Monthly Archives: March 2019

Poetry Friday: The Man in the Green Suit

Heidi Mordhorst is hosting Poetry Friday at My Juicy Little Universe. The optional theme this week is climate change.

Happy Poetry Friday!

I think everyone knows by now, one of my favorite poetic forms is the portrait poem. Maybe it’s because I studied dramatic writing as an undergrad, but I think there’s something magical about bringing a character to life  in the space of a small poem.

My poem for this week was inspired by my recent trip to Israel with PJ Library and the Harold J. Grinspoon Foundation.

We spent the first few days traveling in the desert, including a strenuous hike, a visit to a Bedouin encampment, stargazing from the bottom of a crater, a visit to solemn Masada, and kayaking on the still blue water of the Dead Sea — over 1,300 feet below sea level.

Under the Old City — we walked on an ancient paved road that once led to the Jewish Temple.

From that vast landscape and all of its profound experiences, we moved on to Jerusalem.

Although I had visited Israel once before, I didn’t spend much time in Jerusalem on my last trip. I fell in love with this city. Modern, yes, but also ancient and undeniably spiritual.

One of the sites we visited was a dig below the city where an ancient road, dating to at least 2,000 year ago, is being excavated.

I think that’s why — when we finally arrived for our final two days of the trip in cosmopolitan Tel Aviv — the man in the green suit made such an impression on me and my traveling companions (all fellow children’s authors).

Photo by Mark Shulman. Beachside promenade, Tel Aviv.

There was nothing of the desert and its silence or ability to make one feel small about this guy. None of Jerusalem’s inward focus. His polished look was the opposite of effortless. I think that’s what made him so noticeable — at least to us.

I jotted down a poetic sketch later that same night. Luckily, my friend Mark Shulman snapped a photo, which I’m posting here with Mark’s permission.

The Man in the Green Suit
By Laura Shovan

Smooth as sunset,
out for an easy
stroll. Who can take
their eyes off that
fresh haircut, sleek
Gucci bag, Blue
Tooth in his ear?
He’s the master
of the “I look
good” saunter. Sharp
shoes. Thin gold tie.
The sun hits his shades
and he turns
to see who’s watching.
Duh. Everyone.

Poetry Friday: Van Gogh Dreams

This week’s Poetry Friday host is Catherine at Reading to the Core. Stop by for a round-up of this week’s poetic posts.

Hello, Poetry Friday friends. I haven’t seen you in a few weeks. Before I get to this week’s poem — a quick update!

I took a blogging break while I was traveling with 17 other children’s authors on PJ Library’s Author Israel Adventure. It was a life-changing trip, full of new friends, amazing experiences, and lots of learning. I’ll tell you more about it in future posts. If you can’t wait, there is a great photo essay about our trip in Publisher’s Weekly — written and photographed by children’s author Mark Shulman.

Enjoying felafel sandwiches in Jerusalem with children’s authors Emma Carlson Berne (L) and Madelyn Rosenberg (R).

Because of the trip, I moved this year’s February Poetry Project to March. We are a small group this year, with some regulars and some new poets responding to a common poetry prompt every day. If you’d like to join, let me know. This year’s theme — definitely inspired by the incredible Mediterranean cuisine  — is FOOD. If you’d like to learn more about my annual poetry project, please read this 2016 post.

The only other time I have traveled abroad with a group of authors was four years ago. In 2015, about 60 poets/community activists gathered in Salerno, Italy for the 100 Thousand Poets for Change World Conference. That’s where I met Lisa Vihos, the poet I’m going to introduce you to today.

Lisa Vihos reading at 100 Thousand Poets for Change World Conference in Salerno, Italy, 2015.

Lisa Vihos is a Wisconsin poet and editor. Some of her books are the chapbooks This Particular Heaven (Kelsay Press, Kelsay Books, 2017) and Fan Mail from Some Flounder (Main Street Rag Publishing, 2018). Two of the anthologies Lisa compiled and edited are From Everywhere a Little: A Migration Anthology (Water’s Edge Press, 2019, co-edited with Dawn Hogue), and the book I’m featuring today: Van Gogh Dreams (HenschelHAUS Publishing, 2018).

Van Gogh Dreams is an apt title for this collection. The book weaves together ekphrastic responses to specific Van Gogh paintings (The Potato Eaters, Sunflowers, Starry Night, for example), poems in Van Gogh’s voice, and modern reflections on the artist and what 21st century creatives can learn from him.

If you’re in the Maryland/DC area, Lisa is coming to visit! She will be the featured author, along with Andria Nacina Cole, at Wilde Readings (the local literary reading series that I co-host). The event is March 12 at the Columbia Art Center, Columbia, MD. We start the open mic at 7 pm. (More info is here.)

I’m so excited to see Lisa again. Literary friendships run deep.

Here is Lisa Vihos’s poem from Van Gogh Dreams.

Love Letter for Vincent
By Lisa Vihos

I would have sat quietly
while you painted the stars
and I would not have tossed
the sunflowers
before you were done with them

I would have tended
the irises, dusted your chair,
and made your bed, in love
with the vibration inside all things —
just like you. I would not have judged

the cut ear or the old sermons.
I would have cooked your potatoes,
wiped clean your shoes,
and bought you another absinthe
at midnight in the pool hall.

I would have brought a picnic lunch
and a cool drink to the wheat field.
I would have marveled with you at the sun
and the patterns the blackbirds made
as they flew low along the horizon.

Posted with permission of the author.

Van Gogh Dreams is available here and on Amazon.

I love that the cover of Van Gogh Dreams is a work of  art in itself. As Lisa explains in the book’s introduction, it is taken from a collage created by her father, artist Georg Vihos.

While she’s here, Lisa will be recording an episode of the long-running Library of Congress podcast “The Poet and the Poem.” The host is Grace Cavalieri, our new state poet laureate of Maryland! I’ll share a link when the podcast is available.

Do you love Van Gogh’s paintings? You might want to check out Vans new Van Gogh fashion line. Yes, Vans the sneaker company. What would Vincent think, I wonder?