Celebrate National Poetry Month!

“Poetry is an echo, asking a shadow to dance,” said poet Carl Sandburg, North Carolina’s own adopted son. And thanks to Carl’s own creative genius, can you look at the little feet of a cat without thinking of fog? I know I can’t.

How will you celebrate a month-long tribute to the cherished art of poetry? As Lu Chi advises in The Art of Writing, I plan to “draw sustenance from masterpieces of the past.” I’m re-reading some of my favorite poets as well as questing to discover new ones. My go-to source for my daily poetry addiction is Poetry Daily and Rattle.

For more inspirational poetry, check out the website for The Gyroscope Review, which is running a daily interview with a poet published by them in the past. It’s a wonderful series that gives you a peek into the minds and work habits of poets at practice.

And today, for April 8, I’m honored to be the featured poet.

 

 

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Carolina Woman!

Carolina Woman

Local contests are a great way to share your work….and win prizes! My writing group member Linda Johnson and I both earned Honorable Mentions in the 2015 Carolina Woman Writing Contest. Matching pajama-size T-shirts!

Linda won for her short story “Birthday Cake” (penned in a fiction class led by Ruth Moose) and I won for my poem “Ode to My Ironing Board” (written in a class led by Ralph Earle). Both classes were held through the Creative Writing Program at Central Carolina Community College’s Pittsboro campus. We also learned that a CCCC workshop leader, Tara Lynne Groth, won for her story “Money Changes Everything.” All pieces will published by CW in an upcoming issue. Pittsboro represented very well at Carolina Woman this year!

On a related note, and since April is National Poetry Month, I had to point out that today would have been the 115th birthday of another writer, novelist, short story writer, and poet Vladimir Nabokov. I didn’t know he also wrote poetry until my friend Mary located “The Poem” — a piece written by him for one of  just two collections penned in his prolific career. As with his other work, “The Poem” is poignant, evocative and lush with language and imagery that would make any writer envious. I couldn’t find an online link so unfortunately (or fortunately!), you’ll have to do like me and order a copy of his collections.

More coming soon!

Fun with Random Phrases, Part II

phrases

Phrases can come from catalogs, newspapers, magazines, or even conversations!

As promised, in celebration of National Poetry Month, I am continuing to post sample poems from our workshop last month. This time, with kind permission from our poets, I will post two poems created through random phrases, one of my most favorite ways to generate poetry. I love random phrases for many reasons but primarily because it helps the poet free herself from the usual writer’s block of a blank page.

For our exercise, each poet drew two cards blindly from a pile of assorted random phrases that I had been collecting for some time. The poet had the option of uniting the phrases into one poem or writing two separate poems.

Jen drew a quote by Roger Ebert and a quote from an article about Lake Superior State College’s unicorn questing privilege program. She chose to write two separate poems. I’ll post the unicorn poem.

ARE YOU ONE OF THEM?

If you believe in fairies and smurfs
and life beyond the stars
then you might be eligible
for a “Unicorn Questing Privilege.”

The Lake Superior State University
Is granting licenses now, first come
first serve, to all those interested
in hunting unicorns.

Did I say hunting? No, no
not hunting. This is a “questing” license
A catch and release program.
All unicorns must be returned
to the wilds of your imagination.

So I ask again, are you one of them?

#####

Jen’s love of animals, even imaginary, and her sense of humor are clearly apparent in this gem!

Rosalie drew cards on a brand of cigar (taken my husband’s cigar catalog) and the phrase: “Hello, my name is.” She was inspired to combine both phrases and being Italian, she chose to put her own spin on it!

NAMES IN SMOKE

Ciao, mi chiamo Rosalie
You say you’re on your way to the cabaret—by the beach? Rte. 64?
Yes, I’ll come along.

Isn’t that where the old carved Indian sits outside of the cigar store?
They sell La Perla Habana.
Ohhh—so you smoke them?
Ah-h-h
Yes, yes, quite an aroma!

Does it linger on your fingers?  Your clothes?

What say we stop there—together—
to inhale some interesting smells

What?—-my name?
Again, my name is Rosalie
What’s yours?

#####

Thanks to Rosalie’s imagination, I can just smell cigars by the beach, can’t you? I have been transported without having to leave my house. And this is the beauty of poetry, and art in general, don’t you think?

In addition to exercises on imagery and random phrases, at our workshop we also created poems out of a series of questions. Next time, I’ll post a poem created by Jane that demonstrates just how the simplest of questions can create another kind of journey, equally evocative.

Celebrating April: National Poetry Month!

collageNot only does April bring us warmer weather, this month also brings us 30 days to celebrate poetry! We’ll be celebrating in a number of ways, from an interview with Scott Wiggerman (poet and co-editor of Wingbeats I and II, two of my favorite poetry-writing books) to samples of the exercises we created during our poetry workshop last month.

Today I’ll share a sample from our exercise on metaphors, what was inspired by Chapter 4 of Poemcrazy by Susan G. Wooldridge. To get us started, I read a short work of my own (below).

Hope

When in November a candelabra of tiny pink roses
pushes up through a mound
of brittle brown leaves

I then asked everyone to draw blindly from a pouch containing cards bearing a single word, an abstract noun such as love, envy, pity, sorrow, and anger. Next, I asked them to choose one of the items on the table (pictured above) and use it as a metaphor for the word they drew. What was fun about it was that a couple of people chose the same word but ended up picking very different items. Mary and Rosalie each drew “Anger” but Mary chose the beaded purse as her metaphor and Rosalie chose the rolling pin! Judith chose the men’s tie for “Envy” and Jen chose the ring for “Pity.”

Jane, who drew the card for “Sorrow,” knew immediately that the half-burnt candle was the perfect metaphor to describe the  recent loss of her beloved Maltese. With her kind permission, I share her poem below.

Sophie Jill

Once a flame was burning bright, so full of love and joy—
A candle of life, so sweet and strong
A white, fluffy baby girl, sharing my life with unconditional love
Remembering those kisses, stored in my heart
Knowing that each day is a gift, we savored each precious moment.

Then all at once, the candle of life was no more.
The sorrow I felt was overwhelming, and I cried out
to the heavens for help
As time has healed a little, I know that the tears I cry each day
are not tears of sorrow but tears of love
Sophie’s flame of life will live in my heart forever
and there is no doubt that her spirit is still with me
She is still in my arms, giving me kisses.

—Jane Craven Thomas

What a comfort poetry can be, giving us words for those things, like sorrow, that are so difficult to express! Susan Wooldridge makes a habit of labeling concrete items with metaphors. In fact, she and her children regularly go around the house with a roll of what she calls “word tickets” and affixes them to items they find in their drawers and cabinets such as an antique globe, a piece of driftwood, even an old pair of shoes.  What fun! Bored on a rainy Sunday afternoon? Try it yourself!

April also brings good news for my fellow writers. Ralph Earle, one of my favorite poetry teachers, won the 2015 Sable Books February Chapbook Contest for his poetry collection, “The Way the Rain Works.” Available now as a pre-sale from Sable Books, Richard Krawiec, writer, poet, and esteemed judge for the contest, had this to say about the book:  “This is a deeply felt book about a family in crisis that lives inside you and lends itself to multiple readings.” Just as I did, order your copy today by contacting Sable Books!

I was also thrilled to learn that two of my poems, which (not coincidentally!) originated from exercises in Ralph’s class last fall at Central Carolina Community College placed in contests sponsored by the N.C. Poetry Society. “Phalaenopsis” (which came from his prompt to write about an incident that happened to us during the previous week) won second place in the Mary Ruffin Poole Heritage Competition and “Napoleon and Antosia” (write a poem on anything and then use different line breaks on 2 versions) won second place in the Carol Bessent Hayman Poetry of Love Award. They will be published in the 2015 edition of Pinesong and I will read them at the May 30 meeting in Southern Pines.

Stay tuned for more poems. Next, I’ll share poems penned by Jen and Jane on smoke, unicorns, and runaway brides, all products of exercises on random phrases!

Happy National Poetry Month!

As if we needed a reason to celebrate Emily Dickinson or William Blake, did you know that April is National Poetry Month? The occasion has inspired me to re-read some of my favorites. This includes classics such as “She Walks in Beauty” (Byron), “Ode to A Nightingale” (Keats), “Song” by Christina Rossetti, and lesser-known but equally poignant pieces such as To be A Slave to Intensity” (Kabir) and “Nothing” by James Fenton.

As a favor to my dear friend and writing colleague Michele Berger, I even agreed to draft a poem myself for consideration for her excellent blog, The Practice of Creativity. I am definitely no poet but she is a true friend, and in that spirit, she kindly published it. Rather brilliantly, she is celebrating this month by posting a series of poems by guest poets (who are much more talented than me, I will add!). Although I adore poetry, I find this sparest of literary forms to be more than a little intimidating. But there’s a definite connection between poetry and prose, and as we’ve discussed in my writing group, any prose writer (especially me) would benefit from entering and fully exploring this medium.

Lately, I’ve been concentrating my limited literary energies on writing short stories, which will always be my first love. And last week I was honored to learn that a recent story, “Once in a Blue Moon,” was named first honorable mention in the 2013 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Contest sponsored by the N.C. Writers’ Network. This is a victory I share with all of you who have encouraged me as well as the five wonderful women or “belles-des-lettres” in my writing group. Michele herself just scooped up third place in Carolina Woman’s Annual Writing Contest for her speculative short story titled “Urban Wendy” which is published in the April issue! Go Pittsboro writers!