30 April 2010

From you have I been absent in the spring... (Sonnet 98)

by William Shakespeare


From you have I been absent in the spring,
When proud-pied April, dressed in all his trim,
Hath put a spirit of youth in everything,
That heavy Saturn laughed and leaped with him,
Yet nor the lays of birds, nor the sweet smell
Of different flowers in odor and in hue,
Could make me any summer's story tell,
Or from their proud lap pluck them where they grew.
Nor did I wonder at the lily's white,
Nor praise the deep vermilion in the rose;
They were but sweet, but figures of delight,
Drawn after you, you pattern of all those.
     Yet seemed it winter still, and, you away,
     As with your shadow I with these did play.

Beta readers, part one

For those who don't know, a beta reader is someone a writer trusts to read a piece and give honest feedback from a reader's point of view. What works? What needs work? Are there glaring plotholes? Superfluous scene? A beta reader goes through the piece as he or she would something that's been already published, and give it the same critique as something already published, without sugar-coating comments.

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29 April 2010

Get to know your characters

When writing fiction, it's important to know the characters in your story in order to accurately write about them. Fortunately, there are lots of ways to develop your characters.

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28 April 2010

Moonrise

[NP's NOTE: In honor of tonight's Full Moon:]

by H. D.

Will you glimmer on the sea?
Will you fling your spear-head
On the shore?
What note shall we pitch?

We have a song,
On the bank we share our arrows--
The loosed string tells our note:

O flight,
Bring her swiftly to our song.
She is great,
We measure her by the pine-trees.

27 April 2010

Pickle Belt

by Theodore Roethke

The fruit rolled by all day.
They prayed the cogs would creep;
They thought about Saturday pay,
And Sunday sleep.

Whatever he smelled was good:
The fruit and flesh smells mixed.
There beside him she stood,--
And he, perplexed;

He, in his shrunken britches,
Eyes rimmed with pickle dust,
Prickling with all the itches
Of sixteen-year-old lust.

25 April 2010

Baseball and Writing

by Marianne Moore


(Suggested by post-game broadcasts)
Fanaticism?  No.  Writing is exciting
and baseball is like writing.
   You can never tell with either
      how it will go
      or what you will do;
   generating excitement--
   a fever in the victim--
   pitcher, catcher, fielder, batter.
 Victim in what category?
Owlman watching from the press box?
 To whom does it apply?
 Who is excited?  Might it be I?

It's a pitcher's battle all the way--a duel--
a catcher's, as, with cruel
   puma paw, Elston Howard lumbers lightly
      back to plate.  (His spring 
      de-winged a bat swing.)
   They have that killer instinct;
   yet Elston--whose catching
   arm has hurt them all with the bat--
 when questioned, says, unenviously,
   "I'm very satisfied.  We won."
 Shorn of the batting crown, says, "We";
 robbed by a technicality.

When three players on a side play three positions
and modify conditions,
   the massive run need not be everything.
      "Going, going . . . "  Is
      it?  Roger Maris
   has it, running fast.  You will
   never see a finer catch.  Well . . .
   "Mickey, leaping like the devil"--why
 gild it, although deer sounds better--
snares what was speeding towards its treetop nest,
 one-handing the souvenir-to-be
 meant to be caught by you or me.

Assign Yogi Berra to Cape Canaveral;
he could handle any missile.
   He is no feather.  "Strike! . . . Strike two!"
      Fouled back.  A blur.
      It's gone.  You would infer
   that the bat had eyes.
   He put the wood to that one.
Praised, Skowron says, "Thanks, Mel.
   I think I helped a little bit."
 All business, each, and modesty.
        Blanchard, Richardson, Kubek, Boyer.
 In that galaxy of nine, say which
 won the pennant?  Each.  It was he.

Those two magnificent saves from the knee-throws
by Boyer, finesses in twos--
   like Whitey's three kinds of pitch and pre-
      diagnosis
      with pick-off psychosis.
   Pitching is a large subject.
   Your arm, too true at first, can learn to
   catch your corners--even trouble
 Mickey Mantle.  ("Grazed a Yankee!
My baby pitcher, Montejo!"
 With some pedagogy,
 you'll be tough, premature prodigy.)

They crowd him and curve him and aim for the knees.  Trying
indeed!  The secret implying:
   "I can stand here, bat held steady."
      One may suit him;
       none has hit him.
   Imponderables smite him.
   Muscle kinks, infections, spike wounds
   require food, rest, respite from ruffians.  (Drat it!
 Celebrity costs privacy!)
Cow's milk, "tiger's milk," soy milk, carrot juice,
 brewer's yeast (high-potency--
 concentrates presage victory

sped by Luis Arroyo, Hector Lopez--
deadly in a pinch.  And "Yes,
   it's work; I want you to bear down,
      but enjoy it
      while you're doing it."
   Mr. Houk and Mr. Sain,
   if you have a rummage sale,
   don't sell Roland Sheldon or Tom Tresh.
 Studded with stars in belt and crown,
the Stadium is an adastrium.
 O flashing Orion,
 your stars are muscled like the lion. 

24 April 2010

Sympathy

by Paul Laurence Dunbar


I know what the caged bird feels, alas!
   When the sun is bright on the upland slopes;
When the wind stirs soft through the springing grass,
And the river flows like a stream of glass;
   When the first bird sings and the first bud opes,
And the faint perfume from its chalice steals--
I know what the caged bird feels!

I know why the caged bird beats its wing
   Till its blood is red on the cruel bars;
For he must fly back to his perch and cling
When he fain would be on the bough a-swing;
   And a pain still throbs in the old, old scars
And they pulse again with a keener sting--
I know why he beats his wing!

I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
   When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,--
When he beats his bars and he would be free;
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
   But a prayer that he sends from his heart's deep core,
But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings--
I know why the caged bird sings!

Can writers be paperless?

People have just celebrated another Earth Day, and while many spent the day not using paper, today is "just another day" for them. If you're looking for a way to continue the lessons taught on Earth Day, you may be wondering if it's feasible for a writer to be "paperless."

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23 April 2010

"What Do Women Want?"

by Kim Addonizio

I want a red dress.
I want it flimsy and cheap,
I want it too tight, I want to wear it
until someone tears it off me.
I want it sleeveless and backless,
this dress, so no one has to guess
what's underneath. I want to walk down
the street past Thrifty's and the hardware store
with all those keys glittering in the window,
past Mr. and Mrs. Wong selling day-old
donuts in their cafe, past the Guerra brothers
slinging pigs from the truck and onto the dolly,
hoisting the slick snouts over their shoulders.
I want to walk like I'm the only
woman on earth and I can have my pick.
I want that red dress bad.
I want it to confirm
your worst fears about me,
to show you how little I care about you
or anything except what
I want. When I find it, I'll pull that garment
from its hanger like I'm choosing a body
to carry me into this world, through
the birth-cries and the love-cries too,
and I'll wear it like bones, like skin,
it'll be the goddamned
dress they bury me in.

22 April 2010

The Armadillo

by Elizabeth Bishop


For Robert Lowell
This is the time of year
when almost every night
the frail, illegal fire balloons appear.
Climbing the mountain height,

rising toward a saint
still honored in these parts,
the paper chambers flush and fill with light
that comes and goes, like hearts.

Once up against the sky it's hard 
to tell them from the stars—
planets, that is—the tinted ones:
Venus going down, or Mars,

or the pale green one.  With a wind,
they flare and falter, wobble and toss;
but if it's still they steer between
the kite sticks of the Southern Cross,

receding, dwindling, solemnly
and steadily forsaking us,
or, in the downdraft from a peak,
suddenly turning dangerous.

Last night another big one fell.
It splattered like an egg of fire
against the cliff behind the house.
The flame ran down.  We saw the pair

of owls who nest there flying up 
and up, their whirling black-and-white
stained bright pink underneath, until
they shrieked up out of sight.

The ancient owls' nest must have burned.
Hastily, all alone,
a glistening armadillo left the scene,
rose-flecked, head down, tail down,

and then a baby rabbit jumped out,
short-eared, to our surprise.
So soft!—a handful of intangible ash
with fixed, ignited eyes.

Too pretty, dreamlike mimicry!
O falling fire and piercing cry
and panic, and a weak mailed fist
clenched ignorant against the sky!

21 April 2010

While Writing Poetry

by Paul Gustav Spohn


Often times by the reading light of sunshine
Through the window blinds
Sitting by my chair
My mother
Long gone
Stares at my shadow of youth
And in the fragile moment
Of death and beyond
I coax out a sigh
That once to her belonged
That she could read what I am
Writing now
In verse
Past tense
Making something of this memory
Some sense
And hoping I am
Within a beacon of her approval
That smile she always
Shared with me
While writing poetry

20 April 2010

Ode to the West Wind

by Percy Bysshe Shelley



I
O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn's being,
Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,

Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red,
Pestilence-stricken multitudes: O thou,
Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed

The wing├Ęd seeds, where they lie cold and low,
Each like a corpse within its grave,until
Thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow

Her clarion o'er the dreaming earth, and fill
(Driving sweet buds like flocks to feed in air)
With living hues and odours plain and hill:

Wild Spirit, which art moving everywhere;
Destroyer and Preserver; hear, O hear!

II
Thou on whose stream, 'mid the steep sky's commotion,
Loose clouds like Earth's decaying leaves are shed,
Shook from the tangled boughs of Heaven and Ocean,

Angels of rain and lightning: there are spread
On the blue surface of thine airy surge,
Like the bright hair uplifted from the head

Of some fierce Maenad, even from the dim verge
Of the horizon to the zenith's height,
The locks of the approaching storm. Thou dirge

Of the dying year, to which this closing night
Will be the dome of a vast sepulchre
Vaulted with all thy congregated might

Of vapours, from whose solid atmosphere
Black rain, and fire, and hail will burst: O hear!

III
Thou who didst waken from his summer dreams
The blue Mediterranean, where he lay,
Lulled by the coil of his crystalline streams,

Beside a pumice isle in Baiae's bay,
And saw in sleep old palaces and towers
Quivering within the wave's intenser day,

All overgrown with azure moss and flowers
So sweet, the sense faints picturing them! Thou
For whose path the Atlantic's level powers

Cleave themselves into chasms, while far below
The sea-blooms and the oozy woods which wear
The sapless foliage of the ocean, know

Thy voice, and suddenly grow grey with fear,
And tremble and despoil themselves: O hear!

IV
If I were a dead leaf thou mightest bear;
If I were a swift cloud to fly with thee;
A wave to pant beneath thy power, and share

The impulse of thy strength, only less free
Than thou, O Uncontrollable! If even
I were as in my boyhood, and could be

The comrade of thy wanderings over Heaven,
As then, when to outstrip thy skiey speed
Scarce seemed a vision; I would ne'er have striven

As thus with thee in prayer in my sore need.
Oh! lift me as a wave, a leaf, a cloud!
I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed!

A heavy weight of hours has chained and bowed
One too like thee: tameless, and swift, and proud.

V
Make me thy lyre, even as the forest is:
What if my leaves are falling like its own!
The tumult of thy mighty harmonies

Will take from both a deep, autumnal tone,
Sweet though in sadness. Be thou, Spirit fierce,
My spirit! Be thou me, impetuous one!

Drive my dead thoughts over the universe
Like withered leaves to quicken a new birth!
And, by the incantation of this verse,

Scatter, as from an unextinguished hearth
Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind!
Be through my lips to unawakened Earth

The trumpet of a prophecy! O Wind,
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?

19 April 2010

Start planning for 2010 taxes now

April 15th has just passed, and now is the perfect time to set yourself up to be ready for your 2010 taxes. You may still be reeling from doing your 2009 taxes, but it's the perfect time to get your files organized for the next financial year.

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My First Memory (of Librarians)

by Nikki Giovanni


This is my first memory:
A big room with heavy wooden tables that sat on a creaky
       wood floor
A line of green shades—bankers’ lights—down the center
Heavy oak chairs that were too low or maybe I was simply
       too short
              For me to sit in and read
So my first book was always big

In the foyer up four steps a semi-circle desk presided
To the left side the card catalogue
On the right newspapers draped over what looked like
       a quilt rack
Magazines face out from the wall

The welcoming smile of my librarian
The anticipation in my heart
All those books—another world—just waiting
At my fingertips.

CONTEST DEADLINE APPROACHES

The Coffee-Stained Poetry Contest (I just thought of that--do you like it?) deadline is tomorrow! If you haven't submitted your poem (or post about poetry), now is the time to do it!

Details about the contest are here.

18 April 2010

Attack

by NP

breathlessness
heart beats
pound out the voices
pressing in
lockers slamming in
syncopated rhythm
trembling hands
spread shakiness to
arms
shoulders
legs
faces twisted in concern
float in front of me
the edges of my vision
darken
close in until
nothing

17 April 2010

Crowd Control

by Julie Bloss Kelsey

I can’t babysit them like I used to,
there’s no time to set them down gently.
When I get interrupted, as I so often do,
my poems don’t queue neatly,
like patrons at the post office.

Rather, they are a raucous crowd:
unruly soccer fans, kicking,
clawing, screaming at one another.
They clamor for my attention,
desperate to be noticed.

I hear them strangling now
as these words congeal on the page,
stagnant as a blood clot.
Scabbing over, they will harden;
the leftovers waiting to be picked off,
waiting for their reprieve.

16 April 2010

Insect Life of Florida

by Lynda Hull



In those days I thought their endless thrum
   was the great wheel that turned the days, the nights.
      In the throats of hibiscus and oleander

I'd see them clustered yellow, blue, their shells
   enamelled hard as the sky before rain.
      All that summer, my second, from city

to city my young father drove the black coupe
   through humid mornings I'd wake to like fever
      parcelled between luggage and sample goods.

Afternoons, showers drummed the roof,
   my parents silent for hours. Even then I knew
      something of love was cruel, was distant.

Mother leaned over the seat to me, the orchid
   Father'd pinned in her hair shrivelled
      to a purple fist. A necklace of shells

coiled her throat, moving a little as she
   murmured of alligators that float the rivers
      able to swallow a child whole, of mosquitoes

whose bite would make you sleep a thousand years.
   And always the trance of blacktop shimmering
      through swamps with names like incantations—

Okeefenokee, where Father held my hand
   and pointed to an egret's flight unfolding
      white above swamp reeds that sang with insects

net over the sea, its lesson
   of desire and repetition. Lizards flashed
      over his shoes, over the rail

until I was lost, until I was part
   of the singing, their thousand wings gauze
      on my body, tattooing my skin.

father rocked me later by the water,
   on the motel balcony, singing calypso
      above the Jamaican radio. The lyrics

here the citronella burned, merging our
   shadows—Father's face floating over mine
      in the black changing sound

night, the enormous Florida night,
   metallic with cicadas, musical
      and dangerous as the human heart.


15 April 2010

What was I thinking?

I'm crazy. Really. I don't know what I was thinking, but I'm regretting it. Ragh!

In the latest manifestation of the coffee house book, each chapter is written about a character who is either a patron or employee of the coffee house and that character's relationship with the coffee house and its owner. Through each chapter, you learn about the coffee house and its owner, as well as the people who fill it.

Well, I decided (for some reason) that this wasn't enough for me in this project. So I also decided that each chapter would be told from the perspective of its character....in first-person point of view.

I know. I can see you shaking your head at me. And believe me, I've been shaking my head at myself since I started this crazy project! And I've been spending the past couple of weeks trying to convince myself that the story would be good--or better--if the chapters are told in third-person POV.

I just can't do it. The chapters need to be in first-person. It's hard, it's frustrating, and it's going to take quite a bit of character biography-ing. Luckily, I found a really great character biography worksheet that's working perfectly for all these "minor" characters, as well as a scene list worksheet that's helping me keep my story straight within the vignettes.

I have more background work than I thought I did, but if it helps keep me organized, it'll definitely be worth it.

I'll get this story written yet!

April 15th

by Aleda Shirley

Taxes due, the anniversary of Henry James's death,
& a brilliant sky rinsed of pollen & glare by yesterday's
record rain. From the magnolia in my front yard

the Mexican workers who are here to fix
the foundation of my house have hung their lunches
in grocery bags--they look like large dull light bulbs

that have burned out. When the foreman leaves
on an errand I see the youngest worker struggling to pull
a water hose to the back. Through the window

I tell him there's another hose in the garbage that will reach,
but he doesn't understand a word I'm saying. Finally
I point & say aqua & all six of them brighten

with comprehension, although I realize later I used
the Latin work, not the Spanish one. The house
was slowly sinking, stairstep cracks along the brick,

fractures in the plaster, the floor of the back bedroom
sloping three inches; one night, we heard a huge crash:
the window frame so distorted the glass shattered

in jagged shards, transparent puzzle pieces
on the fruitwood table. Later, after the holes
have been dug, the forsythia & sweet olive bent

out of the way, the lunches eaten, they jack the house up
& it shudders & pops, the cats head for somewhere
dark & safe, & before I figure out what's going on

I wonder if the workers are playing soccer
on the roof or if there's an earthquake. By dusk
they're mixing mortar, repointing brick, & in the yard

a grackle, a bluejay, & two cardinals peck
at the damp grass. I'd love to draw some lesson
from this, that things we can't see hold us up

& it's possible for those things to be repaired.
But I don't buy it; I think how you are
is how you are, that the level of joy or meaning

on the most ordinary Wednesday afternoon
is the level of joy or meaning you're stuck with.
Years from now I'll think of the lunches hanging

from the tree & how at the end of a long day
I heard music in the foreign recognizable sounds
of the workers calling to my neighbor's dog.

14 April 2010

Edmund Skellings promotes poetry in Florida

In 1980, Florida governor Robert Graham appointed Edmund Skellings the state's poet laureate. He is only the third poet to hold the title for the state, and was chosen after a competition of over four hundred Florida poets.

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Winding Sheet

by John Pieret

Cast among the ruins
entropy exists
god winds down
and we are left
pirouetting shades
even pale in twilight
passing out and in among
the echoes of our past

Each and each
in turn
in transit
cross the faded sun
until what light fails
time collapses
and the darkness
come

13 April 2010

I Know Poetry When I See It

by Jen Rose


I know poetry when I see it.
How it dances and sings and leaps
Across the page
How it shapes the white space
Breathing life into ink marks and wood pulp
Where there was once nothing
I know poetry when I see it
Where only the essence of a truth is compressed
In a line so small, but so full that
You read it over and over again
Just to know it by heart.
You write it down word for word
Letter for letter
Period for period
For wonder of what it felt
To write it.
I know poetry when I see it
Standing on my toes
Straining for a glimpse over
The shoulders of giants
Feeling small and speechless
In their presence
Sometimes
I feel the surge of words
Begging to be let out.
I hear them whispering in the notes of a song
Or the voice of a friend
Or a sudden epiphany
I doubt their worth and wonder if they matter,
And if they could mean anything
To anyone
But me.
But I write them
(or at least I try to)
Desiring to honor in the smallest way
The poetry I’ve seen.
Like a little girl
In her mother’s high heels
Five sizes too large.

12 April 2010

The Philosopher in Florida

by C. Dale Young

Midsummer lies on this town
like a plague: locusts now replaced
by humidity, the bloodied Nile

now an algae-covered rivulet
struggling to find its terminus.
Our choice is a simple one:

to leave or to remain, to render
the Spanish moss a memory
or to pull it from trees, repeatedly.

And this must be what the young
philosopher felt, the pull of a dialectic so basic
the mind refuses, normally,

to take much notice of it.
Outside, beyond a palm-tree fence,
a flock of ibis mounts the air,

our concerns ignored
by their quick white wings.
Feathered flashes reflected in water,

the bending necks of the cattails:
the landscape feels nothing---
it repeats itself with or without us.

11 April 2010

There is no frigate like a book (1263)

by Emily Dickinson

There is no Frigate like a Book
To take us Lands away,
Nor any Coursers like a Page
Of prancing Poetry -
This Traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of Toll -
How frugal is the Chariot
That bears a Human soul.

10 April 2010

If We Must Die

by Claude McKay

If we must die--let it not be like hogs
Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,
While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs,
Making their mock at our accursed lot.
If we must die--oh, let us nobly die,
So that our precious blood may not be shed
In vain; then even the monsters we defy
Shall be constrained to honor us though dead!
Oh, Kinsmen!  We must meet the common foe;
Though far outnumbered, let us show us brave,
And for their thousand blows deal one deathblow!
What though before us lies the open grave?
Like men we'll face the murderous, cowardly pack,
Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!

09 April 2010

Poetry comes to the Orange County Library System for National Poetry Month

In addition to the events all over the state to celebrate National Poetry Month, there are many events taking place in your very own local libraries.

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April is National Poetry Month

During the month of April, scriptwriters all over the world are participating in ScriptFrenzy. They're writing everything from screenplays to radio scripts to graphic novels, with the goal of completing 100 pages in 30 days. But that isn't the only exposure to literature during April. This month is also National Poetry Month.

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Fletcher McGee

by Edgar Lee Masters

She took my strength by minutes,
She took my life by hours,
She drained me like a fevered moon
That saps the spinning world.
The days went by like shadows,
The minutes wheeled like stars.
She took the pity from my heart,
And made it into smiles.
She was a hunk of sculptor's clay,
My secret thoughts were fingers:
They flew behind her pensive brow
And lined it deep with pain.
They set the lips, and sagged the cheeks,
And drooped the eyes with sorrow.
My soul had entered in the clay,
Fighting like seven devils.
It was not mine, it was not hers;
She held it, but its struggles
Modeled a face she hated,
And a face I feared to see.
I beat the windows, shook the bolts.
I hid me in a corner--
And then she died and haunted me,
And hunted me for life.

08 April 2010

God's Grandeur

by Gerard Manley Hopkins

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
   It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
   It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
   And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
   And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
   There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
   Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs--
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
   World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

07 April 2010

The Tyger

[NP's NOTE: This is the first piece of literature I read at MacMurray in a class with my advisor, Dr. Robert Seufert. I'm not a big fan of Blake, but I do enjoy this poem for that reason.]

by William Blake

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand, dare sieze the fire?

And what shoulder, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And water'd heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

06 April 2010

This Is Just to Say

by William Carlos Williams

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

05 April 2010

Untitled

by Chris Rhetts

When I was young
my sister returned for me to God
the power of decision.

Now I chant, but softly,
and spin the little prayer wheel
she left to me.

Sir, I,
am as a water spider,
held to life by surface tension,
minion of conceit, and fashionable pretension,
trading only in the narrows
in jellied words and common urges.
A water spider,
which the least of rain submerges.

04 April 2010

You Begin

[NP's NOTE: I post this poem for my son, on the occasion of his first Easter.]

by Margaret Atwood

You begin this way:
this is your hand,
this is your eye,
that is a fish, blue and flat
on the paper; almost
the shape of an eye.
This is your mouth, this is an O
or a moon, whichever
you like. This is yellow.

Outside the window
is the rain, green
because it is summer, and beyond that
the trees and then the world,
which is round and has only
the colors of these nine crayons.

This is the world, which is fuller
and more difficult to learn than I have said.
You are right to smudge it that way
with the red and then
the orange: the world burns.

Once you have learned these words
you will learn that there are more
words than you can ever learn.
The word hand floats above your hand
like a small cloud over a lake.
The word hand anchors
your hand to this table,
your hand is a warm stone
I hold between two words.

This is your hand, these are my hands, this is the world,
which is round but not flat and has more colors
than we can see.

It begins, it has an end,
this is what you will
come back to, this is your hand.

03 April 2010

In April

by James Hearst

This I saw on an April day:
Warm rain spilt from a sun-lined cloud,
A sky-flung wave of gold at evening,
And a cock pheasant treading a dusty path
Shy and proud.


And this I found in an April field:
A new white calf in the sun at noon,
A flash of blue in a cool moss bank,
And tips of tulips promising flowers
To a blue-winged loon.


And this I tried to understand
As I scrubbed the rust from my brightening plow:
The movement of seed in furrowed earth,
And a blackbird whistling sweet and clear
From a green-sprayed bough.

02 April 2010

A True Poem

by Lloyd Schwartz


I'm working on a poem that's so true, I can't show it to anyone.

I could never show it to anyone.

Because it says exactly what I think, and what I think scares me.

Sometimes it pleases me.

Usually it brings misery.

And this poem says exactly what I think.

What I think of myself, what I think of my friends, what I think about my lover.

Exactly.

Parts of it might please them, some of it might scare them.

Some of it might bring misery.

And I don't want to hurt them, I don't want to hurt them.

I don't want to hurt anybody.

I want everyone to love me.

Still, I keep working on it.

Why?

Why do I keep working on it?

Nobody will ever see it.

Nobody will ever see it.

I keep working on it even though I can never show it to anybody.

I keep working on it even though someone might get hurt.

01 April 2010

The Poems I Have Not Written

by John Brehm

I'm so wildly unprolific, the poems
I have not written would reach
from here to the California coast
if you laid them end to end.

And if you stacked them up,
the poems I have not written
would sway like a silent
Tower of Babel, saying nothing

and everything in a thousand
different tongues. So moving, so
filled with and emptied of suffering,
so steeped in the music of a voice

speechless before the truth,
the poems i have not written
would break the hearts of every
woman who's ever left me

make them eye their husbands
with a sharp contempt and hate
themselves for turning their backs
on the very source of beauty.

The poems I have not written
would compel all other poets
to ask of God: "Why do you
let me live? I am worthless.

please strike me dead at once,
destroy my works and cleanse
the earth of all my ghastly
imperfections." Trees would

bow their heads before the poems
I have not written. "Take me,"
they would say, "and turn me
into your pages so that I

might live forever as the ground
from which your words arise."
The wind itself, about which
I might have written so eloquently,

praising its slick and intersecting
rivers of air, its stately calms
and furious interrogations,
its flutelike lingerings and passionate

reproofs, would divert its course
to sweep down and then pass over
the poems I have not written,
and the life I have not lived, the life

I've failed even to imagine,
which they so perfectly describe.

CONTEST VOTING

Voting on the contest begins today (I know it was supposed to start tomorrow, but this is my contest and I say it starts today. Big whoop. Wanna fight about it?), and is open to all readers. Simply select your favorite of the contest entries, then vote by commenting on that poem with the word "VOTE" (feel free to add other comments, of course). You may only vote once. The poem with the most votes wins.

In the event of a tie, I'll make the final decision based on whatever criteria I find appropriate at the time (alliteration, imagery, meter, moon phase, etc.).

The winner of the contest will be announced here on the blog on May 2nd (and via e-mail to the winner).

For ease of voting, here are the entries (in the order they appeared on the blog):

Untitled by Chris Rhetts
I Know Poetry When I See It by Jen Rose
Winding Sheet by John Pieret
Crowd Control by Julie Bloss Kelsey
While Writing Poetry by Paul Gustav Spohn

Good luck, poets!

[Note: This post was pre-dated in order to keep it from appearing at the top of the blog. It was written on April 24, 2010.]