It's National Poetry Month and we're celebrating! Check out what we're doing by clicking on one of the links below. And friends, please do share with us what you're up to for Poetry Month!
I suspect more than a few of you feel, as I do, that every month is Poetry Month! There's lots going on, folks, and I hope that you are able to partake in some capacity, either on-line or in your community.
Some of you might know that I'm part of the 2013 Pulitzer Remix Project, sponsored by The Found Poetry Review. There are 85 of us across 7 countries, and each poet has been creating found poetry from one of the 85 Pulitzer Prize winners. 85 poets, a poem a day, 30 days. What abundance! My book is GUARD OF HONOR, the 1949 Pulitzer winner by James Gould Cozzens.
To create the poems, we use various techniques such as:
* collage, or taking words and phrases from the text and rearranging them to form new meaning. For a deeper discussion, see "COLLAGE AND POETRY” by Marjorie Perloff.
* erasure, also called black-out or white-out poetry, in which words and letters are blocked out or erased from the text to form new words and meaning. The Believer had a splendid article on erasure by Jeannie Vanasco, "Absent Things As If They Are Present." (Click here for the article if you want to read it.) One interesting note from the article is that "Wordsworth borrowed descriptions of daffodils from his sister Dorothy’s diary when writing his famous poem 'I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud,' and even credited its two best lines to his wife, Mary: “They flash upon that inward eye / Which is the bliss of solitude.”
* remix, a combination of collage and erasure. Kirby Ferguson has a good TED Talk on remix here.
If you want to know more about the Pulitzer Remix, here's a link to the project: http://www.pulitzerremix.com/about/. And here's a link to all of the poems for the day: http://www.pulitzerremix.com/ (Simply click on a book title for the day's poem.) If you wander around, you'll see some poets are merging visual art and poetry, creating actual collages or coupling their poetry with photos or paintings. And if you want to check on how I'm doing, I'm remixing here: http://www.pulitzerremix.com/category/guard-of-honor
Another thing that I'm doing for Poety Month is sponsoring poet Kristin LaTour, who is writing a poem a day to raise funds for The Bullycide Project, a Michigan-based theater group that presents stories from victims of bullying and their friends and family. It's a treat to read to open my email and read Kristin's poem for the day. Those of you on Facebook who are interested can learn more about the fundraiser here.
And, of course, there are READINGS! April's First-Sundays Readings and Open-Mic, sponsored by the Writers Guild at Bloomington and hosted by Boxcar Books, included a reading by poet Frank Montesonti. Frank, a Hoosier native who completed his undergraduate degree at IU, currently teaches creative writing at National University. He read from his poetry collection Blight, Blight, Blight, Ray of Hope, winner of the 2011 Barrow Street Book Prize chosen by D.A. Powell.
Another reading took place on April 19: Local poets Joseph Kerschbaum and Eric Rensberger read at the Lemonstone Reading Series, sponsored, again Writers Guild at Bloomington, and hosted a Sweet Claire's Bakery. (Local folks: Check out the Springerles at Sweet Claire's if you haven't yet.) Joseph tested the waters with some newly penned work, as well as poems from his books, including his recent book Ken, A Man for All Seasons, which is about Barbie's other half. Eric read recent poems as well as some of his classics. Eric's poetry centers on place and his appreciation of the geography and people of the area is palpable. It was a splendid night of poetry!
Another reading I'm excited about features IU MFA graduates Marcus Wicker and Ryan Teitman, reading at Boxcar Books toward the end of the month. I interviewed Ryan last month for Poetry Matters, as well as reviewed his recent book Litany for the City, 2012 winner of the A. Pouling, Jr. Poetry Prize, published by BOA Editions. So check out those links if you want to know more about him or his most recent book! Marcus' first book Maybe the Saddest Thing was selected by DA Powell for the National Poetry Series and is forthcoming from Harper Perennial in October. He's an assistant professor of English at University of Southern Indiana and the poetry editor of Southern Indiana Review.
The last thing I'll be doing for National Poetry Month is a workshop on ekprastic poetry as a part of a collaboration between the Monroe County Public Library and the Writers Guild at Bloomington. We'll be exploring several poems by well-known poets based upon art, as well as trying our hand at creating one of our own. One of the poems we'll be looking at is a favorite of mine, "American Flamingo" by Greg Pape written in response to John James Audubon’s Greater Flamingo.
National Poetry Month is a busy time for me, but I am grateful for the flourishing writing and poetry community in the Bloomington area, as well as online.
Opening the Door
So, how to celebrate National Poetry Month without doldrumming about lost literary opportunities? Maybe celebrating the happy fact that stimulation is ubiquitous, to the point of distraction– the junk yard I pass daily on my way to work, crumpled chrome winking in the early morning sun; the weathered canoe that hasn’t been moved off cinder blocks in a neighbor’s back yard in years; startling images of a bomb blast, the improbable glass curve of a Chihuly wild poppy . . . I could go on, and so could you. And in some ideal world we’d refine a multitude of raw sensations into satisfying lineated creatures. Daily. The challenge, I believe, and a way of reconciling the unwritteness of a poem, lies in savoring the stimulus: winking back at the beat-up fender. Someday it may be restored via a poem; if not, at least it knocked my writer’s instincts into gear─a related and wholly bona fide sort of satisfaction. Cheers!
I don’t know who decided April would be National Poetry Month, but I doubt it was an accident they picked the month that spring gets underway. So many of the things I do to celebrate Poetry also coincide with my celebration of spring.
The first week of April I visited Cincinnati’s Krohn Conservatory in Eden Park for their spring floral show called “The Enchanted Forest,” which featured blooming hyacinths, tulips, violas and daffodils, hundreds of white lilies, flowering shrubs and miniature elf houses constructed out of natural elements, all set up as rolling woodlands. Besides the visual delights there were the equally amazing scents of some of the flowers, plus the damp soil and preponderance of leaves, the fragrance of the waterfall over rocks in the palm house, the sand in the desert house, and the streams throughout the tropical house. And I can never leave without visiting the bonsai and the orchid displays. There’s nothing like immersing myself in all that growth, paying attention to the unbelievable diversity of the plant world, to keep my poetry “muscles” fit.
In keeping with the idea of growth, on the first Saturday in April I participated in a “Writing as Healing” workshop with poet/nurse Jeanne Bryner at Grailville Retreat Center in Loveland Ohio. Through the varied writing exercises, which explored the connection between writing and healing, I came away with the start of several poems as well as notes for many other future poems.
I’m also attending as many as I can of the “Poetry in the Garden” events every Tuesday in April at the downtown Cincinnati Public Library, which include readings by local poets, open mics, and readings by the winners of the poetry contest the library sponsors. For the first event on April 2nd, I read two of my latest poems. I was also scheduled to read along with poets Donelle Dreese and Vickie Cimprich for the First Friday Poetry Reading Series, but there was a mix up which caused us to postpone the reading until May 3rd. But I enjoyed reading through my body of work to select the poems to read, organizing them into related groups, and the practice of reading them. And as often happens, I found a few revisions I wanted to make to the poems.
For a week in mid-April, I’m accompanying three women to Massanutten, Virginia in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Shenandoah National Park. Two of the women are poets, fellow members of the Cincinnati Writers Project’s poetry critique group. I will bring along a few books of poetry, ones I’ve bought recently but haven’t had time to read yet, such as Leave Here Knowing by Elizabeth Oakes, Stand in the Stillness of Woods by Matthew Haughton, and the chapbooks Antidote by Stacia M. Fleegal, and Burden of Solace by Teneice Durrant Delgado which was recently reviewed by Barbara Sabol on this Poetry Matters website. I envision reading some of the poetry aloud as part of our evenings. I’m hoping to get some time in the woods, which never fails to clear my mind, ground me, and inspire a poem or two. I plan to bring along some poems to revise from a collection I’m working on which centers around my husband, Richard, and an Alaskan cruise we took a few months before he died. I’ve found that a change of scenery often gives me new insights into poems I’m working on.
On this mountain vacation I’ll also bring along a folder of poems I want to revisit—close to forty poems I learned by heart in the past few years—poems by Rumi, James Wright, Pablo Neruda, Li-Young Lee, Mary Oliver, Wendell Berry, Charles Simic, Jane Hirshfield, and Naomi Shihab Nye. I may speak them aloud to my poet friends or whisper them as I walk through the woods. After reading poet Allison Luterman’s interview with Kim Rosen in the December 2010 issue of The Sun, I bought Kim Rosen’s book, Saved by a Poem: The Transformative Power of Words, in which she writes about how through the process of speaking a poem out loud that you love, the poem becomes integrated into your being. How learning it by heart and speaking it aloud changes you on a deep level. I lost track of the poems I had originally learned by heart, so for National Poetry Month, I'm reacquainting myself with them. And as Rosen promises in her book, once you say them aloud a few times, they quickly return to you. Especially if you say them before you go to bed and when you first wake the next morning.
Another thing I'm doing for National Poetry Month is to attend the annual Power of Poetry Festival in the Hocking Hills area, Logan, Ohio on April 19th and 20th, which will feature poets Naomi Shihab Nye and Rosemerry Trommer along with Celtic storyteller Will Hornyak. Each evening’s poetry readings will be preceded by a half hour of music performed by Evie Adelman and Marge Seeley, piano, and Gert Young, flute. Poet Alan Cohen organizes the Power of Poetry festival, funding it through the Ohio Arts Council and what he calls “grassroots funding”—donations from people “in the community who have attended the festival events and who wish to have such cultural programs available.” The festival also offers a poetry contest with free entry, and a free Saturday workshop with one of the featured poets. The poetry contest winners will receive cash prizes and read their winning poems as part of the Saturday evening poetry event, along with performances by some of the students who participated in the national Poetry Outloud Competition. Learn more about the Power of Poetry Festival on the website: http://powerofpoetry.org/home.htm.
I also look forward to National Poetry Month because every day in April I receive an email from poet friend Susan B. Glassmeyer which contains what she calls her “April Gifts”—a poem she has carefully chosen along with notes about the poet and quotes from their interviews. Sometimes they are poets I’m familiar with; other times I’m introduced to poets new to me, ones I'm happy to learn about. Susan has been emailing her April Gifts since 2007, and keeps an archive of them on The Little Pocket Poetry’s website at http://www.littlepocketpoetry.org/april_gifts_archives.
Towards the end of April, I will accompany a friend to a blue heron nesting site along Ohio’s Little Miami River. My friend tells me I need to wear old clothes and shoes and be prepared to get wet and muddy. We’ll make our way through the woods, along a not very well-marked path, and slide down a long hill on our bottoms, the same hill we’ll climb back up on our hands and knees. But we’ll get to see adult blue herons and their chicks. My friend has visited this nesting site for years, but this is my first time. We connected with herons close to seven years ago, when I read an essay she’d written about herons and how much they meant to her, how one would always show up just when she needed one. At the time my husband was nearing the end of his life after a six-month struggle with lung cancer. My friend was experiencing her own battle with breast cancer, and half-jokingly said she’d send me over her blue heron. The next morning, when I was driving past the lake at the condo where I lived, a blue heron stood at the shore, twenty feet away. I often carry my digital camera in the car, so I grabbed it, and took a few pictures before the heron flew away. I couldn’t wait to tell my friend that her heron had arrived, and to describe the amazing bird and show the photos to my husband. I’ve never seen a blue heron on the condo lake before or after that day. And, being a poet, I was compelled to celebrate the sighting in a poem I called “Grace.”
I hope you enjoy National Poetry Month as much as I do. I can’t imagine my life without poetry. As poet William Carlos Williams said, “It is difficult to get the news from poems, yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there.”
Albuquerque is brimming with poetry events for National Poetry Month. In addition to the usual readings—one each week—there are 3 new book launches and several launch continuations, a My Favorite Poet program sponsored by the UNM MFA program, a spring poetry reading at a branch of the public library that actually has parking, a elementary school children’s poetry project sponsored by the Albuquerque Poetry Society which also plans to launch its members’ anthology, POETRY FROM THE OTHER SIDE at the April meeting. Many thanks to Chandra Bales, the chapter president, who hatched the plan, organized extra writing workshops and did the bulk of the editing work. I helped with proofreading and categorizing poems into the anthologies various sections and contributed four poems.
In June, Albuquerque and the NM Poetry Society are hosting the annual convention of the National Federation of State Poetry Societies ( http://nmpoetry.com/convention-nfsps.shtml ) and members are busy with preparations. Special room rates are available at the Hotel Albuquerque through May 22 if anyone wants to enjoy poetry workshops and readings in the Land of Enchantment.
I’d like to say that I will be attending each and every poetry celebration in town but, unfortunately, they come at a time when health concerns have slowed me down and family related travel through May and June is in the offing so I am taking it easy in order to charge my batteries for future wanderings. The best I can do is track all the possibilities through the email announcements that arrive with regularity. I note each of the events on my computer calendar (which automatically syncs to my cell phone and I Pad) just in case, one of these evenings, I have the energy to show up at a reading.
In the meantime, I am an “armchair traveler” like many of my ancestral Acadian and Quebecois poets. In addition to rereading selections in anthologies such as THE POETRY OF FRENCH CANADA IN TRANSLATION, UNFINISHED DREAMS: Contemporary Poetry of Acadie and FRENCH CONNECTIONS: A Gathering of Franco-American Poets, I am enjoying reading THE ARTEMESIA BOOK: Poems Selected and New by Colleen Thibaudeau, whose writing I discovered only recently. Thibaudeau (1925-2012), of Acadian descent, was born in Toronto and lived most of her adult life in London, Ontario where I also spent a good bit of time while studying with Marion Woodman, another great Canadian woman of letters who continues to reside in London. The GLOBE AND MAIL eulogy article quotes Spalding’s Molly Peacock as referring to Thibaudeau as “Canada’s ‘secret national treasure.” Thibaudeau wrote about “the extraordinary nature of ordinary life by combining the everyday with the otherworldly.” Her themes include domestic scenes, household objects, change, creativity, memory and memories. She is well known for the title poem, My Grandaughters Are Combing Out Their Long Hair, a poem which memorializes and mourns the wanderings of the Acadian diaspora.
my granddaughters are combing out their long hair sitting at night
on the rocks in Venezuela they have watched their babes
falling like white birds from the last of the treetop cradles
they have buried them in their hearts where they will never forget
to keep on singing them the old songs
brought down to earth they use twigs, flint scrapers acadian
their laughter underground makes the thyme flower in darkness
my granddaughters are thin as fishbones & hornfooted but they are
always beautiful under the stars: like little asian paperthings
they seem to open outward into their own waterbowl
mornings they waken to Light’s chink ricocheting
off an old Black’s Harbour sardinecan.
Reduce them the last evangelines make them part of the stars.
my granddaughters are coming out by night combing their burr
coloured hair by the rocks and streamtrickle in Venezuela
they are burnt out as falling stars but they laugh
and keep on singing them the old songs.