Anything can be used in a poem

Thought for the day:

“It took [Frank] Bidart years to understand that anything that went through him could be included in a poem. . . .” — From “Golden Boy,” an article by Hilton Als that appeared in the September 8, 2017 issue of the New Yorker.

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Thanks, Cirque

cirque-journal

Words matter. Editors matter. I was reminded of that when editors Sandra L. Kleven and Michael Burwell gave my poem a special mention on the From the Editors page of the current issue of Cirque. Sandra and Michael correctly referred to my submission as a “cautionary poem.” Here’s an excerpt:

Let’s pretend we’re drowning
Because there will be no tomorrow
If we don’t save each other today

Thanks to fine editors everywhere, especially those at Cirque. As a writer, there’s nothing more worthwhile than to have one’s work valued and understood.

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Poetry: Ruth Stone

In this New York Times article about the death of poet Ruth Stone, she is quoted as having said that poetry is “emotional opinion” and that, to her, poetry “just talked to me, and I wrote it down. So I can’t even take much credit for it.” Here’s one of Stone’s poems posted on poets.org:

 

Always on the Train

by Ruth Stone

 

Writing poems about writing poems

is like rolling bales of hay in Texas.

Nothing but the horizon to stop you.

 

But consider the railroad’s edge of metal trash;

bird perches, miles of telephone wires.

What is so innocent as grazing cattle?

If you think about it, it turns into words.

 

Trash is so cheerful; flying up

like grasshoppers in front of the reaper.

The dust devil whirls it aloft; bronze candy wrappers,

squares of clear plastic–windows on a house of air.

 

Below the weedy edge in last year’s mat,

red and silver beer cans.

In bits blown equally everywhere,

the gaiety of flying paper

and the black high flung patterns of flocking birds.

(The poets.org website includes forums on everything from how to write poetry to the difference between voice and style.)

What I’m reading: Good Poems: American Places

Good Poems: American Places - Selected and Introduced by Garrison Keillor

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

How can you not like a book of poetry that includes “Ode to Hardware Stores” by Barbara Hamby; “John Green Takes His Warner, New Hampshire, Neighbor to a Red Sox Game” by Maxine Kumin; and “Bronco Busting, Event #1” by May Swenson?

There’s something so down-to-earth about Good Poems: American Places, a poetry-doesn’t-have-to-be-a-big-deal compilation. No surprise that it’s edited by Garrison Keillor, an American storyteller known for honoring America and its inhabitants.

A tidbit from the collection: 

The Junior High School Band Concert

By David Wagoner 

When our semi-conductor
Raised his baton, we sat there
Gaping at Marche Militaire,
Our mouth-opening number.
It seemed faintly familiar
(We’d rehearsed it all that winter),
But we attacked in such a blur,
No army anywhere
On its stomach or all fours
Could have squeezed through our crossfire.

I played cornet, seventh chair,
Out of seven, my embouchure
A glorified Bronx cheer
Through that three-keyed keyhole stopper
And neighborhood window-slammer
Where mildew fought for air
At every exhausted corner,
My fingering still unsure
After scaling it for a year
Except on the spit-valve lever.

Each straight-faced mother and father
Retested his moral fiber
Against our traps and slurs
And the inadvertent whickers
Paradiddled by our snares,
And when the brass bulled forth
A blare fit to horn over
Jericho two bars sooner
Than Joshua’s harsh measures,
They still had the nerve to stare.

By the last lost chord, our director
Looked older and soberer.
No doubt, in his mind’s ear
Some band somewhere
In some music of some Sphere
Was striking a note as pure
As the wishes of Franz Schubert,
But meanwhile here we were:
A lesson in everything minor,
Decomposing our first composer.

Prose, poems and patience

Earlier this week, I stopped by the Blackbird Wineshop to listen to four writers read from their work. They talked about everything from the “intimate isolation” of family reunions to the “decorative gelatins” found at dinner parties. One writer read a first-person poem in which a character says “I held myself in my own arms.” Another writer described himself as a “patient person.” His book, he told us while holding it up, took him 26 years to write.