Monday, April 30, 2007

Sometimes poetry makes things happen

Robert Pinsky relates a resonant example of a poem that had consequences. [here]

Iraq Rebuild: Your Tax $ At Work (Not), American Investment in Iraq Reconstruction Projects At Risk, Inspector General Report Finds - CBS News

Iraq Rebuild: Your Tax $ At Work (Not), American Investment in Iraq Reconstruction Projects At Risk, Inspector General Report Finds - CBS News

An inspector general report on Iraqi reconstruction projects found that of 8 sampled projects declared successes and turned over to Iraqi control, 7 are no longer functioning properly, if at all.

Sites suffered from deterioration, poor or no maintenance, or were not even being used by the people for whom they were built, at a cost to U.S. taxpayers of approximately $150 million.

Sunday, April 29, 2007


The fantasy of grape stained rage
Died in the transistor radio
While playing the oldies

One more time than he cared
To snap his fingers or necks
Of chicken like

His hard mannered grandma
Would do behind
The raspy gray tool shed

Poet's obsessions

"If a poet is anybody, he is somebody to whom things made matter very little - somebody who is obsessed by Making." ~ e. e. cummings

Worthwhile Workshop

I met an extremely brilliant and engrossing artist of varied talents at a writers workshop yesterday.

So, here I am setting in this room with a hand full of other writers and Debra Di Blasi, the
instructor, begins her spiel, except that it's not just that, I am quickly realizing that this person thinks like a poet. Writing conferences that are not geared towards poetry can often be a mixed bag of goods and I always prepare myself by trying my hardest to keep an open mind about the usefulness and application of knowledge shared.

Di Blasi is in fact versed in so many areas that she would be a superb resource for any art discipline. Indeed, Debra interestingly asserts that where the literary arts are concerned the boundaries are collapsing.

I came away with some refreshing ideas and energy.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Making Room

"I'm alive today, therefore I'm just as much a part of our time as everybody else. The times will just have to enlarge themselves to make room for me, won't they, and for everybody else." ~ Stevie Smith

I Am

Back from a Writers Workshop
What did I buy – you ask
In a random sort of way
As if maybe you care and maybe not

I bought myself back from linoleum
And I am now vertical
The food was –
Well it was

But the sun hid for while
And time was what it always is
Approximation of something taught to us
But what if it isn’t at all

What if the war were to eclipse time
Would it matter if one fell face down dead in the dirt
Or if 32 hundred and change came home boxed in memory
To families that could not reset their watches and make it go away

Words coagulate to prove
The math backwards
And if I write – I am

Friday, April 27, 2007

Rogue Poetry Review

The Winter Issue of Rogue Poetry Review
is belatedly complete now and posted.

Begin Every Line With Capital Letter

"A prose writer gets tired of writing prose, and wants to be a poet. So he begins every line with a capital letter, and keeps on writing prose." ~ Samuel McChord Crothers

It's Friday, thank God! I have a headache this morning - a recurrence of one from last night in fact. I suspect is is sinus related and it's bad. It is not an attempt at sympathy but an affirmation to myself that today I need to not let things drag me down.

I have a Writers Conference tonight and tomorrow to look forward to. It appears that most of it is directed towards prose and not poetry though there is one session that is on poetry. That said, I chuckle at today's quote above.

Now some odds and ends...

  • A big thumbs up for the House and Senate making a firm statement on the War in Iraq in spite of Bush's threat to veto the bill.
  • Rudy Giuliani flip-flops on civil union laws. Geeze, is he running for President or something?
  • Former CIA Director George J. Tenet accuses the White House of making him a scapegoat and of ignoring early CIA warnings that Iraq was sinking into chaos. Tenet also leveled criticism at Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, saying that the two had destroyed his reputation by repeatedly using the "slam-dunk" line to pin blame on him for the decision to go to war.
  • Franz Wright is a poet whose work I have admired. Here is an interesting interview of the son of poet James Wright. Both by the way are Pulitzer Prize winners. I love the story of the note from his father, I had heard it prior to reading this piece.
  • So who is author Anne Lamott reading?
  • Tombstone case may bury free speech.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Nothing ~ X.J. Kennedy

Toe after toe, a snowing flesh,
a gold of lemon, root and rind,
she sifts in sunlight down the stairs
with nothing on. Nor on her mind.

~ X. J. Kennedy from Nude Descending a Staircase

Congratulations Missi Rasmussen

Congratulations are in order for Missi Rasmussen who received the Nicholas Manchion English Scholarship Award at Park University Honors Convocation last night. Her submission of a poem she wrote titled, The Fine Art of Making Breakfast was judged to be the winning poem by the Park University English Department.

Missi is President of KC Metro Verse, a Kansas City Chapter of the Missouri State Poetry Society.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

David Halberstam

David Halberstam on Poetry... "I came to it gradually as an adult when I found that people I respected — Bobby Kennedy, whom I covered as a young man — loved poetry. I mean, really. He quoted it naturally. He found comfort in poetry, and that was important to me."

Halberstam on President Bush... "Very simply, it's a national tragedy. It's not just a tragedy for him, that he will have gone down as such a failure. It's a great national tragedy to have at that moment somebody who has been so deeply, so much in over his head. It's so sad for us, as a country, for him. It's really dark out there. And we have a year and a half to go. This will be seen as a tragic moment in American life."

David Halberstam journalist, and author of scores of books died Monday at the age of 73. Halberstam, who a Pulitzer in 1964, for his reporting on the Vietnam War was the passenger in a car that was broadsided by another vehicle.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

we decided to moan...

Look: no one ever promised for sure
that we would sing. We have decided
to moan. In a strange dance that
we don't understand till we do it, we
have to carry on.
~From An Introduction To Some Poems by William Stafford

Monday, April 23, 2007

Poet's Quote for Today

The poet judges not as a judge judges but as the sun falling around a helpless thing. ~ Walt Whitman

Sunday, April 22, 2007

A Kiss

A stone can masquerade where no heart is
And virgins rise where lustful Venus lay:
Never try to trick me with a kiss.

~Sylvia Plath from Never Try to Trick Me With A Kiss

Robert Pinsky Gets the Best Gigs....

OH God this is funny. Kelli has a great post from the Cobert Report. Go to her blog and check it out.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Stopping to think....

"A verbal art like poetry is reflective; it stops to think. Music is immediate, it goes on to become." ~ W. H. Auden

And a few thoughts today:

  • The Amnesia General had over 70 forgetful spells at his Senate Hearing Thursday and yet Dana Perin, White House spokesperson, said Bush called Gonzales after returning from a trip to Ohio on Thursday in a fresh show of support for his longtime Texas friend.
    Wow, the President really had no shame.
  • Gov. Christine Gregoire this week marked National Poetry Month by signing legislation that creates the new post of poet laureate for the state of Washington. Forty other states currently have poet laureates. Yeah Washington!
  • Poetry doubles as therapy for N.M. teenager. [story]
  • War on Terror Reaches the Poet ~ A poetry professor in a small college in the Northeast decides to recycle old manuscripts and becomes an object of suspicion. [story]

Friday, April 20, 2007

"What is required is sight and insight -- then you might add one more: excite."
~ Robert Frost

Thursday, April 19, 2007

A childs view of broken

"I have woven a parachute out of everything broken." ~ William Stafford
Broken is such an useful word. As a child, I most recall broken as something that was most often very final but I hoped otherwise. It mostly related to toys. There was at first the expectation that an parent (being a duly qualified grown-up) could fix or reverse this condition and restore it to something close to original form.
As we grow older, we discover that many more things can be broken. Bones, promises, relationships. We break laws and sometimes laws themselves are broken and need to be fixed. Language, spirits and even society as a whole can be broken.
Stafford in this quote, appears to have maintained a bit of the child's view; that even the broken can be made into something useful. Perhaps in our naivety, we have only hope and the cynic in us has not yet developed. A process that is more likely to come with the passage of time through experiences.
Keeping such hope, especially in light of inexplicable tragedy like we have experienced in the recent events at Virginia Tech, is a good thing. Believing we can still achieve something meaningful out of such loss is important to us all.
The poet William Stafford speaks of weaving a parachute out of everything broke. We need a parachute right now. Something to break our fall. Giving hope of something other than a broken spirit. We need Stafford's view of life.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Special Day

Happy Birthday to My Lovely Wife Cathy Today!

Universality of poetry

“Poetry is finer and more philosophical than history; for poetry expresses the universal, and history only the particular.” ~ Aristotle

Today's bits and pieces:
  • Poet Nikki Giovanni reciting poem at Virginia Tech Vigil
  • In an interesting shift - the British have backed off the use of the phrase 'war on terror' citing the phrase strengthens terrorists by making them feel part of a bigger struggle. A member of Tony Blair's Cabinet brought into the open a quiet shift away from the U.S. view on combating extremist groups saying, "In the U.K., we do not use the phrase 'war on terror' because we can't win by military means alone, and because this isn't us against one organized enemy with a clear identity and a coherent set of objectives." What an interesting shift from on of President Bush's favorite phrases.
  • A roundup of 5 poetry bestsellers.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Poets & Writers Exchange Contest for poetry

Congratulation to Andres Rodriguez who was the Missouri winner of the Poets & Writers Exchange Contest for poetry. Rodriguez was chosen from a pool of 112 entries. He lives in Kansas City and is the author of Book of the Heart -The Poetics, Letters and Life of John Keats


"Children and lunatics cut the Gordian knot which the poet spends his life patiently trying to untie." ~ Jean Cocteau

Patience and poetry always keep appearing together.

  • Natasha Tretheway won the Pulitzer Prize on Monday for "Native Guard," a collection about black Civil War soldiers who helped protect a fort on Ship Island, a few miles off the Mississippi coast. [story]
  • Charlie Savage of the Boston Globe won a Pulitzer for his reporting how President Bush quietly claimed the authority to disobey more than 750 laws enacted since he took office. This is a compelling piece of journalistic reporting that should get more attention then it has. (click here)

Monday, April 16, 2007

Next they'll blame the weather on us....

The poet may be used as a barometer, but let us not forget that he is also part of the weather. ~Lionel Trilling

I really like this quote and I am not exactly sure why. As we start the week, a few other annotations....
  • “I have nothing to hide." is one of those reassurances that is right up there with, "I am not a crook." Sorry Alberto, it isn't working for me.
  • Very intriguing site to involve teens in poetry.
  • Robert Peake discusses an interesting phenomena - Poetry 2.0?

Sunday, April 15, 2007


Woke up this morning to my wife reminding me not to miss New Letters (a radio program produced locally and aired at 6am Sundays on our local NPR affiliate, KCUR FM) This weeks program was an interview with Naomi Shihab Nye that was taped last year when she was in Kansas City. Missourians have a bit of a claim on Nye as she was born in St. Louis. (an insignificant fact to my post, but my over functioning self will take over on occasion).

I think it was maybe three, perhaps four years ago that I first was introduced to her when she spoke was a featured speaker at a writers conference here in town. Even aside from her poetry, she is a dynamic personality. I believe her to be an individual who truly breathes the experience of poetry and this I contend makes it hard if not impossible to separate the person from the poet.

If I were looking for a diplomatic representative to a foreign country, any country, Naomi Shihab Nye would possess the necessary temperament to break through the toughest of barriers and actually be able to achieve meaningful dialogue.

What I like about Ney is her understanding of the total range of human emotion. She is not oblivious to pain and suffering but she always seems to be looking for a way past it. With her ancestral connection to the Middle East, this is a remarkable feat. The lines from here 1994 poem Jerusalem are a testament to this... "I'm not interested in / who suffered the most. / I'm interested in / people getting over it."

In reading an interview with Nye in Pedestal I caught the following line which reaffirms my belief that she indeed lives day-to-day in a poetry realm: "Balance is more important than anything. I am sure I lose my balance every day. Poetry—reading it, usually—is what helps us find it again." Could it be that this is the true value to each of us in National Poetry Month? A time for us to center ourselves, to find balance in life?

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Wet & Cold - Thankfully no snow...

A cold Saturday after a night of rain that was expected to turn to an April snow. Fortunately, no snow.

I share this quote today....

"Art is anything people do with distinction." ~ Louis Dudek

Friday, April 13, 2007

The right state of mind....

I've heard so much from poets about what they write with, where they write or time time of day they prefer for their task. It seems there are any number of ways to approach writing poetry and no single formula is a guarantee success for everyone. But I have discovered a T.S. Eliot quote that suggests how one's mind is best equipped for the enterprise. Eilot says, “When a poet's mind is perfectly equipped for its work, it is constantly amalgamating disparate experiences.”

What I am hearing from Eliot sounds like a process of ordering dissimilar experiences or closing them together in some sort of organized way. Melding them on a page. This of course could account for the difficulty many have with poetry, if such a thought process were to seem particularly foreign.

I recall an evening I was alone at home and set down with a pen and my journal and started to write - equating how still the night was and how it wrapped itself around the quite of the house and I felt almost a third wheel to this union. And soon I was writing how I wished you were home and I was the night...

This bit of writing came together in unusual ease. Looking back I can see the joining of dissimilar experiences and the way this developed into a short poem that I have been told by many that they especially like. Yet, it came together in very short order and without the customary multipal rewrites. Perhaps it worked so well because Eliot is on to something.

Write Now Writer's Conference

The writer’s conference,
Write Now!
In the Kansas City Area
Sponsored by WriterHouse and Park University
features published authors who talk about their writing process, how they got published, and provide other useful information to writers; one or more of these authors will read from his/her latest book or collection.
Participants also attend workshop sessions where they create new work or a live scene for on-going work.
The upcoming conference, Write Now!, will feature speakers, workshops, and resource people emphasizing getting writing on the page, identifying your market, and getting published ...everyone who attends will write!
Mark April 27-28 on your calendar! Write Now! Park University Campus.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

A few searches that must have disappointed...

I noted from my stat service that the following searches brought people to my site:

I suppose these will not likely be repeat visitors.

My quote for today is from Emily Dickinson - "Behavior is what a man does, not what he thinks, feels, or believes."

Charles Bernstine takes a look at National Poetry Month. (here) Is it too one dimensional? As much as I believe NPM is a significant vehicle for promoting our art, I have to concur that it focuses on mainstream poetry and this reflects poorly on the art of poetry as a whole.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

They're Here

My Poetry Month Broadsides have arrived.
100 of them are available while they last. If you would like one, email me with your name and address. Each one is numbered and signed.
The poem is one I wrote some time back titled, Give Me Some Everyday Religion and it has an epigraph from Anne Sexton.

Poetry is...

"Poetry too is a little incarnation, giving body to what had been before invisible and inaudible." ~ C.S. Lewis

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

I fell off the NaPoWriMo Wagon

"Publishing a volume of verse is like dropping a rose petal down the Grand Canyon and waiting for the echo." ~ Don Marquis

OK, I will fess up. I fell off the NaPoWriMo wagon this weekend. And now that I've said so, I feel way better. It is not that I haven't written, but rather that what I have written has been all over the map and is not even acceptable as a draft. But things will get better.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Grief, delight and rage...

“Verse is not written, it is bled; Out of the poet's abstract head. Words drip the poem on the page; Out of his grief, delight and rage.” ~ Paul Engle

Sunday, April 08, 2007

That dangerous mind....

"Too many poets delude themselves by thinking that the mind is dangerous and must be left out. Well, the mind is dangerous and must be left in." ~ Robert Frost

Saturday, April 07, 2007


First Draft: It's Official...

Congratulations are in order to Kelli Russel Agodon. Atlantic Monthly even...

Another poetry quote for the day...

"Poetry is boned with ideas, nerved and blooded with emotions, all held together by the delicate, tough skin of words." ~ Paul Engle

I am patiently waiting the delivery of 100 broadsides from the printers for distribution for Poetry Month. OK, I'm not very patient, but I am waiting. That counts! Even if I don't have a choice. Hopefully they will arrive Monday in time for my KC Metro Verse meeting the following evening.

It's turned cold here. I mean the really cold, like the leaves on our bushes were young and green and healthy are bitten by the bitterness. Tulips which were in full bloom appear stripped and tortured with dry ice. This is not a good thing. Spring is under attack.

Friday, April 06, 2007


" A poet must never make a statement simply because it sounds poetically exciting; he must also believe it to be true." - W. H. Auden

My NaPoWriMo is moving along. Successfully producing one new poetry draft a day for each day of the month.
Poetry, Baseball, San Francisco.... does it get any better than this? (click here)
"One of the great things about baseball is it brings together imagination and reality," said Jeff Brain, a poet who participated in the event.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Thursday thoughts....

I'm not into reality shows. Why they have not caught my fancy I can't say. Perhaps it is due to the stark reality we live in day to day. I mean if we could vote Bush off the Island, I might start to get interested.

Are you aware that we are burning $9 billion a month on the Iraq war? That's $108 billion a year. Any thoughts as to how much longer this could go on? Who is going to pay for this war that was an expensive lie to the world? It is not in any fiscal budget. Our children will be paying for this for years to come. Not only financially, but in loss of credibility around the world. Our foreign policy has become a joke.

The war in Iraq has not made America any safer. If anything, it has fanned the already existing flames of hate among some in the Middle East. Bush is the best recruiter extremists could ever have.

The child that is or isn't in us....

"A child who does not play is not a child, but the man who doesn't play has lost forever the child who lived in him and who he will miss terribly." -- Pablo Neruda

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Poetic Irony

"The people fancy they hate poetry, and they are all poets and mystics." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Reading Your Poetry In Public

"A poet who reads his verse in public may have other nasty habits. " ~Robert Heinlein, Time Enough for Love, 1978

I simply could not help myself when I ran across this quote. I cracked up and decided I had to share it with others. Ok, so I am easily amused. It's not the worlds worst vice, but apparently reading you own poems in public may be close.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Play Ball!

The earth is not flat.... and today it revolves around a strange sphere with red stitches. Opening Days is evidence that life goes on.

National Poetry Month - day 2

"Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality. But, of course, only those who have personality and emotions know what it means to want to escape from these things." ~ T. S. Eliot

Sunday, April 01, 2007

NaPoWriMo first draft

At Last

“How did someone come at last to the word for patience
And know that it was the right word for patience”
~ W.S. Merwin

No subtle breach of taxation
Deliberation that grew moss up the north side
Persistence before we knew what

It isn’t without end though it may seem
At last it would be in short supply
At some point we all find ourselves

Hanging by that last red nerve
When you reach that point
You just know

* note:

I had intended to post all of my poems for NaPoWriMo on a separate blog linked here but have decided not to. Anything written and posted the dame day is likely a best a draft. Some of these may very well have promise and some not. Clearly it is unlikely any would become a full fledged poem in a single day. It has happened to me but it is rare.

I am posting these on a forum, but otherwise, I'll perhaps give you one every few days or some bits like I do from my journal. That seems to me to be the best course for me to take. As always, your comments are welcome...

National Poetry Month begins....

"A poem is true if it hangs together. Information points to something else. A poem points to nothing but itself" ~ E. M. Forster

Here we are, the first of April...

This month brings us the beginning of Baseball season, National Poetry Month, the time cycle of eternal beginnings. There is so much I like about this month... the month T.S. Eliot referred to as the cruelest of months. Perhaps the fact that my taxes are done and the refund in the bank helps.

To celebrate poetry all month long, I am doing the following....
  • participating in NaPoEriMo
  • posting a poetry related quote each day of the month
  • producing a limited edition broadside of one of my poems (100 in all) that I will distribute to anyone as long as they last.

I rather like Forster's quote above. I think people are often looking beyond poems to make something of them they are not. I say, let the poem be itself.