Archive for October 2010

Xelas   1 comment

 

Middle East

Image by rogiro via Flickr

 

Xelas is gone. It makes me sad, because in 2008 they published one of my favorite poems I ever wrote, “Because This is Not Baghdad“. A short, quiet poem that captures a moment in time, it says a lot in a very small space.  It’s patriotic, with a twist of irony, a headline you’ll never see in the news.

I wrote this poem on a clear October day, three years ago. I had been listening to NPR in the car, the BBC world news broadcast was on, and as I listened to a story of an orphanage blown to bits in Iraq, I watched a man and his daughter walk out of Wal-Mart, lugging pumpkins in their shopping cart. The juxtaposition was perfect, and sad, and it was a good thing I had a notebook handy.

Because Xelas is no more, I’m reprinting the poem here. My hope is that as you carve your pumpkins this year you will appreciate the peace that allows for tradition to go on unchanged in our country, and remember those in our world, both in Iraq and down the street, who cannot afford such luxury.

Because this is Not Baghdad

A man dances his 7 week old daughter
in The Wal Mart parking lot
sunshine freshly peeled
pumpkins bought up the road
in the trunk, still damp
Mama behind her register, 5 minutes to go
rows and rows of bread, no lines
white– whole grain– wheat

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Haruah: Breath of Heaven   Leave a comment

Northern lights on the road

Image by Tom Olliver via Flickr

To read this poem, click here

2007, when “On the Shores of Gitcheegumee” was published in Haruah: Breath of Heaven, seems like a lifetime ago. Even more distant is the even that inspired this inspirational piece about grieving, loss, and hope.

My grandmother died almost 20 years ago, but the trip to Montana my family took is fresh in my mind to this day. Growing up we made the trek to Montana by van many times, but this particular trip was fraught with roadblocks along the way. The minivan broke down in Michigan, the part needed had to be ordered, the only campground nearby with a spot for us was run by a crazy old man who hated kids.  It was like something out of a movie, but the best, and worst, was yet to come.

At weeks end, we sped across the prairies, not stopping at night, my parents taking turns sleeping. During one of the brief stops along side the road so Mom could wake up and take Dad’s place, we were blessed to see the Northern Lights, my sister and I for the first time. The next day we learned that my grandmother had passed around the time we witnessed Aurora Borealis.

My family, my life, have always been a main source of inspiration for me, and this poem is representative of some of my earliest work, drawing on one of the bigger moments. Over time, of course, I have to delve further, draw from memory buried over time, more subtle. It’s nice to look back and remember a simpler, bittersweet time.

How deep into your own memory do you go for inspiration? Have you simply skimmed the surface in your writing, or have the layers slowly been peeled away? Do some free writing, quickly writing down scraps of memory, phrases, words, see what might be hiding, waiting to come into the light.

Lit Chaos   Leave a comment

Lady Lake, Fla., February 6, 2007 -- A blue ta...

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To read my poems in Lit Chaos, click here

Sadly, Lit Chaos is no more. Well, the online journal known as Lit Chaos is no more, in my daily life, in the life of the literary world, there is still enough chaos to go around. But the Lit Chaos crew were always friendly, they had a nice little press going for awhile. And then, without warning, they just weren’t there, not updating the website, not responding to emails. I’ve been involved with other publications that have quit, but usually there is a very sad email that comes, filled with valid reasons, stuffed with regrets and assurances that the website will remain archived for as long as they can, but that nothing on it will change.

And so it is with Lit Chaos. I click on the site and it’s a veritable ghost town. Nothing changes, and yet you can feel a presence… somewhere…

One of the reasons I loved Lit Chaos so much is the two poems of mine they published in 2008, “Detroit Joe” and “Hands Down“. Both of these poems are fun to read out loud, if you don’t believe me go ahead, try it.

I don’t often write in form, most of my poetry is free verse, but occasionally I find a topic, or dream up a line, that just fits into one form or another. Hands Down is just such a poem, a villanelle, its anthem style fits well as a protest against homelessness, poverty, the inability in the face of disaster to help the most helpless amongst us.

Detroit Joe isn’t written in form, but it is based on a beat. I have a soft spot for Motown, and Detroit Joe takes that influence and writes a story to its beat, another anthem of sorts for the working man, just trying to make the weekend stretch as long as he can.

What are you angry about this week? What irks you, gets your goat? Write about it this week, look into different poetry forms, pantoum, villanelle, sestina, sonnet, haiku, and see if a form fits your anger. Use repetition to your advantage, drive your points home.

Inwood Indiana   Leave a comment

William Blake's The Body of Abel Found by Adam...

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You can read “Cain: A Life” and “Mother” here

You can buy a copy of Issue 2, Hawthorn Road here

I have been working on my first novel. Well, not a novel, really. Don’t think I have the attention span for a novel yet. Let’s call it a novella. It’s about Cain, son of Adam and Eve, cursed to walk the earth without rest for all of time. It’s also about the people he meets along the way in modern times, mostly in the midwest section of the United States, and how they react to meeting a man who keeps moving, has no moral code good or bad, possibly no soul, and no goals. Slowly witnessing his emptiness allows them to realize, and to fill, the emptiness in their own lives. It’s happy for them, sad for Cain, who must keep moving and has no idea about the good he has done.

I started writing Cain around the end of last year, but I’d had the idea in my head for quite some time. Unfortunately, I can only work on it from time to time, here and there, before life, or other ideas for other stories and poems, overtake it for awhile. I came to a standstill around the time that I was sending out a batch of work, and decided to send what I had so far out, in the hopes that seeing it in print might encourage Cain to emerge.

So, now that it’s out, I’m patiently waiting. If you get a chance to read it, and like it, please don’t be shy about letting me know. Likewise if you hate it. I want to know what you like as well as what you hate, both will help me out a lot in getting the other 90+ pages written.

Mother is a good scary poem, perfect for this time of year. Especially if you suffer from arachnophobia.

Enjoy!

 

The Battered Suitcase, 2009   Leave a comment

Ganesh festival in India

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To read the poems, click here

I have always had a fascination for Indian culture. I love Bollywood films, Indian novels, Hinduism. A lifelong Christian, polytheism has always seemed exotic, mysterious. Of the Hindu gods, Ganesha has always been my favorite, human body with an elephant head, he physically embodied India to me.

So then why would I write the poor guy into a political satire?

I guess the simple answer was, no one had done it yet. It seemed so obvious to me, the elephant god who symbolizes tolerance and learning, sought after by the Republican party for all the wrong reasons.

I don’t usually write satire, but some of my favorite authors have been satirists.  I guess, sometimes, their influence rubs off on me.  For example, the other poem Battered Suitcase published of mine in 2009, “A Caution for Horny Wizards”, is not only a satirical quip on all things Harry Potter, it’s a mini homage to Terry Pratchett, and the witches and wizards of the Discworld.

Today, flex your creative muscles into the world of satire. Pull something into a world that is its complete opposite, turn a critical eye on that world. Have fun with it. I know I did.

 

In Memoriam   Leave a comment

Saint Francis

Image by Two Ladies & Two Cats via Flickr

Today’s post is going to be a little different. Instead of talking about me, I’d like to remember an old friend.

This week, the world lost a good person, who was also a great poet. I met Father Emmett Jarrett about ten years ago, when I first started to become involved in the poetry scene in New London, Connecticut. To the poets who met weekly at Muddy Waters, he was simply Emmett, a poet who had a knack for putting a rhythm on a story, lull you to comfort with the quietness of his gravelly voice, and then drive the ending right through your heart. He could create humor out of tragedy, make you feel and care about people you will never meet, experience places and events you will never witness.

More than a poet, Father Emmett used his words outside the coffee houses and art galleries where the New London School of Poets would gather. His work within the church championed the needs of the less fortunate, shedding a glaring light on the injustices of pur society the rest of us would rather gloss over, ignoring those people who live in the third world right here on the streets of America. Right to the end he was faithful to his message and his life’s work. As fellow New London poet Megan J. and I walked to the front of St. James to say good bye, we knelt at a plain wooden box, not a pricey and polished casket.

As the managing editor of Chopper Poetry Journal, I was honored to publish Emmett’s work twice, in the first and second issue. One of his poems in Chopper 2, “Asleep in a Haystack”, takes on new meaning as the people of New London say goodbye.

Asleep in a Haystack

the taste of light

is the taste of mango juice

sweet and smooth

to the tongue

open eyes two

candles burning

street lamps outside

fade with

the dawn

the pilgrim asleep

in a haystack

dreams his staretz

points to a page

in the book-

“the one in you

is greater

than the one outside”

the taste of light

is smooth as the grain

of wood and the altar

sweeter than–

wake up pilgrim

dreaming of light

there is nothing

to fear

nothing

that is not

mango juice

to the taste

of light under

the haystack

fast asleep

–Father Emmett Jarrett, Chopper 2, December 2007

Goodbye, good pilgrim. Heaven has gained an angel.

To read more about the life and work of Father Emmett Jarrett, click here

The Cartier Street Review   Leave a comment

Exampled of stippled gingiva,

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You can view the issue here

In 2009 The Cartier Street Review published some of my more experimental poems.  Oral Fixation was written on a challenge, to write a poem about going to the dentist. Most of us within the challenge took on the dark side of dentistry, and I was no exception. But instead of the winding narrative typical of most of my work at the time, Oral Fixation is clipped, short, random.

Night.Mare. has more of a story within it, but is still a jarring, disjointed poem. Based upon an incident in my youth, when my horse got tired and decided to lay down and roll with me riding her, and a confusing, blurred dream years after. Using the symbolic importance most women place on horses in their youth, I managed to touch on the disturbing feeling of puberty without spelling it out literally, the sense of being overwhelmed, confused, and crushed.

Is there an animal that has taken importance at some time in your life? Think there’s something you could never write a poem about, like the dentist? Try writing one or both today.