Category Archives: National Poetry Month

Another one for nature and National Poetry Month

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A Buffalo Skull

No fine white bone-sheen now;
a hundred hard years
have worn it away, this stump
washed up on a bar
in the river, its horns
like broken roots,
its muzzle filled with sand
and the thin gray breath
of spider webs.  Once,
they covered the grasslands
like the shadows of clouds,
and now the river gives up
just one skull, a hive of bone
like a fallen wasp’s nest,
heavy, empty, and
full of the whine of the wind
and old thunder.

–Ted Kooser (American Poet — born in Ames, Iowa, 1939)  This poem is from One World at a Time, published 1985

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April is National Poetry Month!

It is the end of the first week of April 2018, and it is National Poetry Month in the U.S.  A contemporary American poet named Laurel Blossom (born 1943) is someone whose poetry I recently stumbled upon.  Among Ms. Blossom’s accomplishments is that she served fairly recently, from April 2015 – April 2017, as the Poet Laureate of the town of Edgefield, South Carolina (a Poet Laureate being a poet officially appointed by a government or conferring institution, typically expected to compose poems for special events and occasions).

Ms. Blossom’s books of poetry include Longevity (2015) and Degrees of Latitudes (2007).  Her collected books of poems are Wednesday: New and Collected Poems (2004), The Papers Said (1993), What’s Wrong (1987) and Any Minute (1979).  Additionally, her poems have appeared in a number of literary journals and in the anthologies 180 More: Extraordinary Poems for Every Day (2005), Lights, Camera, Poetry (1996) and Southern Poetry Review, Volume I: South Carolina (2007).

Glee Club
For Stan (1941 – 1976)

You are the tenor singing inside me,

making a silence beside the song,

calling it harmony, making a charm

to hang on my jingling bracelet of longing.

(originally published in Jasper: The World of Columbia (SC) Arts,March/April 2012).

The Papers Said

In Kenya they have two paved highways.
Commuters throw garbage out the windows to baboons
so used to being fed this way
they wait at intervals like pets or trashcans.
One day a man threw out an orange
he’d filled with chili powder just for the hell of it

to see what would happen (it
rolled in the red dust at the highway’s
edge) because the man hated those fucking baboons
or whatever the word is in Swahili, the way
they jerk off at the side of the road, or show their
disgusting red cans
to each other, and this one not especially orange

orange
got picked up by one of those fuckers, who pushed it
into his mouth and bit down.  The white man in the green car
on the liquid red highway
under the burning blue sky (or whatever the baboon
word is for hellfire) – the man in the green car went
his way.
Baboons scream as only baboons can.

The man felt merciful: no more living trashcans.
He forgave his wife.  As the sky turned the brilliant orange
of an African sunset, he drove home. It
gratified him to see the sides of the highway
deserted, the entire baboon
population he’d driven away.

For a while, he went out of his way
to be nice to his wife and children.  He let them
watch American
T.V., on the weekend he bought a six-pack of
orange pop, packed it
in the car and took them all for a drive along the highway.
Of course the baboons

were back; he expected that.  Baboon
Attacks, however, he did not expect, especially the way
it seemed to recognize the green car (uncanny,
the papers called it), hurled itself at the open window
when an orange
shape glistened briefly there, and ripped the man’s throat out.  Call it
whatever you like, poetic justice, but people aren’t safe
on the nation’s highways,

the papers said.

(originally published in the New York Quarterly #43, Fall 1990)

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Robert Creeley — a poet

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On this, the day after the final day of National Poetry Month (April 2017), a poet who wore more than one hat (in that he was affiliated with more than one group of American poets in the 20th century) is Robert Creeley (1926 – 2005).  He was considered among the Beat poets in the 1960s to be a contemporary, and prior to this, when he was a teacher at Black Mountain College when it existed in the 1950s in North Carolina, he was regarded as one of the “Black Mountain Poets.”  Later in the 1980s, and until his death in 2005, Creeley forged his own way, breaking away from the solely spare style he’d been known for, while still creating a distinctive style.  He is also considered influential in shifting poetry from depending on history and tradition as being sources of poetic inspiration and giving instead the ongoing experiences of a person’s life more significance.

I was introduced to Robert Creeley by a friend who gave me a miniature book about him entitled “Robert Creeley Autobiography.”  It turns out this small book is a reprint of Creely’s autobiography that appears in the resource “Contemporary Authors, Autobiography Series,” Volume 10 published in 1989.

I would like to read more of this poet – he is considered fairly prolific and also wrote prose and essays as well.

OLD STORY

Like kid on float
of ice block sinking
in pond the field had made
from winter’s melting snow

so wisdom accumulated
to disintegrate 
in conduits of brain
in neural circuits faded

while gloomy muscles shrank
mind padded the paths
its thought had wrought
its habits had created

till like kid afloat
on ice block broken
on or inside the thing it stood
or was forsaken.

–Robert Creeley, 1994

April is here and this man in the suit is a poet…

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Not Ideas About the Thing
But the Thing Itself

At the earliest ending of winter,
In March, a scrawny cry from outside
Seemed like a sound in his mind.

He knew that he heard it,
A bird’s cry, at daylight or before,
In the early March wind.

The sun was rising at six,
No longer a battered panache above snow . . .
It would have been outside.

It was not from the vast ventriloquism
Of sleep’s faded papier-mache . . .
The sun was coming from outside.

That scrawny cry—it was
A chorister whose c preceded the choir.
It was part of the colossal sun,

Surrounded by its choral rings,
Still far away. It was like
A new knowledge of reality.

–Wallace Stevens, American poet (1879 – 1955) from “The Collected Poems” (published 1954)

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A poem to begin the month…

In honor of National Poetry Month that begins on April 1st, I found a Carl Sandburg poem. I’m not all that familiar with Sandburg’s poetry — he is a well known 20th century American poet and this poem “Boxes and Bags” is from his poetry book “Harvest Poems: 1910-1960.”

I actually stumbled upon this poem in a very recent anthology entitled “The Death of the Hat: A Brief History of Poetry in 50 Objects” selected/compiled by Paul B. Janeczko and illustrated by Chris Raschka.

Boxes and Bags
—Carl Sandburg

The bigger the box the more it holds.
Empty boxes hold the same as empty heads.
Enough small empty boxes thrown into a big empty box fill it full.
A half-empty box says, “Put more in.”
A big enough box could hold the world.
Elephants need big boxes to hold a dozen elephant handkerchiefs.
Fleas fold little handkerchiefs and fix them nice and neat in flea
handkerchief boxes.
Bags lean against each other and boxes stand independent.
Boxes are square with corners unless round with circles.
Box can be piled on box till the whole works comes tumbling.
Pile box on box and the bottom box says, “if you will kindly take notice
you will see it all rests on me.”
Pile box on box and the top one says, “Who falls farthest if or when we
fall? I ask you.”
Box people go looking for boxes and bag people go looking for bags.

Walt Whitman at Bear Mountain

Contained within a book of poetry “The Poet’s Choice” (published 1962) that I recently bought at a used book sale, is a poem by Jamaican poet, Louis Simpson (1923 – 2012) entitled “Walt Whitman at Bear Mountain.”  Mr. Simpson came to the U.S. when he was 17 to attend college and remained here, eventually teaching at University of California, Berkeley and SUNY at Stony Brook.   He was very interested in understanding America, his adopted country, and his poems at times reflect an investigation into the myths that he believed this country tells itself.

Walt Whitman at Bear Mountain 

. . . life which does not give the preference to any other life, of any previous period, which therefore prefers its own existence . . .   — Ortega y Gasset

Neither on horseback nor seated,

But like himself, squarely on two feet,

The poet of death and lilacs

Loafs by the footpath.  Even the bronze looks alive

Where it is folded like cloth.  And he seems friendly.

 

“Where is the Mississippi panorama

And the girl who played the piano?

Where are you, Walt?

The Open Road goes to the used-parking lot.

 

“Where is the nation you promised?

These houses built of wood sustain

Colossal snows,

And the light above the street is sick to death.

 

“As for the people – see how they neglect you!

Only a poet pauses to read the inscription.”

 

“I am here,” he answered.

“It seems you have found me out.

Yet, did I not warn you that it was Myself

I advertised?  Were my words not sufficiently plain?

 

“I gave no prescriptions,

And those who have taken my moods for prophecies

Mistake the matter.”

Then, vastly amused—“Why do reproach me?

I freely confess I am wholly disreputable.

Yet I am happy, because you have found me out.”

 

A crocodile in wrinkled metal loafing . . .

 

Then all the realtors,

Pickpockets, salesmen, and the actors performing

Official scenarios,

Turned a deaf ear, for they had contracted

American dreams.

 

But the man who keeps a store on a lonely road,

And the housewife who knows she’s dumb,

And the earth, are relieved.

 

All that grave weight of America

Cancelled!  Like Greece and Rome.

The future in ruins!

The castles, the prisons, the cathedrals

Unbuilding, and roses

Blossoming from the stones that are not there . . .

 

The clouds are lifting from the high Sierras.

The Bay mists clearing;

And the angel in the gate, the flowering plum,

Dances like Italy, imagining red.

–published in Louis Simpson’s book of poems “At the End of the Open Road” (1963)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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