. The greatest battle most poets fight is the unequal struggle against a blank sheet of paper.
But there’s another sort of heroism that poets can achieve, in honour of their talent and their craft – the courage to stare death in the face, and to keep on writing, honestly and truthfully.
Vernon Scannell managed it. After months of illness, shuffling from room to room and from oxygen cylinder to oxygen cylinder, he gave up and took to his bed — often, in the sick and ailing, a sure sign that death is approaching. Instead, he started writing again, and produced Last Post, maybe the best volume of his life:
“There’s something valedictory in the way
My books gaze down on me from where they stand
In disciplined disorder and display
The same goodwill that wellwishers on land
Convey to troops who sail away to where
Great danger waits …”
A couple of months later, he was dead.
And now there’s Clive James. Poems like Sentenced to Life and Holding Court chart James’s progress towards what he calls “dropping off the twig” with clear-eyed courage. There’s sadness and regret, but not a shred of self-pity. Approaching death, he seems to say, brings its compensations:
“Once, I would not have noticed; nor have known
The name for Japanese anemones,
So pale, so frail. But now I catch the tone
Of leaves. No birds can touch down in the trees
Without my seeing them. I count the bees.”
The Daily Mirror, never far from the front of the pack in the race to find a crass and clumsy phrase, quotes James (inaccurately, as far as I can see) as saying that he has “lost his battle with cancer”. Not so.
We all, as one of Shakespeare’s less well known characters points out, owe God a death, and getting better from cancer can only ever put off the final reckoning. But facing it down, as Scannell did and as James is doing – sending back poems like dispatches from the last frontier any of us will ever cross – is the only battle we can win. Catching the tone of leaves as the world closes in is what a real poet does, and if it’s not heroism, then I don’t know what is.
Andrew Taylor is the author of ten books, including Walking Wounded: The Life and Poetry of Vernon Scanell, biographies of the Arabian traveller Charles Doughty and the 16th Century cartographer Gerard Mercator, as well as books on language, literature, poetry and, history. He studied English Literature at Oxford University and worked as a Fleet Street and BBC television journalist in London and the Middle East before returning to Britain in the 1990s to concentrate on his writing career.
Okay, today is the final day of the poeming part of this challenge. Beginning tomorrow (if not already), you’ll begin the process of revising and assembling a 10-20 page poetry chapbook manuscript. Click here to review the guidelines.
Here’s Violet’s prompt: Write a milk poem. This could be about the moo-juice kind of milk. Or it could explore milk metaphorically, as in the expression “milk of human kindness.” Of course it could also be about the act of milking something. And no, it doesn’t have to be nourishing.
Robert’s attempt at a Milk Poem:
“The Final Poem”
The final prompt, the final day,
and here I am milking the situation
as if tomorrow won’t come, as if
it won’t bring more prompts, more
poems, more lines to break.
Baca has devoted his post-prison life to writing and teaching others who are overcoming hardship. His themes include American Southwest barrios, addiction, injustice, education, community, love and beyond. He has conducted hundreds of writing workshops in prisons, community centers, libraries, and universities throughout the country.
Welcome April, month of poetry!
from Healing Earthquakes (1989)
If it does not feed the fire
of your creativity, then leave it.
If people and things do not
inspire your heart to dream,
then leave them.
If you are not crazily in love
and making a stupid fool of yourself,
then stop closer to the edge
of your heart and climb
where you’ve been forbidden to go.
Debts, accusations, assaults by enemies
go where the fire feeds you.
Turn your attention to the magic of whores,
grief, addicts and drunks, until you stumble upon
that shining halo surrounding your heart
that will allow you to violate every fear happily,
be where you’re not supposed to be,
the love of an angel who’s caught your blood on fire
again, who’s gulped all of you in one breath
to mix in her soul, to explode your brooding
and again, your words rush from the stones
like a river coursing down
from some motherly mountain source,
and if your life doesn’t spill forth
unabashedly, recklessly, randomly
pushing in wonder at life,
then change, leave, quit, silence the idle chatter
and do away with useless acquaintances
who have forgotten how to dream,
bitch rudely in your dark mood at the mediocrity
of scholars who meddle in whimsy for academic trifles–
let you be their object of scorn,
let you be their object of mockery,
let you be their chilling symbol
of what they never had the courage to do, to complete, to follow,
let you be the flaming faith that makes them shield their eyes
as you burn from all sides,
taking a harmless topic and making of it a burning galaxy
or shooting stars in the dark of their souls,
illuminating your sadness, your aching joy for life,
your famished insistence for God and all that is creative
to attend you as a witness to your struggle,
let the useless banter and quick pleasures
belong to others, the merchants, computer analysts
and government workers;
you haven’t been afraid
of rapture among thieves
bloody duels in drunken brawls,
the essence of your soul work
as poems rusted while you scratched
at your heart to see if it was a diamond
and not cheap pane of glass,
now, then, after returning form one more poet’s journey
in the heart of the bear, the teeth of the wolf,
the legs of the wild horse,
sense what your experience tells you,
your ears ringing with deception and lies and foul tastes,
now that your memory is riddled with blank loss,
tyrants who wielded their boastful threats
to the sleeping dogs and old trees in the yards,
now that you’ve returned form men and women
who’ve abandoned their dreams and sit around
like corpses in the grave moldering with regret,
steady your heart now, my friend, with fortitude
long-lasting enduring hope, and hail the early dawn
like a ship off coast that’s come for you,
spent and ragged and beggared,
if what you do and how you live does not feed the fire
in your heart and blossom into poems,
leave, quit, do not turn back,
move fast away from that which would mold your gift,
break it, disrespect it, kill it.
Guard it, nurture it, take your full-flung honorable
heart and plunge it into the fire
into the stars, into the trees, into the hearts of others
sorrow and love and restore the dream
by writing of its again-discovered wild beauty.
Today I have the absolute honor and (as Esther would say) knee-buckling responsibility to write the last line of 2013's Progressive Poem. Yay! And yikes!
The brainchild of Irene Latham,
this Progressive Poem has been moving from blog to blog, growing poet
by poet, for 29 days until it's come here for one final line. For the
poem and a list of contributing poets, see below. .
At the end of a
month posting rough drafts of poems about dogs, I think you could say
that this, too, is a rough draft. As Laura Puride Salas says, it's
poetry improv. Yes, and a poetry game. It's been fascinating to
read the process of those who've proceeded me.
When I got the line by Denise Mortensen,
it's such a great line, I thought I should just write THE END. Then I
could talk about how a poet needs to know when to quit and when a good
line's a good ending. That would be funny. If only I had the courage!
But I don't. So off we go!
is the list of the poets who each contributed a line (in this space, some appear to be a line and then some, but they are all really one line each), and below their
names is the (yikes!) finished poem. Take a bow, poets!
BARNUM'S GREAT TRAVELING MUSEUM, MENAGERIE, CARAVAN, AND HIPPODROME* by Thirty Poets on a mission in the Kidlitosphere...see list above
When you listen to your footsteps
the words become music and
the rhythm that you’re rapping gets your fingers tapping, too.
Your pen starts dancing across the page
a private pirouette, a solitary samba until
smiling, you’re beguiling as your love comes shining through.
Pause a moment in your dreaming, hear the whispers
of the words, one dancer to another, saying
Listen, that’s our cue! Mind your meter. Find your rhyme.
Ignore the trepidation while you jitterbug and jive.
Arm in arm, toe to toe, words begin to wiggle and flow
as your heart starts singing let your mind keep swinging
from life’s trapeze, like a clown on the breeze.
Swinging upside down, throw and catch new sounds–
Take a risk, try a trick; break a sweat: safety net?
Don’t check! You’re soaring and exploring,
dangle high, blood rush; spiral down, crowd hush–
limb-by-line-by-limb envision, pyramidic penned precision.
And if you should topple, if you should flop
if your meter takes a beating; your rhyme runs out of steam—
know this tumbling and fumbling is all part of the act,
so get up with a flourish. Your pencil’s still intact.
Snap those synapses! Feel the pulsing through your pen
Commit, measure by measure, to the coda’s cadence.
You've got them now--in the palm of your hand!
Finger by finger you’re reeling them in—
Big Top throng refrains from cheering, strains to hear the poem nearing…
Inky paws, uncaged, claw straw and sawdust
Until… CRACK! You’re in the center ring, mind unleashed, your words take wing--
they circle, soar, then light in the lap of an
open-mouthed child; the crowd goes wild.
* * * * * * *
* Barnum's circus was originally called "P.T. Barnum's Great Traveling
Museum, Menagerie, Caravan, and Hippodrome,"
which is pretty much what
our poem is. ("Greatest Show on Earth" was
added later...that's us, too!)
In the mess we call home, there was an iphone and a starbucks cup and a beanbag with a tired bloodhound pup and there was one teen girl, with wavy curls and two preteens making scenes and a daddy on the computer, a champion “tooter’ and a fight with food – what manners.. how rude! […]
RECITAL Lightning strikes a chord and Autumn tap dances on a floor of encrusted gold and ruby… while Thunder claps in appreciation — and Winter waits in the wings. Filed under: writing for children Tagged: autumn, ballet, dancing, fall, free verse, free verse autumn poetry, free2rhymeornot, freeverse, freeverse poetry, micropoetry, poems, poetry, poets, recital, […]
Readers, I have now become a woman d'un certain âge. Many would say that with age comes wisdom; I maintain that my main function in the world is to be enthusiastic, not wise. And yet I do have some recent discoveries to share with you--a sort of public service announcement, a list of birthday discoveries that you might not want to miss. (And, as various Documentations of Interventions must be completed for various students exhibiting various needs for intervention, my PSA will be merely a list of thanks with links.)
8) Thanks to creative, clever, caring offspring: coupons for fancy meals, ten-minute massages, and happy playlists. Something to look forward to is a great gift. (And unlinkable children is probably also a great gift.) 9) Thanks to beloved spouse: Sonos upstairs, Sonos downstairs, Sonos all around! Please don't stop the music. And also The Flavour Thesaurus, a synaesthetizing thing of joy.
10) Thanks to my juicy little universe: gratitude is good medicine. Today's Poetry Friday round-up is hosted by Kara at the intriguingly-named blog Rogue Anthropologist. Wishing you all some of this same birthday enthusiasm this week, birthday or not!
Jane Shlensky likely doesn’t need an introduction on the Poetic Asides blog, but I’m going to give her one anyway, because she deserves it. Not only is Jane a fine poet (read her Top 10 sijo here
), but she’s also one of the “encouragers” on this blog.
Jane is also part of a faction of poets I like to refer to as the “Hickory Poets” (of North Carolina), along with the likes of Nancy Posey, Scott Owens, Helen Losse, Jessie Carty, and others. I’ve seen her read in person, and it made me appreciate her poetry even more.
Without further ado, here’s her Top 25 poem from the 2013 April PAD Challenge:
Storm-taught, by Jane Shlensky
A streak of yellow sky laid under blue-black clouds, distant thunder, and high wind bodes a reckoning.
Whatever tender plant or flower newly born but for an hour faces a beating April sting.
Old women learn to read such skies like three-day bruises, alibis for mischief loosed across the earth.
They think to harbor things they love from hail and downpours from above, knowing the scars from one outburst
can wreck a garden’s trust in good. Old women know it’s understood that heaven will have its way below.
Whatever power we think we own is blasted by skies hard as stone. We’re humbled by what we can’t know.
Bullying clouds with angry fists prove some old women optimists searching for spectrums arced in blue.
Old women know that broken plants survive the direst circumstance. Storms break, and sun shines through.
Where are you located?
I live in a village a few miles north of Durham, NC
Who are your favorite poets?
My tastes in poetry are eclectic, a sort of revolving favoritism based on whoever has my attention at the moment. (You might be interested to know I’ve been Solving the World’s Problems
lately with some young guy from Georgia). Sometimes I’ll see something that recalls a line from Wordsworth or Whitman, Rilke or Keats, Tu Fu or Hopkins or Frost or Kooser.
I read widely and so appreciate widely. Teaching poetry and literature for so many years helped me read with an ear for form but a heart for truth. Reading fellow writers on my favorite blogs and in magazines has added to my list of poets to watch.
As a reader, what do you like most in poems?
I like beautiful language that is at once precise, clear, meaningful, and jagged—words that in their utter simplicity are dazzling and touching, that ring true to human experience. I want a phrase or line to snag me like a good fish hook, make me read again, make me wish I’d written that.
Sometimes, I feel compelled to say, “Damn, that’s a good poem” because it is. Naturally, what I love in poetry is not necessarily what I do every time, but poems that get my attention and reel me in are good models to consider as I write.
What were your goals for 2013 Poetry Challenge?
On blogs like Poetic Asides, I’ve paid heed to what my fellows find worthwhile in my poetry. Southerner to the bone, I cannot avoid story. I’ve been encouraged by comments about my narrative work, a particular character, event, or slice of life that engaged me.
During the April challenge, I decided to see if it would be possible to write mostly narrative poems, to explore a character’s plight using the prompts. While I was not always able to do that well, I did manage 27 days to do so, some days writing more than one poem for a prompt. I have a growing village of narrative poems, like Robinson’s Tilbury Town or Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County.
What is next for you?
My mother believed that whatever a person learned was to be used for the benefit of others. With writing as well as with playing piano, she would chide me if I wanted to learn a thing just for myself. I guess I could say I’ve been raised to find a use for things, including the poems I write every day.
Words are written to be read, so I’m tinkering with a collection, still sending out a few poems to magazines now and then, entering challenges and contests sometimes. Maybe all these little narrative lives will coalesce into a volume.
Nancy Posey and I are flirting with a joint project we’ve discussed for a while.
What’s next? Like West Side Story’s song, “Something’s Coming,” “…I don’t know what it is but it is gonna be great.” Or, at least, I hope so.
In other words, it’s going to be a big-time poetic party on this blog during the month of April.
Who are these special guest judges?
Here’s the list, which will not be complete until we have 30 listed below, in no particular order:
Thomas Lux is the author of several poetry collections, including Child Made of Sand, The Cradle Place, and God Particles. He is also the author of From the Southland, a book of literary nonfiction.
He holds the Bourne Chair in Poetry and is director of the McEver Visiting Writers Program at the Georgia Institute of Technology. He has been awarded multiple NEA grants and the Kingsley Tufts Award and is a former Guggenheim Fellow.
(W.W. Norton), selected by Carolyn Forché for the 2011 Barnard Women Poets Prize, and Rookery (Southern Illinois University Press), winner of the 2009 Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award. Her poems have appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry, Slate, The Believer, The Kenyon Review, The New Republic, Ploughshares, and Best American Poetry 2013 & 2014.
She’s received fellowships from the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing, the King/Chávez/Parks Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Andrew is the author of seven books of poems, including Saints and Strangers, The Glass Hammer, and Ecstatic in the Poison. A finalist for the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize, he is a recipient of Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Arts fellowships as well as the Harper Lee Award. He currently teaches in the Department of English at Ohio State University.
(2014) published by the University of Pittsburgh Press, which also published Babel (2004) and All-Night Lingo Tango (2009). She was a 2010 Guggenheim fellow in Poetry and her book of short stories, Lester Higata’s 20th Century, won the 2010 Iowa Short Fiction Award.
She teaches at Florida State University where she is Distinguished University Scholar.
Amy is the author of several poetry collections, including I’m the Man Who Loves You, I Want to Make You Safe, and Antidotes for an Alibi. She serves on the executive board of VIDA: Women in the Literary Arts and is a professor of English and creative writing at SUNY Nassau Community College.
Kelli is a poet, writer, and editor from the Northwest. She’s the author of the newly released, Hourglass Museum (White Pine Press, 2014) and The Daily Poet: Day-By-Day Prompts for Your Writing Practice, which she coauthored with Martha Silano. Her other books include Letters from the Emily Dickinson Room, Small Knots, Geography, and Fire On Her Tongue: An Anthology of Contemporary Women’s Poetry, which she edited with Annette Spaulding-Convy. Kelli is the co-founder of Two Sylvias Press and was the editor of Crab Creek Review for the last six years. She lives in a small seaside town where she is an avid mountain biker, paddleboarder, and hiker. She loves dessert, museums, and typewriters.
Her press, Two Sylvias Press, recently launched a Kickstarter Campaign for The Poet Tarot: A Deck & Guidebook into Creative Exploration, which you can learn about and support here: http://bit.ly/PoetTarotKickstarter
Scott is the author of Something Knows the Moment, Eye of the Beholder, For One Who Knows How to Own Land, and other collections. He’s very involved in North Carolina poetry and runs a monthly reading series in Hickory, North Carolina.
(Black Lawrence Press, 2011) and the chapbook Silt (Dancing Girl Press, 2009). Her debut crime novel, The Red Chameleon, will be published this year by Pegasus Books. Her poems have appeared in Crazyhorse, Denver Quarterly, Drunken Boat, Gulf Coast, New Orleans Review, and elsewhere.
She is the Poetry Editor at Guernica Magazine and has taught creative writing at Marymount Manhattan College and New York University’s continuing studies program.
, winner of the Barnard Women Poets Prize, and Theories of Falling, winner of the New Issues Poetry Prize. Recent honors for her work include the Center for Book Arts Chapbook Prize, Cornell College’s Distinguished Writer fellowship, Lenoir-Rhyne University’s Writer in Residence position, and two DCCAH Artist Fellowships.
Her most recent book is Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl: Tales from an Allergic Life, a memoir and cultural history of food allergy. She lives in Washington, D.C., and is on the faculty of the low-residency MFA program at the University of Tampa.
That will be released on each day. The guest judge will be announced along with the prompt. So you’ll need to show up and be ready to poem every day!
Get your poetry published!
The 2014 Poet’s Market includes articles and advice on the craft, business, and promotion of poetry, in addition to new poems and poet interviews. Plus, this book lists of hundreds of poetry publishing opportunities, including listings for book (and chapbook) publishers, magazines (and journals), contests (and awards), and so much more!
Recently on NPR's Science Friday there was a piece on how our many online social media opportunities raise a question about the multiple identities we all inhabit and how we present ourselves to the world. I think I'm what you might call a "casual user" of this technology, but even I am splintered across this blog and my static website, two accounts on facebook, LinkedIn and twitter (as yet unused), three email addresses (personal,"writer" and teacher), about a dozen listservs (three different usernames) and a charter school identity. And who knows how many sites (Evite, Groupon, amazon.com to name a few) think they know who I am and what kind of cookies I like?
But long ago--ten whole years and then some--before any of this, when most of us were pretty cutting-edge in having any email address at all, I considered redefining my poet self by writing under a pen name instead of under the same old scary-looking, mispronounceable Mordhorst (which, by the way, is spelled just the way it sounds and pronounced just the way it's spelled, so please don't say MordhUrst). I came back to poetry almost the minute my daughter was born (talk about identity crisis: "You are now Mommy"), and while taking workshops at the wonderful Writers' Center here in Bethesda, I started signing my drafts "Heidi Zingerline."
The new surname choice was totally legit and even served a historical purpose, I thought. My mother's maiden name is Zingerline and with only one set of cousins on her side of the family, both girls, the name is in danger of disappearing from use. Plus, how perfect is that for a poet--zinger-line? Get it?
Then I realized that there was no way to communicate all that information in a byline, and that anyone who didn't know that Zingerline was a real name, mine to use by rights, might see it as a cheesy joke. I briefly considered "Heidi Zingerline Mordhorst," but it's not like "Heidi Mordhorst" needs any further distinguishing feature--maybe, if I had been Lisa Smith my whole life, Lisa Zingerline Smith might have made some sense.
But what really changed my mind was a poem written by a fellow workshopper and instant friend from the Writers' Center. He arrived at a critique group meeting one week in 2000 with this to share, and now the only vestige of my flirtation with Zingerline is in my writer email address, email@example.com. Thank you, Lawrence, for your faith in Mordhorst.
Nom de plume For "Heidi Zingerline," newly named
Mordhorst. A commanding sound -- so majestic! It could be a painting by Vermeer: View of Mordhorst.
Or a short story, no? One of Edgar Allan Poe's more fearsome inventions -- "The Fall of the House of Mordhorst."
to Visit Seattle in Honor of Women's History Month
Seattle Poetry SLAM * Seattle Central Community College Women in Society * Elliot Bay Book Company
March 1 & 2
Sonya Renee Taylor, easily one of the most distinguished, accomplished, and recognizable women in the world of Performance Poetry, will be performing in several events in the Seattle area on Tuesday, March 1st and Wednesday, March 2nd.
Sonya Renee Taylor will kick off her Seattle tour as featured poet at Seattle Poetry SLAM Tuesday, March 1, 2011 from 8:30pm-10pm at the Rebar.
On Wednesday March 2nd, Sonya Renee will be the guest lecturer at Seattle Central Community College’s Women in Society Lecture Series. This is a free event and open to the public, and is scheduled in conjunction with the 3rd annual Free Women’s Health Fair at SCCC. Sonya Renee’s presentation will take place in BE-1110 from 12:00-1:50pm. The health fair runs from 9am to 2pm.
On Wednesday evening, Sonya Renee will give a reading of her poetry book, A Little Truth on Your Shirt (Girlchild Press, 2010) at Elliot Bay Book Company. The reading will take place from 5pm-6pm followed by a book-signing event.
So here I am, putting these songs out into the universe for everyone to hear, and I hope that you feel them and enjoy them as much as I do.
Broke Wide Open "Unplugged"
March 12, 2011
Sandbox Studio*15 McGraw St*Seattle*98109
(Queen Anne Hill)
tix $10 at the door or pre-purchase at: http://www.brokewideopen.com/home.html
About Broke Wide Open
Broke Wide Open was born from one man's quest to search for answers to his identity. Luckily for us, this man is Rock Wilk; a beautiful soul, a skilled poet and musician. Initially produced as a musical journey in form of an album, the one-man play was created while riding on the NYC subway system and explored issues of identity stemming from his personal history as an adopted child. A man who grew up with great admiration of, and love for, his adoptive mother, and a mystery for his biological mother.
I tried to reveal myself, to strip down naked and open my personal window, to let you see who I am, in hopes that you might allow me into your world, briefly, one song at a time.
About Rock Wilk
An actor, a playwright and a poet, New York City's own Rock WILK is also a socially and politically charged vocalist and an accomplished multi-instrumentalist. He creates all of this art while riding the subways of NYC. Along with being a Nuyorican Poet's semifinalist and 2010 runoffs qualifier for The Nuyorican's national team, Rock also was recently a featured performer for Amnesty International at an event for human rights.
My father and my grandmother were both great storytellers. Just sitting around after a meal with them was a gift. You would hear the most amazing stories. They both had this ability to make you hang on every word, to make you laugh until you cried.
He has worked as a studio and touring background vocalist for many years, most recently singing with the legendary Patti LaBelle and contributing vocal and horn arrangements to the Grammy Award winning Les Paul compilation album, LES PAUL AND FRIENDS.
Rock's music can also be heard on such TV shows as MTV's "The Real World" and "Making The Band", among others.
La Bloga friend Vanessa Acosta of Cultural Arts Tours & Workshops will be sponsoring an extensive series of workshops and festivals for writers and artists. The first workshop event comes this weekend at Church of the Angels at 1100 Avenue 64, Pasadena, CA 91105.
Naomi Quiñonez, noted poet and scholar, conducts the 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. workshop. Enrollment continues through the day of the event, but reservations strongly advised as Dr. Quiñonez prefers a small group and will close registration at 15 poets.
Writers who have been writing poetry and are comfortable with their voice and satisfied with their themes and style are encouraged to attend. The workshop will help writers develop their language use as a tool to create stronger and more powerful metaphors, symbolism and imagery and to create awareness of how language serves to establish tone, enhance themes and improve style.
For details, click the images below, or call / email Vanessa at 323.300.0060 / firstname.lastname@example.org .
Both of my daughters, pictured above, enjoy my crazy sense of humor, including puns. I have discovered through the years that many writers, especially poets, relish puns, and it makes perfect sense--since poets love playing with words:
1. Two antennas met on a roof, fell in love and got married.The ceremony wasn't much, but the reception was excellent. 2. A jumper cable walks into a bar. The bartender says, "I'llserve you, but don't start anything." 3. Two peanuts walk into a bar, and one was a salted.
0 Comments on Poets Love Puns as of 12/7/2011 3:42:00 PM
1. CHILDREN’S ANTHOLOGY – Collaboration opportunity for writers and illustrators
An opportunity for children’s writers and illustrators to collaborate in an anthology of humorous stories has been created by bloggist Lyn Midnight [Violeta Nedkova]
Poets Corner is calling for submissions from poets and interest from artists for an anthology of illustrated verse to be called “Musings; A Mosaic”.
===CALL FOR SUBMISSION===
from poets around the world !
“Poets Corner” is coming up with an anthology of English original poems complemented with illustrative sketches, real soon.
Title of the Book: Musings : A Mosaic
About the Book:
Out of the entire submission best 45-50 poem will be selected and each one of them will be illustrated with a sketch by an artist .
Submission Date :
April-13-2012 – April-20-2012
Send to :
email@example.com (Subject of the mail should be MUSINGS-YOUR NAME, Poems should be in the body of email as no attachment will be entertained)
Editor (Poetry) :
Editor (Art) :
Please send ONE poem, of not more than 25 lines, and a brief note on the theme of the poem for the benefit of the artist. Please note that submission does not guarantee publication as the best 45-50 will be selected.
To Any Reader - Robert Louis Stevenson. Click READ MORE. As from the house your mother sees You playing round the garden trees, So you may see, if you will look Through the windows of this book, Another child, far, far away, And in another garden, play. But do not think you can at all, By knocking on the window, call That child to hear you. He intent Is all on his play-business bent. He does not hear, he will not look, Nor yet be lured out of this book. For, long ago, the truth to say, He has grown up and gone away, And it is but a child of air That lingers in the garden there.
Luz Maria Umpierre has wrought a legacy, a challenge, a history, a love letter, a sinuous and sentient record of personal identity, revealing the crosshatched scars and singing victories of a warrior, the yielding body and the body politic in "I'm still standing- 30 Years of Poetry -available through her website http://luzmaumpierre.com
"Luz Maria Umpierre is, quite simply, one of my heroes in a postmodern world that insists on ridding us of icons and pedestals in an attempt to level all people and institutions. Paradoxically, some institutions seem to merit such debasement when they never miss an opportunity to hound the historically marginalized and alternative voices out of the academy." Dr.Eric Pennington (Seton Hall)
She is an established scholar in the fields of Puerto Rican, Caribbean, Latina/o Studies, Poetry, and Gender Studies, with multiple publications in leading journals, including Hispania, Latin American Theatre Review, Revista do Estudios Hispánicos, Bilingual Review, Chasqui, Explicación do Textos Literarios, Chicana/Latina Studies and The Americas Review. Co-founder of the journal, Third Woman. Also published in internet journals, including La Acera, Diálogo Digital, Cruce and La Bloga.
Author of two books of literary criticism, ten collections of bilingual poetry, numerous book chapters and over 50 articles of literary criticism on Latin American scholars and writers from several generations, including a seminal article on writers and migration published in MELUS in 2002 and currently included in an anthology of essays in honor of Isabel Allende.
Her collected works and personal papers currently housed at De Paul University, Latina rare book collection housed at Bryn Mawr College.
She is recognized internationally as an authority on the interdisciplinary study of Literature, the Social Sciences, History and Language, especially regarding race, culture, gender identity and ethnicity. Complete list of publications available on request.
What do you believe is the purpose of poetry? The purpose of poetry is to liberate the spirit, our soul, so that it has a concrete expression that is palpable. And as Julia Alvarez said in one of my favorite poems of all times, to be able to say "Whoever reads this poem, touches a woman." I am hoping that I am quoting her correctly because my copy of her book is at my rare book collection at Bryn Mawr. I can and will accept to be corrected in my quote but not in my idea. LOL
What do you consider to be "Latino/a" themes? All themes are Latina themes. It is the vision or the approach we take as Latinas what gives them a sabor or authenticity that is ours. For example, many years ago I took Vanguardista poetry which was highly non-politicized and turned it into political poetry. From there, for example, emerged my Poemas Concretistas.
To say that there are Latina themes is to reduce us. Granted there are subject matters such as identity that we explore more than other groups of writers but I would not say that there are Latina themes and non Latina themes. All themes are human themes and that is overall the most important theme to me.
Describe the intersection of sexual identity and culture as it lives in your writing? I learned from Audre Lorde years and years ago that I cannot be asked to divide my Self into separate pieces of identity and ignore some in favor of others. That to me would be mutilation. I refuse to mutilate my rich identity for the sake of pleasing the eye of a beholder or for an aesthetics of a political correctdness of beauty. Thus all aspects of my identity and culture live in harmony in my works.
What would you say to critics of your lesbian-identified work? That they get a life and start living in the 21st. century. I never forced them to leave their heterosexist and nationalist macho agenda views through meanness, non inclusion or actual shuning. On the contrary, I questioned them publicly and made my dissenting opinions known to them. I did not go back stabbing them, making calls to bad mouth them into being denied jobs, I did not refuse to teach them in my classes. To the contrary, I included them because I wanted to have an open dialogue about difference. But "I'm Still Standing" as the only dancer on that inclusion floor because some of these people are so petty that they refuse to engage me in public and face to face or, as Lorraine Sutton marvelously said in one of her poems: "to cunt-front" me.
How has academia enhanced/impinged upon your creative process? They have always wanted to deny me a claim to my poetry as an academic achievement. However, I have not allowed them to infringe on my freedom to write. I have used my academic struggles precisely to question antics and tactics in academia and make fun, mock and criticize their elitism and snobbery.
Who are some authors who move you and why? Adrienne Rich, her book The Dream of A Common Language has been my Bible since the 1980s. Nemir Matos Cintron has poems in her collections A través del aire y del fuego pero no del cristal and in Aliens in NYC that have made me cry time and time again because of her portrayal of genuine human identity angst. I recently re/read a poem by Ana Castillo entitled: "I Ask The Impossible" and I am afraid that I ruined the Thai Lemon Tilapia dish that I was eating while reading it because I began to cry uncontrollably. I feel that we have all have wanted to be loved that way and her poem is a voicing of a human need that I had never read exposed in poetry. Lorde also moved me with some of her poems on women. Marge Piercy's book The Moon is Always Female has some of my favorite poems of all times because of her delving into what constitutes to be a strong woman. Julia de Burgos, of course she is part of our collective unconscious as Puerto Ricans. The theme of the river in her poetry and the sea attracts me.
What are some thoughts you would share with newer poetas/poetisas/Nuyorican poets? To remember that many people paved a path for them and they should be honored, not bullied, harassed, shunned and most importantly, not disrespected.
I think Puerto Rican poets of the younger generation have no respect towards their elders, their sages, those who broke a path for them now to enjoy. They are not like other Latina groups. I am marveled by the respect of Mexican Americans towards their wiser older Latinas/Latinos something that is totally lacking among young poets be they Puerto Rican or Nuyorican.
I would like to let them know that one day they will inevitably be older and if they do not change their ways and attitudes, they too will be the subject of disrespect.
What sustains your creative and spiritual longevity? The power to love, to find love, to see everything with fresh eyes, to be able to marvel at beauty and to be passionate about living. But also, as the poem says: "To be of use."
Does the place where you live fill you with inspiration? Is the view from your window of crashing waves, or a rugged clifftop, or maybe fields of poppies dancing in the breeze? No? Me neither. Just a view of houses and gardens, roads and pavements. Except there is inspiration there – in the street names.
The area where I live is called Poets Corner, where as you might guess, the streets are all named after poets. Amongst them we have Longfellow Road, Tennyson Road, Shelley Road, Keats Road, and various others who I have to admit I know little about, such as Meredith Road and Herrick Road.
Seeing as I walk or drive along these streets every day, I thought it only right to find out who these poets were. Obviously I'd heard of Longfellow, Tennyson, Shelley and Keats. But as to Herrick Road, I had to ask Google.
I discovered that Robert Herrick was a 16th century clergyman and poet who wrote more than 2,500 poems, which makes me feel slightly ashamed to say I hadn't even heard of him. I have now though and I've enjoyed browsing some of his work. Here's one of his short poems that you may not have read:
Four Things Make Us Happy Here
Health is he first good lent to men;
A gentle disposition then;
Next, to be rich by no by-ways;
Lastly, with friends t' enjoy our days.
We have an Omar Road too, named after the Persian scholar and poet Omar Khayyam. I knew the name but was amazed to learn that he was an 11th century writer – such a long time ago yet we all remember the name.
And then there's Lord Lytton Avenue. Research reveals that this was Edward Robert Bulwer Lytton a 19th century English statesman and poet. I was fascinated to also learn that he was the first person to use the phrase: "The pen is mightier than the sword". It was a line from his play Richelier.
And through checking him out on the good old internet I discovered that he also wrote under the name of Owen Meredith – which solves my query regarding who Meredith Road was named after. Two for the price of one here!
Under the pseudonym of Owen Meredith, one of Lytton's works was a 24 verse poem called Vampyre which I've copied and pasted into a file to read at length – possible inspiration for a scary story at some point, maybe. Here's the first verse:
Robert Bulwer Lytton
I found a corpse, with golden hair,
Of a maiden seven months dead.
But the face, with the death in it, still was fair,
And the lips with their love were red.
Rose leaves on a snow-drift shed,
Blood-drops by Adonis bled,
Doubtless were not so red.
And here's a verse that Lord Lytton penned under his own name:
A Night in Italy
Sweet are the rosy memories of the lips
That first kiss'd ours, albeit they kiss no more:
Sweet is the sight of sunset-sailing ships,
Altho' they leave us on a lonely shore:
Sweet are familiar songs, tho' music dips
Her hollow shell in thoughts's forlornest wells;
And sweet, tho' sad, the sound of midnight bells
When the oped casement with the night-rain drips.
Robert Bulwer Lytton
And to finish with, one from John Keats. We all know the opening line, but as for the rest of his poem I had long forgotten it.
A Thing of Beauty
A thing of beauty is a joy for ever;
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.
Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing
A flowers band to bind us to the earth,
Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth
Of noble natures, of the gloomy days,
Of all the unhealthy and o'er-darkn'd ways
Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all,
Some shape of beauty moves away the pall
From our dark spirits. Such the sun, the moon,
Trees old and young, sprouting a shady boon
For simple sheep; and such are daffodils
With the green world they live in; and clear rills
That for themselves a cooling covert make
'Gainst the hot season, the mid-forest brake,
Rich with a sprinkling of fair musk-rose blooms;
And such too is the grandeur of the dooms
We have imagined for the mighty dead;
And endless fountain of immortal drink,
Pouring into us from the heaven's brink.
Okay, so where I live is just an ordinary street which may not seem inspiring, until you delve a little deeper. How about you? Are there hidden depths behind where you live?