Friday, April 27, 2012

Despite my best intentions, I didn't get quite as much poetry posted as I would have liked this month. I'm crunched between a couple of work deadlines, making progress novel drafting and going through some pet transitions at home.

After we lost our snowshoe kitty Rosie, there was a lot of cleaning to do. She had feline leukemia, which you might not know is caused by a virus. That's right, viral cancer. Scary stuff. So we wanted to disinfect areas before bringing a new kitty into the house.

Our city animal care and control shelter ran a special adoption event last weekend and we thought we'd come home with a new kitty then. Alas, the kitty we liked most was rescued in an eviction, which meant a five day wait to see if the owner would claim the cat. The owner did. Glad for Noelle (to be back with a human who loved her), sad for us.

Last night we went back to see the latest crop of adoptable cuties. My daughter fell for his handsome guy--a unique mix of calico and tabby. She named him Vincent. He is 8 months old and very playful and cuddly.



He is especially fascinated with her Hex Bugs--these battery powered robotic "bugs" that run around in their little habitat. I expect we'll have a fun filled weekend getting him settled in.

2:46 PM Laurel Garver
Despite my best intentions, I didn't get quite as much poetry posted as I would have liked this month. I'm crunched between a couple of work deadlines, making progress novel drafting and going through some pet transitions at home.

After we lost our snowshoe kitty Rosie, there was a lot of cleaning to do. She had feline leukemia, which you might not know is caused by a virus. That's right, viral cancer. Scary stuff. So we wanted to disinfect areas before bringing a new kitty into the house.

Our city animal care and control shelter ran a special adoption event last weekend and we thought we'd come home with a new kitty then. Alas, the kitty we liked most was rescued in an eviction, which meant a five day wait to see if the owner would claim the cat. The owner did. Glad for Noelle (to be back with a human who loved her), sad for us.

Last night we went back to see the latest crop of adoptable cuties. My daughter fell for his handsome guy--a unique mix of calico and tabby. She named him Vincent. He is 8 months old and very playful and cuddly.



He is especially fascinated with her Hex Bugs--these battery powered robotic "bugs" that run around in their little habitat. I expect we'll have a fun filled weekend getting him settled in.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Faith Elizabeth Hough tagged me for the "Lucky Seven" meme, in which I post seven paragraphs from page 77 of one of my manuscripts. I hope you'll pardon the fact this is actually from page 72 of my contemporary YA Never Gone, but I didn't want to abandon entirely my National Poetry Month theme. This excerpt is a good example of how poetic techniques can be useful in fiction for making character's introspective moments sing.

Sound patterns are something that come fairly naturally to me, though I do rework passages and tinker with word choice in late revision when a section feels like it needs some extra oomph.  I like the subtlety of assonance especially [repeated vowel sounds]. For example, see the "ow" sound in this line: "Fields once shining gold with canola flowers are now brown patches of plow marks and stubble." For more on using poetic sound patterns, see my post, "Poet Secrets."

===

The train plunges through a series of tunnels. My ears clog and unclog from the changes in pressure. For ten minutes we hurtle past suburbs with rows of prim brick houses and tidy gardens peppered with toys. No anguish or ugly arguments here in the land of normal.

Suburbs abruptly end and countryside begins. The sky is wet and asphalt gray—not the England I’ve known, its azure sky hung with marshmallow clouds. January England is nothing like July. Gone are the sheep sunning themselves and nibbling grass. Fields once shining gold with canola flowers are now brown patches of plow marks and stubble. No growth. No life.

What I wouldn’t give to hold Dad’s warm hand again, to clutch his arm and let him steer me where I need to go. If only I could feel him again. I’d be safe. The dark emptiness couldn’t swallow me.

How could I forget? Grandma might have the ashes, but I have the shirt.

I open my backpack and quietly dig till I find a firm pillow of plastic. With one hand, I work open the zip top. The soft cotton sends tingles up my arm. I lean back, close my eyes and sink into the sensation: his collar soft in my small hands as I rode on his shoulders. Down sun-dappled sidewalks we trotted toward home. He dipped and lurched to duck under branches, and I laughed, grabbed great fistfuls of shirt, fingers fighting to root myself there.

FFWUMP! Wind shear from a passing train explodes outside my window. I lurch in my seat. Grandpa reads on, like he didn’t even notice the noise. Other passengers type on laptops, read, even sleep. Am I the only one who heard it?

My gosh, is this what Grandpa meant when he said bad things would happen when I “grasp after what belongs to God”? I’ll get these terrible jolts, slowly come unhinged?

===

Here are the rules:


1. Go to page seventy-seven of your manuscript.[bent that one a bit, feel free to do likewise]
2. Go down seven lines.
3. Post the next seven lines, sentences, or paragraphs on your blog for all to enjoy/laugh at/whatever.
4. Tag seven new writers.

And here are my invitees:
1. Anne Gallagher of Piedmont Writer
2. Emma Lauren of The Writer's Funhouse
3. Heidi Willis of Some Mad Hope
4. Connie Keller at A Merry Heart
5. Margo Berendsen at Writing at High Altitude
6. Jemi Fraser at Just Jemi
7. Tyrean Martinson at Tyrean's Writing Spot

Do you borrow skills from other kinds of writing (poetry, drama, nonfiction, journalism) to improve your fiction?


11:31 AM Laurel Garver
Faith Elizabeth Hough tagged me for the "Lucky Seven" meme, in which I post seven paragraphs from page 77 of one of my manuscripts. I hope you'll pardon the fact this is actually from page 72 of my contemporary YA Never Gone, but I didn't want to abandon entirely my National Poetry Month theme. This excerpt is a good example of how poetic techniques can be useful in fiction for making character's introspective moments sing.

Sound patterns are something that come fairly naturally to me, though I do rework passages and tinker with word choice in late revision when a section feels like it needs some extra oomph.  I like the subtlety of assonance especially [repeated vowel sounds]. For example, see the "ow" sound in this line: "Fields once shining gold with canola flowers are now brown patches of plow marks and stubble." For more on using poetic sound patterns, see my post, "Poet Secrets."

===

The train plunges through a series of tunnels. My ears clog and unclog from the changes in pressure. For ten minutes we hurtle past suburbs with rows of prim brick houses and tidy gardens peppered with toys. No anguish or ugly arguments here in the land of normal.

Suburbs abruptly end and countryside begins. The sky is wet and asphalt gray—not the England I’ve known, its azure sky hung with marshmallow clouds. January England is nothing like July. Gone are the sheep sunning themselves and nibbling grass. Fields once shining gold with canola flowers are now brown patches of plow marks and stubble. No growth. No life.

What I wouldn’t give to hold Dad’s warm hand again, to clutch his arm and let him steer me where I need to go. If only I could feel him again. I’d be safe. The dark emptiness couldn’t swallow me.

How could I forget? Grandma might have the ashes, but I have the shirt.

I open my backpack and quietly dig till I find a firm pillow of plastic. With one hand, I work open the zip top. The soft cotton sends tingles up my arm. I lean back, close my eyes and sink into the sensation: his collar soft in my small hands as I rode on his shoulders. Down sun-dappled sidewalks we trotted toward home. He dipped and lurched to duck under branches, and I laughed, grabbed great fistfuls of shirt, fingers fighting to root myself there.

FFWUMP! Wind shear from a passing train explodes outside my window. I lurch in my seat. Grandpa reads on, like he didn’t even notice the noise. Other passengers type on laptops, read, even sleep. Am I the only one who heard it?

My gosh, is this what Grandpa meant when he said bad things would happen when I “grasp after what belongs to God”? I’ll get these terrible jolts, slowly come unhinged?

===

Here are the rules:


1. Go to page seventy-seven of your manuscript.[bent that one a bit, feel free to do likewise]
2. Go down seven lines.
3. Post the next seven lines, sentences, or paragraphs on your blog for all to enjoy/laugh at/whatever.
4. Tag seven new writers.

And here are my invitees:
1. Anne Gallagher of Piedmont Writer
2. Emma Lauren of The Writer's Funhouse
3. Heidi Willis of Some Mad Hope
4. Connie Keller at A Merry Heart
5. Margo Berendsen at Writing at High Altitude
6. Jemi Fraser at Just Jemi
7. Tyrean Martinson at Tyrean's Writing Spot

Do you borrow skills from other kinds of writing (poetry, drama, nonfiction, journalism) to improve your fiction?


Friday, April 20, 2012

Every writer cobbles personal experiences with cultural influences and imagination. To write is to borrow. Today, as part of my National Poetry Month series, I'd like to look at a genre that unapologetically makes borrowing its raison d'être [reason for being, a very handy French phrase when you want to sound cosmopolitan :-)].

Found Poetry, as the Wikipedia article defines it, is "a type of poetry created by taking words, phrases, and sometimes whole passages from other sources and reframing them as poetry by making changes in spacing and lines, or by adding or deleting text, thus imparting new meaning. The resulting poem can be defined as either treated: changed in a profound and systematic manner; or untreated: virtually unchanged from the order, syntax and meaning of the original."

 Found poems, in other words, take other people's texts and jiggers them into poetry, either by simply altering the line breaks and such, or by mashing together snippets. Here is one of my favorites, by contemporary poet Annie Dillard, which uses snippets from Vincent Van Gogh's letters:

I Am Trying to Get at Something Utterly Heartbroken
by Annie Dillard (1945 - )

 I
 At the end of the road is a small cottage,
 And over it all the blue sky.
I am trying to get at something utterly heartbroken.

 The flying birds, the smoking chimneys,
 And that figure loitering below in the yard—
If we do not learn from this, then from what shall we learn?

 The miners go home in the white snow at twilight.
These people are quite black. Their houses are small. 
The time for making dark studies is short.

 A patch of brown heath through which a white
 Path leads, and sky just delicately tinged,
 Yet somewhat passionately brushed.
We who try our best to live, why do we not live more?

 II
 The branches of poplars and willows rigid like wire.
It may be true that there is no God here, 
But there must be one not far off.

 A studio with a cradle, a baby’s high chair.
Those colors which have no name 
Are the real foundation of everything.

 What I want is more beautiful huts far away on the heath.
If we are tired, isn’t it then because 
We have already walked a long way?

 The cart with the white horse brings
 A wounded man home from the mines.
Bistre and bitumen, well applied, 
Make the colouring ripe and mellow and generous.

 III
 A ploughed field with clods of violet earth;
 Over all a yellow sky with a yellow sun.
So there is every moment something that moves one intensely. 

A bluish-grey line of trees with a few roofs. I
 simply could not restrain myself or keep 
My hands off it or allow myself to rest.

 A mother with her child, in the shadow
 Of a large tree against the dune.
To say how many green-greys there are is impossible.

 I love so much, so very much, the effect
 Of yellow leaves against green trunks.
This is not a thing that I have sought, 
But it has come across my path and I have seized it.

 —Material from Vincent van Gogh’s letters, 1873-1890. (Mornings Like This, HarperPerennial, 1995) 


Found poetry is more about recognition of poetic qualities, and an eye and ear for framing prose into poetry.

Here's a piece from the online journal Verbatim (12 April 2012), based on a child's thank-you note, by British philosophy student Marika.

In the Air

I will not make you a slave, you
will live in my 200-story castle where unicorn
servants will feed
you doughnuts off their horns. I will
personally make you
a throne that is half platnum
and half solid gold and jewel encrested.

Thankyou again for teaching us
about meteroligy, you're
more awesome than a monkey
wearing a tuxedo
made out of bacon
riding a cyborg unicorn
with a lightsaber for the horn
on the tip of a space shuttle
closing in on Mars,
while ingulfed in flames.

Taken from a thank you note written by a nine-year-old, thanking a local TV weatherman for visiting his school in Austin, Texas, as reported in the Metro on 15 March, 2012. Submitted by Marika.

Notice that some of the charm of the piece comes from the spelling errors. You get a clear sense of voice here, an enthusiastic and imaginative child.

If a child's misspelled note can be fodder for publishable work, this is clearly one of the least intimidating types of poetry to try yourself. Gather and cobble, and voila, poetry.

Where might you find inspiring snippets? 

Image source: Color Overload.
11:47 AM Laurel Garver
Every writer cobbles personal experiences with cultural influences and imagination. To write is to borrow. Today, as part of my National Poetry Month series, I'd like to look at a genre that unapologetically makes borrowing its raison d'être [reason for being, a very handy French phrase when you want to sound cosmopolitan :-)].

Found Poetry, as the Wikipedia article defines it, is "a type of poetry created by taking words, phrases, and sometimes whole passages from other sources and reframing them as poetry by making changes in spacing and lines, or by adding or deleting text, thus imparting new meaning. The resulting poem can be defined as either treated: changed in a profound and systematic manner; or untreated: virtually unchanged from the order, syntax and meaning of the original."

 Found poems, in other words, take other people's texts and jiggers them into poetry, either by simply altering the line breaks and such, or by mashing together snippets. Here is one of my favorites, by contemporary poet Annie Dillard, which uses snippets from Vincent Van Gogh's letters:

I Am Trying to Get at Something Utterly Heartbroken
by Annie Dillard (1945 - )

 I
 At the end of the road is a small cottage,
 And over it all the blue sky.
I am trying to get at something utterly heartbroken.

 The flying birds, the smoking chimneys,
 And that figure loitering below in the yard—
If we do not learn from this, then from what shall we learn?

 The miners go home in the white snow at twilight.
These people are quite black. Their houses are small. 
The time for making dark studies is short.

 A patch of brown heath through which a white
 Path leads, and sky just delicately tinged,
 Yet somewhat passionately brushed.
We who try our best to live, why do we not live more?

 II
 The branches of poplars and willows rigid like wire.
It may be true that there is no God here, 
But there must be one not far off.

 A studio with a cradle, a baby’s high chair.
Those colors which have no name 
Are the real foundation of everything.

 What I want is more beautiful huts far away on the heath.
If we are tired, isn’t it then because 
We have already walked a long way?

 The cart with the white horse brings
 A wounded man home from the mines.
Bistre and bitumen, well applied, 
Make the colouring ripe and mellow and generous.

 III
 A ploughed field with clods of violet earth;
 Over all a yellow sky with a yellow sun.
So there is every moment something that moves one intensely. 

A bluish-grey line of trees with a few roofs. I
 simply could not restrain myself or keep 
My hands off it or allow myself to rest.

 A mother with her child, in the shadow
 Of a large tree against the dune.
To say how many green-greys there are is impossible.

 I love so much, so very much, the effect
 Of yellow leaves against green trunks.
This is not a thing that I have sought, 
But it has come across my path and I have seized it.

 —Material from Vincent van Gogh’s letters, 1873-1890. (Mornings Like This, HarperPerennial, 1995) 


Found poetry is more about recognition of poetic qualities, and an eye and ear for framing prose into poetry.

Here's a piece from the online journal Verbatim (12 April 2012), based on a child's thank-you note, by British philosophy student Marika.

In the Air

I will not make you a slave, you
will live in my 200-story castle where unicorn
servants will feed
you doughnuts off their horns. I will
personally make you
a throne that is half platnum
and half solid gold and jewel encrested.

Thankyou again for teaching us
about meteroligy, you're
more awesome than a monkey
wearing a tuxedo
made out of bacon
riding a cyborg unicorn
with a lightsaber for the horn
on the tip of a space shuttle
closing in on Mars,
while ingulfed in flames.

Taken from a thank you note written by a nine-year-old, thanking a local TV weatherman for visiting his school in Austin, Texas, as reported in the Metro on 15 March, 2012. Submitted by Marika.

Notice that some of the charm of the piece comes from the spelling errors. You get a clear sense of voice here, an enthusiastic and imaginative child.

If a child's misspelled note can be fodder for publishable work, this is clearly one of the least intimidating types of poetry to try yourself. Gather and cobble, and voila, poetry.

Where might you find inspiring snippets? 

Image source: Color Overload.

Monday, April 16, 2012


Gerard Manley Hopkins is something of a poster-boy for misunderstood artists and "born out of time" poets. Now considered one of the greats of the Victorian era, none of his best-loved poems were published during his lifetime. His style was too radically different from his contemporaries, so his work didn't come into prominence until the nineteen-teens, decades after his death. Hopkins earned his living as a Jesuit priest and a college professor. You can read more about his life HERE.

What I love most about Hopkins's work is his use of sound devices. He of course has a great deal of end-rhyme [ends of lines have a sound-alike pattern], like most Victorians. The first full poem I quote below has the following rhyme scheme [pattern of rhyming lines, with a letter assigned to each new sound]: ABBA ABBA // CCD CCD. [The double slash, "//", indicates a stanza break.]

But Hopkins doesn't stop there. He also uses internal rhyme [rhyme within a line], such as "All the air things wear." His lines seethe with sounds sliding against each other in sound patterns called alliteration [repeated initial sounds], consonance [repeated consonant sounds within a word] and assonance [repeated vowel sounds]. I'll give a few quick examples below.

In these two lines are full of alliteration and consonance: there are a plethora of Ws at the beginnings of words and Ls within:
"Lovely the woods, waters, meadows, combes, vales,
All the air things wear that build this world of Wales; "

This line repeats the assonant "ah" sound (if you read it in a British accent):
"Being mighty a master, being a father and fond. "

Without further ado, here is some Hopkins magic to brighten your Monday.

In the Valley of the Elwy
By Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–1889)

I remember a house where all were good
To me, God knows, deserving no such thing:
Comforting smell breathed at very entering,
Fetched fresh, as I suppose, off some sweet wood.
That cordial air made those kind people a hood
All over, as a bevy of eggs the mothering wing
Will, or mild nights the new morsels of Spring:
Why, it seemed of course; seemed of right it should.

Lovely the woods, waters, meadows, combes, vales,
All the air things wear that build this world of Wales;
Only the inmate does not correspond:
God, lover of souls, swaying considerate scales,
Complete thy creature dear O where it fails,
Being mighty a master, being a father and fond.


Pied Beauty
By Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–1889)

Glory be to God for dappled things –
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him.


God's Grandeur
By Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–1889)

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.

Have you ever played with sound patterns in poetry or fiction?
12:24 PM Laurel Garver

Gerard Manley Hopkins is something of a poster-boy for misunderstood artists and "born out of time" poets. Now considered one of the greats of the Victorian era, none of his best-loved poems were published during his lifetime. His style was too radically different from his contemporaries, so his work didn't come into prominence until the nineteen-teens, decades after his death. Hopkins earned his living as a Jesuit priest and a college professor. You can read more about his life HERE.

What I love most about Hopkins's work is his use of sound devices. He of course has a great deal of end-rhyme [ends of lines have a sound-alike pattern], like most Victorians. The first full poem I quote below has the following rhyme scheme [pattern of rhyming lines, with a letter assigned to each new sound]: ABBA ABBA // CCD CCD. [The double slash, "//", indicates a stanza break.]

But Hopkins doesn't stop there. He also uses internal rhyme [rhyme within a line], such as "All the air things wear." His lines seethe with sounds sliding against each other in sound patterns called alliteration [repeated initial sounds], consonance [repeated consonant sounds within a word] and assonance [repeated vowel sounds]. I'll give a few quick examples below.

In these two lines are full of alliteration and consonance: there are a plethora of Ws at the beginnings of words and Ls within:
"Lovely the woods, waters, meadows, combes, vales,
All the air things wear that build this world of Wales; "

This line repeats the assonant "ah" sound (if you read it in a British accent):
"Being mighty a master, being a father and fond. "

Without further ado, here is some Hopkins magic to brighten your Monday.

In the Valley of the Elwy
By Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–1889)

I remember a house where all were good
To me, God knows, deserving no such thing:
Comforting smell breathed at very entering,
Fetched fresh, as I suppose, off some sweet wood.
That cordial air made those kind people a hood
All over, as a bevy of eggs the mothering wing
Will, or mild nights the new morsels of Spring:
Why, it seemed of course; seemed of right it should.

Lovely the woods, waters, meadows, combes, vales,
All the air things wear that build this world of Wales;
Only the inmate does not correspond:
God, lover of souls, swaying considerate scales,
Complete thy creature dear O where it fails,
Being mighty a master, being a father and fond.


Pied Beauty
By Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–1889)

Glory be to God for dappled things –
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him.


God's Grandeur
By Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–1889)

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.

Have you ever played with sound patterns in poetry or fiction?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


Many think of poetry as being uniformly introspective--about sensations and feelings. But some poetry has a far larger agenda. Activist poetry seeks to give voice to the voiceless, to paint a picture that stirs you to action.

Modernist poet Muriel Rukeyser (1913-80) is probably best know for her poem sequence, "The Book of the Dead" (1938) which sought to bring national attention to the epidemic of silicosis--a deadly lung disease caused by exposure to silica dust in mines and factories that did not take adequate steps to protect workers.

Rukeyser's style feels prosy, in part to make it widely approachable. She wanted the widest audience possible, so that national opinion would be swayed and her readers would put pressure on leaders to regulate industries that were poisoning workers. Here are two sections from that poem sequence.

Absalom
by Muriel Rukeyser (1913-1980)

I first discovered what was killing these men.
I had three sons who worked with their father in the tunnel:
Cecil, aged 23, Owen, aged 21, Shirley, aged 17.
They used to work in a coal mine, not steady work
for the mines were not going much of the time.
A power Co. foreman learned that we made home brew,
he formed a habit of dropping in evenings to drink,
persuading the boys and my husband—
give up their jobs and take this other work.
It would pay them better.
Shirley was my youngest son; the boy.
He went into the tunnel.

My heart my mother my heart my mother
My heart my coming into being.

My husband is not able to work.
He has it, according to the doctor.
We have been having a very hard time making a living since
this trouble came to us.
I saw the dust in the bottom of the tub.
The boy worked there about eighteen months,
came home one evening with a shortness of breath.
He said, 'Mother, I cannot get my breath.'
Shirley was sick about three months.
I would carry him from his bed to the table,
from his bed to the porch, in my arms.

My heart is mine in the place of hearts,
They gave me back my heart, it lies in me.

When they took sick, right at the start, I saw a doctor.
I tried to get Dr. Harless to X-ray the boys.
He was the only man I had any confidence in,
the company doctor in the Kopper's mine,
but he would not see Shirley.
He did not know where his money was coming from.
I promised him half if he'd work to get compensation,
but even then he would not do anything.
I went on the road and begged the X-ray money,
the Charleston hospital made the lung pictures,
he took the case after the pictures were made.
And two or three doctors said the same thing.
The youngest boy did not get to go down there with me,
he lay and said, 'Mother, when I die,
I want you to have them open me up and
see if that dust killed me.
Try to get compensation,
you will not have any way of making your living
when we are gone,
and the rest are going too.'

I have gained mastery over my heart
I have gained mastery over my two hands
I have gained mastery over the waters
I have gained mastery over the river.

The case of my son was the first of the line of lawsuits.
They sent the lawyers down and the doctors down;
they closed the electric sockets in the camps.
There was Shirley, and Cecil, Jeffrey and Oren,
Raymond Johnson, Clev and Oscar Anders,
Frank Lynch, Henry Palf, Mr. Pitch, a foreman;
a slim fellow who carried steel with my boys,
his name was Darnell, I believe. There were many others,
the towns of Glen Ferris, Alloy, where the white rock lies,
six miles away; Vanetta, Gauley Bridge,
Gamoca, Lockwood, the gullies,
the whole valley is witness.
I hitchhike eighteen miles, they make checks out.
They asked me how I keep the cow on $2.
I said one week, feed for the cow, one week, the children's flour.
The oldest son was twenty-three.
The next son was twenty-one.
The youngest son was eighteen.
They called it pneumonia at first.
They would pronounce it fever.
Shirley asked that we try to find out.
That's how they learned what the trouble was.

I open out a way, they have covered my sky with crystal
I come forth by day, I am born a second time,
I force a way through, and I know the gate
I shall journey over the earth among the living.

He shall not be diminished, never;
I shall give a mouth to my son.

Gauley Bridge
by Muriel Rukeyser (1913-1980)

Camera at the crossing sees the city
a street of wooden walls and empty windows,
the doors shut handless in the empty street,
and the deserted Negro standing on the corner.

The little boy runs with his dog
up the street to the bridge over the river where
nine men are mending road for the government.
He blurs the camera-glass fixed on the street.

Railway tracks here and many panes of glass
tin under light, the grey shine of towns and forests:
in the commercial hotel (Switzerland of America)
the owner is keeping his books behind the public glass.

Postoffice window, a hove of private boxes,
the hand of the man who withdraws, the woman who
reaches her hand
and the tall coughing man stamping an envelope.

The bus station and the great pale buses stopping for
food;
April-glass-tinted, the yellow-aproned waitress;
coast-to-coast schedule on the plateglass window.

The man on the street and the camera eye:
he leaves the doctor’s office, slammed door, doom,
any town looks like this one-street town.

Glass, wood, and naked eye: the movie-house
closed for the afternoon frames posters streaked with
rain,
advertise “Racing Luck” and “Hitch-Hike Lady”.

Whistling, the train comes from a long way away,
slow, and the Negro watches it grow in the gray air,
the hotel man makes a note behind his potted palm.

Eyes of the tourist house, red-and-white filing station,
the eyes of the Negro, looking down the track,
hotel-man and hotel, cafeteria, camera.

And in the beerplace on the other sidewalk
always one’s harsh night eyes over the beerglass
follow the waitress and the yellow apron.

The road flows over the bridge,
Gamoca pointer at the underpass,
opposite, Alloy, after a block of town.

What do you want – a cliff over a city?
A foreland, sloped to sea and overgrown with roses?
These people live here.

What causes do you think might be well represented in activist poetry?
11:22 AM Laurel Garver

Many think of poetry as being uniformly introspective--about sensations and feelings. But some poetry has a far larger agenda. Activist poetry seeks to give voice to the voiceless, to paint a picture that stirs you to action.

Modernist poet Muriel Rukeyser (1913-80) is probably best know for her poem sequence, "The Book of the Dead" (1938) which sought to bring national attention to the epidemic of silicosis--a deadly lung disease caused by exposure to silica dust in mines and factories that did not take adequate steps to protect workers.

Rukeyser's style feels prosy, in part to make it widely approachable. She wanted the widest audience possible, so that national opinion would be swayed and her readers would put pressure on leaders to regulate industries that were poisoning workers. Here are two sections from that poem sequence.

Absalom
by Muriel Rukeyser (1913-1980)

I first discovered what was killing these men.
I had three sons who worked with their father in the tunnel:
Cecil, aged 23, Owen, aged 21, Shirley, aged 17.
They used to work in a coal mine, not steady work
for the mines were not going much of the time.
A power Co. foreman learned that we made home brew,
he formed a habit of dropping in evenings to drink,
persuading the boys and my husband—
give up their jobs and take this other work.
It would pay them better.
Shirley was my youngest son; the boy.
He went into the tunnel.

My heart my mother my heart my mother
My heart my coming into being.

My husband is not able to work.
He has it, according to the doctor.
We have been having a very hard time making a living since
this trouble came to us.
I saw the dust in the bottom of the tub.
The boy worked there about eighteen months,
came home one evening with a shortness of breath.
He said, 'Mother, I cannot get my breath.'
Shirley was sick about three months.
I would carry him from his bed to the table,
from his bed to the porch, in my arms.

My heart is mine in the place of hearts,
They gave me back my heart, it lies in me.

When they took sick, right at the start, I saw a doctor.
I tried to get Dr. Harless to X-ray the boys.
He was the only man I had any confidence in,
the company doctor in the Kopper's mine,
but he would not see Shirley.
He did not know where his money was coming from.
I promised him half if he'd work to get compensation,
but even then he would not do anything.
I went on the road and begged the X-ray money,
the Charleston hospital made the lung pictures,
he took the case after the pictures were made.
And two or three doctors said the same thing.
The youngest boy did not get to go down there with me,
he lay and said, 'Mother, when I die,
I want you to have them open me up and
see if that dust killed me.
Try to get compensation,
you will not have any way of making your living
when we are gone,
and the rest are going too.'

I have gained mastery over my heart
I have gained mastery over my two hands
I have gained mastery over the waters
I have gained mastery over the river.

The case of my son was the first of the line of lawsuits.
They sent the lawyers down and the doctors down;
they closed the electric sockets in the camps.
There was Shirley, and Cecil, Jeffrey and Oren,
Raymond Johnson, Clev and Oscar Anders,
Frank Lynch, Henry Palf, Mr. Pitch, a foreman;
a slim fellow who carried steel with my boys,
his name was Darnell, I believe. There were many others,
the towns of Glen Ferris, Alloy, where the white rock lies,
six miles away; Vanetta, Gauley Bridge,
Gamoca, Lockwood, the gullies,
the whole valley is witness.
I hitchhike eighteen miles, they make checks out.
They asked me how I keep the cow on $2.
I said one week, feed for the cow, one week, the children's flour.
The oldest son was twenty-three.
The next son was twenty-one.
The youngest son was eighteen.
They called it pneumonia at first.
They would pronounce it fever.
Shirley asked that we try to find out.
That's how they learned what the trouble was.

I open out a way, they have covered my sky with crystal
I come forth by day, I am born a second time,
I force a way through, and I know the gate
I shall journey over the earth among the living.

He shall not be diminished, never;
I shall give a mouth to my son.

Gauley Bridge
by Muriel Rukeyser (1913-1980)

Camera at the crossing sees the city
a street of wooden walls and empty windows,
the doors shut handless in the empty street,
and the deserted Negro standing on the corner.

The little boy runs with his dog
up the street to the bridge over the river where
nine men are mending road for the government.
He blurs the camera-glass fixed on the street.

Railway tracks here and many panes of glass
tin under light, the grey shine of towns and forests:
in the commercial hotel (Switzerland of America)
the owner is keeping his books behind the public glass.

Postoffice window, a hove of private boxes,
the hand of the man who withdraws, the woman who
reaches her hand
and the tall coughing man stamping an envelope.

The bus station and the great pale buses stopping for
food;
April-glass-tinted, the yellow-aproned waitress;
coast-to-coast schedule on the plateglass window.

The man on the street and the camera eye:
he leaves the doctor’s office, slammed door, doom,
any town looks like this one-street town.

Glass, wood, and naked eye: the movie-house
closed for the afternoon frames posters streaked with
rain,
advertise “Racing Luck” and “Hitch-Hike Lady”.

Whistling, the train comes from a long way away,
slow, and the Negro watches it grow in the gray air,
the hotel man makes a note behind his potted palm.

Eyes of the tourist house, red-and-white filing station,
the eyes of the Negro, looking down the track,
hotel-man and hotel, cafeteria, camera.

And in the beerplace on the other sidewalk
always one’s harsh night eyes over the beerglass
follow the waitress and the yellow apron.

The road flows over the bridge,
Gamoca pointer at the underpass,
opposite, Alloy, after a block of town.

What do you want – a cliff over a city?
A foreland, sloped to sea and overgrown with roses?
These people live here.

What causes do you think might be well represented in activist poetry?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

My weekend took a rather tragic turn. The beautiful stray cat we took in last May to be my daughter's kitty passed away.

We learned last summer that Rosie had feline leukemia and we watched her go through successive bouts of anemia, appetite loss, poor grooming, UTIs and respiratory infections over and over and over. My daughter adored her and loved to hug, snuggle and brush her. Despite all the sickness, Rosie had a very sweet and loving disposition.

On Sunday, Rosie's milder illnesses took a sudden turn for the worse. She couldn't stand, wouldn't drink. Her breathing was labored and her heart rate slow, so we took her to a university veterinary hospital--the only place open on a holiday. After the vets confirmed she was in late stages of the disease, we sat by petting her as the doctor sent her to eternal rest.

At times like these, I find great comfort in poetry that addresses these tough places of loss. Below are some contemporary poems by four gifted, living poets that look at themes of death, loss and grieving.

I imagine for some of you readers, your initial reaction is to now click away rather than read on. Our culture seems to want to wall away sadness, to deny it. I challenge you to read on.

Note that the in two middle poems, the title also functions as the first line.

Before
by Carl Adamshick

I always thought death would be like traveling
in a car, moving through the desert,
the earth a little darker than sky at the horizon,
that your life would settle like the end of a day
and you would think of everyone you ever met,
that you would be the invisible passenger,
quiet in the car, moving through the night,
forever, with the beautiful thought of home.

Sick to death of the hardpan shoulder,
By Greg Glazner

the froth of noise
the undersides of the cedars make,

the windblown dark that hints
and fails for hours at effacement—
maybe I could claim it isn’t

praying, but it’s asking,
at the least, begging
that these lungfuls of this blackness

eat whatever keeps on swelling
and collapsing in my chest, and be done
with it, no more noise

left hanging in the spaces
between brake lights than a smothered rush
that sounds like suffering

and is nothing. Instead a sobbing isn’t
so much easing from my throat
as shining like black light from my torso,

veining the leaves of weeds, stoning
the whole roadside in a halo—I can feel
the heat of truck lights on my back,

I’m inside that brilliant gravity,
I think of time, I’m in the driver’s
nightmare and it shudders by—


I Can Afford Neither the Rain
by Holly Iglesias

Nor the strip of light between the slats, the window itself blind with grief. Nor the bench where the last mourner lingers, the others on to the next thing, leaning into the bar, toasting the sweethearts, gone and gone, their passion and ire softening now into the earth. Nor the bluff above the Mississippi where centuries of war dead rest, where the stone stands bearing their names, the wind of romance hard against it.


Curtains
by Ruth Stone

Putting up new curtains,
other windows intrude.
As though it is that first winter in Cambridge
when you and I had just moved in.
Now cold borscht alone in a bare kitchen.

What does it mean if I say this years later?

Listen, last night
I am on a crying jag
with my landlord, Mr. Tempesta.
I sneaked in two cats.
He screams, "No pets! No pets!"
I become my Aunt Virginia,
proud but weak in the head.
I remember Anna Magnani.
I throw a few books. I shout.
He wipes his eyes and opens his hands.
OK OK keep the dirty animals
but no nails in the walls.
We cry together.
I am so nervous, he says.

I want to dig you up and say, look,
it's like the time, remember,
when I ran into our living room naked
to get rid of that fire inspector.

See what you miss by being dead?


Do you tend to run from sad things, to avoid those who are mourning? What things have helped you through a loss?
12:42 PM Laurel Garver
My weekend took a rather tragic turn. The beautiful stray cat we took in last May to be my daughter's kitty passed away.

We learned last summer that Rosie had feline leukemia and we watched her go through successive bouts of anemia, appetite loss, poor grooming, UTIs and respiratory infections over and over and over. My daughter adored her and loved to hug, snuggle and brush her. Despite all the sickness, Rosie had a very sweet and loving disposition.

On Sunday, Rosie's milder illnesses took a sudden turn for the worse. She couldn't stand, wouldn't drink. Her breathing was labored and her heart rate slow, so we took her to a university veterinary hospital--the only place open on a holiday. After the vets confirmed she was in late stages of the disease, we sat by petting her as the doctor sent her to eternal rest.

At times like these, I find great comfort in poetry that addresses these tough places of loss. Below are some contemporary poems by four gifted, living poets that look at themes of death, loss and grieving.

I imagine for some of you readers, your initial reaction is to now click away rather than read on. Our culture seems to want to wall away sadness, to deny it. I challenge you to read on.

Note that the in two middle poems, the title also functions as the first line.

Before
by Carl Adamshick

I always thought death would be like traveling
in a car, moving through the desert,
the earth a little darker than sky at the horizon,
that your life would settle like the end of a day
and you would think of everyone you ever met,
that you would be the invisible passenger,
quiet in the car, moving through the night,
forever, with the beautiful thought of home.

Sick to death of the hardpan shoulder,
By Greg Glazner

the froth of noise
the undersides of the cedars make,

the windblown dark that hints
and fails for hours at effacement—
maybe I could claim it isn’t

praying, but it’s asking,
at the least, begging
that these lungfuls of this blackness

eat whatever keeps on swelling
and collapsing in my chest, and be done
with it, no more noise

left hanging in the spaces
between brake lights than a smothered rush
that sounds like suffering

and is nothing. Instead a sobbing isn’t
so much easing from my throat
as shining like black light from my torso,

veining the leaves of weeds, stoning
the whole roadside in a halo—I can feel
the heat of truck lights on my back,

I’m inside that brilliant gravity,
I think of time, I’m in the driver’s
nightmare and it shudders by—


I Can Afford Neither the Rain
by Holly Iglesias

Nor the strip of light between the slats, the window itself blind with grief. Nor the bench where the last mourner lingers, the others on to the next thing, leaning into the bar, toasting the sweethearts, gone and gone, their passion and ire softening now into the earth. Nor the bluff above the Mississippi where centuries of war dead rest, where the stone stands bearing their names, the wind of romance hard against it.


Curtains
by Ruth Stone

Putting up new curtains,
other windows intrude.
As though it is that first winter in Cambridge
when you and I had just moved in.
Now cold borscht alone in a bare kitchen.

What does it mean if I say this years later?

Listen, last night
I am on a crying jag
with my landlord, Mr. Tempesta.
I sneaked in two cats.
He screams, "No pets! No pets!"
I become my Aunt Virginia,
proud but weak in the head.
I remember Anna Magnani.
I throw a few books. I shout.
He wipes his eyes and opens his hands.
OK OK keep the dirty animals
but no nails in the walls.
We cry together.
I am so nervous, he says.

I want to dig you up and say, look,
it's like the time, remember,
when I ran into our living room naked
to get rid of that fire inspector.

See what you miss by being dead?


Do you tend to run from sad things, to avoid those who are mourning? What things have helped you through a loss?

Friday, April 06, 2012

Poetry has long been the favored genre for delving into spiritual topics. Poetry comprises a portion of the Hebrew and Christian scriptures (Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs) and poetry is sprinkled throughout narrative and prophetic writings as well. When set to music, religious poems become hymns, canticles and cantatas.

In honor of Good Friday, I give you three poems by contemporary poets that seek to delve deeper into the meaning of this solemn holy day in the Christian calendar.

Salvator Mundi: Via Crucis
by Denise Levertov (1923-1997)

Maybe He looked indeed
much as Rembrandt envisioned Him
in those small heads that seem in fact
portraits of more than a model.
A dark, still young, very intelligent face,
A soul-mirror gaze of deep understanding, unjudging.
That face, in extremis, would have clenched its teeth
In a grimace not shown in even the great crucifixions.
The burden of humanness (I begin to see) exacted from Him
That He taste also the humiliation of dread,
cold sweat of wanting to let the whole thing go,
like any mortal hero out of his depth,
like anyone who has taken herself back.
The painters, even the greatest, don’t show how,
in the midnight Garden,
or staggering uphill under the weight of the Cross,
He went through with even the human longing
to simply cease, to not be.
Not torture of body,
not the hideous betrayals humans commit
nor the faithless weakness of friends, and surely
not the anticipation of death (not then, in agony’s grip)
was Incarnation’s heaviest weight,
but this sickened desire to renege,
to step back from what He, Who was God,
had promised Himself, and had entered
time and flesh to enact.
Sublime acceptance, to be absolute, had to have welled
up from those depths where purpose
Drifted for mortal moments.


Friday
by Elizabeth Jennings (1926-2001)

We nailed the hands long ago,
Wove the thorns, took up the scourge and shouted
For excitement's sake, we stood at the dusty edge
Of the pebbled path and watched the extreme of pain.

But one or two prayed, one or two
Were silent, shocked, stood back
And remembered remnants of words, a new vision,
The cross is up with its crying victim, the clouds
Cover the sun, we learn a new way to lose
What we did not know we had
Until this bleak and sacrificial day,
Until we turned from our bad
Past and knelt and cried out our dismay,
The dice still clicking, the voices dying away.


CANTICLE FOR GOOD FRIDAY
by Geoffrey Hill (1932 - )

The cross staggered him. At the cliff-top
Thomas, beneath its burden, stood
While the dulled wood
Spat on the stones each drop
Of deliberate blood.

A clamping, cold-figured day
Thomas (not transfigured) stamped, crouched,
Watched
Smelt vinegar and blood. He
As yet unsearched, unscratched,

And suffered to remain
At such near distance
(A slight miracle might cleanse
His brain
Of all attachments, claw-roots of sense)

In unaccountable darkness moved away,
The strange flesh untouched, carion-sustenance
Of staunchest love, choicest defiance,
Creation’s issue congealing (and one woman’s).


If you're interested in reading more of the best Christian poetry, I highly recommend Image Journal, a quarterly literary magazine of arts and faith.

Have a blessed Good Friday!
10:14 AM Laurel Garver
Poetry has long been the favored genre for delving into spiritual topics. Poetry comprises a portion of the Hebrew and Christian scriptures (Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs) and poetry is sprinkled throughout narrative and prophetic writings as well. When set to music, religious poems become hymns, canticles and cantatas.

In honor of Good Friday, I give you three poems by contemporary poets that seek to delve deeper into the meaning of this solemn holy day in the Christian calendar.

Salvator Mundi: Via Crucis
by Denise Levertov (1923-1997)

Maybe He looked indeed
much as Rembrandt envisioned Him
in those small heads that seem in fact
portraits of more than a model.
A dark, still young, very intelligent face,
A soul-mirror gaze of deep understanding, unjudging.
That face, in extremis, would have clenched its teeth
In a grimace not shown in even the great crucifixions.
The burden of humanness (I begin to see) exacted from Him
That He taste also the humiliation of dread,
cold sweat of wanting to let the whole thing go,
like any mortal hero out of his depth,
like anyone who has taken herself back.
The painters, even the greatest, don’t show how,
in the midnight Garden,
or staggering uphill under the weight of the Cross,
He went through with even the human longing
to simply cease, to not be.
Not torture of body,
not the hideous betrayals humans commit
nor the faithless weakness of friends, and surely
not the anticipation of death (not then, in agony’s grip)
was Incarnation’s heaviest weight,
but this sickened desire to renege,
to step back from what He, Who was God,
had promised Himself, and had entered
time and flesh to enact.
Sublime acceptance, to be absolute, had to have welled
up from those depths where purpose
Drifted for mortal moments.


Friday
by Elizabeth Jennings (1926-2001)

We nailed the hands long ago,
Wove the thorns, took up the scourge and shouted
For excitement's sake, we stood at the dusty edge
Of the pebbled path and watched the extreme of pain.

But one or two prayed, one or two
Were silent, shocked, stood back
And remembered remnants of words, a new vision,
The cross is up with its crying victim, the clouds
Cover the sun, we learn a new way to lose
What we did not know we had
Until this bleak and sacrificial day,
Until we turned from our bad
Past and knelt and cried out our dismay,
The dice still clicking, the voices dying away.


CANTICLE FOR GOOD FRIDAY
by Geoffrey Hill (1932 - )

The cross staggered him. At the cliff-top
Thomas, beneath its burden, stood
While the dulled wood
Spat on the stones each drop
Of deliberate blood.

A clamping, cold-figured day
Thomas (not transfigured) stamped, crouched,
Watched
Smelt vinegar and blood. He
As yet unsearched, unscratched,

And suffered to remain
At such near distance
(A slight miracle might cleanse
His brain
Of all attachments, claw-roots of sense)

In unaccountable darkness moved away,
The strange flesh untouched, carion-sustenance
Of staunchest love, choicest defiance,
Creation’s issue congealing (and one woman’s).


If you're interested in reading more of the best Christian poetry, I highly recommend Image Journal, a quarterly literary magazine of arts and faith.

Have a blessed Good Friday!

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

As part of National Poetry Month, I'm continuing my series on the wild, wonderful world of poety.

Today I thought I'd talk about a type of formal poetry [adhering to a defined structure] that is delightful and difficult to create and seems to get very little respect among academics. You'll almost never see this type of poem included in canonical anthologies [canon: works widely considered influential] [anthology: a collection of written works].

What is this bad-boy form? The concrete or shape poem. In this form, the arrangement of the type adds to the meaning of the poem. Often words are arranged to create an image related to the topic or theme of the piece.

While the term "concrete poem" originated in the 1950s, the form has been around for centuries. See for example George Herbert's "Easter Wings" from 1633.



I am particularly fond of the shape poems of contemporary poet John Hollander. His concrete poem collection is called Types of Shape. Here are two fabulous pieces to enjoy.

Swan and Shadow
by John Hollander



Kitty: Black Domestic Shorthair
by John Hollander



If you're interested in reading more concrete poems, check out Ian Hamilton Finlay, Dom Sylvester Houédard and Edwin Morgan. Also, see the Sackner Archive of Concrete and Visual Poetry.

What do you think of concrete poetry? Why do you think it isn't taken seriously in some circles?
12:10 PM Laurel Garver
As part of National Poetry Month, I'm continuing my series on the wild, wonderful world of poety.

Today I thought I'd talk about a type of formal poetry [adhering to a defined structure] that is delightful and difficult to create and seems to get very little respect among academics. You'll almost never see this type of poem included in canonical anthologies [canon: works widely considered influential] [anthology: a collection of written works].

What is this bad-boy form? The concrete or shape poem. In this form, the arrangement of the type adds to the meaning of the poem. Often words are arranged to create an image related to the topic or theme of the piece.

While the term "concrete poem" originated in the 1950s, the form has been around for centuries. See for example George Herbert's "Easter Wings" from 1633.



I am particularly fond of the shape poems of contemporary poet John Hollander. His concrete poem collection is called Types of Shape. Here are two fabulous pieces to enjoy.

Swan and Shadow
by John Hollander



Kitty: Black Domestic Shorthair
by John Hollander



If you're interested in reading more concrete poems, check out Ian Hamilton Finlay, Dom Sylvester Houédard and Edwin Morgan. Also, see the Sackner Archive of Concrete and Visual Poetry.

What do you think of concrete poetry? Why do you think it isn't taken seriously in some circles?

Monday, April 02, 2012


April has arrived and I know many of my pals are blogging ah to zed (ja, Buchstaben are way cooler auf Deutsch). I tip my hat to you all. But as fun as it sounds, I can't commit the time right now.

I've found a smaller bandwagon to hop aboard--National Poetry Month. The Academy of American Poets kicked off the annual celebration in 1996. Many schools and libraries participate. The goal is to introduce more people to the magic that is poetry. You can find out more about the celebration at www.poets.org.

What I hope to do this month is give a taste of the wide, wide world of poetry, which is nearly as diverse as fiction in terms of style and content. Because poetry is more than sentimental rhymes about daffodils or Emo angst-fests. Some poems tell stories, some sing, some pray, some paint pictures, some sweep your senses, some seduce you, some heal your wounds, some cut you to ribbons, some carry protest signs, some spit in your face.

I'll also introduce some helpful poetry lingo, with definitions.

In my post title, I allude to a poem you might have studied in school. [Allusion: a literary device that stimulates ideas, associations, and extra information in the reader's mind with only a word or two.] Here's the quote in context:

APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

--T.S. Eliot, "The Waste Land"

This total downer of a piece is considered one of the masterpieces of modernism. Eliot's book smarts get more intimidating the further you read. The opening epigraph [introductory quote from another source used to set a theme] contain Latin and Greek. Parts of the poem are in German, Dutch and French. He uses allusion heavily, referring to history and mythology; pop songs and opera; Dante, Shakespeare and numerous other authors. Some scholars have spent their entire careers unpacking this one poem.

And yet....

His cleverness wasn't always so unapproachable. In fact, he wrote a wonderful collection of poems for children the you might have seen adapted for Broadway. Here's a stanza from one of my favorites in Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats:

You ought to know Mr. Mistoffelees!
The Original Conjuring Cat--
There can be no doubt about that).
Please listen to me and don't scoff. All his
Inventions are off his own bat.
There's no such Cat in the metropolis;
He holds all the patent monopolies
For performing surprising illusions
And creating eccentric confusions.
At prestidigitation
And at legerdemain
He'll defy examination
And deceive you again.
The greatest magicians have something to learn
From Mr. Mistoffelees' Conjuring Turn.
Presto!
Away we go!
And we all say: OH!
Well I never!
Was there ever
A Cat so clever
As Magical Mr. Mistoffelees!


Just as the genre of poetry is not one flavor but many, so it is with poets themselves. Brainy guys can be silly; silly gals can be profound.

Let's have a wild and wondrous month exploring the many styles and shades of poetry!

Do you read poetry? Why or why not?
6:18 PM Laurel Garver

April has arrived and I know many of my pals are blogging ah to zed (ja, Buchstaben are way cooler auf Deutsch). I tip my hat to you all. But as fun as it sounds, I can't commit the time right now.

I've found a smaller bandwagon to hop aboard--National Poetry Month. The Academy of American Poets kicked off the annual celebration in 1996. Many schools and libraries participate. The goal is to introduce more people to the magic that is poetry. You can find out more about the celebration at www.poets.org.

What I hope to do this month is give a taste of the wide, wide world of poetry, which is nearly as diverse as fiction in terms of style and content. Because poetry is more than sentimental rhymes about daffodils or Emo angst-fests. Some poems tell stories, some sing, some pray, some paint pictures, some sweep your senses, some seduce you, some heal your wounds, some cut you to ribbons, some carry protest signs, some spit in your face.

I'll also introduce some helpful poetry lingo, with definitions.

In my post title, I allude to a poem you might have studied in school. [Allusion: a literary device that stimulates ideas, associations, and extra information in the reader's mind with only a word or two.] Here's the quote in context:

APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

--T.S. Eliot, "The Waste Land"

This total downer of a piece is considered one of the masterpieces of modernism. Eliot's book smarts get more intimidating the further you read. The opening epigraph [introductory quote from another source used to set a theme] contain Latin and Greek. Parts of the poem are in German, Dutch and French. He uses allusion heavily, referring to history and mythology; pop songs and opera; Dante, Shakespeare and numerous other authors. Some scholars have spent their entire careers unpacking this one poem.

And yet....

His cleverness wasn't always so unapproachable. In fact, he wrote a wonderful collection of poems for children the you might have seen adapted for Broadway. Here's a stanza from one of my favorites in Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats:

You ought to know Mr. Mistoffelees!
The Original Conjuring Cat--
There can be no doubt about that).
Please listen to me and don't scoff. All his
Inventions are off his own bat.
There's no such Cat in the metropolis;
He holds all the patent monopolies
For performing surprising illusions
And creating eccentric confusions.
At prestidigitation
And at legerdemain
He'll defy examination
And deceive you again.
The greatest magicians have something to learn
From Mr. Mistoffelees' Conjuring Turn.
Presto!
Away we go!
And we all say: OH!
Well I never!
Was there ever
A Cat so clever
As Magical Mr. Mistoffelees!


Just as the genre of poetry is not one flavor but many, so it is with poets themselves. Brainy guys can be silly; silly gals can be profound.

Let's have a wild and wondrous month exploring the many styles and shades of poetry!

Do you read poetry? Why or why not?