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Posts Tagged ‘national poetry month’

With the light at the end of the tunnel in sight, it feels like this month has gone on far longer than it has. It probably has something to do with me working on these poems for the Pulitzer Remix as far back as mid-January, so three solid months of focus is at play here. No excuses; writing is hard work, even the simplest, goofiest of found poems can be unusually taxing. Not taxing in a bad way (is there such a thing as good taxing?) but simply…

Well, work.

I am beginning to see interesting patterns in Cheever’s work, little quirks of mechanics that have had a tendency to force a certain voice to appear in the poems. He isn’t fond of first-person, nor is he fond of conjunctions, and he is awfully fond of showing off his vocabulary. His themes of suburban unhappiness and the desire of his characters to simply get away speak volumes about the author more than they do about the characters. Some days, some poems, it was a real chore to deliberately not let his darkness through, to create alternate worlds and narratives that serve as antidote to The Stories of John Cheever.

Here we go with this week’s roundup of found poems.

April 20: the type
Like a foodie insisting on using every part of the animal, I considered every printed page possible fodder for a poem, and this one came from the colophon. The subtle rhyme of “designed” and “bind” was only discovered after the fact. I probably shouldn’t admit that, it makes me sound so much smarter otherwise.

April 21: mondo-ku
Originally titled “haiku” because I couldn’t find an anagram with a unifying theme, these four little ku were constructed in this order, with their lines consecutive within the text. One of those exercises where I hoped I could show a variety of styles and themes contained within a single story.

April 22: s/w/him
A second poem created from the interweaving of pages from two separate stories, with a title that means something to me but I don’t know how it tracks with readers. Anyway, Cheever’s dark world wins out in this one.

April 23: Stilettos
Knives or shoes? A personal favorite, mostly because I liked having the interrupting format. And the last lines. Oh, hell, it was a lot of fun all around.

April 24: Tableau
My first ever attempt at a pantoum, with its unusual patterns of repetition. After seeing others in the Pulitzer Remix use this form I was determined to give it a go when the moment presented itself. This story was the first where entire lines jumped out at me. The fact that I was able to lay them down in the order in which they appeared in the text was pure luck. Not as subtle as some pantoum I’ve seen, but I’m happy with the results.

April 25: arroyo
I wanted something short, but heavy and suggestive with meaning. I limited myself to two pages, wrote a much long poem, and then whittled away at it until it was merely a whiff of itself. That mysterious promise at the end – even I what to know what it was!

April 26: Err
To err is human, but as these distorted images collected I discovered perhaps human error has been rather destructive. I jokingly refer to this as my “climate change poem” and if I’d been thinking I’d have posted it on Earth Day. This poem also has some very strong resonance with one of the first found poems I ever wrote near 30 years ago. I wish I still had that poem about dog college…

Next week, the final roundup, including my found poem taking from one of Cheever’s best-known stories, “The Enormous Radio,” which managed to make itself the perfect summation of Cheever, his stories, and the poems his stories inspired.

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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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For the past couple-three years now I’ve celebrated National Poetry Month with a personal challenge of tweeting upward of three original haiku or limericks a day for a month; a fun way to play a little and keep my wordsmithery focused. I usually followed this up by rounding-up the week’s tweets in one place to share with those who might have missed them in my twitter feed.

This year I decided to take myself and my writing a little more seriously and joined Pulitzer Remix, a month-long project where poets use a Pulitzer Prize-winning work of fiction as the basis for creating found poetry. Each of the participants — 85 of us, or 82, 80-something — has committed to creating and posting a new poem daily for National Poetry Month, which is going to yield an insane number of new poems when it’s all over.

My source book is “The Stories of John Cheever” from 1979. When choosing a book I wanted two things: a book published during my lifetime, and a collection of short stories where I could use each as the artificial confines from which I had to choose my words. The process I used in approaching each poem varied. For some I would glance through the story looking for interesting words or phrases to latch onto and see what they suggested. In other cases I went in with an attempt to try a particular form, structure or style — some less successfully than others. And sometimes I started with a title and tried to build from there. I should note is that the titles of all my poems are taken from the original stories themselves, near anagrams. I say near because I don’t end up using all the letters but I tried to use as many as would make sense.

Our agreement with the project is that we not repost our poems anywhere else until after the project is open, so with my weekly round-up I’ll be giving some background to the poems I’ve composed along with links to the full poems so you can check them out.

And while you’re there you should check out all the great work my fellow found poets are up to as well.

April 1: come monday

This was an early poem and took a while to coalesce. I wasn’t actually sure what, if anything, it was building up to until I came upon the phrase “the noise” mirrored at the beginning and end of the original story. It then became a question of contrasts that were bound by another mirrored word – want/wanted.

April 2: truce

For this poem, I had underlined some sections I liked and then, as I read them straight through, felt they both had the feel of a fever dream mixed with a sense of urgency. I formatted it a couple different ways before I finally settled on the tight column. I wanted it to look rigid and stiff (like the narrator’s flesh) and yet running down, running dry.

April 3: cohorts

The final structure of this poem owes a debt to Maurice Sendak’s book “Alligators All Around,” one of the tiny books in the Nutshell Library. I was actively hunting down adjectives, not really sure what I wanted to do with them, and they started to pair up nicely. In Sendak’s abcadarian the Aligators are doing things that start with one letter of the alphabet — N, Never Napping, O, Ordering Oatmeal, etc — and the resonance of that scheme just popped out at me. Not a perfect fit, but once I found the word “cohorts” in the original title, and then the phrase “fond models” I felt I’d gotten as close as I could.

April 4: Mutineer

This is actually one of the last poems I wrote, and it was because I was having problems whittling down all the material I had uncovered. As with most “lost” things, sometimes in order to find what you’re looking for you have to stop looking. After a few weeks put aside, I opened the story to a random page and found a section offset from the rest of the story that had everything I needed. The title was a happy gift.

April 5: to grieve

It took a while, but I finally found a story with a line that worked out as an ending but at the beginning, and so I pulled an e.e. cummings. Or rather a cummings-lite. With this story I started to get bugged by the way Cheever treated female characters, so I wanted something a little less… hysterical?

But enough about me, there is literally a sea of poems over at Pulitzer Remix, so if you really want to sink your teeth into a whole mess, I mean a monumental passel of poetic goodness, just head on over and jump right in! And in case you weren’t aware, there’s another whole roundup of poetry happening over at Robin Hood Black’s blog Read. Write. Howl.

 

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Because I’m writing. Or rather, I’m rearranging.

Not editing, mind you, and they’re not even my own words. And to top it all off I’m not even getting paid for it.

To the right there you’ll notice a little badge for a thing called the Pulitzer Remix. For the entire month of April, National Poetry Month, the Pulitzer Remix project will post a new poem daily from 82 poets who have “found” poems within each of the 82 books that have won the Pulitzer Prize for Literature.

I know the collective noun for poems is (mundanely) an anthology, and that the collective noun for poets can be an attic, mezzanine, cellar, anteroom, a scansion, break, stanza, break, deign, mope, peppering, ego, havoc, madness, rejection, and so on, but this… the Pulitzer Remix seems to require a new collective.

An extraction, perhaps?

Found poems are exactly what they sound like, poems found within some other context. Shopping lists, stacks of book titles, a note found on the ground can all hold poetic nuance, but also in larger bodies of text like books or magazine articles words and phrases can be culled to create new and previously (by their original author’s) unimagined meaning. It’s within the realm of this last context that the Pulitzer Remix operates. Each poet has one novel as their Urtext from which they can apply any number of rules and choices in which to create new poetry. The challenge is to ferret out the new and unexpected from the old, not entirely unlike musical sampling where a beat or a motif creates a new framework for new music, bringing the old to new ears.

While it sounds new (and perhaps sacrilegious) to maim and mangle the carefully chosen works of literature the concept isn’t far from what artist Tristan Tzara once described as a recipe for creating a Dadaist poem nearly a century ago.

Take a newspaper.
Take a pair of scissors.
Choose an article as long as you are planning to make your poem.
Cut out the article.
Then cut out each of the words that make up this article and put them in a bag.
Shake it gently.
Then take out the scraps one after the other in the order in which they left the bag.
Copy conscientiously.
The poem will be like you.
And here are you a writer, infinitely original and endowed with a sensibility that is charming though beyond the understanding of the vulgar.

The poem will be like you. Because no one else would have made the same conscious choices, or could have produced the same exact results, not without a great deal of trial and effort. The found poem, like the Dadaist poem, exists as the hard truth within the joke that goes “I have all the great works of literature in this one single book!” wherein the teller brandishes a dictionary. Perhaps that is the ultimate challenge for the found poet, to create a new work from the dictionary that uses as many words contained in the dictionary without repeating a single one.

And so, in a few short weeks I, along with an extraction of 81 other poets, will begin a massive excursion into the rearrangement of American literature. I will post snippets and links throughout April.

I hope you’ll come along for the ride.

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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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If memory serves, the third week of National Poetry Month is always a bit like hitting the wall. So this week’s twitku are a mixed lot.

April 13
All sort of animals today, mostly birds.

to last forever / our lives witnessed, recorded / and sung by the birds

urban savanna / lumbering teen hippo boys / stork-legged teen girls

missing bird flyer / the cat acts suspiciously / the dog looks away

April 14
There’s a rather weak attempt at a pun buried in here.

kentucky burgoo / is it porridge, soup or stew? / I haven’t a clue

peripatetic / when wandering patetics / fall madly in love

first sunburn of spring / no comfort to be found from / neglected aloe

April 15
Only two today, grass-stains and deep thoughts about place.

down by the water / the ground plays practical jokes / soggy grass-stained butts

this place I call home / who else called it home before / how many more will?

April 16
Another short day, a trip to the airport and the Boston Marathon.

romance of travel / standing in security / overpay for food

marathon monday / closed streets shut down the city / sirens fill the air

April 17
Just to be clear, the old guys are yelling at each other’s empty houses. Surreal and entertaining.

some say we are dust / but we are water transformed / liquid, solid, gas

elderly neighbors / yelling at empty houses / harmony of hate

echoes in my head / me: but, mom! i looked everywhere! / mom: did you LIFT things?

April 18
The first one is a Limick, sort of. It’s missing a line but it still works. Sort of.

the old man from kent / never knew about what grew / from the AC vent

repeating bird song / caught in an infinite groove / making time stand still

midnight is a crow / that drifts across the night sky / the moon in his eye

April 19
The cat reappears, and yes skateboards used to have clay wheels.

to shower in clothes / to prepare for the monsoons / or walk about nude?

dead vole at the door / a warning from the cat or / a peace offering

1969 / the mighty pebble could stop / clay skateboard wheels

truth bent like willows / faces betray memory / high school reunion

humor’s conundrum / he who laughs last laughs best or / he who laughs best lasts?

military jets / overhead at fenway park / national treasures

A couple of decent ones cropped up, some I don’t even remember what frame of mind I was in when I wrote them. The usual. I’d pick out some faves but I’d rather hear what struck a chord with y’all.

Poetry Friday, it’s a thing. I probably don’t have to tell you. Looking for the roundup? Diane over at Random Noodling is hosting this week, so head on over and see what else the rest of the internet is up to.

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For a third year (third, right? Not fourth?) I’m tweeting haiku thrice daily on Twitter. There appears to be less twitter poetry this year, perhaps the idea of 140 character poetry and stories has played itself out. But as much as I do it in celebration of National Poetry Month I find that taking a few moments during the day to think in such a highly structured format sharpens me up. When I need to take a break, sure, I could go snack, or take a nap, or read some blogs… or I could set the metronome to five-seven-five and see what sort of tunes develop.

I’m free-form this year, no grand theme or design to guide me. The results have been pretty funky.

Sunday, 1 April
despite my claims of not having a theme, food was clearly on my mind

like rolling thunder / my stomach calls for waffles / but they don’t answer

oh, frickadellen! / savory love child of / burger and hot dog!

double leftovers / when laziness trumps hunger / leftovers again

Monday, 2 April
okay, now we’re getting somewhere! nature triumphant!

burning, stinging eyes / itchy, inflamed sinuses / many joys of spring

the umbrella dies / a gust of wind, worn out seams / instant skeleton

tendrils of sunlight / gently caressing eyelids / late afternoon nap

Tuesday, 3 April
eh, not so focused today, with an ominous foreshadowing of a dental appointment later in the week

bear in a campground / scavenges through garbage cans / a potluck gourmand

in the roots of leeks / smell the damp, sandy soil / smell the birth of spring

like a sword in stone / hard kernels of popped corn trapped / between my molars

Wednesday, 4 April
garbage day, joggers, and the lottery. timeless themes of poetry

the sentries lined up / to be relieved of duty / curbside on trash day

laugh, but you don’t see / animals in mylar suits / trying to lose weight

to number the stars / is like counting grains of sand / or lottery odds

Thursday, 5 April
and now we get to it, the mundane couching the horror of the week

though called “rush hour” / a dog chasing his tail / would get to work first

eyes shut, aching jaw / hands and arms uselessly clenched / endless root canal

a biting rip saw? / a tiger’s labored chuffing? / no, a snoring spouse

Bonus-ku!
over at Laura Purdie Salas’s place, for this week’s 15 words or less poem (based on a photo of a horse in a landscape) I contributed the following:

in your haunting eyes / do we look as majestic / as you do in ours?

maybe it doesn’t work without the picture, but then again, maybe it’s a haiku of awe told by a child to an alien.

There are a couple in there I don’t mind. I have some favorites. Early in the week someone on twitter retweeted one of my twitku with a qualified “um…” suggesting that perhaps it wasn’t legitimate haiku because, I don’t know, it didn’t reveal some great truth of nature? Hey, this is the Modern World, people, and garbage cans deserve poetry as much as dead umbrellas and the lottery. Does a root canal deserve to be a haiku? That’s a tough call, but sometimes you don’t know what works until you do it.

So there it is, this week’s contribution to Poetry Friday. There’s probably tons of stuff happening this month, and a decent chunk of it is being rounded up by Robyn at Read, Write, Howl this week. Go on, take a peek. The poetry won’t bite. I can’t speak for the poets…

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