Tag Archives: #poetrycommunity

An Elegy for a Beloved Friend

On May 6 I posted about a poem I wrote for a friend who recently passed away. I had written the poem during #napowrimo. Today I am sharing the poem with you. I don’t plan to send it out. Writing it was the most important experience.

However, it has been shared with others. It turns out her husband loved it and published it as the poem for the pamphlet at Nancy’s Celebration of life. The title refers to Nancy’s way of saying goodbye, whether in person or on phone or by email. And for cards and gifts she used to wish “light and love.”

You Are Loved

 

We were sketches

you colored in with

your box of Crayolas

You were the model

we studied for vision

You were a guidebook

we the letters in line

You were music we

turned up on the dash

You were a disciple

You were the doyen

You were walks with

trees and caterpillars

You were the one

whose arms reached

around the universe

and whispered in one

word sentences because

each one was enough

light

love

###

Live this life in light and with love. No comments please.

I’ll see you next week.

 

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Sacrifice and Service

Sorry not sorry for blowing up your readers and/or email with my posts in the past week or so. I’ve never had so many poems published online in such a short space of time. It was just a fluke.

Today I’ll say Happy Memorial Day, but give you a sad Memorial Day poem. It’s by James Tate (1943-20150) whose father was a pilot in WWII. His father was shot down and killed in combat on 11 April 1944. Tate was only a few months old, so he never knew his father. Thus are the sacrifices magnified through families and other loved ones.

The asterisks between stanzas are mine. I placed them there because WordPress wouldn’t keep the spaces between stanzas otherwise. Sigh.

for my father, 1922-1944

*

Your face did not rot
like the others—the co-pilot,
for example, I saw him
*
yesterday. His face is corn-
mush: his wife and daughter,
the poor ignorant people, stare
*
as if he will compose soon.
He was more wronged than Job.
But your face did not rot
*
like the others—it grew dark,
and hard like ebony;
the features progressed in their
*
distinction. If I could cajole
you to come back for an evening,
down from your compulsive
*
orbiting, I would touch you,
read your face as Dallas,
your hoodlum gunner, now,
*
with the blistered eyes, reads
his braille editions. I would
touch your face as a disinterested
*
scholar touches an original page.
However frightening, I would
discover you, and I would not
*
turn you in; I would not make
you face your wife, or Dallas,
or the co-pilot, Jim. You
*
could return to your crazy
orbiting, and I would not try
to fully understand what
*
it means to you. All I know
is this: when I see you,
as I have seen you at least
*
once every year of my life,
spin across the wilds of the sky
like a tiny, African god,
*
I feel dead. I feel as if I were
the residue of a stranger’s life,
that I should pursue you.
*
My head cocked toward the sky,
I cannot get off the ground,
and, you, passing over again,
*
fast, perfect, and unwilling
to tell me that you are doing
well, or that it was mistake
*
that placed you in that world,
and me in this; or that misfortune
placed these worlds in us.
***
James Tate, “The Lost Pilot” from Selected Poems. Copyright © 1991 by James Tate. Reprinted with the permission of Wesleyan University Press.
Source: Selected Poems (Wesleyan University Press, 1991)
###
I tried doing a photo shoot with Kana when she wasn’t in the mood. At first she didn’t actively argue about it.
Then she got crabby.

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My Review of Punishment in Main Street Rag

Main Street Rag just published their latest issue, and in it is my review of Nancy Miller Gomez’s chapbook Punishment.

I’ve had a lot of friends who have taught in prisons around the country, and so when I heard her collection was based on her own experiences teaching poetry writing in a prison, I eagerly signed up to review it.

Here is a copy of my review (starts halfway down the page). Click on the image to read more closely.

Punishment is a Rattle Chapbook Series selection, and you can find links to poems and how to purchase the chapbook here:

Chapbooks: Punishment

I’ll leave you with the first and title poem in the book.

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Perry Como and My Mother-in-Law

Now that National Poetry Month and NaPoWriMo are over, I have been revising poems. Mainly, they have been small changes, so either I did better than I thought last month or (and more likely) I am still not seeing them clearly.

Spring is in full swing in Arizona, and everywhere I look it’s yellow, green, and blue.

I’ve been going through some of my mother-in-law’s paintings that were left over after she passed away. (She died 15 years ago, so it’s time to look at them again). The reason I pulled them out is because my daughter moved into her own place, and I am looking for paintings to bring her for her to choose from.

I wrote about my MIL’s art My Mother-in-Law’s Legacy, Part I and My Mother-in-Law’s Legacy, Part II and My Mother-in-Law’s Legacy, Part III

A lot of her paintings are portraits, and those are more difficult to hang on a wall than landscapes. I thought I’d share one of the portraits with you today. Maybe share some more later . . . .

Because my MIL was hired to paint a lot of celebrity portraits, the ones that are left are often “first drafts,” but sometimes she just painted them because they were famous and she hoped to sell those paintings.

Do you know who this is?

That’s right: Perry Como and his family, wife Roselle, son Ronnie, daughter Terri, and son David. Perry and Roselle were teenage sweethearts and were married until her death at age 84.

I love Perry Como’s voice and laidback coooool style. This is one of my favorites:

And this one, of course:

You might prefer different versions, but he’s pretty consistent, so they are all good!

OK, NOW FOR THE BIG QUESTION. Was Perry my sweet cat named after Perry Como?

Wait for it.

Perry the cat was named for Perry Como and Perry Mason!

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Four Weeks of NAPOWRIMO 2019 Accomplished!

This week I produced drafts of these poems:

  • At the bottom of the drawer
  • This is What It’s Like
  • Rondeau of the Tone-Deaf
  • Getting Along Without You
  • Empty Words
  • The Bad Daughter Walk
  • First Kiss

For those of you who have read my weekly updates about NaPoWriMo this year, all I will say is another crap week.

Two days left. Then my company will be gone, too. That’s when I collapse.

The other day the gardener had a bit of a scare. He found a pile of sawdust under a dead tree and an oleander bush. The sawdust had not been there two days before.

Looking up, he saw more sawdust.

The immediate thought was termites, of course. The tree is very close to the house, and termites are a common menace in Arizona.

While the gardener was calling the pest guy, I saw another menace acting crazy near me. It was a BIG bee acting like it was mating with another bee–or was it dying? I didn’t want to get too close.

It turns out that this bee is a male carpenter bee. Males can be gold or black, while females are black. It is their mating season, and guess what they do in mating season? Bore into dead wood and oleanders and create sawdust. I didn’t need to worry about this guy; the males have no stingers!

I’ll leave you with a little Perry relaxation.

He loves to climb onto of me and rub his face all over mine and then turn around and curl up in my arms! He also licks as much as a dog (unfortunately). Here he is as Vlad!

And here he is watching his daddy’s garden inhabitants.

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Three Weeks of NAPOWRIMO 2019 Accomplished!

Arizona Ocotillo April 2019

This week I produced drafts of these poems:

  • Poetry is a Big Noise
  • Behold the Needle
  • Notre Dame
  • That Not Nothing That Is
  • Golden Ode
  • Elegy
  • What I’d Like to Breathe In

I thought last week was difficult but this one was more so. To cap off the week, I took Mom to the ER because she didn’t feel well. Other than minor stuff, she was actually fine, but I think she’s getting a little stressed being away from home. Mainly, she had two problems both related to being dehydrated.

Arizona is very dry at this time of year, and she is from Michigan. I warned her and warned her to drink a lot of water. But she didn’t.

That learning experience cost us all a day (and the next for me because the fluorescents are a trigger for my complicated migraines) and Medicare et al a lot of money. But if I hadn’t taken her, we all would have worried.

Because I had to rush through my poem drafts, who knows if there is anything there or not. I’ll take a look at them later on.

Hope you all had a Happy Easter, Passover, or whatever spring celebration you choose.

Perry is dreaming about you ;)!

 

 

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Two Weeks of NAPOWRIMO 2019 Accomplished!

I kept going this week and produced drafts of these poems:

  • Playing Word with Adrienne Rich
  • Nearest Animal Shelter
  • Dis-Ease
  • Out of the Cradle
  • Travel
  • To Keep Things from Working
  • Meeting the Relatives

It was a tough week because I had to travel for work and still keep up with a poem a day . . . .

As another important component of NAPOWRIMO, I pulled out the old poetry anthology I liked to teach from and started rereading from the beginning.

These poets might seem old school today, but without these poets we wouldn’t have the poetry we have today–written by women OR men.

The first poet showcased in this book is Lola Ridge. She’s rarely read today, unfortunately. When she was a little girl she moved from Ireland to New Zealand and Australia, and then as an adult, she moved to the United States, possibly to escape a horrific marriage. She was a feminist and an activist. You can read her bio here. Her first book, The Ghetto and Other Poems, is important for its very modern-like treatment of immigrant life 100 years ago–specifically Jewish immigrants on the Lower East Side of NYC. This is the phenomenal section of the title poem that is anthologized in the book:

II

I room at Sodos’ – in the little green room that was Bennie’s –
With Sadie
And her old father and her mother,
Who is not so old and wears her own hair.

Old Sodos no longer makes saddles.
He has forgotten how.
He has forgotten most things – even Bennie who stays away
and sends wine on holidays –
And he does not like Sadie’s mother
Who hides God’s candles,
Nor Sadie
Whose young pagan breath puts out the light –
That should burn always,
Like Aaron’s before the Lord.

Time spins like a crazy dial in his brain,
And night by night
I see the love-gesture of his arm
In its green-greasy coat-sleeve
Circling the Book,
And the candles gleaming starkly
On the blotched-paper whiteness of his face,
Like a miswritten psalm…
Night by night
I hear his lifted praise,
Like a broken whinnying
Before the Lord’s shut gate.

Sadie dresses in black.
She has black-wet hair full of cold lights
And a fine-drawn face, too white.
All day the power machines
Drone in her ears…
All day the fine dust flies
Till throats are parched and itch
And the heat – like a kept corpse –
Fouls to the last corner.

Then – when needles move more slowly on the cloth
And sweaty fingers slacken
And hair falls in damp wisps over the eyes –
Sped by some power within,
Sadie quivers like a rod…
A thin black piston flying,
One with her machine.

She – who stabs the piece-work with her bitter eye
And bids the girls: “Slow down –
You’ll have him cutting us again!”
She – fiery static atom,
Held in place by the fierce pressure all about –
Speeds up the driven wheels
And biting steel – that twice
Has nipped her to the bone.

Nights, she reads
Those books that have most unset thought,
New-poured and malleable,
To which her thought
Leaps fusing at white heat,
Or spits her fire out in some dim manger of a hall,
Or at a protest meeting on the Square,
Her lit eyes kindling the mob…
Or dances madly at a festival.
Each dawn finds her a little whiter,
Though up and keyed to the long day,
Alert, yet weary… like a bird
That all night long has beat about a light.

The Gentile lover, that she charms and shrews,
Is one more pebble in the pack
For Sadie’s mother,
Who greets him with her narrowed eyes
That hold some welcome back.
“What’s to be done?” she’ll say,
“When Sadie wants she takes…
Better than Bennie with his Christian woman…
A man is not so like,
If they should fight,
To call her Jew…”

Yet when she lies in bed
And the soft babble of their talk comes to her
And the silences…
I know she never sleeps
Till the keen draught blowing up the empty hall
Edges through her transom
And she hears his foot on the first stairs.

Sarah and Anna live on the floor above.
Sarah is swarthy and ill-dressed.
Life for her has no ritual.
She would break an ideal like an egg for the winged thing at the core.
Her mind is hard and brilliant and cutting like an acetylene torch.
If any impurities drift there, they must be burnt up as in a clear flame.
It is droll that she should work in a pants factory.
– Yet where else… tousled and collar awry at her olive throat.
Besides her hands are unkempt.
With English… and everything… there is so little time.
She reads without bias –
Doubting clamorously –
Psychology, plays, science, philosophies –
Those giant flowers that have bloomed and withered, scattering their seed…
– And out of this young forcing soil what growth may come –
what amazing blossomings.

Anna is different.
One is always aware of Anna, and the young men turn their heads
to look at her.
She has the appeal of a folk-song
And her cheap clothes are always in rhythm.
When the strike was on she gave half her pay.
She would give anything – save the praise that is hers
And the love of her lyric body.

But Sarah’s desire covets nothing apart.
She would share all things…
Even her lover.

This narrative poem shares as much as a short story in more concise language that vibrates the heart and nerves at the same time.

What you read here is part 2 of a 9 part poem. Although NaPoWriMo wouldn’t be a good time to try it, writing a very long poem like “The Ghetto” would be fun to try if the subject is epic enough. Not a lot of places to get it published, but it could be its own chapbook, I suppose. But what about readers–do readers like to read super long poems?

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One Week of NAPOWRIMO 2019 Accomplished!

How convenient that NaPoWriMo starts on April 1, that April 1 was a Monday this year, and that I blog on Mondays. This way my posts can neatly sum up the previous week. I feel so organized!!!

I wrote the equivalent of a poem (draft) a day, although I wrote two on one day because there was a day I knew I could not write anything. To me this is acceptable. I still get the same number poems at the end of the month, and I am not ignoring something important like family over for birthdays and holidays.

Here are the (working?) titles of the poems I have so far:

  • Super Bloom
  • Maybe It Was Spring
  • I Want to be Irish
  • My Say
  • Noah and the Middle School Marching Band
  • Never a Bride
  • Javelina Life Rules

I haven’t even checked in with the NaPoWriMo site because I am having a great time using the prompts in Diane Lockward’s The Crafty Poet, which is her first craft book and one I hadn’t really taken advantage of before. I find her prompts to be of the type I need: they come at poem creation from at least two angles, if not more. Being told to write a poem about purple often isn’t enough for me. I like more WRITING CONSTRAINTS.

When I look at the list of poems above, I see that there are repeats in subjects for me. For instance, “Super Bloom” has echoes of “Super Nova” in Doll God. They are completely different poems, but I could write a paper comparing and contrasting the two poems. Noah and Lazarus are in here, and I’ve worked with them before. (Of course, Noah is one of my obsessions. I have a sculpture of Noah releasing the dove that I dream about and a tiny Day of the Dead Noah shadow box).

Are you participating in NaPoWriMo? If so, how are you doing? I’d love to hear!

Other subject: the other day I posted a question on Twitter. I want to know if other poets save drafts of their poems as they revise. It had suddenly occurred to me that this is important to think about. I’ve never given it any thought and, in fact, destroy all my earlier drafts as fast as I move on. You might say I do it obsessively! I’m embarrassed of the earlier drafts and want to forget they ever happened. Then one day I read that a poet looked at one of her old drafts. WHAAAAAAAAAAAAA? And I remembered how much time I put into studying the earlier drafts of some of Sylvia Plath’s poems when I was writing academically.

That’s when I thought to myself that we can choose to save our drafts or not. Or have some kind of system about it. Instead, I have been operating solely on emotion, ripping and shredding gleefully. And my computer operates palimpsestically (hahaha, as if that’s a word) and cleaner. Sometimes there is no trace at all of what came before.

Not sure if I’ll change, but I’d like to think it through. What about you? Do you save old drafts? Of poetry? Of prose?

Is there value in saving them?

And let’s not forget Noah. What are your “obsessions”?

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Pick Up Your Pen–It’s April 1 and the Start of NAPOWRIMO 2019!

Last year was a successful NAPOWRIMO for me, so I plan to participate again. Last week I pulled together my poetry prompt and craft books and scrounged around on Google for more prompts. Now I am ready to WRITE POEMS. How about you?!

Click the image to get to the NaPoWriMo site.  Checkitout.

There are other places to post what you write (if you prefer not to submit to journals), too, but I am not posting any of those because I don’t have time to really research and recommend. But put in the search words NAPOWRIMO and “poetry prompts” and look for sites where you can find prompts and even submit your own poems.

Happy writing to all!

In the spirit of poetry prompts, I’ll share with you a pic I took in search of Superbloom in Arizona. Not as successful as I would have liked, but how much joy did I need to find?!

The gardener and I took Mom way out to the Boyce Thompson Arboretum. On the way, the roadside was in bloom with a pretty palette of wildflowers, but the gardener wouldn’t stop for photos (as usual). Then when we got near the towns of Superior, Miami, and Globe, the golden poppies were thick along the side of the roads and parking lots. Oddly, I couldn’t see any blossoms on the surrounding hills. But I guess the roadside had a lot more water.

Above is Ayer Lake at the Arboretum, and the photo below is one of the views from inside the park.

What a great place to hike or even leisurely walk.  There are trees and plants from Australia and China, as well as Arizona native vegetation.

For dinner, we went to The Arizona Biltmore hotel in Phoenix. In the ten years I’ve lived here, the only time I ever was on the property was a business thingie to hear Janet Napolitano speak when she was still governor. I had a feeling that chicken dinner wasn’t a proper example of the restaurant food at this gorgeous resort. So we went to the very fancy pizza and burger (and more) restaurant, Frank & Albert’s, for dinner. After dinner we walked around the lobby. Look at this beautiful Frank Lloyd Wright stained glass.

Then we walked outside and toured the entertainment and pool areas.

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Monday Update

My  review of Karen Paul Holmes’ poetry collection No Such Thing as Distance has been published in the latest edition of the esteemed journal Pleiades.

If you get your hands on this gorgeous issue, you can find out why I think there are commonalities in Holmes’ work and mine. OK, here are some hints ;). She is also from Michigan, and the sense of place–places, really–is very important to her work. Also prominent are family and family history. Her book is beautifully written and extremely accessible.

On another note, I’m having foot troubles. And I also had a very telling dream. But first the feet.

My right foot is the one that has a reconstructed navicular bone. That happened 13.5 years ago and was a big, big deal. Now I have to be really careful so that that bone doesn’t shatter. About nine months ago I developed plantar fasciitis in the left foot, and no matter what I do, the pain is not letting up. This puts pressure on the right foot, of course. Then Friday morning I dropped my cell phone on my right big toe. Please let me out of this nightmare.

MRI Prep

Speaking of dreams. Did you know that if you dream of a litter of kittens it means that you are feeling swamped and overwhelmed? The other day I dreamed that the shelter where I volunteer was closed temporarily. I went to check on it. Of course, it wasn’t that place at all, but an old-fashioned storefront with the store divided into three big rooms, all with glass windows in front. I knew right away why they were closed. They were overwhelmed–literally filled to the ceiling with kittens. There wasn’t even an inch between kittens. There must have been thousands in there. I wasn’t worried for the kittens because I knew the shelter would take care of them, but I was shocked at how many there were.

So do you see how overwhelmed I have been this month????????? I know in the end it will be ok, but I have never felt so overloaded with work as I have this month. I sure hope I get April to write poetry!

(Weirdly, I have worked on a little essay, but only the last couple of days, and I don’t know if it will turn out or not).

Sending love out into the universe. Please send back some extra minutes haha.

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