A Poet with a Pen (un poète avec une plume)

poetB

This piece was inspired by the article “The Quick and the Dead: An Energy Crisis in Poetry” by Charles Harper Webb which appeared in the February 2014 issue of The Writer’s Chronicle . I was so struck by the opening words that I penned this while in the car waiting for my grandmother to finish grocery shopping.

~For Charles Harper Webb

I am
Loud, brilliant, audacious
obnoxiously so
I am
Quiet, sedate, dull
studiously complex
I am
Words strung together
On pages
Penned by tortured souls
Keats, Byron and Shelley
Sanchez, Brooks and McKay
I am
Poetry

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Titling

desk option

Someone recently brought up that the titles of the majority of my poems rarely reflect what I discuss in the piece. Well, I already knew that. When I was in my MFA program one of my classmates mentioned it, she was extremely put off by a title because she felt that I was trivializing a traumatic event. As if the poem wasn’t about my trauma. My personal trauma that I experienced, suffered, and survived. So I understand that my system might make it a bit difficult to determine what you’re going to read about but…for me title selection is personal and it’s part of MY creative process. I would never tell another poet to change the title of their work. I, however, have received several suggestions (mostly in workshops) but I only changed one title. One. That poem is “Invaded” and the title was originally “Invasion.”

I understand the purpose of titles, and some of my favorite poems and poets use titles that not only reflect the content of the poem but also the title may be a line from the piece. That’s just not how I do it. And that works for me. It doesn’t mean that I’m not a poet. It just means that I’m quirky.

December, 1919- Claude McKay

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Last night I heard your voice, mother,
The words you sang to me
When I, a little barefoot boy,
Knelt down against your knee.

And tears gushed from my heart, mother,
And passed beyond its wall,
But though the fountain reached my throat
The drops refused to fall.

‘Tis ten years since you died, mother,
Just ten dark years of pain,
And oh, I only wish that I
Could weep just once again.

-Claude McKay

Lost

little boy lost

You have no idea
Who you are
Or how to carry yourself

You think your gender is
Can be found in sagging pants
Multiple baby mama’s, multiple sex partners,
Side chicks and rolls of dollars

You think that real manhood
Can be found between your legs
Or in your pockets
And not in how you treat others

You think that respect is some kind of profanity
That “woman” is interchangeable with “bitch”,
“Hoe” or “slut”
and you’re fine with that

Life doesn’t owe you anything
But life
And the sooner you accept that
The sooner you can
Grow up

Voices- Sharon Olds

infinity%20tattoo%20friendship%2009

This is a poem that I found on poets.org and I immediately fell in love. I believe that it was written for poet Lucille Clifton. It is an amazingly great testament to friendship, the effects of losing a great friend, the hurt that accompanies that loss and the joy in remembering what a blessing that friendship was.

(for Lucille)

Our voices race to the towers, and up beyond
the atmosphere, to the satellite,
slowly turning, then back down
to another tower, and cell. Quincy,
Toi, Honoree, Sarah, Dorianne,
Galway. When Athena Elizalex calls,
I tell her I’m missing Lucille’s dresses,
and her shoes, and Elizabeth says “And she would say,
“Damn! I do look good!'” After we
hang up, her phone calls me again
from inside her jacket, in the grocery store
with her elder son, eleven, I cannot
hear the words, just part of the matter
of the dialogue, it’s about sugar, I am
in her pocket like a spirit. Then I dream it —
looking at an illuminated city
from a hill, at night, and suddenly
the lights go out — like all the stars
gone out. “Well, if there is great sex
in heaven,” we used to say, “or even just
sex, or one kiss, what’s wrong
with that?!” Then I’m dreaming a map of the globe, with
bright pinpoints all over it —
in the States, the Caribbean, Latin America,
in Europe, and in Africa —
everywhere a poem of hers is being
read. Small comfort. Not small
to the girl who curled against the wall around the core
of her soul, keeping it alive, with long
labor, then unfolded into the hard truths, the
lucid beauty, of her song.

15 Feb ’10

A Bit of Spring in a Poem

spring beauty

If you are a follower of the blog then you know that I am not really a sonnet type of poet however there are exceptions. This aptly named piece by Alice-Dunbar-Nelson is one of them. I discovered this poem on the amazing poets.org site and for some reason, probably because it is a beautifully classical example of poetry it stayed with me. I am sharing this in honor of National Poetry Month as a reminder of how great poetry can be and as a symbol of how words can be evocative of life. I hope that wherever you are it’s a beautiful spring day and that the poem conjures memories of “sweet real things” for you.

Sonnet

I had no thought of violets of late,
The wild, shy kind that spring beneath your feet
In wistful April days, when lovers mate
And wander through the fields in raptures sweet.
The thought of violets meant florists’ shops,
And bows and pins, and perfumed papers fine;
And garish lights, and mincing little fops
And cabarets and songs, and deadening wine.
So far from sweet real things my thoughts had strayed,
I had forgot wide fields, and clear brown streams;
The perfect loveliness that God has made, –
Wild violets shy and Heaven-mounting dreams.
And now—unwittingly, you’ve made me dream
Of violets, and my soul’s forgotten gleam.

-Alice Dunbar-Nelson

Song of Joy

3-carmen-jones-dorothy-dandridge-1954-everett

I have let go
Of more bitterness,
antipathy and anger
Than any one person
Should carry.

Have allowed conviction
And love to heal
Old wounds and
Soothe old sorrows.

I have been relieved
Of those old feelings
Through maturity and
Grace.

Have thrown off old
Burdens and hurt
Like a cloak.
Now
I am present in the
Moment and I
Am filled with faith.