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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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Another week in National Poetry Month, another collection of my daily Twitter haiku quasi-blues and bummers.  Toward the end of last week I found myself centering on a theme for the day’s ‘kus and that was actually a pretty good way to get me to focus.  I even actually managed to get some real traditional blues imagery in there! You can read through and pretty much guess the subject or theme of any group of twitku.

15 April 2011
living entropy
an accumulation of
disintegration

those who know don’t tell
and those who tell don’t know, but
those who laugh don’t care

the cosmic classroom
life dictates its lesson plans
and grades on a curve

16 april 2011
ol’ john barleycorn
takes everything you have, leaves
nothin’ but the proof

one night on the town
to celebrate the good things;
daily numbs the pain

a toast to the wind
cold, sobering companion
who brakes the earth’s spin

17 april 2011
avoiding potholes
while riding a bicycle
guarantees a flat

the deadliest place
for bicyclists to ride:
dedicated lanes

coasting downhill fast
is not the time to wonder
if you fixed the breaks

18 april 2011
boll weevil callin’
or that gal from Stingaree?
two roads to ruin

lover caught cheating
with another down the road
he can drink her rent

been down for so long
when I get a taste of up
it don’t feel right

19 april 2011
allergy season
wedged between humidity
and diet season

with pollenation
see the flowering of spring
through watery eyes

showers in springtime
nature shows us the fall
in backward slo-mo

20 april 2011
cherry blossom bursts
papery pink popcorn puffs
drop fade-to-black shrouds

daffodil trumpets
drown out birds, both believe
that they’re immortal

pale yellow lawn
greens flank winter’s salt-bleached streaks
only grass mourns grass

21 april 2011
hypothesis: check
experimentation: check
results: epic fail

scale replica
of a space-bound orbiter
barely clears our heads

unusual smell
jars with bread stashed in cupboards
science foul project

The last set of twitku may or may not have posted yesterday; I use Hootsuite as my Twitter client and it (along with foursquare, and my personal web page host, among others) went down yesterday as a result of a cloud failure. Amazon. Hated them from the start, and now another reason to hate them.

But you know what?  It’s Poetry Friday out there, and you can get your fill by checking the roundup over at Book Aunt.

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I’m going to try desperately to stay as on-topic and positive as I can here.

This past weekend I had to do some research that required visiting my local independent bookseller.  I was doing some recon on a couple of areas, to see what was out there and available.  My local store has a decent (not stellar) children’s department and you can learn as much about sales and trends by what isn’t on the shelves as much as what is there.

You know what’s not there?  Poetry.

One shelf for poetry, shared with nursery rhyme collections.  Half of that shelf was Shel Silverstein, with a face out of Where the Sidewalk Ends.  Two Jack Prelutsky’s, one recent collection edited by Mary Ann Hoberman, a Douglas Florian, a Patricia Boynton, and an Edna St. Vincent Millay collection.  I think any adult with a passing familiarity with children’s literature could name at least one book or author not represented, if not a dozen.  Put all of us together and we could fill a store with what wasn’t on the shelves.

I’m pretty sure I saw this question come up recently.  Kids love poetry, they love wordplay and the fun of what poetry can do, so where are all the poetry books?  Is it simply a question of shelf space in a store, of low sales demand?  Have the children’s poets exhausted all possible subjects?  I’m so full of thoughts and ideas I can barely think straight.  Here’s some of what’s in that jumble of a head of mine.

Poetry books are too expensive to produce, or purchase. When the children’s book market shifted its focus from institutional sales (libraries, schools) to retail, few consumers (parents) saw the value in a book that would be read while waiting in line to purchase it or might not be reread.  Hardcover poetry in particular has the feel of a “gift book” in the children’s market, and unless each poem is accompanied by full color illustrations the perceived value of words-to-page versus cost is too dear.

Let’s set aside the fact that a poem shouldn’t require an illustration at all if done correctly.  I mean, talk about painting mental pictures, poems should produce whole galleries of images to the reader.  Why can’t these be simple line illustrations on the page?  That takes care of production costs right there.  Ditch the hardcover until a book has proven itself worthy of “gift editions,” and make them portable enough to be carried everywhere.  If a mass market paperback can hold 200+ pages and come in under $10 there’s no reason a 48-page chapbook of poems with line illustrations can’t be sold at less than half that.

Think about all those series books kids gobble down (and parents purchase) like Magic Tree House and the like.  You expect me to believe a series of poetry chapbooks the same size and cost as those books can’t be as successful, given the same marketing emphasis?

Editors and agents actively discourage children’s poets. I think there is a fear, perhaps rightly so, that there is a lot of bad poetry in the world, and editors and agents already have a tough enough time with lackluster submissions as it is.  Fair enough.  It would be nice to go back to the golden days when Ursula Nordstrom and William Cole would put together showcase collections of poets that could serve as trial balloons for what readers respond to, but those days are behind us.

Or are they?

Recently I came across an interview with an editor who suggested that poetry collections should be pitched as picture books.  This seemed like a novel solution for the serious poet looking for a way past the “no poetry” edicts handed down: if you could sell the theme of the collection as a picture book then clearly you’ve considered the market and understood what is and isn’t saleable.  The problem with this line of thinking is that a picture book is an expensive undertaking – color pages and all – and poems on a particular theme don’t have as wide appeal as omnibus collections.

The solution: bring back the poetry collections.  Let the houses put out trade paper editions twice a year – fall and spring – edited in-house from submissions taken during limited windows.  Put some interns to work sorting, discover some new voices, encourage children’s poetry. Something akin to the way the Evergreen Review used to be, with an editor at the helm.

Poetry is marginalized and destroyed in schools. First, it’s segregated late in the school year during National Poetry Month, and after third grade poetry is “taught” to the extent that the joy is removed from it.  Once reading moves from pleasure to purposed – around the fourth grade – poems (and fiction for that matter become object lessons in simile and metaphor and theme and structure.  This is where the joy of wordplay is beaten out of kids, and right about the time kids start to lose their interest in poetry.

So first thing we need to do is turn National Poetry Month into National Poem of the Week.  I think Robert Pinsey tried to do this when he was poet laureate, with a weekly syndicated column in the national newspapers.  Maybe one of the duties of the Library of Congresses Children’s Poet Laureate would be to select the weekly poems to be featured and sent to educators so that there’s a national dialog about poetry going on, in addition to filling in those lessons with poems selected and shared by kids.  Yes, meter and structure and the finer points of poetry should be taught and discussed, but more time should be spent in reading and sharing in the schools.

Ultimately, I think the real solution will come from e-readers.  Once they become cheap enough that kids are downloading books, the e-book market will be ripe for consumers of poetry (like kids) hungry for poems. Publishers could hardly claim that poetry collections are too expensive to produce as e-books, but by then they might have totally alienated the poetry market altogether; it’s already easy enough to upload chapbooks to Scribd or as Kindle original books.  And it isn’t like it’s hard to break into the kidlit poetry market when it hardly seems to exist as it is.

Personally I would much rather see dozens of new poetry books published for children every month, simple books with nice line drawings, designed with care by inexpensive, given the same marketing as other books.  I’d like to walk into a book store in my home town and find dozens of titles and hundreds of poets crammed into that one shelf of space.

As long as we marginalize poetry, give it short shrift on the shelves, and provide no incentives for reading or owning poetry, how can we ever expect children to accept, much less enjoy, poetry?

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Every year it’s always the same.  I vow I’m going to not only find a way to participate in National Poetry Month but I’m gonna carry that spirit beyond April and throughout the rest of the year.

But I don’t.  And because I can’t I have decided I am not really dedicated enough to actually consider myself a poet of any grade. That doesn’t stop me from trying again year after year.

Last year I used npm as my testing ground for signing onto Twitter.  My goal was to post one new haiku a day and sort of get myself up to speed in social media and that went well enough so I’m going to try again this year.  Like last year I’ll be collecting the week’s Tweets into a Poetry Friday post, but since this first roundup comes only a day in I thought I’d do a little behind-the-scenes with these Tweets.

impatient saplings
force frost-burnt buds and brown leaves
elderly trees wait

A few weeks back we had a burst of spring coming straight out of some bitter cold.  I couldn’t help notice that some of the younger trees and bushes in the neighborhood couldn’t wait to send out new buds and baby leaves.  Five days later we got a bitter cold bunch of rain that caused flooding and over-saturated ground and those buds started to get freezer burn.  The haiku wrote itself

lost school craft knowledge:
white glue and rubber cement
fingerprints and snot

I was thinking about how we used to paint desks with rubber cement, let it dry a little, then ball it up into fake snots that we would hang from our nostrils.  Which reminded me of how we used to put white Elmer’s glue on our fingertips and peal it off when dry and study our fingerprints.  What I wasn’t able to include in this etude for adhesives was how we liked to take peppermint scented paste and smear it on our teeth and then lick it off.

By midday yesterday a friend from school through down a challenge: “What, no limericks?”  Hmm.  Would a limerick fit the 140 character limit of Twitter?  Could I also write a limerick a day for a month?  I thought of Edward Lear, and “The Owl and the Pussycat” (not written in limerick form), and the image of a man and a cat at sea bobbed around my mental ocean.  An idea struck, a twist, then the cat disappeared and the following emerged.

There was an old salt name of Plum
Who drank rum ‘til his innards were numb
Took to sea in a scow
Taunted sharks from the prow
And now everyone just calls him Chum

It took two Tweets to make it fit, so maybe Twitter isn’t the best place for a limerick, but I enjoyed the challenge.

Finally, a biographical haiku, fitting for April Fools Day.  And totally true.

the joke is on me
all day my underwear was
inside out, backward

Don’t ask me how I didn’t figure this out earlier.

So here we go.  National Poetry Month and twitku and maybe the occasional limerick.  Follow along on Twitter, or join in by adding your own haiku with the #twitku tag.  And for the first time in a long while I’m participating in Poetry Friday which is hosted this week at Book Aunt.

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Well, this is going better than I imagined. On April first on a whim I decided I’d try to manage one haiku a day as a Twitter experiment. It was either a low bar, my efforts are lame, or I’m in the midst of a creative brain jolt. Either way, the twitku have been flowing. Here’s this past week’s collection of my original contributions to National Poetry Month.

Poems in italics are revisions of the original posts, which generally went up moments after they were conceived.

abraham lincoln:
poetry enthusiast
cockfight referee

benjamin franklin:
nudist vegetarian
son-of-a-chandler!

for kerouac, fame
was the buddha to kill with
liquor on the road

how does that joke go?
if my dog shaved his face, i’d –
no, that’s not it…

trees shed winter coats
last season’s leaves revealed:
plastic shopping bags

more branches than leaves
more dirt than flowers or grass
transition season

paperback spinner
yellowed memories smell like
pulp and sour milk

ancient old geezers
an ancient backgammon set
beneath ancient skies

bald light bulb against
a mottled cobalt ceiling
ugly city moon

eyes roll, guilty stare
“it’s lip balm, dad, not lipstick”
growing up so fast

chondroitin, statins
glucosamine, fish oil
old man old knees old

solos with a spoon
simmers in swing, blends bop hard
jazz dad keeps it cool

(inspired by http://tiny.cc/JkuMO)

one minute: sunbeams
pink tips burst from tree branches
now: sleet pelts them back

a sudden stillness
charged ozone, tiny hairs dance
when the lightning strikes

time melts slow like ice
into liquid memories
then evaporates

skitter and flutter
lepidopteran monarchs
flies made of butter

pen found in the washer
writes at first then bleeds to death
laundry scribicide

drawings on cave wall
stick men and antelope blobs
dance secret dances

shifting northern light
excites the inner artist
distracts the writer

head hits the pillow
the promise of sleep broken
the pillow fights back

frustrating morning
afternoon is no better
where’s the chocolate?

Care to follow along? I’m delzey on Twitter. If you haven’t already you should check out GottaBook and 30 Days 30 Poets this month for lots of extra crunchy poetry goodness.

The Poetry Friday shindig is rounded up to the nearest dollar over at Carol’s Corner. Plenty of poetry goodness to go around.

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