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Archive for the ‘poetry friday’ Category

Well, THAT happened!

Thirty days, thirty poems extracted from “The Stories of John Cheever” as part of the Pulitzer Remix Project. As we hit the final few days it seemed to me as if we all taking a final sprint for home. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that many of my fellow remixers might have been holding back their one final poem as a sort of send-off. For my part, I knew going in I wanted the last poem to be one of Cheever’s most famous: “The Enormous Radio.”

Here’s how the month ended for me.

April 27: hushed sect

To be honest, the was the sloppiest of all my poems. For the project I preferred to work from photocopies that could travel with me, that I could pick up and toy with while commuting or wherever I happened to have a few moments’ free time. For this particular poem I worked at home, straight from the book, trying to be as spontaneous as possible. I had edited and saved but failed to post this on the day it was due, only realizing it was still in “draft’ form the next day. As for the poem itself, I was intrigued by the portrait that emerged early on and felt determined to make the end line up.

April 28: Oy, Death

This is, I think, the very first found poem I completed back in January. I was looking for patterns in language to play with, repetition that I could bounce off of, and when “over” and its multiple meanings came into play I knew I had found what I was looking for. I had three different ways of formatting the poem in mind before finally deciding on a very measured approach.

April 29: the blow

Outside of dialog, Cheever wrote very little first-person narratives, so when I landed on his (and my) opening line I knew I had to use it. And when you look at that blunt line you realize there’s no flowery prose that you can hide behind; what follows must be equally terse. Again, I take no credit for Cheever’s dark demons.

April 30: hearts unmoored

I walked away from and came back to “The Enormous Radio” several times because I wasn’t able to make found poetic sense of it. Each time I thought I’d found something I could build on, only to have it diverge into a yellow wood and leave me at the fork. Then I realized the two-part structure, the first with its emotions and the second with its repercussions. The word “it” became pivotal and where I had been shying away from the word “love” throughout I realized I had to use it here. In the end it becomes a farewell to the project, a tribute to all who ventured along this journey, and a sad commentary about Cheever himself.

Where I had my fears about committing to so huge a project going in, I’m happy to see those fears we unfound… okay, I freaked out a little half way through. I had some gaps and doubts that I could keep pulling out poems of a decent quality. I was buoyed along by fellow remixers in the comments who, when i was sure I had just posted the worst dreck imaginable, were able to find glimmering facets I hadn’t even noticed. Though I wasn’t part of the facebook group I really felt like we were a solid clan, working the edges of our found efforts from ragged to crystalline. I’m proud to have been a part of such a huge and committed bunch of participants and to whatever comes next.

A chapbook maybe?

So here we are, post-National Poetry Month (or ponapomo, if you will) and as much as I’d like to keep going I do have some other pressing writerly deadlines and project to finish. I hope you’ll take the time to visit not only my links but to check out some of the other 2400+ poems at the Pulitzer Remix site and see what I’ve been talking about.

And in the kidlitosphere, Poetry Friday continues, hosted this week by Elizabeth Steinglass. Plenty of goodness there, probably none of it based on the work of John Cheever.

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Welcome to my third roundup of my participation in the Pulitzer Remix project, wherein 85 poets are turning Pulitzer Prize-winning works of fiction into found poems. Daily.

As with adopting any habit, getting to and through the three-week mark is the hardest. Writing daily isn’t a problem, but pushing to get through the third week’s worth of poems is/was a bit of a struggle. Actually, in anticipation, I had written the first, second and fourth week’s worth of poems for the project prior to the beginning of the month, because I wanted to save this third week as a sort of additional challenge. Call it “deadline found poetry” if you will.

I picked a hell of a week to make things harder for myself.

I won’t pretend that living in Boston this week hasn’t been oddly unsettling. I’m fine, my family is fine, my friends and co-workers are fine, but I know this isn’t a universal truth. It’s also a qualified “fine” because I know that sometimes traumatic events have a way of worming their way inside our heads to deliver unexpected or unconscious consequences.

Would it change the timber or tone of my found poems?

April 13: methane melee
Okay, I promised with the limerick in the first week that potty humor was bound to return. But I swear, I don’t go looking for these things! And once I was finished the title was, and most of these anagrams have been, a happy treat of coincidence.

April 14: Neu Noir
My tip-o-the-hat to Bukowski. There is a story about me as a teen having a conversation with a wino on the street back in 1979 who I swear was Bukowski before I knew who Bukowski was. Honest. A face like his wasn’t hard to forget. Anyway, as the poem started coming together I suddenly felt like perhaps, just perhaps, Buke was raising a bottle of rotgut from the beyond and saying “Eh, nice try, kid.”

April 15: Warm People
Hunting through the original story I wasn’t coming up with anything cohesive. Everything seemed so disjointed and in lumps. Finally the word “happy” jumped out at me and I started making connections with different clumps as miniature portraits. I also realized how miserable Cheever must have been, so many of his characters seem driven by sadness and compromise.  Write what you know?

April 16: matinee
And here we are, the day after the bombing, and I’m in Rome. I wanted something simple, and simple I got. It’s best to conjure up an Italian Neo-realist movie before you start reading this one for the full effect.

April 17: whim-sea
This was an “assignment” to take two stories with connected themes – “The Swimmer” and “The Ocean” – and blend them to see what came up. This roiling result came from the first pages of each story. It wound up darker than it seemed while I was culling words and phrases initially. See my “about me” page for the personal significance of swimming pools.

April 18: old toy fever
Where the heck did this come from? I was playing with structure and didn’t even see the possibilities of parallel narrative with a shared “sigh” between them. I’m leaving it stand for now, but if I decide to do anything with this poem in terms of future publication I will probably reformat it. Your thoughts?

April 19: Euclid’s Dry Cleaning
In the original story a sign on a truck (which became the title) prompts the protagonist to ponder his life as a geometric fantasy. I was much more interested in Euclid, and what would it be like if he were a dry clearer in our modern world. Or at least in Cheever’s world. Cheever didn’t make it easy, but he never made it easy for his characters. Still, I think I managed to make it work. At least Euclid sleeps well.

It’s a bit of a long home stretch for the rest of the month, but I have the last three days already set so there’s just this coming week to sort through and decide which things are working and which just don’t make the cut.

In the meantime, there’s plenty of other poetry out there. Why, just look at the Poetry Friday postings over at Live Your Poem. Irene’s got the roundup from the kidlitosphere.

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Well, the Pulitzer Remix is humming along and there’s just so much great stuff everyone is producing that I’m finding it hard to even skim through them all! It’s possible I’ll wind up spending the rest of this year casually reading all the participants’ submissions because I’m sure I’m missing real gems.

Of course, I’d love it if you discovered my gems first. Here’s what I’ve posted since last Friday, with notes about the poem’s origin or construction following the link.

April 6: The Babe of Clancy Tower
Yup, I went with a bawdy limerick. It was impossible to resist. The original story’s main character was a crusty old Irishman from County Limerick, so I just had to try! But in hunting out rhyming words I found that I had to shift the focus. The results are, well, what came together. (This will not be the last time bathroom humor appears in my found poems).

April 7: Halt
This one I think of as my dystopian poem. The source was a dark suburban tale that felt like Cheever exorcising some sort of inner demons. What I found within that were two clans of people engaged in some power struggle.

April 8: Cafe Rep
This was taken from the Preface to the collection, and as I was reading through it I wanted something that felt like a tone poem about Cheever’s New York. The duality of it – the “public” embedded within the “private” – surprised me when it was finished because I didn’t see it at first. One commenter called it “cinematic” and that probably best describes how it felt at the time I culled it.

April 9: untruths
One of the exercises I tried was to pick a page at random and limit myself to what was on the page. Page 341 being 90% dialog pretty much forced my hand: I had to find some new or different meaning in what was on the page. This mini play turned a domestic dispute into an absurdist farce.

April 10: geld
Another single-page-limited poem, and this one came together only after I started playing around with the original title. “The Pot of Gold” contains the word “geld” which is an old English word for “tax” and a German word for money. It’s also the root word for “gelding,” as in, to castrate a horse. Suddenly I saw the possibility of a poem set in the bedroom of a play by Moliere…

April 11: Withholding
Cheever used the word “cupidity” twice within two consecutive sentences, and I had to look it up because I’d never encountered it before. Excessive desire; greed, avarice. Huh. I was going to find a way to use the word when I then found Jupiter and realized I needed to extract Cupid and see what happened.

April 12: idle taste
Perhaps the most “poetic” of my found poems, simply because I wanted to find the best imagery to match the “dream.” I struggled for a long time trying to make a smoother transition between the wave and the mountain, then decided that in most dreams such transitions don’t exist.

This coming week, this is going to be a bit rough. In the past for National Poetry Month, while putting myself on a schedule to write three-plus haiku a day I found that there comes a point where the brain just starts to rebel. Things start to feel forced. Or at least they did for me. As I pushed along to get over the hump it started taking longer and longer to “see” poems within the text, and I started having doubts I could finish what I started.

How’d I do? check back next Friday and see!

In the meantime, Poetry Friday is happening elsewhere on the interwebs. Many fine people writing and sharing wonderful stuff. Check out the roundup over at Random Noodling.

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Signs of advanced age: I was getting sparked up to write a cranky post about how it seems like the majority of commercial YA looks like crappy romance novels when I decided to scrap it. The world doesn’t need a case made for the obvious, and my birthday deserved something better.

So I started scrawling out a poem. Yeah, that’s age for you right there. Skip the cranky and get loopy.

It’s a sort of personal influences/appreciation/homage thing that came to me in a sing-song way while my brain was still trying to noodle off on my morning commute to work. Pretend it’s 50-plus years from now and you’re a kid in fifth grade who stumbled onto this.

Vonnegut, Pinkwater, Steinbeck, and Lear,
One tall, one squat, one stoic, one queer.
They sailed the seas for a day and a year,
Old Vonnegut, Pinkwater, Steinbeck, and Lear

Vonnegut, being tall, volunteered as the mast
With his back to the bow and his eye on the past,
Shook his head at the foibles of mankind so vast,
“You’ve got to be kind, so it goes, nothing lasts!”

Pinkwater sat cross-legged, he centered the craft
With plenty of ballast both forward and aft.
Self-appointed zen master both thoughtful and daft,
You could hear lizard music whenever he laughed.

Steinbeck manned the oars with a heave and a ho.
When the seas were becalmed he pulled steady and slow
From bowls full of dust on to cannery row
Drunk on wine from the vines where the grapes of wrath grow.

Old Lear was their captain, a man prone to fits,
Who crafted the boat out of lyrical bits,
Like “There once was a man from thr Isle of St. Kitts…”
That despite lacking sense were as good as it gets.

They hadn’t a map but their course was still clear.
The point of the voyage: Carry on, persevere!
Though they fade in the distance they won’t disappear,
Old Vonnegut, Pinkwater, Steinbeck, and Lear.

Freely, I admit this could be better. And I feel a little sorry for including Pinkwater among the names of the long-gone, but his name fit the meter and his verse came easiest, almost in an instant. It’s also extremely unfair that so many other great influences of mine didn’t manage to fit in the boat – Francesca Lia Block and John Dos Passos in particular comes to mind; I just didn’t think they fit inside that absurd boat but they’re as equal an inspiration as the other four.

And these are just the writers, if I’d started mining illustrators and photographers I’d end up writing a Homeric epic!

Down the road I think I’d like to revisit this poem about four absurd travelers, much like Edward Lear’s longer works like “The Owl and the Pussycat” or “The Jumblies.” Down the road. And it’s all downhill from 51, or so I’m supposed to believe. Let’s just say “for another day” and leave it at that.

I thank you all for your kind attention.

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May came, and for all the people it took with it, it couldn’t have left too soon. I was beginning to wonder if these people knew something the rest of us hadn’t figured out yet, perhaps getting an early start on the Mayan 2012 rush. Then Ray Bradbury left us and I had a strange feeling like there really was a connection.

The Transit of Venus.

It visits twice, eight years apart, with a century-plus in between pairings. Charging across the sun, I imagined the Greeks seeing the goddess flying across the sky, making a brief visit to check in and then departing on her journey across the universe. The hop-skip-jump of imagery made it all seem so logical: Venus was a tour bus dropping off its last group of passengers back in 2004, refueling, then picking up the next tour group this year. The announcements went out in May and those with tickets climbed aboard.

the transit of venus

dashing across the sun
first to off-board

returning eight years later
to pick up new travelers

a final boarding call
was sent out in may

collecting visionaries
for a galactic tour

writers and artists
musicians, teachers, dreamers

traveling time’s distorted rails
will return home refreshed

their brief two weeks
a mere century on earth

their visions rekindled
to guide us further

beyond the sun
beyond our imaginations

At the same time I realized all this Laura Purdie Salas offered up a nebula-sized bit of inspiration for her weekly 15-words-or-less challenge. I went with an acrostic I thought appropriate.

raygone
(22 august 1920 – 5 june 2012)

beyond

rockets
and spaceships

daring visionaries
birth entire
universes that become our
radiant

yesterdays

Godspeed, galactic travelers.

Bonus time! Found this awesome NASA video of Venus zipping past the sun. Stunning.

In a smaller universe called the Internet, it’s Poetry Friday. Head on over to Jama’s Alphabet Soup for more.

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And when I say final I think I mean it. Twitter has become a very different place than it was four years ago, which isn’t a bad thing as social networks will change according to their very social nature, but it has changed. It’s become a place of redirecting and reblogging and reposting and retweeting and not so much a place of original thought. The notion of original content debuting on Twitter now seems quaint, and while there once was a lot more sharing of stories and poems in the limited format it has clearly become a thing of the past.

And haiku, poor haiku. So abused and maligned. Teachers simply teaching the 5-7-5 without mentioning the subtleties of the form, the use of nature and observation. Authors abusing the form with little regard for its poetry. Which is not to say that I was or have been anything close to a purest, but when you end up cranking out three a day sometimes things get a little… sloppy.

And so the following twitter haiku, or twitku, may be the last ever to appear in my Twitter feed. It’s been fun, don’t get me wrong, and the occasional retweet was nice, but with so much noise on Twitter aimed at passing glances of attention the effort feels a bit lost. And now, without any further ado (and everything previous has been much a-doo)…

27 April
a bird in the garden, and two taken from the local news

cardinal sentry / standing guard over the yard / while sparrows argue

cell phones and six-pack / taken at knifepoint, found when / crooks ordered pizza

what’s the connection / video stores are replaced / by daycare centers

28 April
realizing the end of the month was at hand, the ‘ku started to sound philosophical

police arrested / man shoplifting baby food / sad, desperate times

egg on the sidewalk / nudged suddenly from its nest / baffles dog nearby

to shorten your life / allow every little hate / to subtract one day

29 April
the neighborhood was alive this day, with trash cans and wild turkeys

wind chime gamelan / ballet of empty trash cans / preceding the storm

the dandelion / noxious to adults, perfect / flowers for small hands

cat, frozen in place / scared by the bird in the yard / don’t mess with turkeys

if my dog has fleas / when ukulele tuning / what does my cat have?

30 April
and in the end… love

wrench ourselves from sleep / once used to being awake / force ourselves to sleep

with a simple twist / thousands of explosionettes / joys of bubble wrap

when no one’s watching / lie on the grass and pretend / earth is your jet-pack

money will follow / if the thing you love to do / is to make money

filling a bucket / drop after drop over time / in writing, in love

For those who might have missed previous installments for National Poetry Month, the Week One, Week Two, Week Three and Week Four roundups of my twitku for 2012. Final count: 92 twitku for the month. I probably could have pushed and forced out seven more for the 99 I was hoping for, but pushing them out wasn’t the goal. One a day was the goal, and three a day was the average, and that’s just fine. A few of them were even okay.

So that’s it, Poetry Friday. At the end of March I was debating whether to continue with posting original poetry to these weekly roundups but I knew I wanted to do one more (last) round of daily haiku while I thought it through. I have other areas of my writing to focus on, and while i don’t intend to turn off the poetry tap my appearance during these weekly roundups may become less frequent. We’ll see. I’m playing this by ear for the time being.

That said, if you’re a regular visitor, thank you. And thank you again for all the comments over the past year and a half about the poems you enjoyed. Feedback, it’s a good thing.

Right, so let’s see what the rest of the poetry world is up to. The Poetry Friday roundup this week is hosted by  Elaine over at Wild Rose Reader.

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National Poetry Month winding down, and the twitku keep on coming! This week wasn’t as hard as last week, but I sense a diminishing quality overall. Less serious, more absurd, and the need for themes to keep rolling. You’ll see what I mean.

The following tweets were pre-recorded before a live audience.

April 20
I do not recall why I only managed to get two.

peanut butter toast / lands like a drunken frat boy / face down on the floor

foxes in vineyards / should know better than to want / what they cannot have

April 21
The first is about a test in New York, the second planted a seed for later, the third just happened

pineapple & hare / race through a standardized test / but nobody wins

three cans shaving cream / ten disposable razors / five o’clock teen wolf

sitting in traffic / broken AC, windows down / fully exhausted

April 22
Earth Day, and apparently I’ve grown cynical about it. At least in haiku.

oil covered birds / rainbow slick tides wash up tar / the price of cheap gas

circle of arrows / what comes around goes around / recycle and reap

1970 / cleaning beaches with trash bags / preserved in landfills

to preserve our air / close polluting factories / move them overseas

April 23
William Shakespeare’s birthday. And deathday. Some haiku revisions.

updating shakespeare / let all who die in hamlet / return as zombies

imagine how great / “midsummer night” would be if / puck was a werewolf

happy ending for / Romeo and Juliet? / they’re vampires now!

gender swap the shrew / for the next 400 years / “taming the bastard”

April 24
Another theme! American historical figure biographies, in haiku! (The last one almost ended “arbor-onanist.”)

benjamin franklin / prankmaster general and / closeted nudist

abraham lincoln / a stand-up comedian  / who hated to shave

johnny appleseed /planting his trees everywhere / masturarborist

April 25
One of these things is not like the others. In fact, it’s total nonsense, but it works.

sucking on a lemon / bright like the sun after a storm / but paper-cut tart

against the cobalt / cotton dabbed in mercury / bicycle weather

economic woes / jobs are haystacks of promise / in needle-free zones

chocolate choco / la te cho cola tech o /co late chocolate

April 26
Poem in your pocket day actually turned out to be the most poetic, traditionally speaking.

reach in your pocket / where you think you have money / only a receipt

constellation beach / pebbly stars recede as / their time becomes dust

you know that feeling / before you know you’re tired / clouds shrinking away

the tip of my tongue / where everything tastes so sweet / but the words won’t come

And that’s the way it is. Or was. And there’s still a few days to go!

When I first started tweeting daily haiku during NPM four years ago (not three like I originally thought) there were a lot of people tweeting poems. Then again, if my Twitter stats are correct, four years ago Twitter had fewer people – to the tune of 95% fewer. So the audience was smaller and the messages were more… personal? Intimate? Since then there have been Twitter novels, and collections of six-word biographies, and all matter of self-promotion that have changed the face of Twitter. Which is not to say I think any of that is bad, only that there has been a decided change in Twitter’s general “vibe” and my sense is that my fellow tweeps are more interested in broadcasting than they are sharing.

In fact, the only person who has shown up in my streams with any poetic regularity has been Elinor Lipman who has been tweeting a political couplet daily and will continue to do so through the 2012 election. The Daily Beast, the online arm of Newsweek, recently collected her tweets marking the rise and fall of Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign. Nearly a year’s worth of daily poem tweeting and counting! Can’t wait to see what happens as the actual mano-a-mano campaign begins in earnest.

So, the last Poetry Friday of National Poetry Month 2012. What is everyone else in the blogosphere up to? Tabatha over at The Opposite of Indifference has the roundup, so let’s mosey on over and see what’s what!

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