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?

Poetry Friday: Tidying Up

This week’s Poetry Friday host is Tricia Stohr-Hunt at the Miss Rumphius Effect. You’ll find links to the week’s poems, poetry reviews, and musings at her blog.

An admission: I tried listening to Marie Kondo’s book on audio. I didn’t make it past the first few chapters.

My favorite idea from The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up was de-cluttering not by area, but by theme or object. I can picture myself gathering all of the candlestick sets we received for our wedding 28 years ago, choosing one or two favorite pairs, and donating or giving away the rest.

(Crystal candlesticks must have been a hot item in 1991. We have at least five pairs, plus a few more in ceramic.)

That’s as far as I got. It’s not that I don’t need Kondo’s guidance – or *some* guidance. I do. We have lived in our house for almost 20 years. The children we raised here are now out of the house. We’re due for a massive declutter. Maybe I’ll give her television show a chance. I love home renovation shows, and decluttering is a renovation of interior spaces.

Friends who are Asian-American have pointed out that much of Kondo’s advice and celebration of minimalism is rooted in Japanese culture. Some of her critics have misunderstood that piece, especially when it comes to book collections. There’s an article on that topic here.

Meanwhile, I came across a poem from Judith Viorst’s new collection. In this meditation on “stuff,” Viorst touches on the push and pull of down-sizing a home that’s been filled with music and books.

My Stuff
By Judith Viorst

The trouble is I really love my stuff,
Especially the stuff that’s stashed in my basement,
Like that trunkful of 78s that I haven’t listened to in over seventy years,
When the Andrew Sisters rang “Rum and Coca Cola,”
And Sinatra sang “Full Moon and Empty Arms,”
And I forget who sang “Chattanooga Choo Choo,”
All of them played on what we called a Victrola
In the sun parlor — always my childhood’s favorite room,
Where built-in shelves held my Oz books, The Secret Garden,
The Count of Monte Cristo, the Nancy Drews  …

Read the rest of the poem in Grace Cavalieri’s (Maryland’s new state poet laureate!) review of Nearing 90 and Other Comedies of Late Life, by Judith Viorst. Scroll down to find the review.

Bonus: If you’ve never seen George Carlin’s routine on stuff, have fun watching this today. It’s one of his best.

 

A Holiday Ghost Story

Ah, the holidays. Family time, favorite foods, haunted hotels.

Wait. What?

This was my favorite story of the 2017 holiday season, originally posted here on Twitter.  It begins with an arduous journey…

I have a fun holiday story for you! Drove the family 6+ hours to the Catskills Mountains today — through snow.

We were trekking to my parents’ cabin/summer home. They invited my brothers’ and my family for a holiday celebration. A rare event! All 6 cousins under 1 roof.

One problem. Everyone can’t fit under that roof. 3 families of four + 2 grandparents. (The grandpa emoji totally looks like my dad.)

We got booted, ’cause my kids are much older than my brothers’ kids. (I promise you there’s an unexpected twist coming up.)

Hotel? Fine. Whatever. My dad starts making phone calls … and there’s no room at the inn. ( Holiday weekend, ski season.)

He decides to call in a favor and reserve 2 rooms for us at his golf club’s historic inn — WHICH IS CLOSED FOR THE SEASON.

“It’ll be fine!” he says. “You’ll have the whole place to yourselves.

Literally, the whole place. The staff will be off for Christmas. The rooms will be set for us, but no  maid service. Ooh-kay, Dad.

We drive up in the dark tonight. Hubs is *not thrilled*. My kids opted to sleep on the couches at the cabin tonight. Smart kids!

I’d make a Shining joke, but by the time we get to the place (10 minute drive in Dad speak = 20+ minutes), hubs is ticked off!

The heat is on, but no one’s here. Empty as advertised…

 

 

 

 

 

It’s kind of quaint, but … I have to tell my brain, “Do not say ‘Redrum.’ That joke is not funny.” And hubs is beyond seeing the humor in this.

 

 

 

 

But, COME ON!!!

 

 

 

 

 

And then I see it…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Closer…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hello, Jack.

This is when I bust out laughing. Hubs does not see the humor in this situation. From now on, we’ll take care of our own hotel reservations. Thanks a lot, Dad.

Enjoy your holidays, believers. I hope you are safe, warm, and surrounded by people you love. I’ll be here. All night.

 

Post script:

First, a correction. The drive from my parents’ place to the hotel was (sorry, Dad) ten minutes as advertised. I blame the dark, frigid night for making it feel longer.

Second, a few days after our visit, my father called. It turns out, there have been reports of voices and other ghostly happenings at the hotel. But our stay was blessedly uneventful.

 

A Book and a Beagle — Special Offer

I am a dog mom.

Sam the Schnauzer is my best furry friend. But three years ago, our family decided (with much convincing) that 8-year-old Sam needed a brother. Not a puppy. An older dog. A calm dog to show our very barky, anxious guy the joys of being chilled out.

I went to the animal shelter. Crashed out on the office floor was an overweight older beagle, snoring away like he owned the place That afternoon, we brought Rudy home.

If you’d like to hear more of Rudy’s story — and meet Rudy himself, the Oscar to Sam’s Felix — check out this video.

When I was working on my middle grade novel, Takedown, I couldn’t help myself. Rudy is such a funny, weird, lovable dog, I had to put him in the book. That’s how one of my main characters, eleven-year-old wrestler Lev Sofer, ended up with a lazy, chubby old beagle named Grover.

We first meet Grover in Chapter 4. Lev describes him like this: Grover waddles into the hall, snuffling my backpack. He sounds more like a pig than a dog. I pat his soft ears.

Beagle plushies and the actual champion of doggie chill, Rudy.

When I found these adorable beagle baby plushies, I had to pick up a basket full. And now I have a special offer!

I am selling “A Book and a Beagle” for just $20 plus shipping. You’ll get a signed copy of Takedown (read a review) and a Grover beagle plushie to love. Leave a comment if you’re interested.

Since it’s Poetry Friday, I went hunting for a beagle poem to go with the book and toy. Kenn Nesbitt didn’t let me down.

I love the closing stanza of “Gabby’s Baby Beagle” because it’s so true. Beagles are totally pig-like. They are obsessed with food. And the snuffly sounds they make when they’re sniffing around, hoping to find a dropped morsel — not to mention their big tummies — earn the title of pig-dog.

Gabby’s Baby Beagle

A Tongue Twister
From the book The Tighty-Whitey Spider

Gabby bought a baby beagle
at the beagle baby store.
Gabby gave her beagle kibble,
but he begged for bagels more.

Gabby loved her baby beagle;
gladly Gabby gave him one,
but her beagle grabbed the bag and
gulped them down till there were none.

So she took her baby beagle
to the bagel baker’s store,
where the beagle gobbled bagels,
bags of bagels by the score.

Gabby’s beagle gorged on bagels,
bigger bagels than before,
till he’d gobbled every bagel
in the baker’s bagel store.

Gulping bagels bulges baby
beagles’ bellies really big.
Say goodbye to baby beagle;
Gabby’s beagle’s now a pig.

–Kenn Nesbitt

Copyright © 2010. All Rights Reserved.

You’ll find the poem here at Kenn’s website. It’s worth visiting. There’s an audio file where you can listen to the poem being read!

Thanks to Donna Smith at Mainely Write for hosting Poetry Friday this week. You’ll find the link up at her blog.

Donna Smith is hosting Poetry Friday at Mainely Write this week.

A Long Winter’s Nap

Buffy Silverman is hosting Poetry Friday at Buffy’s Blog today.

Around this time every year, my acupuncturist reminds me that winter is a time for hibernation. It’s okay to huddle by the fire with the family, to be more “in” and less “out” (whether that’s your physical or your energetic being).

When snow blankets Maryland, everyone stays in and hunkers down. At my house, we curl up on the couch and watch movies or play board games. The first time we had a blizzard while my eldest was away at college, it felt strange to sit out the quiet storm without him.

Follow Soul Roots on Instagram @SoulRootsPlanner.

Click on the image to read the Rosemary Chocolate Truffles recipe from Soul Roots Planner.

Curling up, staying warm, clinging to family — all crossed my mind when I received my Winter Poetry Swap package from the swap-mistress herself, Tabatha Yeatts of the blog The Opposite of Indifference.  There were treats to warm my spirit: homemade lip balm (one of Tabatha’s many talents), a box of delicious raspberry tea, and a planner filled with herbalist wisdom and recipes, including this one for Rosemary Chocolate Truffles.

Before I get too cozy, picturing myself staying in bed with my naturally delicious chocolate bon-bons, let’s read the ekphrastic poem Tabatha included with these gifts.

UPDATE: Typos that were entirely my fault have been corrected. Apologies to Tabatha!

Das Bett by Sofie Korner

The Bed
by Tabatha Yeatts

for Laura

She feels as though the bed is poised to roll her
out of it while she is sleeping, that no matter
how much she craves rest, the bed will
cast her away. perhaps the hands that
sawed and hammered the frame, tilted
the bed just so, sought to make it
inevitable that she would seek a
husband to keep her aboard.
she covers the bed with a
blanket of her own
making, colors
that cheer
her heart,
tucks the sheets in tight.

***

I’m intrigued by the tension that Tabatha creates in this poem. As a knitter, the finale speaks to me — that the woman solves her unease by making something beautiful. I get a sense that this grounds her and counterbalances the tilted bed.

Time to make some truffles! Enjoy your holiday treats and have a great weekend, poets.

Poetry Friday is here!

Look no further. Poetry Friday is here this week. Mr. Linky will gladly take your coat … I mean link.

Welcome, winter wordsmiths!

Early birds, thanks for letting me know that Mr. Linky was misbehaving. He’s all fixed and ready for your links.

I was at the National Press Club Author Night and Book Fair in Washington, DC last month and had the great good luck to bump into an old friend, Jona Colson.

Jona and I met several years ago at the (now defunct) Gettysburg Review Conference for Writers. We were in a week-long workshop, studying with Sydney Wade. Magical.

Jona’s first collection of poetry is out. Said Through Glass won the 2018 Jean Feldman Poetry Prize and is available through Washington Writers Publishing House.

I selected one of the poems, “The Orange Speaks,” for Little Patuxent Review back in my editor days. But I’m sharing a seasonal poem today, filled with winter imagery to savor.

Snow
By Jona Colson

There is a promise in its lattice light,

its sway and spiral in white fury, falling

granular glint and glimmer, the way I’m brought

to the window following flakes in mid-flight.

There is a need to draw my name in its wet slate,

the terrible urge to disappear

into its folds, the slide and sunder of ice

and sphere, the hasty crush under heavy foot

as I raise it to my mouth—savor of sky,

of wood-fire, edged with anise and brume.

***

Published with permission of the author.

Jona says of this poem, “It’s not surprising that this poem started during a snowstorm. I remember walking to my window in DC and following the huge flakes down to the street.  Writing the poem took me back to my childhood days in Maryland when snow was mystical and anticipated. The poem sat for years in my computer before I started to send it out; it took a long time for it to find its form.”

What are your favorite winter poems, or poems about snow? Let us know in the comments. Please use Mr. Linky and let us know where to find your Poetry Friday post.


Poetry Friday: Chocolate Haibun

Thanks to Liz Steinglass for hosting the Poetry Friday round up this week!

I’m posting my Poetry Friday offering early this week. I’ll be traveling on Friday, visiting the niece and nephews mentioned in the poem below.

This is my first attempt at a haibun. It has also been forever since I shared a “random conversations” post. I wanted to capture the way an everyday moment (shopping) transformed into a moment of unexpected connection with a stranger. Haibun — because of its leap from prose to haiku — seemed a good fit. Has anyone else tried the form? What do you think about its hybrid style?

Cheer Down
By Laura Shovan

A quick stop at the local chocolatier. It’s Hanukkah, and I’ve had my eye on their white chocolate unicorn lollipops for my niece and nephews. What would be a brief transaction – customer, clerk – shifts when a George Harrison song begins to play. He is our favorite Beatle. Under the banter, recognition that each of us is settled down, grounded and calmed, by the same music.

Dusk on Main Street
Gray light, brown bag
Saffron truffles

A herd of white chocolate unicorns.

If you are ever in Maryland, the chocolate shop is Sweet Cascades in Old Ellicott City. Their truffles are divine.

And if you’d like to listen to George perform the song referenced in my poems title, you’ll find him here.

See you next week when it’s my turn to host Poetry Friday. I’m attempting Mr. Linky for the first time. Fingers crossed!

Poetry Friday: To the Moon, In the Sky

This week’s Poetry Friday host is Carol at the blog Carol’s Corner. Stop by for poetry book reviews, news, and original verse!

I’ve got a great read-along this week: a work of historical verse to pair with a wonderful new middle grade novel, coming out in February.

First up: The verse.

A few months ago, Linda Mitchell of the blog A Word Edgewise recommended a fabulous book: Countdown, 2878 Days to the Moon, by Suzanne Slade.

I hesitate to call this a picture book. It is a rich poetic history of the American moon missions, from President John F. Kennedy’s announcement of a goal to land a man on the moon (1961) to Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s moonwalk in 1969.

Paired with the poems, which cover all 11 Apollo missions, are gorgeous full-color paintings of the astronauts and rockets by artist Thomas Gonzalez, as well as photographs of and info-boxes about the astronauts on each mission.

The astronaut who most caught my attention in this book was Michael Collins. He flew with Armstrong and Aldrin, but never set foot on the moon:

Collins remains in the command module–
alone,
hoping he won’t have to return to Earth alone.
Then he pushes a button
and releases Eagle.

“Okay, there you go. Beautiful!” Collins calls out
as the ships slowly drift apart.

Imagine being the one to stay behind at that moment. Imagine being solely responsible for getting Armstrong and Aldrin safely back on board the command module.

There’s another reason why Michael Collins stood out among all of the heroic characters in Countdown. I had recently read about him in another book.

Next up: The Novel.

Ruby in the Sky is a debut middle grade novel by Jeanne Zulick Ferruolo.

Ruby’s Dad used to work for NASA. The moon was their touchstone. Whether they were together or apart, every night they would both look at the moon and know they were thinking about each other. But Ruby and her mother’s lives have been in a tailspin since her father passed away.

Mom has dragged Ruby from Florida to Vermont, her own childhood home, in the middle of winter. Ruby is reluctant to make friends — even reluctant to speak — at her new school. But when a class biography project comes up and she has to pick a topic, her first choice is Michael Collins.

There is so much more I could say about this beautiful story of friendship, forgiveness, and finding your voice. I hope you will read it and enjoy it for yourself! Full disclosure, MG author Tricia Clasen and I worked with Jeanne on this book when she was our Pitch Wars mentee in 2016 (read about that here).

If Ruby Moon Hayes were a real person, she’d devour the poems and history in Countdown. She might even have some facts and important historical figures of her own to add to the “race to the moon” story. For your real life kids, these two books are perfects read-alongs. Enjoy!

Poetry Friday: Job Search

Irene Latham is hosting Poetry Friday this week at Live Your Poem.

When I heard poet and sculptor Jay Hall Carpenter perform this poetic monologue a few weeks ago, I knew it was the perfect thing to share on Black Friday.

I met Jay, a fellow Maryland poet, at the DiVerse Poetry readings series in Gaithersburg, MD this spring. (Those of you who go to that city’s book festival, be sure to say hi to Lucinda Marshall, host of the Diverse Poetry series and its lively community of readers.) After hearing him read, I had to invite Jay to perform at the local series I co-host, Wilde Readings.

I hope this hilarious portrait poem brings you a smile, whether or not you’re braving the malls today.

JOB SEARCH
By Jay Hall Carpenter

What if I had a diff’rent job,
An occupation more attuned
To skills that best befit a snob
And are, in practice, less jejune?

Perhaps I could, a critic be–
No Broadway show could match my taste.
I could appraise fine jewelry
And at a glance know gem from paste.

But English, that’s the highest calling,
To speak precisely, without doubt.
And what on Earth is  more appalling
Than when one calls a route a rout?

We lend to friends, we never loan,
And such transgressions bare my talons.
For we must all, our grammar hone.
It is less milk, but fewer gallons.

We champ the bit, we do not chomp,
A swind’ler is a sharp, not shark.
Abhor inconsequential pomp
And make each sentence hit its mark!

It’s Farther when we go the distance,
Further when we’ve things to add.
The full effect of my assistance
Is an affect far from bad.

We flounder, as we  gasp for breath,
But founder when we sink below.
Poor usage is akin to death
As even lesser men should know.

Yet here I’m stuck and must be stalwart,
Although I’m built for better thing.
So in my name-tagged vest at Walmart
I’ll greet them in the tongue of kings!

Shared with the author’s permission.

Jay Hall Carpenter has been a professional artist for over 40 years, beginning as a sculptor for the Washington National Cathedral, and winning numerous national awards for his work. His first poetry collection, Dark and Light (2012), was followed by 101 Limericks Inappropriate For All Occasions (2107), and will be followed next year by a third, as yet untitled, collection. He has written poetry, plays, and children’s books throughout his career and now sculpts and writes in Silver Spring, MD.

 

Check out Jay’s wonderful gallery of sculptures here.

I was lucky enough to see Jay’s statue of Frederick Douglass in person during the Chesapeake Children’s Book Festival (Eaton, MD). This year marks Douglass’ 200th birthday.