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National Poetry Month 2017

National Poetry Month 2017 is here.

If you’re posting about poetry this month, I’d love to know about it. I love to cross-promote poetry posts in April on Facebook and elsewhere.

Leave you full post links below:

Happy National Poetry Month!

Guest Post: ‘Nature Is Imagination Itself’ by Hilde Weisert

“The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way. Some see nature all ridicule and deformity… and some scarce see nature at all. But to the eyes of a man of imagination, nature is imagination itself.”  ―William Blake, in a letter.

William Blake is one of the first poets I loved to read.  Perhaps it was his darker poetry or maybe it was his drawings in the collection I had. The quote above is just a glimpse at his poetic thought.  Today, Poet Hilde Weisert offers her thoughts on nature and inspiration.

Please give her a warm welcome.

That quote from a letter of William Blake’s is especially apropos right now, with yesterday Earth Day and a day of Marches for Science around the world, and Poetry Month the month we are in. What Blake saw is what we need to see now, that there is no separation between the natural world and our complementary ways of seeing and understanding it, through science and through the imagination.

I stumbled on the quote late one night many years ago when I was desperately paging through books looking for inspiration for a poem I was expected, as poet in residence at a large school system, to write, and then to read to the entire faculty on the opening day of school – the next day! It was to be an original poem on the theme for the year: Science, and specifically what the rainforest can teach us about diversity.

That is clearly a brilliant concept (the woman who conceived the program was and is a brilliant woman) and a great way to introduce poetry outside the usual “poetry unit.” I had educated myself enough about the rainforest to know, conceptually, that it indeed has volumes to teach us about diversity – millions of different life forms all existing in harmony, interdependence, and beauty. But write a poem about that? By 11 PM on the eve of my reading, the floor around my desk was littered with crumpled sheets from my yellow legal pad, each with some variation of why the rainforest is good, and why we should preserve it, and how our lives depend on it, and if its diversity matters, children, so does yours.

Like political or preaching “poems” so often are, all just words. Words coming from my head, and even my heart – because I did truly care about the rainforest and certainly about diversity – but there was some other essential part of poetry-making that was not engaged.

And then I found the excerpt from a letter of Blake’s. Nature is imagination itself.

That’s what’s at stake. If we lose our ability to see the natural world, we lose something essential inside ourselves, what W.S. Merwin said, in his Inaugural Address as Poet Laureate in 2010, may be what makes us uniquely human. And allows us to see the many ways in which we are, gloriously, different from and yet connected to all the beings in the natural world, as well as each other. To celebrate, with a kind of tingle in our imagination-nerve, when science discovers that the octopus, far from being mentally slow and lumbering, is remarkably intelligent and constantly learning. That trees, according to David Haskell in The Songs of Trees, are “nature’s great connectors,” part of vast networks. That crows know the faces of people who have harmed them.

For those of us in the northern hemisphere, National Poetry Month coincides with spring; in the southern hemisphere, with fall. Both are seasons that offer daily opportunities to see all around us the marvels that (I will change Blake’s line a little) a person of imagination can see. Which, I believe, can give us poetry, and give us ourselves.

What about you? What is essential to your imagination?

***

Here’s the poem I wrote, with Blake’s help.

Imagination Itself

To the eyes of the man of imagination,
Nature is imagination itself.
— William Blake

Who needs half a million unpronounceable forms of life
Half a world away? Ah, you do, they say,
And enumerate the ways:

          Glues, dyes, inks,
          Peanuts, melons, tea,
          Golf balls, paint, and gum,
          Mung beans, lemons, rice,
          And a fourth of all the medicines you take,
          And a fifth of all the oxygen you breathe,
          And countless life-prolonging secrets their wild cousins know
          to tell the Iowa corn and the garden tomato.
          And if that's not enough, think of rubber-
          and where we'd all be, rattling down the Interstate
          on wooden wheels.

And that's only the stuff we know how to use,
And that's only the half-million species we know how to name.

And in the time it took to tell you this
Five thousand acres more are gone.
And by the time that this year's kindergarten class
is thirty-five, most of what is now alive —

But wait. What if — What if this deluge of mind-boggling
statistical connectedness were, true as it is,
only the least of it? What if the real necessity
were of another kind, the connection
not with what you consume, or do, but who you are?

With your own imagination, the necessity there
of places that have not been cleared to till,
of the luxury of all that buzzing in the deep,
of a glimpse of feather or translucent insect wing
a color that's so new it tells you light and sound
are, indeed, just matters of degree, and makes your vision hum

And makes you think the universe could hum
in something like the wild, teeming equilibrium
of the rain forest.

From The Scheme of Things, David Robert Books, 2015, and published originally in The Sun.

About the Poet:

Hilde Weisert‘s collection The Scheme of Things was published in 2015 by David Robert Books. Her poem, “The Pity of It,” was winner of the 2016 Tiferet Poetry Award, and she’s had poems in such magazines as Ms, Prairie Schooner, The Cortland Review, Calyx, and several anthologies. She lives in Chapel Hill, N.C., and Sandisfield, Mass.

Interrobang by Jessica Piazza

Source: AWP Purchase
Paperback, 72 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Interrobang by Jessica Piazza is mostly a collection of sonnets that explore a series of phobias and obsessions that often cause us to go over the edge or come very close to our own destruction. This inner turmoil is rarely seen by outsiders or if it is, it is ignored. Piazza brings these obsessions and fears into the light to share with us just how constraining they can be, but there is also an undercurrent of letting loose and a rolling with the punches as they come.

From "Lilapsophobia" (pg. 24)

... But flood's not much
compared with these cyclonic days. No way
to gauge you: wrath or pleasure, unfixed track
away or toward. Untoward, you leave no wake.

Imagine that sleep is the quiet that soothes your fears, imagine to that the light is not hope but something that is jarring and humbling. This is how Piazza’s poems pack their punches, lulling the reader into a known world only to shake them awake with a new world view — one that is a little disturbing. “Antephilia” (Love of Ruin) is one of the most phenomenal poems in the collection, exploring the wreck of a dysfunctional relationship with graveyard imagery and more. Piazza has taken the mess and created a love that leaves a lasting impression in its dysfunction without delving too far into the melodrama of these lives.

Meanwhile, “Pediophilia” (Love of Dolls) almost becomes an ode to loss and the filling up of the emptiness where a daughter once was, only to find it full of creepy dolls in an orphanage devoid of joy and life. Piazza’s imagery is haunting and devastating, and readers will have to force themselves to take it all in, rather than turn away. These poems want you to take notice of the darkness, of the mess, of the emptiness so that you can be ready for the collection’s conclusion and it’s minor note of hope and change.

Jessica Piazza is a talented wordsmith who can weave pictures that will sear into readers’ minds. Her poems in Interrobang are going to force you to look into the darkness so long that the bright light is almost to blinding to see.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Poet:

Jessica Piazza is the author of three poetry collections: “Interrobang” (Red Hen Press), “This is not a sky” (Black Lawrence Press) and, with Heather Aimee O’Neill, “Obliterations” (Red Hen Press, forthcoming). Originally from Brooklyn, NY, she holds a Ph.D. in Creative Writing and English Literature from the University of Southern California, an M.A. in English Literature /Creative Writing from the University of Texas at Austin and a B.S. in Journalism from Boston University. She is co-founder of Gold Line Press and Bat City Review, and curates the Poetry Has Value blog (a must read), which explores the intersections of poetry, money and worth.

Dear Almost by Matthew Thorburn

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 88 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Dear Almost: A Poem by Matthew Thorburn, which toured with Poetic Book Tours, is a book length poem exploring a year-long tangle with grief after a miscarriage.  Broken into the four seasons, the poem rises and falls with the ebb and flow of melancholy. It attempts to illustrate the loss of what could have been or what almost was or even what you wanted to be.  It’s the loss of potential … the loss of discovery of that being.

From "Once in Early Spring" (pg. 3)

"So that her flight is
flighty, a hop and flap
flutter skip from
branch to branch to
lower branch -- here-ing
and there-ing -- then
the branch dips"

Thorburn relies not only on the natural world to demonstrate fleeting life or the sudden drop off that catches us off-guard emotionally, but also the wider urban world he notices walking with his wife or when he is alone on the streets. Despite the emptiness the narrator feels at the lost one-ounce life he’d imagined taking flight, there are moments of creative imagining, a filling in of what could have been or might have been had things turned out differently. What’s absolutely stunning is how true it all is, particularly:

From "Once in Early Spring" (pg. 11)

"My own words fall

away now, sound weird,
off, odd jangle-clang
in the ear like when
we say something again
and again until
it slips loose of its mooring,
its meaning, so that
we wind up staring"

Grief often paralyzes us, makes us sound unlike ourselves and unable to articulate what is happening to us emotionally. It is even harder for us to connect with others who reach out to us to help us through that pain, and many times we choose to withdraw, to forget, to hold that grief unto ourselves because we don’t know how to express it, how to share it, or how to process and let it go.

From "Three Deer Beneath the Autumn Moon" (pg. 44)

"this hurt is like a burr
hooked in the haunch
of a deer: I carry it with me
all day.  I think of you still,

so still, not there anymore"

Dear Almost: A Poem by Matthew Thorburn is beautiful in its attempt to articulate that which we cannot explain or even deal with.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Poet:

Matthew Thorburn is the author of six collections of poetry, including the book-length poem Dear Almost (Louisiana State University Press, 2016) and the chapbook A Green River in Spring (Autumn House Press, 2015), winner of the Coal Hill Review chapbook competition. His previous collections include This Time Tomorrow (Waywiser Press, 2013), Every Possible Blue (CW Books, 2012), Subject to Change, and an earlier chapbook, the long poem Disappears in the Rain (Parlor City Press, 2009). His work has been recognized with a Witter Bynner Fellowship from the Library of Congress, as well as fellowships from the Bronx Council on the Arts and the Sewanee Writers’ Conference. His interviews with writers appear on the Ploughshares blog as a monthly feature. He lives in New York City, where he works in corporate communications.

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National Poetry Month 2017 is here. If you’re posting about poetry this month, I’d love to know about it. I love to cross-promote poetry posts in April on Facebook and elsewhere. Leave you full post links below: Happy National Poetry Month!

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