Monthly Archives: January 2017

Poetry Friday: #10FoundWords

Thanks to Carol Varsalona for hosting Poetry Friday this week. Carol’s blog is Beyond Literacy Link, always a great resource for writing and education. Stop by for more of this week’s Poetry Friday posts.

It’s the last Poetry Friday of January. That means I am gearing up for the annual February daily poem project.

This year, I’m encouraging participants to engage with current events, news articles, political speeches, and interviews. Each day, we’ll be using 10 Found Words from a news-related source and building our poems around those words.

The February poetry project grew so large last year that I can no longer host it here at my blog. Instead, we are writing together in a closed Facebook group.

Interested? Read the full introductory post here. If you’d like to join the group, leave me a note in the comments. I will add you ASAP.

We’ve been working on a few warm-up poems before the project officially starts on February 1. Here’s my draft of the day. Do you think it’s “Unfair!”?

Under the Rug
By Laura Shovan

The arc-shaped flow
of his solar-blonde hair
defies gravity. Fluid,
odd, its color scorched
as a drought-tossed field
of wheat. When the wind
rattles its dried-out stalks,
the whole plain shifts, lifts
as if the hidden door of Hell,
slammed shut for so long,
has swung wide open
in the middle of America.

10 Words — found by Heather Meloche:

scorching
oddities
arc-shaped
whipped
shift
solar
fluid
flow
slammed
gravity

Source: “Weird wave found in Venus’ wind-whipped atmosphere,” by Ashley Yeager, Science News, January 17, 2017.

Annual February Poetry Project Announcement

We’re coming up on the last Poetry Friday in January. You know what that means. It’s almost time for our annual daily writing workout!

For the past four years, my blog has hosted a community poetry project.

This year, the project has moved to a closed Facebook group to accommodate the number of people who want to participate. A group of us have been testing out the process with warm-up exercises. I’m excited to report that the Facebook platform is working well.

2017 Theme: 10 Words Found in the News

The theme of this year’s project combines current events and found poetry with an exercise borrowed from one of my mentors, poet Grace Cavalieri: 10 Little Words.

Beginning January 31, I will post 10 words in our project’s Facebook group for the next day. Along with the words, you’ll see a link to the source from which those words were drawn. Sources might include news articles, transcripts of political speeches, interviews of politicians and activists, the headlines of the day. Your daily task is to build a poem that includes those ten words.

Why this prompt?

Over the past several weeks I’ve resisted the urge to disengage from the language our government is using. Instead, I encourage everyone to look at that language as a poet. We can create found poems and word art to reflect what’s happening in our country and world.

IMPORTANT NOTE FOR PROJECT NEWBIES: As always, the point of this exercise is to practice the habit of writing regularly, even if it’s just for one month. Members of the project post response poems the same day so that we can focus on generating ideas and giving positive feedback, rather than polishing for publication.

Interested in joining us? You can request to join the closed 5th Annual February Daily Poem Project here.

Poetry Friday: #WritersResist

Violet Nesdoly is this week’s Poetry Friday host. Stop by Violet’s Blog for more poetry links, reviews, original poems, and sharing.

Well, here we are. It’s really happening.

First, I’d like to thank all of you for your comments on the press conference found poems. Several Poetry Friday regulars have been engaging with transcripts of the president-elect’s words. By paring away (or emphasizing) the fluff, these poems help us expose problems with the way language is used by our future president.

I’m glad my week began with a #WritersResist event in Baltimore. [Find out more about the Writers Resist movement at this website.]

There were so many powerful speakers: military veterans, high school-aged performance poets, an essayist who spoke about the history of neglect that led to Baltimore’s recent uprising, young women, elders, the city’s first youth poet laureate, academics, and activists.

I was invited to read as a representative of the 100 Thousand Poets for Change. I’ve written about the group before [read my interview with founder Michael Rothenberg here], and about my 2015 trip to the 100TPC World Conference in Italy.

The group is an earlier incarnation of the pulse that is driving #WritersResist now. 100TPC was born at the same time as the Occupy Wall Street movement, and has grown — with concurrent literary readings happening around the globe each September — ever since.

Being part of 100TPC has enriched my life with new and very dear friends, poets whose words take international stories out of the realm of newspapers and TV soundbites and into the real.

On Sunday, I shared poems by two of these poets, Michael Dickel of Israel and Menka Shivdasani of India. Both have been turning eye, pen, and heart to human rights issues in their home countries for many years. I am learning from them how to use my own eye, pen, and heart to speak truth to power.

Street art by Pino Green at the 100TPC World Conference in Salerno, Italy, 2015.

So thirsty…
by Michael Dickel

I am almost back perhaps. The long summer ordeal
of stress, rockets, war, death, killing has moved off
into Syria and Iraq and left us barren for a moment.
A bit of rain falling today hints at winter being
wet. We need water. We always need water. So thirsty.

The brown hills will green again, and the dry beds
recently run with blood water will wash thoroughly
so flowers may wave their red-yellow-white-purple
cacophony of emotions in winter’s permissive grace.
We need the water. We always need water. So thirsty.

Since between last summer’s war and the next,
whenever it might fall upon us, this brief moment
flickers—a satellite-pretense of being a star gliding
across black night—a mere reflection of sunlight.
We want water, we always need more water. So thirsty.

The desert will preserve these battles, mummify
the narratives, and wait as scorpions and seeds wait.
And to this I return. Almost. Maybe. Turned back
from the sea and step-by-step making my way to sweet
water. Always water. Like the night sky, I am so thirsty.

Michael Dickel reading at the 100 TPC World Conference, 2015.

Veils
By Menka Shivdasani

The first veil was when
the country split,
a woman held apart
and sliced,
crushed under the weight
of muscle, bone,
and the evil smile.

After that, the second veil
didn’t matter;
the countries hid
behind their nets and little webs.
We peeped out
from behind the
fraying thread.

Too much had already
been lost.
The skin had ripped,
and scarred
beneath stitched
exteriors. The third veil,
then, was just
impotent cloth.

But it mattered when
they held her down again,
this woman born
of country blood,

and they whipped her
on the streets
so no one dared
to take her by the hand.
Instead, they took
a video of the veiled
and battered face.

These veils have begun to bleed on me.
They bite
into my flesh
and blackened skin.
You cannot hide
behind veils much longer;
they will not survive
the grenade in your hand.

The marketplace is waiting;
hurry now.

Menka Shivdasani reading at the 100 TPC World Conference, 2015.

***

Michael Dickel, a poet, fiction writer, and photographer, has taught at various colleges and universities in Israel and the U.S. He co-edited Voices Israel Volume 36 (2010). He was managing editor for arc-23 and 24. Is a Rose Press released his new book, The Palm Reading after The Toad’s Garden in 2016. His previous books are War Surrounds Us, The World Behind It, Chaos… and Midwest / Mid-East. With producer / director David Fisher, he received an NEH grant to write a film script about Yiddish theatre. Dickel’s writing, art, and photographs have appeared in print and online.

Menka Shivdasani’s first book of poems, the critically acclaimed Nirvana at Ten Rupees, was published by Adil Jussawalla for XAL-Praxis in 1990. Her second collection Stet first appeared in 2001, and her third collection, Safe House, was published recently by Paperwall Media & Publishing Pvt Ltd. Menka is also co-translator of Freedom and Fissures, an anthology of Sindhi Partition poetry, published by Sahitya Akademi in 1998 and editor of If the Roof Leaks, Let it Leak, an anthology of women’s writing that forms part of a series being brought out by Sound and Picture Archives for Research on Women (SPARROW). She has edited two online anthologies of contemporary Indian poetry for the American e-zine​ www.bigbridge.org​.

Menka’s poems have appeared in several publications, both in India and elsewhere. These include Poetry Review (London), Poetry Wales, Fulcrum (USA), Seminary Ridge Review (Gettysburg), the Bloodaxe Book of Contemporary Indian Poets, 60 Indian Poets (Penguin Books India), and the Harper Collins Book of English Poetry. She is also represented in Indian Literature in English: An Anthology, a textbook of the University of Mumbai.

Menka is joint coordinator of the Culture Beat initiative at the Press Club in Mumbai and has been a member of Asia Pacific Writers & Translators Association since its inception. As Mumbai coordinator for the global movement, 100 Thousand Poets for Change, she organises an annual poetry festival at the Kitab Khana book store. Menka’s career as a journalist includes a stint with South China Morning Post in Hong Kong, and the publication of ​eleven books as co-author/ editor, three of which were released by the then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. In 1986, she played a key role in setting up the Poetry Circle in Mumbai.

Hello from Salerno, Italy!

Press Conference Found Poem #2

I’m still mining this week’s pre-inaugural press conference for found poetry. Today’s poem is pulled word for word, unabridged from an exchange between the president-elect and a reporter. In addition to the repetitiveness of Trump’s speech (repetition *is* a poetic technique, after all), the contrast between the two speakers, and the irony of Trump’s use of the word “rude” are what interests me.

Source material: NY Times transcript of January 11, 2017 press conference.

It’s a Disgrace What Took Place
Trump Press Conference Found Poem

By Laura Shovan

Since you’re attacking us,
can you give us a question?
Mr. President-elect —

                                                Go ahead.

Mr. President-elect,
since you are attacking
our news organization —

                                                Not you.

Can you give us a chance?

                                                Your organization
                                                is terrible.

You are attacking
our news organization.
Can you give us a chance
to ask a question, Sir?
Sir, can you —

                                                Quiet.

Mr. President-elect,
can you say –

                                                He’s asking a question.
                                                Don’t be rude.
                                                Don’t be rude.

Can you give us a question
since you’re attacking us?
Can you give us a question?

                                                Don’t be rude. No.
                                                I’m not going to
                                                give you a question
                                                I’m not
                                                going to give you
                                                a question.

Can you state…

                                                You are fake news.
                                                Go ahead.

Sir, can you categorically
state that nobody –

No, Mr. President-elect,
that’s not appropriate.

                                                Go ahead.
                                                (APPLAUSE.)

For those of you involved in activism right now, the January 21 Women’s March organizers posted an important video here.

If you can’t march, but you are a crafter, the Pussyhat Project is taking donations of pink hats for the March.

Poetry Friday: Found Poem Assignment

Keri is hosting Poetry Friday this week at Keri Recommends.

The pen is a mighty weapon, according to the old saying.

To help kick off inauguration week in the spirit of activism, poets and authors all over the U.S. are performing at WRITERS RESIST events. You can read about the movement at PEN America. Writers Resist has its own website with a listing of readings across the nation.

I will be representing 100 Thousand Poets for Change at the Baltimore City Writers Resist reading. Information about the event is here.

After last week’s poetry exercise with a bit of Thoreau, I had a feeling that our President-Elect’s words would make some revealing poems. Yesterday, I posted a political poetry assignment on Facebook. Here it is:

I challenge everyone to create a cross-out or found poem out of Trump’s recent press conference. Here is a link to the transcript.

Please post your poem — text or picture — in the comments or at your own blog. Thanks to Amy Ludwig Vanderwater and Diane Mayr, who shared their poems on Facebook.

For my response, I was interested in the rhythm of Trump’s repetitious, overlapping phrases. I went through the transcript and highlighted sentences driven by “I.” Here is my own response to the prompt. Though these phrases lack context, I did not rewrite or re-order any of Trump’s words.

I Messages
Trump Press Conference Found Poem

by Laura Shovan

I think we probably maybe won,
I do have to say that and I must say that.
I’ve just gone up a notch.
As to what I think of you?
OK, I guess you could say.
And I will say, I said,
that I will be the greatest.
And I mean that, I really –
I think you’ll be very impressed.
I tell this to people all the time,
and I told many people.
I have no dealings.
I have no deals that could happen.
And I have no loans.
I have very, very little debt.
I have assets. I have very little debt.
I have very low debt. But I have no loans.
And I thought that was important.
I certified that. So I have no deals.
I have no loans. And I have no dealings.
I just don’t want to.
Because I’m president.
I didn’t know about that, but it’s a nice thing.
I have something that others don’t have.
I understand they want a president
to run the country.
I would be able to do that if I wanted to.
I’d do a very good job.
I think it’s one of the reasons I got elected.
I think the people of this country
did not want to see what was happening.
I think it was disgraceful.
And I say that, I think it’s a disgrace
that information was false and fake.
I think they’re going to suffer the consequences.
I guess the advantage I have is
that I can speak.
And I think it’s very unfair.

Poetry Friday: First Snow

Linda Baie hosts Poetry Friday this week at her wonderful blog, Teacher Dance. Be sure to check out the winter proverb in the blog header.

Happy Poetry Friday, friends. As I write this post on Thursday afternoon, we are expecting our first snow of the winter season.

I went looking for a “winter walk” poem (preferably, with dog), and instead landed on Henry David Thoreau’s essay “A Winter Walk.”

As an exercise, I took Section 4 (featuring a baying dog) and adapted it into poetic lines. Since I’ve been working on a prose novel for some months, thinking about phrasing and line breaks was a good work out for my flabby poetry muscles. It also helped me to engage more deeply with Thoreau’s gorgeous language as I broke it down into lines, paying close attention to sound and meaning. Many of us tend to focus on visual images when we write, but the sense of sound — and how it is brightened by the cold — is on Thoreau’s mind here.

As a winter baby, I especially love the final lines of this section. A walk on a cold day is, for me, “an elixir to the lungs, and not so much a frozen mist as a crystallized midsummer haze, refined and purified by cold.”

Have you ever tried adapting a piece of prose by another author into a poem? What did you learn? I wonder if this this exercise would work well in the classroom.

A SOURCE OF DELIGHT

From “A Winter Walk,” by Henry David Thoreau
Full text at American Transcendentalism Web

We hear the sound of wood-chopping
at the farmers’ doors,
far over the frozen earth,
the baying of the house-dog,
and the distant clarion of the cock,
though the thin and frosty air
conveys only the finer particles
of sound to our ears,
with short and sweet vibrations,
as the waves subside soonest
on the purest and lightest liquids,
in which gross substances
sink to the bottom.
They come clear and bell-like,
and from a greater distance in the horizon,
as if there were fewer impediments
than in summer
to make them faint and ragged.

The ground is sonorous, like seasoned wood,
and even the ordinary rural sounds
are melodious, and the jingling
of the ice on the trees is sweet and liquid.
There is the least possible moisture
in the atmosphere, all being dried up
or congealed, and it is of such extreme tenuity
and elasticity that it becomes
a source of delight.

The withdrawn and tense sky
seems groined like the aisles of a cathedral,
and the polished air sparkles
as if there were crystals of ice floating in it.
As they who have resided in Greenland tell us
that when it freezes “the sea smokes
like burning turf-land, and a fog or mist arises,
called frost-smoke,” which “cutting smoke
frequently raises blisters on the face and hands,
and is very pernicious to the health.”
But this pure, stinging cold
is an elixir to the lungs, and not so much
a frozen mist as a crystallized
midsummer haze, refined and purified by cold.

A winter walk with Sam, 2012. Photo by J. Shovan