Sunday, April 29, 2012

Adieu, cruel April

When I think of the month of April and Poetry, the opening of TS Eliot's The Waste Land always comes first to mind: "April is the cruelest month," or so said the master.

I've fallen into the strange habit of occasionally rewriting passages from famous texts. It's probably a bit of sacrilege on my part to try it, but it's how I find my fun. As an adieu to National Poetry Month, I set to playing with the first seven lines of Eliot's masterpiece. Mine of course don't come close to matching the power and portent of Eliot's striking words, but I don't dislike what I came up with:
Peril, with its cruelest mouth bleeding us
dry, lacks the doubt of our dead hands mixing
deader memories. From the fire’s stirring,
our dull boots will spring duller. It’s the pane
of winter that’s kept us from covering it
with our thin and forgetful throws. Feeding
us a belittled life, it tries to burst. Free.
Here's the original text by Eliot:
April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

National Poetry Month: Gerry Boyd

There are a number of poetry bloggers I admire, but none more than Gerald Boyd. His works always inspire poetry envy in me, especially for the way they engage the senses, and the unique uses he puts color to. As a perfect example, check out the start of his recent poem Never sure if climb is the word (and then click the link below it to read the remainder, which is equally wonderful):
Your fear is justified at the top of the stairs
when you slowly open the weathered door
and find a yellow chick and purple boa froth
of frightened feathers that make no sense.
Read the rest of Gerry Boyd's Never sure if climb is the word

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

National Poetry Month: Flashing By

Yes, the month is flashing by, but Flashing By is also the name of a nifty collaborative blog that is a source of many pleasures. It includes illustrations by rhoda penmarq complimenting the poetry and short fiction of favorite writers like nooshin azadi and Peter Greene (whose blog Old 333 you should also visit). Today's post Machine Christ is an exquisite example of the pieces posted here.

And though the days in April are quickly dwindling, don't stop celebrating poetry once the calendar page turns to May.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

My Most Beautiful Thing

Today is the day of the My Most Beautiful Thing Blogsplash, where bloggers celebrate the release of Fiona Robyn's novel The Most Beautiful Thing by writing about their own most beautiful things. You can celebrate the day too, by downloading the Kindle version of Fiona's novel, which is available gratis today here (or you can buy a paper-copy at Amazon).

The poem I wrote to mark the occasion centers on my most beautiful thing, which is my girlfriend Jill's gorgeous smile.

The beauty of it is
none of this,
and all of its
beauty, not the triumphant blue
of a jay’s bluest coup
unsettling the mature greens
and their younger leaves
to topple one cardinal’s redness
and its calm,
not it or the uplifting, baleful grays
that follow to chase
it and us, with the dense, clear drops
pristine brown soils savor,
no, not one moment of it
or the us who share in it,
will last, can last
any longer or matter more
than that instant
my no longer innocent eyes steal
a glimpse of your smile.

Monday, April 23, 2012

National Poetry Month: The Earth Thanks Me

As a National Poetry Month bonus, I get to share another one of Jill's poems.

The Earth Thanks Me
by Jill Dumser

My shoes are dirty.
I stand on the Earth while the trees beacon me upward.
Should I look?

I raise my head, following the trees,
drop to my knees,
and bend towards the sky.
Weaving and waving,
Singing and dancing,
the Earth thanks me, for being me.

Couplets: Interview with Iris Jamahl Dunkle

Today, I'm very excited to bring you the second of my poet interviews for Couplets: a multi-author poetry blog tour. Iris Jamahl Dunkle is not only an amazing poet (her poetry, creative nonfiction and scholarly articles have appeared in numerous publications including: Fence, LinQ, Boxcar Poetry Review, Weave, Verse Wisconsin, Talking Writing, Yalobusha Review and The Mom Egg), she's an educator and a Web Developer. Read on below to see some of the fabulous things she's up to, but also visit her blog Poet 2.0 to get a fuller picture of her writing and other work.

The first thing that strikes me when I read your poetry – for example, the marvelous pieces at Talking Writing and Radius – is how intricately connected to nature they are, weaving in elements from the Northern California landscape, following its cycles of decay and renewal. How important is the place you live to the way you write?

Place is a central part of my writing process. I am fortunate to have grown up in Sonoma County in Northern California. And I live and write on the same property where I grew up, so my natural surroundings are something I’ve been learning about since I was eight or nine and set off on day-long creek exploring adventures. The hawks raise their young in the same tall pines above my home as they did when I was a child. The quail nest in the same spot next to our gravel driveway each year. The deer follow the same paths year after year. I have a visceral love of this place and I guess I never get tired of trying to understand where I am. These days I’m equally focused on digging into the recorded history of the place where I live too.

I do a lot of work centered around Web development, so of course I was particularly drawn to the series of “code” poems (incorporating elements of HTML, XML, PERL and javascript) that you wrote for Raft. What attracted you to experimenting with these syntaxes, and what possibilities do you think they offer up for poets interested in exploring new forms?

Well, I’ve spent the past fourteen years as a web developer and social media communications consultant. For most of my career as a web developer I kept my poetry life separate. But something happened to me once I had children, and I just couldn’t believe in boundaries between my writing life, my work life, and my home life anymore. One day I was trying to write an elegy for a friend’s father and I just couldn’t break the lyric enough to express what I wanted to say. Then, I remembered how malleable XML code was and thought, “why couldn’t I frame my lyric thoughts in tags?” It was really empowering to blend the language of poetry with the language of code. It was especially fun to bring in the Perl tags. I hate Perl. Every application I had to build and support at one of my old jobs was built in clunky Perl code that I never felt I could control. It was so liberating to use Perl poetically rather than functionally.

Sunday, April 22, 2012


I have this
.................. to say
and sometimes
........................ that
but never

Saturday, April 21, 2012

National Poetry Month: Beauty Shifts

For many of us poetry can be a very personal thing, a passion so private we may write certain pieces for only ourselves or those closest to us to see. That doesn't mean these poems lack the beauty of the more publicly shared pieces. And it's their personal nature that makes them all the more precious to us. It's why I feel very privileged today to be able to post a poem by Jill Dumser, the love and light in my life. She's graced me with her poems before, and I'm very excited to share this one with all of you.

Beauty Shifts
By Jill Dumser

Whips of light spiral madly through her thought, flourishing only in splits of seconds where the seconds split into lush moments of tranquility and unharnessed energy.
Composure becomes the tranquil star, fiercely throbbing with desire.

Beauty shifts,
Tainted scrims lift,
and alone the Visionary sits,
with her Visionary colors
and her Visionary hat.
In the dawn of dusk
a musty gray light,
fresh from the night.

Filled with power.

Flickers of light catch the eye with perfect precision,
the winds unwind;
the seconds combine,
and all in procession are those moments and seconds of time.

All yours. All mine.
Beauty Shifts.

They are. What we're becoming.

They are. What are we becoming?
It’s rote, I know. It’s rote.
It all bares my repeating. He wrote,

though not to me,
“The first prerequisite of defiling
a corpse is a corpse.”
And I thought, Of course.
We’ve become
experts in their making. And his point,

the point I didn’t think
needed making, not at this point,
again, yes, again,
yet again,
is how many we’re making.
We’re making them

without a second thought
or guess.
With an ease and a quickness,

and we’re finding them,
once made,
hard to be rid of, hard
not to accept
as ours, except
when we’ve become them.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Tune in Tuesday for my "Most Beautiful Thing"

How would you reply if I were to ask you, "What's the most beautiful thing?" Would it be a special someone's smile. A sunset or rainbow playing behind your favorite vista? The Mona Lisa or Starry Night? Beethoven's Ninth or Imagine? Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer's Day or Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird?

Next Tuesday, April 24, I'm taking part in a Blogsplash to celebrate beautiful things, inspired by Fiona Robyn's new novel, The Most Beautiful Thing. People from all over the world will be blogging, tweeting & writing about their own most beautiful thing.

There are any number of ways you too can contribute: posting a photo, or a drawing, writing an essay or a poem. Whatever strikes your fancy. Just let Fiona know you'd like to participate, and she'll send you all the relevant details.

The folks at Writing Our Way Home are making a directory of everyone who's taking part, and they will also re-post their favourite entries on their blog over the following month.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Couplets: Interview with Wendy Brown-Baez

To honor National Poetry Month, I'm participating in Couplets: a multi-author poetry blog tour, by posting a series of interviews with other poets (be sure to click the link and see all of the other posts related to the tour).

First up is Wendy Brown-Baez. Wendy does some pretty impressive work, not just writing poetry, but taking it out to wherever people are, whether that's by performing it in nontraditional locations, leading her Writing Circles for Healing workshops, or inspiring youth through the In the Shelter of Words project. She's also just received a 2012 Minnesota State Arts Board Grant, which she'll use to bring relevant and accessible poetry to non-profit organizations through workshops and presentations. Her website has a lot more information, including details about her poetry books, and she also maintains the blog Wendy's Muse.

You describe yourself as a “performance” poet, with a passion for “bringing poetry into fresh, unique venues.” With more and more poets seeming to be drawn to the Web as the primary outlet for their writing, why is it so important to stay connected to the “real world” and the places where people meet face to face?

The first time I memorized a poem instead of reading it from the page, I felt a deep connection to the audience. I could see the expressions on their faces and feel their empathy. It was so profound and uplifting, that I decided to continue memorizing my poems. One of the dysfunctional aspects of our modern culture is loneliness. So many of us have chosen to move away from our families and neighborhoods or are no longer connected; we no longer sit around the fire and tell stories. For me, art is one of many excuses to be together. It is life-affirming and life-saving. To know you are not alone, to speak your truth aloud, to be heard. It’s what we’re made for!

What are some of the most unlikely places you’ve performed in? Do people at different venues, let’s say a bar versus a church, or a private home versus a parking lot, react differently to the work you present, or is there a similar connection you make with the various audiences?

Ending up in a parking lot was probably one of the most unexpected venues I have ever performed in! Bars are different in that you have to really grab their attention. I performed sensual poems at a hip hop bar in Santa Fe where young people were waiting for the hip hop to start. It was a relief to hear the audience settle down to listen. You have to judge your space and what best suits it. I prefer more intimate spaces because I can feel the audience responding. Sample Night Live was a formal stage with a spotlight in my eyes and I had to “act” out to an audience I couldn’t see. People still loved it but it didn’t fill me the same way. It felt more like entertainment and less like sharing.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

They may make you, monsters with handsome faces

An iguana hides in your folds
of phantom gray,
and from this patterned gray
it doesn’t look away, it
doesn’t look your way,
or all the ways
you imagine yourself
looking, there posing beneath it,
smiles cocked for the gun-bold
camera ready to tease
free from you, but not it,
more than your freely given smiles,
a thought
that you’re more than
you are, more than
a too-freely wielded weapon,
and not
more than the iguana
who gently feeds within
your violent folds of phantom gray.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

National Poetry Month: A Blade of Grass

Getting back to my National Poetry Month feature of featuring favorite poets, I'd like to point your virtual gazes to the blog A Blade of Grass. Jon, its proprietor, and I share a love of Samuel Beckett, who celebrated a birthday last Friday, and after a bit of a respite Jon posted a piece of Beckett-inspired wonderfulness with the poem says i. I says, says I go check it out.

Monday, April 16, 2012

An early morning sun upon closed eyes

The orange it burns
is small and yellow, sometimes,
and the blob-shape it,
the orange, follows
does rhyme with it. It all rhymes.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Oh, the faces

oh, the faces you'll know
when you walk through a wood
you wouldn't or couldn't have known
but the felled felt you should

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

National Poetry Month: Thelandabovewater

Continuing on with my somewhat sporadic tour of favorite poetry blogs this month, I'd like to share with you Thelandabovewater. It's a site that I make a point of visiting often. Manik Sharma finds the poetic hiding in places most writers might not look for it. Here's a passage from his latest poem The Temporary Birth of Character, which is a good sampling of his talent:

The talk is of the weather,
the dilating libido of suppression
Of The persuance of harmony
through all the gutters
that lead us,where we have always wanted to go

Read the full poem here, and make sure to check back regularly for more great work by Manik.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

When you're in it

From down here, it feels
there's nothing
there, but when you're in it
up there, lit
bright blue or a shadowed navy,
the air lets you feel it,
and how it could let you
go, if it didn't love you

so. It will let you pick through
its pockets. They're yours.
All of its is in you,
and it's yours. You're its too,
when you're up there, or down here.
You'll forget this, but not the way
you forget which shirt you wore
after sitting too long in the dark. No,

you'l forget it the way you've forgotten
how gorgeous a stand of trees can be until
you've seen them again from above, them
down here standing in their grassy, mossy,
rolling places. And it's then, you'll forget
you were just telling yourself
how useless and tedious though true
this life can be. Not when you're in it.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

National Poetry Month: It was that kind of night

As National Poetry Month rolls on, I'd like to share a poem by my friend Christine Flores-Cozza. Among her many talents, Chris is also a musician. For me, the best songs have always been poetry put to music, and the best lyricists as big an influence as any poet. After soaking in the atmosphere of her poem, go check out some of Chris's music at ReverbNation.

It was that kind of night

Snared like smoke circles trapped in sunrays-feeling like the undead.
I’ll take a dozen cold ones to freeze-frame and re-affirm my humanity.
Then hammer my meanness into the streets and boulevards, boulevards and avenues
Like kerosene and matches and lightening lighting.
I wear the wind in smoke and mirrors hidden in the eloquent sun confusing you.
Warn and dusty; age the aggressive invader of beauty fading.
If I had a dollar I would smoke it… Maybe you have seen me in the early dawn?
It was that kind of night.

-Ccozza 6-3-11

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

National Poetry Month: Sweet Liberty

Continuing on with my celebration of National Poetry Month, today I'd like to highlight the work of a good friend, nooshin azadi. She and I have collaborated on poems and books, and she's taught me a lot in the process.

I'd like to be able to point you to a website, but because of where she lives, she's no longer able to access blogs. She does still share her work on Google+ under the name Sweet Liberty, and you can see her regular updates there. Below I'm sharing a lovely poem she recently re-posted.

another epi...eis...hodos...


the moment was
the beginning of an end
and god who was always in me
was with me
and he was great
as his hands were full of fruits --
of all sorts
and his eyes were full of words --
of all souls

and we walked

and as we walked
we fell


and we conceived the world
and he bore me
and i bore him
and i was his child
and he was my child

sep 2, 2009

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

National Poetry Month: Immersed in Word

For National Poetry Month, I'll be highlighting some of my favorite poetry sites. (I meant to get started sooner, but life has a way of getting in the way sometimes...). First up, is Immersed in Word, a poetry blog by Kay Tracy. Kay is currently posting entries from her new book Garage Sale. What I enjoy most about these pieces, little jewels of memory, is how even the very shortest of them carries me back to a different place and time, fraught with the emotions of those moments. The sparer the piece, the more my imagination tries to fill in the surrounding details, and that's what I love in a poem. I'm lucky enough to have a copy of this beautifully put-together book, thanks to Kay, and I highly encourage you to click the link above and see how you can purchase one.