Friday, October 3, 2014

Indiana Poetry Awards

Celebrating! I am really grateful to Indiana poet laureate George Kalamaras for the opportunity, and pleased to announce I won first place in the Wabash Watershed Indiana Poetry Awards (urban category; judged by poet John Bradley) for my poem, "My Locks Tangle in the Manhole Cover". My friend Kaveh was kind enough to interview me for the Butler MFA Blog about the awards.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Matt Yeager Setlist: Conversation@Efroymson

This week former Butler University grad, NY poet, Matt Yeager visited campus and gave an outstanding, energetic, and enthralling reading. Honestly, lucky me to have class in Efroymson on Thursday nights, or I might have missed it.

Anyway, the following is a setlist of poems he read. He began with the best, a must-hear-out-loud poem full of repetition and energy. He then moved into a set of sonnets (he says he has written 120, and will stop when he reaches 154, to rival Shakespeare, but I bet he keeps going), and then a bit of prose poem mischief that had the audience in giggles, and then some "songs from the gut":

1. Sleep Mothers
2. Black Socks White Socks
3. Couples in Plays, Couples on Screen
4. The Balloon Shop
5. Chad Johnson
6. Lukewarm Coffee
7. Top Floor Apartment Sans Ceiling
8. Poems are Grown (honestly, I'm not sure this was the title--I might have written down a snippet of his conversation here...)
9. Ode to Naps
10. Ode on Bacon
11. Portrait of Chico (his gut)
12. Ode on Cartoon Dancing Skeleton
13. Personal Physiology

A couple of comments he made about writing:

"When you are trying to write too hard to 'please', go the other way and offend everyone."
Poems occur when "the soul is abducted by a distant sense."

Monday, February 17, 2014

Lorna Dee Cervantes Reading at Butler University

     Before Lorna Dee Cervantes began reading her first poem “First Thought”, she introduced it with a T.S. Eliot quote, “April is the cruelest month,” relaying that she wrote the whole book Sueno over the course of several years’ worth of National Poetry Month (April) daily writing prompts. 
    Personally, I have always found February to be the cruelest month—after weeks of cold and gray skies, my mind circles the past, ruminating on failed relationships, lost friendships, and unfulfilled goals, fears of failure. And writing is entirely clamped in brutal bitter battles of bitchiness. So, I have no idea what the hell Eliot was talking about—and I guess Cervantes just meant that the rigmarole of writing on a new prompt every single day for a month was cruel. But, she found life there, and a whole host of what she called “story poems.” She said that she has created multiple characters, and they all talk together….
     Between reading her poems, she discussed her writing processes, her obsessions (cars—though she has never driven), her social activism as an advocate of Chicano literature, and the idea of language, and personal symbols.
     She said poetry is the art of language, and what makes your language unique is that it is from your body—and imbued with all that makes up every part of you, speaks for every cell of you—but at the same time as it is personally yours, it is already social, because language belongs to the community, is owned by the community. She said, “You don’t own the words—they are shared, like air.” 
     Her philosophy of writing is that each of us processes all of life’s moments, changes, and epiphanies as a poem, and that of us has a personal symbol that holds all of our personal contradictions (hers is the freeway), and that the advantage of poetry is multiple beginnings and multiple endings—to write things over again and again.
     Some of the lines which stood out to me:
“licked the chrome when no one was watching”
“the shackles of mascara”
“I want to hear all the Bose of you, down to your bones”
When it came time to read from her book “Ciento” (which translates for her as, one hundred somethings) she involves the audience, encouraging them to shout out a number (1-100), but beware that the 100-word-poems are like a tarot reading. It was playful and engaging, and energizing for the crowd.
     She was very physical with her reading, often using grand hand gestures to emphasize actions and objects in the poems. In the question/answer portion of the evening, she mentioned that her first book of poems was autobiographical, and written to be performed for illiterate people in her community. She stills performs energetically as she reads.

Friday, May 10, 2013

A List, from Julianna Baggott’s Visit

Butler University, April 2013

How to be a successful writer:
·         There is no talent, just hard work.
·         Inspiration is a destructive construct.
Julianna professed to make every student of hers study the Anders Ericsson theory of Deliberate Practice. Interestingly, he is faculty at Florida State University, as well, where Baggott teaches in the Creative Writing Program. Basically, hard work pays of—and if you practice several hours a day, you will become an expert. She notes that constructs like: luck, visualization, and innate talent combine to create a cultural obsession with spontaneous success, success that requires no effort.
·         Be who you are, and be that well.
·         Know your stories.
·         Make storytelling a way of life.
·         Horde the details (document everything).
·         Use what you’ve been given.
·         Risk humiliation; always be writing just on the verge of humiliating yourself.
·         Accept criticism. It breaks the piece open.
·         Your craft will ask you to sacrifice. Be willing to sacrifice.
·         If you want the stuff, the life you can’t afford, you’ll ignore your craft. Don’t want the stuff, want the real thing.
·         Be not vaguely bitter, be specifically bitter.
·         Know exactly what you want.
·         Polish your jealousy, feed the chip on your shoulder.
·         More hours, more hours, more work.

How to live a resentment free life:
·         Have a secret self.
·         Be full with ambition.
·         Quit; know when to quit, be willing to work really hard, and have a backup plan.
·         Stand up for each other.
·         Suffer fools gladly.
·         Stop being prissy.
·         Failure is a narrative plot point, necessary to get you on to the thing you need to do.
·         Commit to the daily practice of empathy.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Special Sale from Cave Wall Literary Journal

A particular poetry and art journal I am a big fan of, Cave Wall, is doing a special sale in honor of National Poetry Month. There are just a couple days left to get a free back issue with a 2 year subscription. Good stuff here.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Poem A Day Challenge for National Poetry Month April 2012

I have been following a PAD Challenge this month. Thought I would share one of the poems I completed. Also linking it to Open Link Night at Dverse Poets. Hope you like it!

In the Forest

In the forest shadows coat the floor.
Heed her jugular.
In the forest trees pulse
root to leaf.
The bough shudders,
leaf flutter breaks time.
The sparrows are agape with gossip.

In comes the rake--
his stalk threatens
the musty pillow bed.
Her vein leaks juice,
sticky and finely scented
with a century of tree breath.
It trickles the path like a secret.

Tired of the melody
the birds break broken twigs to nest,
sleep, along the steep path
stony with roots that jut like bones,
out of sorts and gray.
The wood is dry today
and every breath rustles
the trees.

Friday, April 20, 2012

National Poetry Month: The Etheridge Knight Festival, "Evening with the Legends"

Last night was a whirlwind of poetry. Four poets of strong conviction, radical, and powerful, gave a reading at the Etheridge Knight Festival of the Arts at the Indiana Landmarks Center, Indianapolis. It was called "Evening with the Legends", honoring Gwendolyn Brooks, and featured readings by Amiri Baraka, Mari Evans, Haki Madhubuti, and Sonia Sanchez.
They filled up my ears, my head...with three and a half hours of intense poetry. The night ended late, and I went to bed with my head full of their words and images, with no time to process it. I woke in the middle of the night to disturbed dreams full of wreckage, and broken lines of poetry. Some unfamiliar rhythm beating through my brain.
Swimming and swirling in the dark belly of night--ribs cracked, eyes bruised. My chest burst from the energy of the run.
Their words and images fell on my dreams as a shadow: rage, deception, death, loss, grief, judgement...vampires, politicians, murderers...
And sometimes beauty. This morning, the love poem Mari Evans read last night, "Celebration", seemed to shine even brighter from the midst of all those dark words.

The evening ran long, and sometimes even the poets seemed tired  and strained, sitting on the stage, for hours. The acoustics were not great and at times I strained to hear their words. So much punch packed into one night.
Amiri Baraka was massive. Highlights were his reading of "Somebody Blew Up America" and his Low-kus.
Mari Evans was passionate. She shared several poems that highlighted her work with prisons.
Haki Madhubuti was bright and heady. He shared some poems from  Liberation Narratives, including one of the same title which was standout. He promoted writing good poetry by reading good poetry.
Sonia Sanchez was dizzying, and rythmic and ended the night with a litany of names, of writers, philosophers, friends, people who inspired her, called "A Poem of Praise".

The night opened with the reading of an Etheridge Knight poem, "The Idea of Ancestry", which had me captivated.

There were many calls to action--each of the poets emphasized the importance of activism, art, and encouraging our youth.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The taste of sorrow is an apple tree half juiced at the end of summer, when the air starts to smell boozy and the bees wind in and out of the near rotten fruits.